5 New-Novel-Writer Mistakes to Avoid

Kimberly Shyu
Welcome to Writing!
3 min readJan 6, 2022

Photo by hannah grace on Unsplash

I recently picked up an old novel I wrote a couple years ago. It was my first. I knew it needed edits — I hired a developmental editor who told me so, and I had several beta readers provide feedback, but I shoved it under a rug and distracted myself by writing two other novels.

Each novel I wrote became easier, faster, leaner, more compelling. Each novel’s plot propelled more quickly with better developed characters.

And when I finally rolled up my sleeves to dig into the edits on that first novel, whoa. Just, whoa. That writing was… well, it needed a lot of work. This made me smile for two reasons:

  1. I realized I had grown substantially by writing my other two novels.
  2. I knew how to fix it.

I was used to business and technical writing, so I thought novels were supposed to be flowery. I thought I could be poetic and let any and all words swirl from my brain to the page. WRONG. Novel writing is arguably more challenging than business writing, for several reasons: you’re vying for people’s free time. People will only read it if they want to. And they will only want to if it’s captivating and entertaining.

Here were my top offenses, and how to fix them:

1. Limit adverbs.

I had adverbs everywhere, choking my manuscript.

Example: “Deep down we all seek freedom,” Amber said stoically.

Fixed: A stoic look swept over Amber. “Deep down we all seek freedom.”

2. Reduce dialogue tags.

In a dialogue exchange between two characters, you do not need to attribute each line to each character. There are only two people there, and if your characters have enough personality it will show through their speech patterns.


“So you want to go to homecoming?” he asked.

“Well, I don’t know,” I replied.

“Oh come on. I’m your dream date,” he said, placing his hand behind his head.

“Only if you dance like that,” I said.

Kimberly Shyu
Welcome to Writing!

Deep Tech Product Leader, creative writer, and published artist. Writes about personal growth, leadership, writing, and product development. www.kimshyu.com.