I read a virtual acquaintance’s blog recently regarding his take on writing a good novel. I totally agreed with his comments, and told him I had my own set of rules. But, I only touched on my own personal, lengthy, list to give three of them.
So, what are my first rules of writing? 1) Don’t pad. 2) Read, then re-read to wheedle out typos and clumpy sentences. 3) The writing of sex should not rely on using metaphor for body parts. Along with this goes the use of swear words: we all curse when in stressful situations. I should have also added: 4) Repetition, but didn’t, as I wanted to keep my comments short. After thinking about it, though, I should have put in another two which are just as important: they are: 5) Show not tell. And, last but not least, the most deadliest of writing sins: 6) Author instrusion.
I have just finished reading a thriller, crime novel which was spoilt by the author’s voice continually jarring the narrative. But the last straw was when two men were indulging in banter which bore no relevance to the plot or story, and didn’t tell us anything new about the characters. One of the characters; wanting an end to the banal banter; simply said, ‘Drink your coffee.’ What happened next? Well, I was most surprised to read the following narrative sentence to be, Translation: I’m ending this stupid conversation.
Why insult the reader’s ability? Why should the author think the reader is unable to think for themselves? To me this was the most heinous of any writing sin; having the author explain what a three word piece of dialogue actually means. Luckily for this author, it was near the end of the book, and I still had to find out what the connection was between the killer and a politician, or I might have dropped it there and then.
To me this is shoddy workmanship, but I must admit I didn’t spot one typo. There were a few cliché’s in there, though, something the author could have dealt with better. Like the phrase, up shit-creek without a paddle, which was written as narrative, NOT dialogue. This is a well known phrase of which we are all familiar, therefore, why couldn’t the author have used his/her own words to describe the feeling of getting nowhere, fast. It’s not that difficult, you just have to sit and think for a while how to re-phrase it into something more original.
As a writer I strive not to let my views, my opinions, my personality show through in my work. I am not writing about me, I am writing about fictitious characters that I have made up and have come to know very well. And even when writing about the most evil of characters they should have, at least, one redeeming feature.
As I have said before, I don’t write to genre, even though I may read certain genres, I read and write outside them. But there is one thing we authors must never forget: that is, the reader is smarter than the author.