Those who venture into fiction writing often fall prey to certain avoidable, yet highly normal faux pau with their first book.
Many of these novels are grand experiments. Often chapters unfold without advanced direction or character notebook, sometimes there is a multitude of point of view shifts and there is often a desire to try to pack as much into the story as possible.
One of the key difficulties for new novelists is to track down inconsistencies in their work. For instance, if you mention that your character grew up in Ohio it is bad form to mention Chicago as their hometown later in the novel. This can be a somewhat innocuous detail in the book and most people will probably miss it, but the inconsistency is there nonetheless and may detract from the flow of the story if the reader questions the veracity of the claim.
Most authors believe that because the work is fictional the details are less important, but as an author, you are creating an entire world for your readers and that world has to become as real as the world in which they live. Since novels have a unique escapist quality to them the last thing you want is to shut down your reader’s link to the book because they are stumbling over inconsistencies.
Another point where first-time novelists get into trouble is the addition of gratuitous violence or other points of gratuity. The author often wrongly believes that if they can shock the reader it will cause the book to be more memorable for the reader.
Many readers simply see this as a means to mask a weak storyline. This is not to say that there is no place for violence in a novel, but it must be in the context of a superior storyline – not as a means of increasing the chances that your reader will recommend the book to their friends.
Most readers see gratuitous elements in a novel for what they really are and this knowledge provides an instant ‘turn-off’ factor. If you have someone willing to read through your manuscript ask him or her to check for anything they consider gratuitous and any inconsistencies they may encounter.
Avoiding a couple of significant potholes on the road to publishing your first novel will provide an advantage for both publisher and reader alike.