While the majority of writers that I read are incredibly talented, there are some writers out there who indulge in some of these deadly sins. I wrote up this list from the perspective of an avid reader and a book reviewer, and it’s just my own personal opinion. Feel free to join in the discussion, and share any deadly sins that you think I missed.
1. Poor editing.
I put this at the top of the list for a reason. There isn’t anything more frustrating than reading a book that is full of spelling errors and grammatical issues. I know that writing a book is a long, frustrating, and labor-intensive task. But, having a good editor is so important! I completely understand that even with an incredible editor, there will be at least a few errors that slip through, a book that has a lot of errors is going to get a lower rating from me. If the errors are bad enough, I may even DNF it.
2. Attacking reviewers for posting less than stellar reviews.
There is a huge debate about this raging right now. I’m going to clear this up in one sentence. REVIEWS ARE FOR READERS, NOT AUTHORS. When I write a review of a book that I’ve read, my intention isn’t to suck up to the author. If I absolutely loved a book, I write a review about what I liked so that I can hopefully encourage other book lovers to pick up this amazing piece of literature. If the book was less than stellar, I’m going to explain why, and inform other book lovers what to expect, so that they’re aware of what they’re getting into if they choose to read the book.
The other part to this sin is that a review is JUST MY OPINION ON THE BOOK. It is not a personal attack on the author. It isn’t like we’re telling the authors to roll around in crushed glass before setting themselves on fire. I write what I liked or didn’t like about the book. Not every reader is going to like every book, and that’s okay. Hopefully, if an author reads a review of a book that I (or other reviewers) didn’t like, they might be open to the constructive criticism and make positive changes in future writings. It’s never acceptable to attack a reviewer for sharing an honest opinion, and I’ve seen this happen more than a few times in the months that I’ve been blogging. This behavior needs to stop.
3. Writing romances without an HEA (happily ever after).
Books are a magical entity for people who love them. They take us out of our boring, frustrating, or unhappy existence, and transport us to a different world. Romance in particular has the ability to bring us to a world where there’s the kind of romance that sweeps you off your feet, and we want an HEA. If you’re writing romance without an HEA, readers are going to feel cheated. What’s the point? That isn’t a romance, it’s just a drama. Give us our HEA!
4. Ending a book without any resolution.
This tends to happen in books that are part of a series. I don’t know about you, but I absolutely hate it. I understand leaving some loose ends to generate interest, but at least provide some resolution at the end of a book. Personally, if a book is part of a series and it’s written well, I’m more likely than not to go ahead and read more. I recently read a book that left off on a total cliffhanger with no resolution at all. While it didn’t end in the middle of a sentence, it ended directly in the middle of a conversation. WTF??? Right under that, it led to a link to purchase the next book.
I hate feeling manipulated into buying more books just to find out what is going to happen in a scene. I can handle a cliffhanger ending, but when a book has absolutely no closure or resolution for any events in the story, I’m much less likely to want to continue reading the series. It’s a poorly disguised ruse to get readers to buy more books, and I feel like the other books in the series are going to end the same way. There are even some books that end in the middle of a SENTENCE. No thanks.
5. Discriminatory or unflattering tropes about minority groups, whether this has to do with culture, religion, ethnicity, disability, or anything else.
Seriously. We aren’t past this yet? Let’s start by saying that if you don’t know much about a certain group, maybe don’t write about them in your book. If you do plan to write about this group, learn about them. Get to know them. Make use of sensitivity readers. Avoid using stereotypes. Please. It's not just offensive when discriminatory and unflattering tropes are used in books, but it actively perpetuates these false beliefs that people work so hard to dispel. Let these groups write their own experiences, especially if you aren't going to take the time to portray them accurately.
6. Mastering complex skills within minutes or hours.
If you’ve ever tried to master a new skill, you’ll know how long it takes. This can include driving, martial arts, swordplay, new languages, and in fantasy worlds, magical powers. The best books show characters devoting weeks or months learning to hone their skills. While discussing this with Kristy at Caffeinated Fae, she shared that she had read a book in which a boy mastered the art of sword fighting in 10 minutes (see review here). I practiced fencing for four years in high school and college. It’s impossible to master fighting with a weapon or sword in ten minutes.
7. Plot holes big enough to drive a truck through.
If you’ve read enough books, you will inevitable find quite a few with glaring plot holes. Plot holes that are huge. When this happens, it feels like the author just throws in a twist to make things more interesting, even if it doesn’t make any sense or really fit in with the story in any way. These ideas tend to backfire for me, because rather than being more interested, I often find myself thinking, “Wow, that’s absolutely ridiculous. Where did this even come from? It doesn’t make any sense.” That’s usually the part where I lose interest in the story, and become way less invested. I start focusing on how close to the end I am, rather than being immersed in the story.
I’d love to hear feedback from you, and if you think I missed any deadly sins of writing!
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