No author deliberately tries to ruin a story, or make it unappealing to publishers. But, I’ve seen writers cling to story or character elements that can derail their success.
3 common traps many first-time authors fall into:
Trap 1: Too much time on backstory.
Backstory: the stuff that happens before your novel begins. It’s understandable! After planning a whole story, and learning your characters inside and out, it’s hard not to divulge everything to your readers as your tale unravels. But, just because you know everything, that doesn’t mean your readers need this info now.
Effective novels reveal backstory in small bites — at exactly the moment most appropriate or dynamic. Think of it on a need-to-know basis.
Try this: Does one of your characters have a particularly important trait or history that you plan to divulge to readers? Ask yourself when in your story revealing this would have the most emotional impact.
Trap 2: Holding onto passages that no longer work.
Stories evolve. Characters evolve. And, your drafts should evolve, too. Just because you had a scene you loved to write in an earlier draft does not mean it necessarily works in a later draft as your story begins to take shape.
Letting go of a scene or passage that you slaved over for days, weeks or even months can be painful, I know.
Try this: If you’re not sure whether to keep something, black it out on your computer. Then, read your draft without it. If it feels like something’s truly missing, keep it. If not, delete it. Who knows — it may end up in your second novel.
Trap #3: Not trusting a professional editor.
This is the biggest mistake I’ve seen first-time authors make. I’ve seen them put more faith in friends’ and family’s opinions that will do nothing to help them succeed.
Remember: A good professional editor not only represents you, but your target audience, the publishers and the market at large. She knows what your novel needs to grip — and hold — a reader’s attention and has your book’s best interests in mind.
A good editor will help you tell the story you want to tell — in the most effective way possible.
Are you an author who’s written yourself into a trap? Tell me about it.