These pitfalls are relevant to all novel writing, no matter what genre or age group you are writing for. They are also a great reminder for our writing at the beginning of a New Year.
- Positive characters. How can this be a pitfall? All characters need flaws. By the end of the book they discover a side to themselves they were never aware of and become a better person.
- Not enough characters. Two characters are not enough; you need three so they can have a relationship.
- Too many characters. More than four or five characters are difficult to monitor. The reader needs to understand how they feel about each other. Always have a main protagonist and sub-plot the others.
- Over complicated set-ups. Great stories are simple with one great character, one great goal and good secondary characters. Whatever the set-up is at the beginning of the story it needs to be resolved.
- Character has no influence on plot and vice versa. Events should escalate until the hero’s problem appear unsolvable. The aim of the protagonist is to restore life back to normal. Each event must be there for a reason. If it does not move the protagonist toward – or away – from their goal in some way, it needs to be cut.
- Reliance on plot and coincidences. If the characters are not deep enough, they will not be able to resolve their problems.
- Tension plateaus. There needs to be rising levels of tension.
- Trust yourself to cut. The work and research is important and will still be there behind the story, like an iceberg.
- Try not to control your writing too much. You can analyse too much. Trust your instinct. Often a fear of failure can hinder. Writers can be their own worse enemies.
I have used these ideas as a checklist whilst writing and editing my children’s books to keep me on track. I hope you find them as useful as I have.