10 Writing Mistakes That Really Bug Me!

I’ve been reading more indie fiction, and one thing about indie books, they don’t always have great editing. I get it; editors cost money. If you’ve signed with a publishing firm, they pay for all that. But if you’re self-published, you have to pay for it for yourself.

I’m sure it’s hard to come up with the money for that before anyone has even bought a single copy of your book. But it’s money well spent. Having a good editor can be the difference between a book that makes me want finish so I can recommend it to all my friends and one that I am happy to put off reading for something better.

In the spirit of helping, here are 10 writing mistakes that I have noticed that really mark your work as something that could have used an editor.

  1. Typos. These are so obvious, but they are so very annoying. It’s one thing on the internet, but when you’ve released a book? They make it look like a junior high project.
  2. Spelling mistakes. This goes along with the first one, but it has to be said again. This time I’m including the mistakes that spell check doesn’t pick up, but are still wrong.
  3. Forgetting a character’s name. Hello! Make a cheat sheet or something. But calling a character by one name in one page and something else on another page? That’s sloppy.
  4. You’re/your, it’s/its. Contractions are for when you leave a letter out. If you’re (hint) not sure, look it up. Or get that editor to do it for you!
  5. Too many dialogue tags. Oh, and using something besides “said” when you do use one. Occasionally replied, or asked, or complained, is acceptable, but mostly use said. And mostly leave it off. We don’t need it.
  6. Overusing characters’ names. Obviously you have to do it sometimes but there’s a balance. Too much and it becomes awkward and clunky.
  7. Either too much action or too much dialogue or too much interior monologue. The best books have a mix of all three. Readers want action, but they need a slow space to catch their breath, to think and figure stuff out, to bond with the characters, and to figure out what the characters are thinking. But too much of any one of these three elements and the book doesn’t work.
  8. No subplots. That’s a real difference I see between beginning writers (like me, I admit it) and more polished writers. Beginners are focused on just one plot. But that can make a book too predictable. The best writers create depth by adding subplots and characters with back stories that engage the reader.
  9. Black and white writing. Characters that are all good or all bad. People in real life are very seldom like that, so reading about people like that is just boring. Give your characters reasons to behave they way they do and people will love them more.
  10. Not listening to your editor. Once you have paid your editor, or begged your friends or writing group, to read and reread your work, take their advice. I’m not saying everything they say has to be adhered to, but if you ask someone for help, take the help they offer. Make the changes. Even if it means starting over. Your work will be stronger in the end.

Book Sins

I hate to single out books for hate, so I thought of a a way to do it without getting too nasty. You could still figure it out if you try, and if you really want to know, you could send me a private message and I’ll tell you, but I’m not trying to single out anyone for unfair criticism here. After all, it’s just my opinion. But there are some things that really bugged me about these books and I think it’s fair to warn you if you’re planning to read them.

  • A, S D by M K – cozy mystery. Tried too hard. Why do cozies do this? They remind me of the kids at school who want to be liked so much that they wear the latest fashion, attach themselves to the coolest crowd, and try to fool everyone into thinking that they belong. If you have to try that hard, you’re not cool. Your humor either works, or it doesn’t, and desperation is not helping.
  • TWWBK by KC – biography. Speculation. Look, either it’s biography or it’s fiction, but quit trying to be both. If you don’t have the sources to back up your guess work, just write it as historical fiction. Don’t try to sell it as non-fiction. You’re just irritating your readers.
  • A&TFK by SP – YA romance. General grump here. I think I was the wrong audience, but hey, tell your characters to quit whining already. You’re in Paris. That’s not too bad. Enjoy it already.
  • F by MRC – could you be more depressing? a druggie kills a kid and goes to prison? Why did I read this? My fault here, I should have expected it to be bleak.
  • Y by CK – thriller. This book does nothing by glorify stalking. It is disturbing and horrible. Why is this rated so highly? And why are some readers defending him? He’s a stalker, abusive, and a murderer. There’s no defense.

Those were my 1 star reads of the year. I may end up with more. Did you guess any of them? All of them? Some weren’t too hard.

Year in Review, Part 1

I gotta say, I’m not sad to see 2016 go! What a year it’s been. Like a lot of people, it’s been a hard year. The only highlight, and it is a really big one, is that I got a new daughter-in-law.

Will and Brittany, September 2017

But to get back to the books, it’s time for a look back at the best and the worst. Today I’ll review my worst books of 2016, the ones that miss their mark, the ones that are disappointing, the ones that are just plain horrible.

So Much Talk Award

You know the whole “Show Don’t Tell” adage? It’s not always, always true, but when you’ve got a whole book of telling and telling, and practically nothing happens, it’s really time to move on. Plus it was an audiobook, so it stretched the talk out even further. This one goes to The September Society by Charles Finch. Another hint that this is a stinker: the author named his main character after himself.

Boot the Reboot

I’m awarding this one to two Jane Austen reboots. The one I actually finished, Eligible by Curtis Sittinfield, was a modern version of Pride and Prejudice. Set in Cincinnati. About a dad with, you know, 5 daughters. He lives on his “investments” and the girls live off him. Mostly – Jane is a yoga instructor and Liz is a writer. However, the redo is both offensive and boring. Bingley is a reality show star, Jane is pregnant via IVF, Lydia’s bad beau is transgender, and Darcy & Liz jump in bed together with practically no build up. I applaud the effort to bring this story into the 21st century, but I hate it when queer issues are seen as and ‘edgy’ plot point.

Then there’s one I couldn’t finish – A Modern Day Persuasion by Kaitlin Saunders. Honestly, this one was so bad. Our Anne Elliott was heartbroken when her romance with the cute lifeguard at the country club was cut short. Because she was in high school. And her daddy didn’t want them to get married. Seriously? I’m supposed to feel sorry for her? Gave up on this one early.

You Call This Classic?

I had some clunkers in the classic fiction category. The one I kind of liked was The Song of the Lark by Willa Cather. The writing was beautiful in parts, but the story was very slow. Normally she’s one of my favorite authors, but this one was definitely her weakest full length story I’ve read.

But I couldn’t even force myself to finish the other two I tried. The Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens is so full of cliche – sweet suffering orphan, scheming dwarf, downtrodden wife, and on and on and on. I couldn’t roll my eyes hard enough. I just so didn’t care.

Then I tried A Passage to India by EM Foster. This one was well written, with great characters. But I am not into reading an exploration of racial drama that ends in tragedy, misunderstanding, and heartbreak. Especially this year! I want to read something that ends positively.

So Much For This Series!

I had several series that broke my heart or turned me away. Chasing the Prophecy by Brandon Mull, #3 in the Beyonders, ending by killing off practically everyone. This was for kids! Not cool. The Wicked Will Rise by Danielle Paige, the Oz reboot, so darn boring. The first one was so much better!  Shattered, #3 in the Slated series is by Teri Terry. I really loved the idea for this one, and the first two books had a lot of promise. But I don’t know why this book went is such a different direction.


Sometimes, you’re expecting a book to be one thing, a certain genre, or content, or whatever, and what you get is something else entirely. I am put off my excessive profanity or violence, by sexual content, and by anything too dark or depressing. So when I hit a book is a letdown, I put it down and move on. I love books that push the boundaries of plot or character or worldbuilding, but when it comes to my moral boundaries, I don’t compromise.

So I won’t list any of those books, because the problem was not just with the writer, but with the fit between the book & the reader. But then there are the books that were just bad – poorly written, badly plotted, with internal problems. That’s the writer, not the reader.

Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith sounded like so much fun. But it was odd. I expected something campy. What I got read like a straightforward biography of Lincoln, which I would normally love, with a little vampire thing hinted at. But it was taking way too long to get to the undead. It left me bored and I quit.

I listened to over half of The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton, and NOTHING WAS HAPPENING. All kinds of secrets, lots and lots of back story. But plot? What plot? It had so much potential. It was set in 18th century Amsterdam, and rich with detail. But setting is not enough to carry a story. It needs to move.

And the last one I’m going to list is Born of Persuasion by Jessica Dotta. The problem here was that I didn’t care about any of the characters. This was book one in a series, so I get that our MC will change. But I have very little patience with whiny teenagers, especially ones that have to figure out a way to survive. This is Christian historical fiction, and this is sort of the ‘before’ picture, but even so, it was badly written.

So those are my Worst Of 2016 books; and next time I’ll tell you about my favorites. Happy reading!