S is for Sins

BLAST_SIn the predawn light we commit them. We are breathless from a looming deadline, or perhaps blinded to our mistakes by pride. We might try to hide them. We dress them in setting and disguise them with witty dialogue. We pray no one will notice our blunder. Yet the error remains, a viper coiled within our pages and ready to strike when we least expect it. They are the deadly writer sins.

1. Syntax: Thou shalt not trust the opinions of sympathetic readers. Find the smartest, strictest, SOB of an editor and listen with your head and not your heart when they say something is wrong.

2. Sequels: Thou shalt give the reader a satisfying ending every time. It need not be a happy ending, but it must offer a conclusion of some sort. Common sense says a cliffhanger has never made anyone buy the next book unless they enjoyed its predecessor.

3. Sex: Thou shalt not surprise, or worse yet, shock, the reader with sex scenes they don’t expect. That means mention the erotica in the flipping blurb, people.

4. Silence: Thou shalt mute thee inner complainer. No one wants to hear about how agents, editors and readers are all wrong and if the publishing industry didn’t suck, show favoritism, etc… you would have a seven-figure deal.

5. Shapeshifters: Thou shalt not try to bend genre to thy will. Mixing story elements is fun, it’s where great books come from, but not when it’s intended to mislead the buyer. If you want to write a thriller, do it with pride. Don’t drop in a pointless love interest and call it a romance.

6. Spam: Thou shalt not take over a hashtag or any other form of social media. Of course you want to sell some books, but when you blast the same message a dozen times in ten minutes, you’re out of control. Don’t look at me like that. It happens. Remember, spam gets you blocked, not bought!

7. Sloth: Thou shalt write. Not talk about writing, not dream about writing, but put pen to paper, fingers to keys, mouth to microphone and just flipping do it.

8. Simulation: Thou shalt not try to write like other writers. Being a fan of a great author is one thing, but making a point-by-point study of their work so you can become a copycat is another.

9. Spoilers: Thou shalt not give away plots, thy own or a fellow writer’s. The midpoint twist should never be in a cover blurb, or in a book review. Respect readers and don’t sabotage your peer’s work. It gets you noticed, but for all the wrong reasons.

10. Scrap the crap: Thou shalt only write books with plots, stakes and characters that change!

Of course no two people have same top ten writer sins, but these are the ones that hit my ignition button. Also, if you pay attention to reader’s reviews, many of these same sins repeatedly crop in bad reviews. The good part about seeing readers vocalize the same complaints, regardless of genre or demographics, is it means the writer sins are preventable.

Go forth and write!

Author: Robin Rivera

Robin trained as a professional historian and worked as a museum curator, educator, and historical consultant. She writes mystery fiction, with diverse characters and a touch of snark. She's currently working on two new manuscripts that started off as NaNoWriMo projects. You can follow her on Facebook(https://www.facebook.com/robin.rivera.90813). However, Pinterest (https://www.pinterest.com/RRWrites/) is where her inner magpie is happiest of all.

16 thoughts on “S is for Sins”

  1. Great post. I think I’ve probably been guilty of a few of these at some point – mostly thinking about writing rather than actually writing. Never the cliff hanger though. I’m with you on that one – it doesn’t help sell the next one, because reading the blurb is usually enough to establish how the last one should have ended.
    I would also add cop out endings to this list. I’m all for reading a book that makes you think, but I still like to know how the writer would have finished their story, even if I disagree!

  2. These are excellent. Love every single one of them. And actually a friend just posted today that she was really, really angry about a cliffhanger in a 400-page book, and not only dropped the series, but the author! It’s a dangerous game to play!

    1. I’ve started to think critically about end of the book cliffhangers and I’m convinced it can be done, but it takes a few key factors for it to work. Once I do a bit more research, I’ll write a post about it and share what I’ve found.

    2. I have done the exact same thing! Was really enjoying a book, and then when it ended mid-scene and answered NOTHING I was so angry that I never read the next book. I just can’t trust an author that does that! (And according to friends, the rest of the series was no better. It’s like the author didn’t know what he was writing and was making it up as he went along.)

  3. Loved those points – all of them! However, as a reviewer, it my pet peeve when authors leave sequels open and without a satisfying ending. I honestly don’t know why they do this. I find most readers don’t enjoy a book without some conclusion either.

    1. As a reader cliffhangers make me nuts. Series books are fine, but each book’s plot needs some sort of resolution. I can only assume some writers overestimate the universal appeal of their work, or think leaving things completely up in the air will sell more books. It backfires on me every time, I never read book two if book one ended as a big fat dud.

  4. ‘Scrap the Crap’ has just become my new heading when editing! Great post today, Robin, with great advice. Personally, your point about finding a good editor struck a cord, because that point cannot be stressed enough. I have an excellent critique partner who, by her own admission, has a tendency to get carried away! I always tell her – go to town! Everyone needs a fresh pair of eyes because we get too close to the project, plus we know our characters inside out. She catches a multitude of sins and for that I will be eternally grateful!

    1. I truly believe great editors make or break books! You’re lucky to have found someone who can be honest and will not let you slide by. You might want to send that gal some flowers. : )

    1. Thanks, Corina. It’s nice to see you out and about again. I’m glad you’re home and resting comfortably. We missed you. : ) Get well soon!

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