Reader/Writer Confessions: Amateur Mistakes I Made In My First Novel

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I thought this would be a fun post! I’m going to list (I dare you to not like lists) some of the worst, most amateur mistakes that I made in writing the first draft of the first novel I wrote when I was eleven years of age. I’m also going to include some excerpts, because apparently I like to embarrass myself. Let’s just remember I was eleven/twelve when I wrote them, yes?

1. I thought prologues were so professional. So I had to have one.

Note: There are some cases where prologues can be used well. But . . . did my story need one? Nope. Nope, nope, nope, nope.

I am still trying to understand the mysteries of the world we live in, and I seemed to be the only one who saw things for what they really were. This is something more, something different. Something that cannot even be described using human words. This is my story.

Whut. As I’m writing this, I’m cringing a little. Not only is it awfully cliché (“This is my story”? REALLY, KARA?) At the time of writing it, it seemed like a brilliant paragraph, but looking back at it now? LOL.

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2. I had no idea how to punctuate my dialogue.

‘Do they actually do anything?’ I said, rather dubiously.

‘Gods are Gods.’ She said. As if that actually explained anything.

‘How do you get there.’ I asked curiously.

‘You would have to go through the forest.’ She stated.

I have to admit . . . It took me a couple of manuscripts to figure out how to punctuate my dialogue. It was just confusing and it was only when I saw a forum on the NaNoWriMo website a few years ago explaining it that I really got it. (ALSO, ADVERBS. URHG.)


Oh, don’t get me wrong! Sometimes love triangles can be great. Like, for example, I thought the love triangle in Throne of Glass was enjoyable… but really, what was I thinking?! It was just all so horribly clichéd, and just… horrible. And no, there is no excerpt here. I can’t bring myself to post some of the eye-rolling romance — cough, instalove, cough — I used to write.

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 4. Describing the main character . . . in a mirror.

I sighed and looked at my reflection in the lopsided, dirty mirror. As much as I looked my father, I could easily see parts of my mother, as well. We had the same long, straight hair that fell down my back like a waterfall, dark slanted eyebrows, the same small smattering of freckles over our nose and cheeks and the same slender body frame.

Oh whyyyyyyyy Kara, whhhyyy?!

5. The first chapter starts off with a dream. OH, AND AN ALARM CLOCK.

A thick blanket of darkness was pushing upon me, threatening to crush me with its frightening power and strength. I could feel myself falling, falling into empty dark grey clouds of mist. It was a never ending tunnel of pain, whirling around me like a vortex of clouds.

I couldn’t breathe; the air around me seemed to be devoid of any oxygen at all. My lungs were empty and I struggled to remain my consciousness in my own dream. The pressure built up and suddenly, I felt like I as flying, like I was being sped through time. There was also an unpleasant tugging sensation that pulled me from the inside. Like something was trying to get out of me.

I tried to pull away from the force pulling me forward and my chest ached, so I stopped and gave in, falling back into black nothingness.

 I woke up sharply from my dream, a thin layer of cold sweat forming on my brow, my heart pumping in my chest as my fear slowly turned into relief that it was over.  I groaned and rolled over, fumbling blindly for the alarm clock and switching it off.

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I’m pretty sure that an alarm clock and/or a dream is the worst, worst, worst possible way of starting a novel. I do not know what I was thinking when I was writing this novel — but I am pleased to say that I have definitely improved as a writer since then.

Hopefully by a lot.

What are some of the common mistakes you did when you first started writing? Or, if you’re a reader, what are some of the most annoying clichés you’ve seen in novels? Let me know!


10 thoughts on “Reader/Writer Confessions: Amateur Mistakes I Made In My First Novel

  1. Ahhaahahahahahahaha this was such an awesome post, Kara. As much as I was laughing at your mistakes (I’m an awful person like that) I was reading them and recognising that I have done EVERY SINGLE ONE at some point (or multiple points). I used adverbs after pretty much EVERY line of dialogue at some point – I’ve used the alarm clock, the describing-in-front-of-mirror, the awful prologue…I’ve done it all.

    Thank goodness we’ve come far from those days :P

  2. HAHAHAHAAHAHAH. Okay, I’m done. Great post though.

    Basically, I drug out the ending of my novel for about 10 chapters and had around 2-3 BIG ENDINGS that could’ve been the real ending. I knew how to punctuate, because I’ve always sort of been a grammar freak. I didn’t describe my character in a mirror. No, instead I had my protagonist compare himself to other guys (male POV) that he saw. Oh man, that was a disaster. I didn’t have a love triangle, but then again my first novel was more spiritual without any love interests other than the guy’s wife. Dude, I used to think prologues were so professional as well! I think out of all my novels, only one has a prologue… (Letters to Elle. I think you’ve read it…?) All my completed novels, anyway. My older novels all have prologues. Like, all of them.

    • Yes, I loved Letters to Elle! It was such a great read. Prologues can be really iffy, and I’d usually avoid them, though in some cases they can work really well. Most of the time (ie, in fantasy) they just bother me. Well. Describing the protagonist by comparing him to another guy isn’t cliché, at least. ;)

  3. Haha, I loved the gifs-especially the Judge Judy one. I also got a kick out of the excerpts, although they are actually pretty good for an eleven year old. Fortunately, your Ironheart excerpts are way better. I just finished my first novel a few days ago. I have been working on it on and off for the past year with long breaks in between. The only mistake I made that is on this list is starting my story with my protagonist waking up in reaction to her alarm. In defense of my one year younger self, it was a creative sci-fi alarm clock, but still very cliche. I’ve also made mistakes that aren’t on this list, such as only allowing my characters to get two nights of sleep. They have also only eaten two times, and the only things that they have eaten are cereal and raw fish. *shakes head* I have a lot of work ahead of me when I edit my WIP.

    • Don’t worry — first drafts are always messy! And congrats on finishing your first novel, that’s an awesome milestone! Honestly I think that all those “mistakes” that I listed above can sometimes work in instances — eg, like the whole love triangle thing can work, if done well.

  4. This was an AWESOME post!! Reading this, I was just nodding the whole time – been there done that (and probably still sometimes slip into that dialogue thingo sometimes). Do you have the link to that NaNoWriMo forum by any chance? But THANK-YOU for this post!

  5. Instalove, love triangles, girls who think the world of themselves and the existence of almost perfect guys. I might have more but I can always come back and comment! ;)

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