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The 4 Deadly Mistakes Fiction Writers Make 
BY TED DEKKER, NEW YORK TIMES BEST-SELLING AUTHOR
As I write this, my inbox is full of questions from fellow writers struggling to succeed. As I read your questions I hear myself in them:

What am I doing wrong?
How do I get noticed? 
How do I overcome self-doubt? 

Trust me, I know what it’s like to hit the wall. I also know what it’s like to go through it and find what’s on the other side. Today I’m going to start showing you how to do the same.

Over the years I’ve learned how to identify and correct four toxic mistakes that every fiction writer makes at some point. These mistakes will kill your fiction and, if you don’t overcome them, will keep you stuck for years. 

Strange as it may seem, nevertheless, writers keep making the same mistakes over and over, even many seasoned writers (including me for many years.) So I’m going to break down four of the most deadly mistakes fiction writers seem addicted to in this blog post.

And I’m going to show you how easy it is to overcome them so that you can chase away self doubt and write amazing stories. To make it super simple, I’ll use one word for each mistake. Fair enough?

But before I address the first, let me say something about insecurity. It plagues all writers. All writers.

The problem with self doubt is that it changes the way the neurons in the brain fire, shifting valuable energy away from the creative centers of the mind to those responsible for simple survival. 

Like a computer that’s overloaded with cleanup processes, the processing power left for running new creative programs is severely limited and you get the spinning wheel of death. It’s just a neurological fact, not in the least bit mysterious if you know how the brain works.

Self doubt is a monster, no two ways about it. It’s the antagonist in the story of your own writing career.

But self doubt isn’t a mistake. It’s a simple condition or symptom of a disease, and that disease is simple misunderstanding. Ignorance is the mistake and I’m here to help you clear that up so you can write the story hiding in your heart.

It’s much easier than you might think. Far too many books overcomplicate the process.

Think of writing like shooting a rifle at a target range. If you don’t know how to fire the rifle, or have never learned how to aim properly, or have taken some shots but never hit the target, you’re naturally filled with self doubt, yes? Once you overcome the simple mistakes you’re making, hitting the target is much easier and your confidence grows, and as it does, you start placing more rounds in the bull’s-eye. Boom!

Writing incredible fiction is much easier than most writers realize. So let’s go on with the business of freeing you from what’s holding you back.

Here we go. 
Deadly Mistake #1: Conflict
Or, more to the point, fiction writers forget that conflict is what drives all story forward. Whether you’re writing a romance, a historical novel, fantasy, or a thriller, your story hinges on conflict.

The whole point of a novel is to create and then resolve conflict. Truly, your story only begins when you first introduce conflict, therefore (and here’s the point I want to stress) it is critical that you jumpstart your novel by throwing the main character into terrible conflict within the first ten pages of the story.

Notice how many times I used the word conflict? It’s an important word. 

Yes, three dimensional, fascinating character is critical so that we care about their conflict, but without that conflict there is no story.

Yes, we must love the setting, the colors, the dialogue, but until we enter into conflict, the story is only being set up. In a nutshell, the story begins with conflict and ends with the final resolution of that conflict. Period. The wrap up at the end is just saying goodbye.

If your novel is about a man strapped to a chair with a ticking bomb bolted to the back, the story begins with the first tick of that bomb. Spending the first few chapters talking about the weather will interest climatologists unless the weather itself is part of the conflict.

Diving into the conflict early not only hooks the reader, it forces you to know what your novel is really about and the sooner you get down to business the better.

So throw your character into terrible trouble within the first ten pages or so of your novel and, assuming the reader cares about the conflict and finds it plausible, they will be hooked.

This, then begs a critical question that few writers (even experienced ones) really take the time to understand, thus their continued tendency to delay and minimize conflict. The question is this:

Why?

Why do readers care so much about conflict? Why do they get hooked? Why—whether the conflict be ideological, physical, intellectual, or emotional—are we all, as writer and readers, so taken by both the conflict and its resolution?

The answer is simple. We all live in the conflict of our own life-story, and long for resolution either through escape or through overcoming.

As soon as you offer conflict, you have the reader’s attention. They, like you and your character, live in deep conflict most of the time, even if they aren’t immediately aware of it. Not enough love, not enough beauty, not enough excitement. 

Too much responsibility, too much pain, too much heartbreak. You name it, conflict is the name of the game in this world of polarity where something good is at odds with something not so good.

Understand this, breathe this, accept this and you will be breathing the same air your readers breathe. They will identify with your characters and long to see whatever resolution they find at the end of the story. As such, your novel is more than a great story—it’s medicine for the reader’s soul.

Grasp this simple concept and you will have avoided one the deadliest mistakes made by authors and write the kind of story that heals all of humanity on one level or another. There is no better drug. You see how simple it is?

NEXT: Mistake #2
The Creative Way enrollment opens Wednesday, June 21st!