After reading a novel recently that I grabbed by pure chance, I was left with feeling that a potentially great story had been wasted. The first chapter was well written with a fantastic plot setting and this was what hooked me into selecting this book. As I read further, I was also impressed that the text had obviously been thoroughly, if not meticulously proof read. For the first twenty pages or so, it seemed to me to be a good example of a well written self published novel.
Unfortunately though, after these first few well written pages, the wheels fell off completely and I only continued reading because I was making mental notes of the facets of the book that were spoiling what could have been a really good read. Here are a few of the problems I encountered.
Terrible Formatting: The text was a huge block with next to no paragraphing at all, no first line indent or line spacing. This made it very difficult to read and killed any flow the story may have had.
All Tell and No Show: All good writers know about ‘Show and Tell‘ and that while a balance of the two is needed in fiction writing, all tell is a sure fire way to send a reader to sleep. I won’t harp on this point, but suffice to say that it is an all too common mistake I see – writers falling into the trap of only telling a story. This book was unfortunately one of those with practically all tell and no show.
Clichéd And Weak Dialogue: Worse that just using clichés and hackneyed phrases, the very limited dialogue in this book hardly ever extended beyond five or six words and each line of dialogue carried a reporting verb and an all too often adverb. It was symptomatic of a lack of understanding in allowing characters to develop and ‘showing’ the story to the reader. Without well crafted dialogue, it was impossible to get to know the characters.
Unreal Fiction: While fiction is fiction, it does need to make sense. Non-sensical reactions by characters, illogical outcomes to scenarios and just plain silliness all weaken a good plot. There were some very silly passages in this particular book that should have been edited out.
A Flat Ending: There is nothing more disappointing than reading a novel and discovering that it has a rushed ending. The end of a book should be when the reader thinks ‘wow’, not, ‘damn’. I was left with the impression that the author hadn’t planned out this story at all and the ending was driven by the word count and not the story.
These are just a few of the problems I encountered with this book, but my purpose in highlighting them is not to criticise the book and the author. It is to offer some clues on how to improve and grow as a writer.
Self publishing is a tough business, and with so many books available now the only way to stand out from the crowd is to write well. Avoiding the errors I have highlighted here may just help you do that.