Writing a novel is heady stuff. You may have had the entire story mapped out in your mind, or you may have started with just the kernel of an idea or a vivid character. No matter how much planning you put into writing your novel, there is a good chance you will lose your way at some point. If you find it increasingly difficult to keep your book on track, consider these common issues that can derail an otherwise fantastic story.

Have Your Characters Changed?

If your writing is character-driven, you may discover your characters acting in ways surprising even to yourself. This may be your muse nudging you in a different direction with your story; you may be focusing so much on the quirks of your character that you’ve lost the thread of the story.

Backstories and details flesh out a character, but they can also become window dressing that obscures the story. Be judicious in your background information. Some writers continue to add background details or side stories that obscure motives rather than revealing them. Others discover that new details about a character affect their motives in ways the writer didn’t anticipate when they started writing. Go back and read your manuscript from the beginning. Is there a point where a main character’s development changed how they would act in ways you hadn’t planned? 

Do You Have Too Many Subplots?

Novel writing is successful when there is a central idea or plot that can be clearly followed. This story arc should be the framework around which all the details are structured. Any details to set a scene or convey an emotion should ultimately contribute to moving the plot forward somehow. Too many times in novel writing, writers get caught up in subplots that are interesting in their own right but don’t need to be part of the story being told. 

Shooting off on different tangents can pull readers away from the meat of your story. They may be left wondering, “But what happened to the best friend who was having problems at work?” or “Why am I reading so much about the coworker’s romance?” Be sure to keep stories about minor characters to a minimum, so you don’t wander off the path to resolve their stories instead of the lead character’s story.

Are You Combining Two Different Stories When Novel Writing?

Too many subplots can be a problem that leads to another issue when novel writing. You may get so invested in the story of a seemingly minor character that you can’t let that character’s story go. If this is the case, consider whether you need to devote a separate book to the minor character so you can give them the time and attention they deserve. If this is the case, once you commit to telling their story elsewhere, you’ll find yourself able to edit their story in your current manuscript so that it isn’t competing with your main story arc.

Did You Resolve the Conflict Too Early?

Novel writing is about conflict. If there isn’t any conflict in your story, readers will quickly lose interest. The conflict can be external – between your main character and a protagonist – or internal – the hero or heroine overcoming emotional issues or an unsavory past. If you address the conflict and resolve it too soon, you’ll lose readers’ interest. There is a reason many fairy tales end with, “And they lived happily ever after.” The happily ever after isn’t the exciting part. It’s what comes before the happy ending that compels readers to keep going. Good novel writing has to sustain the conflict over the arc of the story. If one conflict is resolved, it must contribute to a different obstacle that drives the story forward to a satisfying conclusion.

Novel Writing with Dudley Court Press

Dudley Court Press works with writers like you every day. As a full-service, hybrid publishing house, we help thoughtful people write their books and achieve publishing success. Contact us to discuss our full service partner publishing program or our assisted self-publishing option today.

For more information, including about DCP’s latest programs, please get in touch at +1-520-329-2729 or publisher@DudleyCourtPress.com. We’ve recently launched our latest program, Memoir Writing for Non-Writers. This comprehensive, 10-week course helps you turn your memories into a compelling memoir!