Top 5 Mistakes Authors Make – Mistake #3

Let's Talk Novels Podcast“Failure to plunge the lead character
into terrible trouble.”

Solution: Plop your character into the middle of WWIII!
(or its equivalent for them)


 I want to thank all of you for your enthusiastic response to these podcasts. It helps me to know that I am helping you.

And while I was thinking about how I so much want to provide you with valuable tips and techniques that will help you craft best-selling novels (either as an indie author or the traditional route through literary agents and publishers), and how I hope that I am providing you with information you actually need . . .  I got to thinking —


That’s when I got really excited! You see, usually when I’m asked to speak at a writers conference, it is left to me to choose the topic for the keynote speech or workshop. Then, my topic is printed in a brochure and conferees have two choices: take it or leave it. Which means either I guessed right, or I didn’t.

How much better is this? I don’t have to guess! You can tell me how best I can help you and provide you with the content you actually need.

So how about it? Think of me as your personal writing mentor. I’m asking you: how can I help you write and sell your novel?

(This is the part where you respond in the comments section below. Scroll down. Leave a comment. Hit submit. I promise to take every suggestion seriously.)

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(If you’d like to read The Guardians, click on the sample above.)



  • Today’s readers of popular fiction want action, and they want it now.
  • The sooner you stop writing novels to make your English professor proud, the sooner you will start writing bestselling fiction.
  • Some authors and publishers use visual print techniques (short chapters, large font, wide margins) to simulate a page-turning experience.
  • As a writer, you do your part to create a page-turning experience by –
    • Making your hero a protagonist. Someone who is a catalyst, who stirs things up.
    • Placing your hero where they don’t want to be by asking yourself, “What is the worst thing that could happen to my lead character in this scene?”
  • A standard writer’s tool that should be in every storyteller’s toolbox: SUSPENDED ACTION
    • Start the action
    • Suspend the action to provide needed detail
    • Resume the action
  • Use the suspended action tool –
    • With alternating scenes or chapters. For example, Chapter 1 starts the action. Chapter 2 goes back and provides necessary detail. Chapter 3 resumes the action.
    • As a running commentary to provide significant detail through the eyes of your hero.
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  1. I was wondering, how far is too much of a gap when starting a novel in the middle of a climactic scene and then going back to tell why the protagonist is there? In the story I’m working on, it opens in the prologue with the protagonist facing her own execution, but that event doesn’t happen until at least three quarters of the way into the story. Is that too much of a jump backwards?

    • No, that’s not too far of a jump given the circumstances. It’s a major event in the protagonist’s life (understatement of the year) and so readers will want to know the events that lead up to it. I think it’s a good premise and approach. I look forward to reading it.

  2. When an agent looked at my contemporary novel, she said it was good writing, then asked I’d been told to start the story with action, etc. and that she didn’t like starting in the middle of such high action. If it starts fast-paced with high stakes, that doesn’t that mean the reader is expecting the whole book to be like that, does it? In the second chapter I introduced another important character, and her demeanor, etc., required at totally different tone. I move back and forth between them, with the tension moving from one to the other.

    • Regarding the first chapter, while you want to start with action, you also want the first chapter to set the tone for the rest of the novel, to inform the reader what kind of novel it’s going to be. If you start with fast-paced action, that’s what readers will expect in the following pages. A good way to start the action is to introduce your protagonist at his or her best, doing the kind of things that reveals to readers what kind of person they are. Hope this helps.

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