I don’t post a review of every book I read. Why? I am not a professional reviewer so I’m not obliged to file copy; and because this site is about celebrating good books not criticising the three stars and below. However, if anyone is interested, here are the top five faults which stop me recommending a novel I have read or have attempted to read.
- Indulgent world building. It’s like sitting next to an enthusiastic bore. I love your world. Really I do. I just don’t need that much of it, thank you. I want the story. And my own space to imagine and have fun on my own. Go away.
- Jumping Point of View. You want me to get travel sickness? Just jerk me from character to character. In the same scene. In the same chapter. It’s like pinball. Where’s your empathy? Try reading it as if it were your first time.
- Too many adverbs, she added menacingly. Stop putting your dirty, annoying, nudge-nudge paw prints all over my reading experience. Trust your writing will suggest more than the words written on the page.
- And here we come to Point Four in my List of Things That Irritate My Reading Experience just in case you haven’t guessed and need it spelt out, Exposition. Take out as much as explanation as you dare. I can work out what’s going on from the merest trace. I’m a social animal, I’m trained to pick up nuances and hints, and as I am reading a book, it’s what I am expecting to have to do! It’s fun. Don’t do it for me.
- Getting from scene to scene. Real life has lots of boring bits. Yadda Yadda Yadda. Do not write those bits in. Think very carefully about including anything that isn’t the main story. Cut to the chase and signpost it clearly. If you want the reader to pause or set off in another trajectory, put in two or three sentences of well crafted place description, back story or exposition as a springboard. Boing! And off we go again.
Reading back over these points, it is obvious that good writing is like good architecture. It stands up; there’s nothing extraneous; and you walk through marvelling at its simplicity and inherent rightness … without seeing a hint of any plans or scaffolding.