10 Things Aspiring Novelists Should Know

  1. Your novel is not a personal journal. Consider the reader. 
  2. Writing is a business. You enter into an agreement with a reader. You agree to entertain in exchange for their money and emotion. You agree to inform for their time.
  3. Readers don’t like charmless heroes. Just because your protagonist happens to be an anti-hero does not mean you are free to make him or her 100% unlikable.
  4. Only experienced novelists who have successfully completed two published books should attempt to use an anti-hero as a protagonist.
  5. Antagonists should be people, not things.
  6. If you aren’t willing to listen to advice, if you aren’t able to learn from your mistakes, and if you aren’t prepared to let go of stories nobody wants to read, you will probably not succeed.
  7. You have to read a lot to be able to write.
  8. Using examples of famous authors who were published more than 30 years ago to justify long passages of description in your boring manuscript is not a good idea. Publishing has changed. Readers have changed.
  9. Self-publishing does not mean you don’t need to pay somebody to proofread and edit your book. Readers are insulted when they find mistakes in books. It’s like serving guests dinner on dirty plates.
  10. Always delete the first three chapters of the first draft of your first three novels. It will always be filled with backstory you don’t need. 

If you want to learn how to write a book, join our Writers Write course. Email news@writerswrite.co.za for details.

 Amanda Patterson by Amanda Patterson. Follow her on PinterestFacebook,  Google+,  Tumblr  and Twitter. 

© Amanda Patterson 

Are you looking for more inspiration? Read these posts:

  1. What does it take to write a book? The five qualities published authors share
  2. The Writing Secrets of 10 Authors
  3. 10 Writers On The Inspiration Myth


Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. Writers Write – Write to communicate

This article has 0 comments

  1. Lev Raphael

    Telling people anything that includes “always” or “never” seems very dictatorial to me as the author of 24 books in many genres, and now a guest teacher of creative writing at Michigan State University.

  2. Rosie Canning

    No.9 disagree – if you want to self-publish and expect readers to read then you do need to pay an editor to proofread and edit your book.

  3. Writers Write

    That is what we said, Rosie. You do have to pay someone.

  4. Jonathan Brett Kennedy

    The only one I disagree with is #10. Sometime the back story comes in later and the first three chapters are just set-up.

  5. SD Denny

    #10 I shudder to think… I can imagine strongly editing it, but to “always” delete it completely just because? Hmmm… Thanks for the tips. Enjoyed the post!

  6. Jan Priddy

    #4? Try A Book of Ruth, the debut novel by Jane Hamilton—amazing! However, I love #7.

  7. Ron Erkert

    Disagree with #5 (among others). The antagonist does NOT always need to be a person (it’s just easier to write a human(oid) antagonist).

  8. JP

    I like the idea behind this, but there are too many extremes. “Always” and such. #10, though. That is not an “always” situation. I’ll give you, mostly, though. A lot of people have too much backstory. Even published big-namers do it, but not everyone does it. Totally agree with #8 though. You’re not Tolkien.

  9. Writers Write

    Most people who are complaining about #10 seem to be missing the importance of the rest of the sentence, especially these words: ‘of the first draft’

  10. Toni

    I believe if you are trying to help writers, as you are, we should be grateful for your opinion and expertise. I appreciate advice and can use it at my discretion. Thank you. I love this site and have learned a lot.

  11. Robert Foster

    I’d only agree with 5 & 6. The rest I’d say are more like guidelines than hard & fast rules. Interesting post though.

  12. R B Orlando

    I just did # 10. So true. Thanks!

  13. jimmie

    In all matters of opinion our adversaries are insane (Mark Twain)

  14. Catherine

    #6 starts out well but ends poorly. Sometimes a story simply needs to be written. That doesn’t mean you need to submit it for publication — it might not be the right time right now — but not writing something just because it doesn’t fit the public taste? That seems somewhat mercenary.

    Also, if you do a decent job of editing (self-editing and working with someone else), #10 will take care of itself.

  15. Pamela

    Disagree with #2 and #10.
    #2: There are elements of writing that are business-related but the creative act of telling your story should be nothing short of passion. Write from your heart and soul even if you’re only writing for yourself.
    #10: ALWAYS delete the first three pages of a first draft? I’ve had 6 novels published and have never done this. I use those chapters for set up, not back story. Back story comes later, in bits and pieces, not in chapter long info dumps.

  16. Shipra Shukla

    There are no rules to writing, either you can write or you can’t and what defines a writer is a person who writes something which others want to read. So, I agree with # 1, the rest is semantics. And by stating this I hope I don’t appear too charmless ! I am that but just remove the c and you will see what I am ! Just my attempts to inject some humor or we may all begin to take ourself too seriously !
    My advise is have fun while writing , why get into the semantics. Then, if people want to read you, you are a writer, if they don’t, you have had your fun with words and can move on to the next occupation . Who knows, it could be an editor or critic !! Again, just having fun! Bless you all !

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