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Saturday, 12 October 2013

How not to do it

I finished reading a novel this week.

That wouldn’t normally be the cause for a blog post, but this book has been a struggle.  I must have taken me four months to get through.  I brought it ‘blind’ after reading the blurb on Amazon, with the promise of Celtic gods, supernatural horror, Scottish scenery and, to be honest, the prospect of a bit of blood.

I’ve been fortunate to meet a few self-published authors recently.  While I’ve decided self-publishing isn’t for me, I’ve come to respect indie authors for their drive and self-confidence.

Having said that, independent publishing is also a way poorly written books can find their way into print.  The novel I inflicted on my Kindle was one a traditional publisher would surely never touch.

It was, though, an eye-opener to read something so badly written.  I could certainly see why some things are frowned on in writing:

  • ‘Head hopping’ (or switching viewpoints).  Viewpoint seemed to change several times a page.  I found it hard to focus on a character, or to relate to a character;
  • Style.  After having dangling participles thrust at me time after time I can see why editors dislike them and why they’re technically incorrect anyway.  That’s only the tip of the iceberg of my technical gripes;
  • I got fed up with spelling mistakes and simple errors in grammar.  Normally these would be taken care of by an editor.  I appreciate now how distracting they can be;
  • Characterisation.  I couldn’t tell the characters apart, or understand who they were or what drove them.  That meant I couldn’t build any empathy toward them.  I certainly didn’t care when a couple got killed;
  • Plot.  There wasn’t one, really, apart from people dodging random monsters all the time.  That made it monotonous.

So, it was an education to read a book that had a lot of the flaws writers are told to avoid.  I’ve not always grasped why some things are considered bad writing, and this book helped educate me!

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