4 Mistakes I Made as a First-Time Novelist (and how to fix them!)

I started writing The Last She in 2015, and have learned so much about myself, Wattpad and what it actually takes to write a novel. For all you writers out there, these are 4 of the biggest mistakes I made as a first-time novelist. I hope that by sharing them you can learn from my mistakes!

  1. A character needs to be ACTIVE. Sounds intuitive, but it is really easy to have bad things happen to your character all the time, and them simply responding, or to have a villian always pulling the strings and your main character dancing like a puppet. I think this is why people love villains like Loki. They are always up to something, and it’s a delight to see what mischief they’ll cook up next. You can cure this by making sure your character has wants and needs they seek out, and make sure that had purpose and goals.

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2. Your main character needs to be LIKEABLE. But what about character flaws, you say?! Heres the thing, its pretty easy to accidently make someone unlikeable. It’s much harder to make someone believably likeable, and its absolutely essential the reader like your main character (or at least is intrigued by them enought to want to follow thier journey). I recently read a great book called “The First 50 pages” by Jeff Gerke. He discusses all the ways to make a character likeable: making them winsome, smart, sympathetic, heroic and more. I would definitely recommend the book to you, it’s a great resource to have on your shelf!

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3. A first novel, even in a series, needs to have a satisfying conclusion. Think of Hunger Games or Twilight, both first in series, yet both satisfying in and of themselves. I set up The Last She to have more questions than answers at end of book, and when I started querying the novel, I had multiple agents tell me that was one of the reasons they wouldn’t represent the book. Agents want to be able to see how a book does on it’s own because it’s more risky to commit to a whole series when the first might flop, so its a good idea to make sure your book has a complete arch and satisyfing conclusion in and of itself.

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4. Sometimes timing sucks… but that doesn’t mean your book sucks. I found that when I was pitching The Last She, people weren’t looking for post-apocalyptic fiction…. in fact, many seemd to think it was “out.”  The market will always have trends, so it’s just something you need to be aware and prepared for. Maybe you will get lucky, maybe you won’t, be either way, you should keep writing the books you love, and keep your head up! Even if your paraticular genre is “out” right now, things have a way of coming back in. As Dory would say….

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I hope those were helpful to you! Do any have anything to add (or even better, do any of you disagree?). Please let me know what the biggest lessons you have learned from your time writing, as I think we as writers can learn so much from eachother (versus learning the hard way after writing an entire novel)!

Thanks for reading -Hannah

2 thoughts on “4 Mistakes I Made as a First-Time Novelist (and how to fix them!)

  1. I agree with all the points. The difficulty is in getting all the stars to align and although trends are supposed to “help” they usually can’t foretell the NEXT big thing. That always takes the literary world by surprise and they should be willing to give a non trendy book a chance if the writing and story stands out on its own. After all the actual trend setters need to lead the pack not follow it.


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