Everyone does posts and lists about how great books are, right? There’s always something like The Top 10 Books of the Summer or 100,000 Ridiculously Long Books You Should Read Before You Die, But Probably Won’t. I love those lists, but I don’t think I’d add anything original.
Instead, I’m not going to tell you what to read. In fact, I’m not even going to tell you what NOT to read (and trust me, I could name a few and save you some agony). I’ll be even more cryptic than that. I’ll tell you the 4 things that writers do that makes me want to throw their books into lawn mowers.
1. Books that give me stage directions.
“Timothy grabbed the pen and held it in his fingers. It was warm, as most pens are, and if he pressed it to the paper, it would emit the most delectable words. He held between his forefinger and his thumb and placed it to the page. He twitched his muscles in a deliberate way. He wrote a letter, curving around below the line and making a dot of smudging black.”
Do you see? This book, my friend, needs a serious copyeditor. I read a certain book like this lately, one quite popular in the YA market. It was from a trilogy about a dystopian world — maybe you’ve heard of it? Either way, if that author had cut out the mundane descriptions of everyday actions, she could’ve saved herself a hundred pages. Or two.
2. Sentences that are just too wordy.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the classics (read: adore), but these typically are the worst offenders. After a long day, the last thing I want to do is read a sentence that is longer than the book itself. I get it: spice it up, use a flowery adjective or two, wow me with your vocabulary. But invest in some periods or SOMETHING! I get to the end of your sentence and I’ve forgotten what you’ve said in the beginning.
3. Characters that can’t decide if they love each other or not.
Okay, don’t get me wrong, I like a little love story in books. In fact, I often write them into my own pieces. Love is a part of life, and it’s beautiful, and I get that. But sometimes, it makes me so angry. I just can’t stand the flip-flopping.
“I love him. I hate him. He’s unreasonable. I’m unreasonable. I was wrong. But he hurt me so. He’s the worst. No, he’s not. I love him.”
Just stop. I have real life for that. A little drama is fine, but this isn’t a soap opera. The reader is not your therapist.
4. Intellect that is out of place.
“I walked into the room. She was standing there. She was pretty and I liked her. I touched her arm and smiled. The endorphins rushed into the capillaries of my fingertips, and the serotonin in the receptors of my brain afforded me momentary contentment.”
Okay, there, Bill Nye. Tone it down. I know your writing was bland before this moment, but big words are NOT the answer. If your entire book is written that way then fine, bring it on. But don’t just add in intellectual banter to change it up. When that happens, it feels so random, like the author needs to prove to everyone that they are smart or something. We get it. Hell, you wrote an entire book. You need not prove anything!
AND you know what’s even more infuriating than this list?!
When I find myself doing these things in my own writing. It makes me cringe. Don’t do it in yours. Consider yourself warned.