Here is a summary of some of the common pitfalls of writing a novel identified by Tony Bradman in his talk for the SCBWI-BI professional series on the 22nd September 2005.
Although, the talk was primarily aimed at writers for the children market these pitfalls are relevant to all novel writing, no matter what genre or age group you are writing for. I have found that Tony Bradman’s suggestions are useful to keep as a checklist whilst writing my children’s novels to keep me on track. I hope you find them as useful as I have.
- Positive characters. They need flaws.
- 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 and it is difficult to monitor them. 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.
- Not thinking through implications of character and plot.
- Reliance on plot and coincidences. If not got deep enough characters, they will not be able to resolve their problems.
- Need to have 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.
For a more detailed explanation of these points, take a look at yesterday’s blog: What is Story? An Evening with Tony Bradman