Warren Adler

The Top Three Writing Mistakes That Make a Bad Novel

August 1, 2016
Written by
Warren Adler

Warren Adler, Bestselling Author

I’ve taught creative writing courses for a number of years at several schools like NYU, and I always told my students what writing mistakes they should avoid. Here is a list of 3 writing mistakes that I have come across most often in my career. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a novice or a pro, every writer should keep these in mind while perfecting their craft:

What Makes A Bad Novel?
We’ve all read a bad novel—it’s a story that is unbelievable, that is trite, and does not elicit an emotional response from the reader. The flaw is in the writer, he or she is unable to create complex characters that draw in a person and create an intimate and emotional bond between that character and the reader.
 
1. Clichés
Many ill-written novels are full of clichés—which are merely overused expressions that suggest a shortcoming in the writer.  Whenever possible, the writer should find an original way to say “things” that illustrate their aptitude and creativity.
 
2. Formulas 
So many bestsellers today contain tried-and-true formulas that are unoriginal, making the narrative very predictable. They are meant to draw in large audiences, allowing writers to claw their way up to “bestseller.” But bestsellers, as history has shown, quickly fade into obscurity and eventually oblivion. Genre fiction has found its place in society, making authors and publishers rich, but leaving society behind with nothing.
 
3. Flat Characters

What makes or breaks a novel are the characters; a character must have dreams, aspirations, and a background just like any person would. They need to be engaging and believable because if they are not, then a reader cannot connect with them, cannot develop a relationship with them. So many books lack complex characters, disengaging readers and making the story fall flat.
 
In Conclusion
In my opinion, no one can create a great novel by the numbers. No publisher, nor writer, can predict either the commercial or artistic success of a book. In this day and age, it is more complicated for a book to be read because it must be “discovered” or “heard about.” Many novels were not recognized as worth reading until many, many, years after their publication. In the end, bad writing will always surround us, so it is up to us to discern the good from the bad—we must judge a writer by the techniques he or she employs, by the fluidity of their writing, and the evocation of emotional attachment to the characters.  
 
—Warren Adler

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This post was written by Warren Adler