Got two minutes? Then check out this week’s quick…rant ~ Recurring missteps by famous, successful authors…
Hello and welcome…I am a freelance editor and an editor for The Wild Rose Press, as well as an author. I often struggle with my own writing, and I have found that sometimes, a little reminder of ways to improve the process can be helpful, so, I like to share these moments of brilliance with others :). But, in this busy world of ours, who has time for pages and pages of writing tips? That’s why I’ve condensed mine down to quick flashes you can read in (approximately) two minutes. Enjoy…
Disclaimer: All of my tips are suggestions, and are only my opinion. And, for the most part, there are exceptions when going against my advice will make your story read better. Take what works, leave the rest.
Rather than ‘tips,’ per se, I just want to point out/vent a little about how lesser known authors, especially Indy authors, are held to such high standards and picked apart for every little error. Yet, almost every time I read a book, even by the most successful and well-known authors, I am pulled out of the story by errors and poorly executed prose. I know that being an author and editor myself, I notice things the average reader doesn’t but I just have to think, these writers are in the big time, can’t they put a little more care and finesse into their work? (Having said all of that, I am WELL aware that my writing is far from excellent and error-free, but I admit it, own it, am still working to improve, and I am not a millionaire NYT best-selling author).
I won’t name names, but I would like to share some issues I’ve found with some of the recent books I’ve read…
The first one is a suspense by a male author that I LOVE, and I am usually captivated by his books.
The main character (we’ll call her Suzie), made it clear, early in the book, pretty much on the first page, that she thought very little of her former brother-in-law (her dead sister’s husband), and his fathering capabilities. As a matter of fact, when BIL offers his condolences over the death of Suzie’s husband, and asks if there is anything he can do, she has the thought, you can take better care of your children…
Then, at the end of the book, Suzie plans to sacrifice her life in order to bring murderers to justice. Before she dies, she sets it up so BIL will be the one to raise her two-year-old daughter. HUH???? He sucks as a parent, yet HE is the one to whom you entrust your daughter?
I’ve noticed this with a lot of the ‘big’ guys and gals…distant writing. I’ll give you a few examples. We’ll call Suzie’s daughter Shelly. And we’ll call Suzie’s friend Mark. In a scene where Mark was holding Shelly in his arms, and we are in Suzie’s POV, we have this narrative:
The little girl laid her head on Mark’s shoulder…
(I’m thinking…the little girl??? Wait, I thought he was holding Shelly. You know, your daughter, who you know quite well, well enough not to refer to her as ‘the little girl’)
And another line:
Shelly looked at her mother…
(Wait, I thought YOU were her mother)
This sort of thing appeared several times in another book I read recently by one of my favorite male authors. The MC had a teenaged daughter (who was a BRAT, by the way), and we are in her father’s POV. Lines like this appeared regularly:
Brittney seldom listened to her father.
(Yeah, well, she seldom listens to you either!)
(There were actually several plot holes, in my opinion, implausible actions, etc, but I won’t go into all that, I’ll just focus on one issue in particular.) This sort of thing really bothers me, although many authors seem to think it’s okay…
Cheating the reader. DON’T do it!!! In this case, the book starts out at the funeral of Suzie’s husband who had been shot by thugs when she and her husband were at a park together a few nights earlier. The ENTIRE book is in Suzie’s POV. We go through this big long mystery and cat and mouse kind of thing, several interviews with the police, etc, etc, her internal thoughts about the night the murder happened, about her marriage, her daughter, about what’s going on now and who and why it’s happening, etc, etc. Well, guess what we find out at the end of the story? SHE killed her husband. On purpose. Shot him down. Dead. In the entire book, not once did her internal thoughts wander to that little bit of information. That’s not a twist, it’s a major cheat. Since she knew she killed her husband, and we were privy to her thoughts during the entire book, at least ONE of those thoughts should have been about how she KILLED her husband! Am I right?
Something minor, but it still didn’t sit right with me. She is speaking with a detective who is asking her some questions that indicate he’s a little suspicious of her. They are discussing the weapon that killed her husband, and she says, “Are you familiar with revolvers, Detective?” And he says, “No.” and she goes on to explain the difference between revolvers and semi-automatics, or something like that. Uh, I’m sorry, but a seasoned homicide detective who isn’t familiar with revolvers?? Nope, not buying it. (She is a former soldier, so she was an expert…on everything.)
Another book by a female author who has published a series of probably 20 books about this same MC (and the MC is very unlikable, BTW, I couldn’t finish Book 1, I wanted to punch her the whole time, and I figured that probably wasn’t very healthy)
Anyway, this MC is a woman who worked closely with the police, frequently, and for years, and her best friend is a detective and she is literally THE BEST in her field, that was made painfully and repeatedly obvious. Someone violently vandalized her studio. The perpetrator killed her neighbor’s cat and smeared cat blood all over the destroyed room. The cat’s body was still there. She calls the police, then while waiting for them, she takes the cat’s body over to its owner. REALLY???? You are so intelligent and know everything about the law, yet you removed a vital piece of evidence–and, technically, the VICTIM–from a crime scene?
Okay, I’m done. Sorry. I don’t mean to be critical, and I don’t know if anyone will learn anything from this, but it was on my mind. And now it’s off my chest, so I feel better. 🙂
Until next time…happy writing!
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*** If you would like to send me a few sample pages (around 7500 words or so, even though I will not edit that many on the blog. It just gives me more to choose from) for me to edit and share on an upcoming blog post, please do so in the body of an email to AliciaMDean@aol.com. Please use the subject line: “Blog Submission” This is for published or unpublished authors. In the email, please include whether you would like me to use your name or keep it anonymous, and whether or not you would like me to include any contact info or buy info for your books. Also, you can let me know if you would like for me to run my edits by you before posting on the blog. Please keep in mind, this is for samples to use for blog posts. I will not edit or use samples from all the submissions I receive, but I will use as many as possible.
How to write a novel? That is the question. There are probably as many answers to that question as there are people who ask it.
Wanting to write and actually doing it are two very different things. I am well acquainted with the sometimes grueling process of churning out a story. Over the years, I have tried many methods for creating and completing manuscripts, and have tweaked and honed it down to a workable (for me) process.
Using specific examples from one of my own novels, Without Mercy, I share my method in this mini how to book. The first eight steps actually deal with plotting while the last two are designed to help expand your outline into a well-developed draft. There is no one, perfect way to create a story, but there will be a method, or methods that work for you. I’m not sure if this is the one, but it works for me. Only you can decide if it also works for you. Fingers crossed that it does!
*** Warning – Please do not purchase without reading a sample. (This is solid advice for any book, fiction or non. If you are not intrigued in the sample, you will likely not enjoy the book)
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12 responses to “Tuesday Two-Minute Writing Tip/Vent – Sometimes, Even the Big Guns Misfire”
Oh, I agree. I try not to beat myself up when I get a negative review…especially difficult not to reply when they make comments that are untrue, or they say something isn’t possible, but in reality it’s plausible. I believe sometimes readers, of which I’m one, tend to think from only their vantage point. When in reality, everyone is different. Haven’t you looked at someone and thought “Really?” How could they think that, or do that? For instance, one of my purchased reviews a reader couldn’t believe my female heroine, an attorney, could be so “stupid” and oblivious. Being book smart doesn’t make you life smart, and being oblivious might be by choice. So, yeah, I do think some our too critical and tend to look at the world through only their glasses. I had some very good advice from a seasoned author. She told me read your views on a very limited basis. I can have 50 reviews and only one negative…I’ll obsess over the negative. Great post! Thank you!
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Ha, well said. You know, I really don’t let negative reviews bother me. I am glad there are varied opinions about my work. Although, the purposefully nasty reviews, and the ones that show the reviewer didn’t actually read the book, are super annoying. 🙂 Thanks so much…glad you liked the post!
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I found similar problems with THE DAVINCI CODE, though just about everybody else loved it.For example, the supposed world’s experts in symbiology and ancient history were always floored by any new discovery. Really? You’re the expert–wouldn’t you have had a glimmer of intuition about a new discovery? No–it was always like Batman “POW” “BANG” a new finding! Also, every other sentence started with an ING word: Driving quickly, she parked at random. Moving noiselessly, he crossed the hall–etc. Worst of all–NO character development. The albino was white was as rich and deep as it got. I soooo agree with your anaylses, Alicia.
I was so bored by that book, I wasn’t able to get very far. But yes, those issues would have driven me crazy too!
I usually agree with flaws when people point them out in books, but when I read the book myself, I breeze over them. I don’t quetion a lot. I guess I’m the ideal reader! 😉 I guess that is because I’m a lot like that in life. A rule follower, not a rule questioner.
One thing that irks me, though, is when someone says a character is not real because he doesn’t fit a stereotype…all hockey players are like this, and all rock stars are like that, and all guys talk like this. MOST hockey players, rock stars, and guys may fall into certain types of behaviors, but to think that a rock star would, for instance, not play cards with his band members and their wives EVER is just plain dumb, in my opinion. Rock stars are people, too. Most have had part-time jobs doing something outside of the music industry. Some may even, cringe, do their own laundry. Is it more likely that they’d have laundry service, a personal cook, and a body guard? Sure. But it is not completely out of the realm of possibility for a rock star to be a whole lot like a regular guy, too.
And also, characters acting out of character…have you never known a friend to act completely out of character in certain situations. Or maybe you’ve even surprised yourself by reacting to something in a way you wouldn’t expect to.
I like to let the author take me where they want to lead me, but blaring mistakes like you’ve pointed out would make me shake my head. If you are going to have a character act outside their norm, better back it up with some solid reasons, or at least a little disbelief on their part. Thanks for sharing, Alicia!
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Good points, MJ. I love how people think they KNOW how a particular character would behave. (I don’t really love it…that was sarcasm. :)) – I wish I could be more immersed in the story, rather than taken out by annoyances. Heck, you’d think I thought I was perfect, wouldn’t you? Not the case, I assure you. 🙂
That’s the editor in you. Not a bad thing. I just tend to be oblivious in life in general. It works for me. 😉
I agree. I’ve had a couple of reviews that have said these things. That irks me too. Not everyone is alike, not everyone reacts the same, and how many times have you seen someone do something and thought to yourself “Are they serious?”. Because, not everyone reacts in a predictable way. And I know of a “rock star” family. He’s very famous, has kids, coaches baseball, and has a fairly normal family life. He just has a super cool job.
Love, love, love your rant! Now I want to read those books just so I can commiserate! 🙂 I agree, the “superstars” make plenty of mistakes yet are not just forgiven, but idolized. (Head hopping, a lot, comes to mind.) Thanks for bringing me a chuckle at the end of a long day.
LOL. Thanks, Leah. Glad you enjoyed the rant. I can email you the names of the books. 🙂 glad I gave you a chuckle. UGH….yes, head hopping is the worst!!
Loved the rant! And I agree with what you wrote. I’d throw certain books against the wall if they weren’t on my Kindle. Can’t hurt the device. LOL
Haha, no kidding! The days of getting satisfaction by banging a book against the wall are gone. 🙂 Glad you enjoyed it!