What Not To Write

While editing Dragonfly Prince, I’ve taken a few breaks to read free online novels. I found a couple of good reads, but there were things that caused me to stop reading. Here are a few:

  • Confused verb tenses

She walks through the door and saw him.

  • Boring dialogue

“Hey, Mom.”

“Hello, my daughter of twelve years. How are you?”

“I’m fine, Mom. I am going to do my homework now.”

“That’s a wonderful idea, sweetie. I am glad you are such a good student.”

  • Narrative and dialogue redundancy

I went to the kitchen to make breakfast.

“I’m going to make breakfast now,” I said.

  • Forced and/or connotatively incompatible descriptions

The night sky was a sea of fire. A heavy purple ribbon ran, like a puckered bruise, along the horizon.

A purple streak across a red sky is beautiful; a bruise is not.

  • Backstory, backstory, backstory

It all began with Hugo’s great-grandfather, who wore white leather gloves, lived in a house with five rooms – the living room, the music room, the kitchen/dining room combo, the daffodil-themed bedroom, and a 16-square-foot bathroom – and had an old dog with rheumatoid arthritis named Fear…

I don’t even know Hugo. Why would I want to read all of that about his great-grandfather? By this time, I’ve left the story before knowing what it was even about.

  • Introspective Babble

“Carson, there’s no one here,” Trish told him, sizing up the abandoned building.

Carson wasn’t listening. He had a habit of that with Trish. It stemmed from the many fights they’d had as kids. Trish was two years younger, but she had a way of making him feel like he was the younger one.

He stepped out of the car, but she grabbed the arm of his jacket. “You can’t be serious! You’re not going into that old place!”

He resented the tone in her voice. She always used that tone when she thought he wasn’t doing what she thought he should do…

Introspective babble is kind of like angst, only with more whininess.

As a reader, do you sometimes run into droughts, searching for a good story without success? For me, that’s when the urge to write becomes the strongest.

Author: Rilla Z

I'm a scribbler. I'm genuine. My topics of interest are: this world, the worlds inside my head, and the world to come. Oh, and cups of tea. Yes, I write about my cups of tea.

9 thoughts on “What Not To Write”

  1. Hm. Some of the stuff here is probably on the lower end of the quality scale. Maybe that’s why they were free books … lol. Although, I do keep giving these freebies a go in hope that an author will pop out that wasn’t given a fair chance via other avenues.

    I’ve written a post on my blog regarding backstory before. It’s always drummed into us as writers, but it’s harder to fix up in our writing than it is to read and understand.

    Good points you made us aware of! 🙂


    1. With the ton of published works being advertised for free for a limited time, I’m finding it very confusing. If it’s free, does that mean it’s not top quality? That’s becoming less applicable. And, yeah, I can’t help but give the ones that look less polished a chance, either. I’ll have to look for your backstory post. Thanks, Rebecca!


  2. This is what people point to when they say e-publishing is no better than the old vanity presses. There is no “gatekeeper” to keep out the stuff that should never have seen the light of day.

    But I definitely agree – reading things like this makes me want to write something better. And it’s a good reminder of what to look for in my own editing! Those early drafts can be painful to read, too….


    1. These were the simple things I noticed. There are reading sites dedicated to stories in public domain, books that were in print years ago. It surprised me what some of those lacked, and I don’t mean changes in rules of grammar.

      I’m really confused about ePublishing. There is great appeal in keeping my book mine, but that’s no great advantage if I’m the only one who likes to read it! 😀

      Oh yes; I cringe at my early drafts, too. But that’s a good thing, right? Feeling that way means we see the difference; our writing skills are improving!


  3. Great blog post! These are definitely some key points you have picked up on. I can’t believe some of this stuff was in some of the books!

    Have the free ones been edited at all, or can anyone put things up?


    1. With so many places online to peruse free reading material, there’s a variety of everything. There are out-of-print, public domain eBooks (some of them are on Amazon’s free list) or free-for-a-limited-time electronic versions that publishing companies are making available. I read a few from both of those categories. Then there are the blogs, etc. that keep a running list of online eBooks. You never know what you’re getting into until you click. It can be fun, and it can be dreadful.


  4. I often learn more from reading amateur writing than works from exceptional authors. With a great writer, I become immersed in the story. Certainly I remember what I liked, and I’ll try to mimic mechanisms I noticed that worked. When I see someone stumble, however, I’m more likely to try to identify what irked/bored me about the piece, go back and critique my own work, and try to avoid their mistakes. Also, those who fearlessly publish their imperfect works give me permission to ignore my perfectionistic tendencies long enough to finish a draft. Even if it’s not perfect, I can always edit it later!

    I have serious reading drought issues. Sometimes it seems as if I’m reading the same story and the same generic voice in depressing repetition with nothing but a few extra frills. Sometimes I’m horrified at what is published. Obviously someone likes it, and I can take something worthwhile away from every book I read whether my feelings are lukewarm or not, but finding a book that sends me into raptures nowadays is difficult. Maybe my criteria are too high. Perhaps that is part of why I turned to reading self-published authors and free e-books, short stories published on blogs, etc. The prose may need some polish, but they are raw and real and sometimes far more original than whatever the current fad of the market is. I can always click away if the writing is truly dreadful.


  5. I like the tongue-in-cheek way you make your points!

    I’ve read some great independently published books where the author clearly has talent and has taken pride in what they’re putting out there…and unfortunately some terrible ones where I really wish they’d invested in feedback from a wider audience than their best friends who are so impressed they’ve written that many words down in sequence that they’re ignoring the words themselves!

    It’s got to the stage where it feels as if perhaps there should be some kind of industry regulator to prevent people charging for books that aren’t ready for publication (although the added cost and delays wouldn’t be appreciated).


    1. I think writers can be found most wanting when it comes to investing in feedback from a wider audience. The craft requires introspection, but the final product requires objectivity. I don’t understand why I can’t be objective about my own story. I opt for an objectivity pill. With your ideas on industry regulation and mine to medicate the problem, we could form a profitable alliance.


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