The Tell Tale Signs

I recently read an interesting article from two editors that outlined 50 tell tale signs (for them) that a writer is an inexperienced newbie (no, of course I can’t find the article, that would be too easy).  Ironically, the two editors agreed on some of the sins, but differed on others.  That got me thinking about what people consider the greatest missteps committed against writing.  Here are mine:

  1. “Using too many tags and adverbs,” said the frustrated editor frustratingly.
  2. Grammor errors
  3. Switching POV, he though with longing as she felt the depth of his despair at the horrific faux pas.
  4. Wrong! punctuation..?,.
  5. Run on sentences are the bane of an editor’s existence they make them mad.
  6. Gggrr… hiya!.. No conflict
  7. Cringe-worthy metaphors and simile’s are like a set of heaving bosoms pendulously swinging across the engorged seas darkened by the swells of their disastrous union.
  8. “It sucks when these romance writers don’t do their research,” said Candy Cane Johnson as she laced up her corseted gown after flushing the toilet in her 16th century England. 
  9.  Relying on Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin’s advice that women love rape in romance novels
  10. Vvrroomm… vvrrrooomm.  Here comes the info dump tractor, throwing all its contents on page 1
  11. Wash.  Rinse.  Repeat.  Repeat.  Repeat.  Repeat.  The author uses the same “it” word 2,356 times in one novel.

Those are just a few.  Drop of your pet peeves.

19 thoughts on “The Tell Tale Signs

  1. Masha,
    Here is one of my pet peeves. When writers dump information in dialogue, knowing that the other person ALREADY KNOWS.
    Example: “Mom! As you well know, Dad left you for that brainless receptionist at his big-time law firm. It’s been three years already. Get over him.”
    The writer wanted the reader to know four things. One, Dad left mom. Two, he left her for his receptionist. Three, he’s a financially secure lawyer. And four, it happened three years ago. So, let’s just throw it all into a couple lines of idiotic dialogue. And if you start that idiotic dialogue by telling the reader that the other person already knows, that’s the worst! The worst!!
    That’s one of my favorite pet peeves.

    1. Hey Kim.. Yes! That is a great one! And it always sounds so natural when writers do this.. like any of us would talk like this. But then again, I shouldn’t throw rocks at glassy homes. When I edit the things I wrote, I sometimes catch myself writing stuff I should be slapped for writing. And this is one of them.. 🙂

  2. Good one, Kim. Mine used to be adverbs, but Julia Quinn convinced me at her workshop at RWA Nationals that adverbs might sometimes be okay, when used sparingly. (How’s that for a string of qualifiers?)
    Nice list, Masha! I’m sure all of us were thinking, “Do I do that?”

    1. Thanks Pintip! I know when I was reading the list of 50, I realized there were many mistakes I was making. But I also think things can be done in moderation. Just like for example, the “show don’t tell” is a good rule, but it can be exhausting if the author does it all the time for everything. Or descriptions. Unless there is a reason that is important to the story that the couch was old, torn and ragged, no need to create clutter.

  3. Hi Masha Mermaid! I was going into withdrawls without you…and what a wonderful post to satiate your fellow mermaid sister with. Thank you!

    Pet peeve? I don’t know if I would call it a pet peeve so much as a turn off but I remember a workshop we had at WRW last year sometime, and the presenter touched upon how sometimes in romance we have a serious situation going on but just because it’s time for that first hot glance, we throw it in there. You know, like if the building is burning down and your family has just fallen victim to it and the firefighter comes over to hold your hand and console you, it’s a little jarring for your first thought to be how hot he is. Or how crystal blue his eyes are. So I would say following the rules when the story says you should be following the story.

    1. Carlene, you are awesome. Thank you! Yes, I’ve falled off the edge of the Earth, but hopefully will be back soon. I also agree with and LOVE your example. It’s perfect. And hilarious. 🙂

  4. TSTL characters. Too. Stupid. To. Live. Come one, Heroes and Heroines! Communicate! Don’t just whine all over the book about how much you love him/her and can’t tell him/her b/c they’ll laugh you out of town.

    And don’t waste the entire book insisting the hero doesn’t know what he’s talking about when he says he loves you. “You’re delusional/too emotionally involved/just saying that because we’re at a wedding” is not a response.

    Having said that, I am terrified my own heroine is TSTL as she whines all over the place about selling the house she grew up in, while living there and falling in love with it, the town and the hero all over again.

    1. Ha, ha.. I love this one too! What I find ironic and frustrating is that it’s so easy to tell when others commit these sins, but when I read my own stuff, unless someone points it out, I’m so engrossed in all the other aspects of the story, I miss the big picture or how my characters are coming across. Guess that’s why the critique partners are great resources.

  5. I have to agree with Carlene–that whole “when is the time right” issue. I know I have a pet peeve but sometimes it’s just a certain ‘thing’ in a story that I hate at the moment. Or if someone doesn’t research far enough for reality.
    Great post! Really got me thinking.

    1. The “reality” aspect is big for me. I know everyone likes strong kick-ass heroines, but if it goes to the point of ridiculous (like a 5’0″ chick beats up 20 hulks in a span of 5 minutes) it doesn’t seem real, just like a James Bond movie.

  6. A solid list, Masha! I love adverbs a little too well and I never met a metaphor/simile I didn’t love to overuse. Sigh. I’m currently reading with a lot of ill-done head-hopping, so maybe that’s my answer for today.

  7. Thanks Keely! and I was the worst offender of head hopping (didn’t even realize it was a sin) until a wonderful author edited my manuscript and it was crying rivers of red from all the head hopping. That got me on the straight and narrow very quickly!

  8. Funny list, Masha-Mermaid!!! I have so many pet peeves I don’t even know where to start!

    There are story details that I tend to harp on. Like if your heroine is young and she owns a house in the middle of a large, expensive city. Nope – wrong! Unless someone explains where she got the freaking money for a down payment. (Can anyone tell that I’ve been researching buying a condo lately???) 😉

    1. Now Kerri Mermaid, why would it bother you that a 19-year-old heroine is living in a 3-bedroom in NYC, buying Jimmy Choos and works as a waitress.. and DOESN’T come from money and only arrived 3 days earlier from a cornfield in Nebraska. It could happen. In bizzaro world.. but yes, you’re right.
      How goes the condo buying? By the way, holler if you need help.. I work in housing (sort of)

  9. I have two pet peeves. The first is when an entire plot rests on a simple misunderstanding that could be cleared up in one brief conversation. Every time the hero and his love interest are on the cusp of discussing this painfully obvious misunderstanding, something happens to delay it until the writer makes word quota.

    Second is when the banging begins on page one. I have the patience to learn about the main characters and to watch their relationship develop in a natural, believable way. A deep emotional connection is what makes sex scenes compelling. If that isn’t present, it’s just porn and I’m not interested. Even in erotica I like a compelling story to break up the sexual acrobatics.

    1. Hi Kate.. yes, the Three’s Company misunderstanding doesn’t work well. Even if the writer is terrific. It’s frustrating. In terms of characters bumping uglies on page 1..what bugs me for some reason (and it’s just personal preference) is when the hero is going at it with someone else on page 1. I know it’s been done, but it’s hard to be endeared to him, even if he’s playing the bad boy. I think it’s harder for the author to redeem him.

  10. I’m with Susan and Kate! If the whole conflict is based on one small miscommunication that could easily be cleared up in a quick conversation…I’m out! Likewise, when either the hero or heroine does a ton of navel gazing, I tend to get really frustrated. It’s one thing to show the character feeling angst and conflict over falling in love. It’s quite another to tell (read: browbeat) the reader forty times about every detail of that character’s thoughts. That kind of circles around to show don’t tell, I think, but there are only so many times I can “hear” a character think “But I couldn’t POSSIBLY love that person…and here’s why. Again.” before I want to toss the book into my DNF pile.

    I will say though, that I very rarely come across books that do this. Romance writers tend to be very skilled and well-learned in the craft department 🙂 I read a lot more great offerings than frustrating ones!

  11. Good point on the fact that there aren’t a ton of books out there that commit these issues. But they do get through the gates. If I remember the article correctly the editors were lamenting about the submissions they receive and how they can immediately tell how much further the writer has to go before learning how not to make the big mistakes. I’ll try to see if I can find the article. It was interesting.

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