Christopher Oldcorn
Aug 12 · 3 min read
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Whenever I tell people I’m a writer, inevitably I hear about the great novel they are going to write (when they get time). Well, here’s unsolicited writing advice for first-time novelists. The five most common mistakes.

Show Don’t Tell

Show don’t tell is the biggest piece of advice writers receive but so few listen. Don’t tell the reader what’s happening. Show the reader what’s happening.

Use the five senses to put the reader into the scene. Don’t tell the reader that a character is scared. Show what happens to a scared person. Their heart races, sweating and more. Make them feel what the character is feeling.

Improper Planning of Your Plots and Sub-Plots

Authors writing in “pantser-style” without any outline usually have poorly planned plot lines.

Changing the plot as you are writing without thinking about how it affects the plot in other parts of the book.

Finish your manuscript with holes in the plot but don’t make the necessary changes.

These are all ways to confuse the plot lines for your readers.

I can’t say this enough: Outline, Outline, Outline!!!

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Writing Unrealistic Scenes

Use creative elements but if it is in the real world, the scene must be plausible.

JK Rowling writing Harry Potter can write unrealistic scenes. She’s writing a fantasy novel.

If you are trying to write the next John Grisham legal thriller. You can’t have a wizard school. It won’t work. The readers will give you bad reviews and never again read your books.

Insufficient Conflict

Make sure enough conflict happens throughout the whole book. Quite often in the middle of a book, there’s a lack of conflict. There needs to be internal and external conflict.

Internal conflict happens within a character. It’s something the character struggles with.

External conflict is a problem between characters. How it’s written depends on the point of view.

Photo by mauro mora on Unsplash

Too Many Characters

Limit your characters especially with your first novel. This will make your writing so much easier to do.

Ask yourself if they are relevant and necessary to the story? Will the character be around to the end of the story?

Each character needs three things:

1. Describe how they look

2. A personality

3. A backstory

Keep a separate file with all the details of each character. You will thank me later.

Final Thoughts

If you want to craft the next bestselling fiction novel. Don’t make these big five common mistakes!

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Christopher Oldcorn is a writer and journalist. He holds a BA in Psychology from Laurentian University, and a post-grad in Research Analysis from Georgian College. Christopher studied at The Centre for Investigative Journalism (Goldsmiths, University of London). Recognized as a Top Writer in Government, Politics, Books, Climate Change, Productivity, Creativity, & Writing.

You can follow him on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook!

Christopher Oldcorn

A writer & journalist curious about the world. Published over one hundred stories in 20+ publications. Hire my curiosity

Christopher Oldcorn

Written by

A writer curious about the world. Published over 150 stories in 20+ publications. Keep in touch

Christopher Oldcorn

A writer & journalist curious about the world. Published over one hundred stories in 20+ publications. Hire my curiosity

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