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Thursday, September 16, 2010

No, I didn't like your book. Here's why...

I consider myself a pretty tolerant reader. I like samplings of most genres. I enjoy everything from non-fiction to pure comedy. I'm willing to give new authors a chance. But in the past month or so a few authors have stretched the limits of my generous nature and forced me to walk away from their books.

If you recognize a favorite book in this list of sins, I'm sorry, we have different tastes.

Problem 1: You horribly, and graphically, torture someone and it has no affect on the plot.
True, sometimes torture is a good plot device. A character is horribly wronged, and now the other characters are galvanized (or shamed) into action. If you horribly torture a character in three-chapter detail and it changes ABSOLUTELY NOTHING, you need therapy.

Problem 2: You spent the first two chapters of the book telling us how much the main character needs to get laid. You spent pages detailing how beautiful they are. But the book has zero romance for anyone.
You've just wasted whole minutes of my time telling me this person is fantastic, but the book is about their cool computer? Maybe you shouldn't have fired your editor.

Problem 3: You derailed a conversation/fight scene to detail the history of an interesting point in three pages of loving detail.
The sentence you wanted was: For the past [x-number] of years the [cool thing] had allowed [species] to [do cool things].

See? ONE SENTENCE!!! I really don't need to know the who or why behind the cool invention. I just need to know it works. Let's move on...

Problem 4: I need a flow chart to keep track of your minor characters and their alliances.
Double-crossing is awesome. Minor characters are great. There is no excuse for introducing seventeen new names as minor characters in chapter thirty. I should not ask why this person shot that person after chapter ten. I should know the characters well enough to understand their motivations. Don't leave me guessing.

Problem 5: Your phenomenally intelligent and astute main character is also stunningly beautiful but complete unaware that s/he is making heads turn everywhere they go.
It's called the Mary Sue test. Know it. Use it. Love it. If you fail, rewrite.

Honestly, if your MC is an Ugly Duckling, I really don't care. I don't care if they have three heads and orange snot dripping from their nose unless it's relevant to the plot. If you mention your character's physical traits more than once a chapter, there better be a very good reason.

Problem 6: You kill all suspense by force feeding the plot to the reader.
If I can guess the ending by chapter three, you haven't done your job right. I don't care if this is a romance, a murder mystery, or the latest space opera, I don't want to know how it ends until I read the last page. Don't have your villain detail his/her dastardly plot in the prologue. Don't give me the last chapter as a teaser in chapter one (unless you have the most amazing twist ever up your sleeve). Just.... don't!

I'm reading this book to explore the world and meet new people. Let me enjoy the exploration.


  1. None of those sound familiar to me. I know how you feel about having to just walk away from a book for whatever reason. I've encountered it a lot lately and it's a hard streak to break.

  2. This gave me a very good laugh today! Great job on laying this out, too. :)

  3. Whew. I am so glad I haven't read any books like that. ;)

  4. So glad I haven't WRITTEN any books like that. ;)

    Fun post!

  5. Now where did I put that "like" button? ;-)

  6. :o) The worst part was this was all one book. I'm so glad I didn't start my voyage in the sci-fi genre with this author. I feel bad for the people who fall their first.

    There is excellent science fiction out there.

    There is, also, some very terrible science fiction out there. Live and learn!

    (And this post was supposed to go up Thursday :P #blogfail)

  7. Excellent warning for writers both old and new. I think I'll go fix it now... :-)

  8. Jean - It was a truly terrible book. Very sad, it started out with so much promise.

  9. Bummer! But I agree with all of those points and sadly have read books like that. Well done post.

  10. Great points. I don't think I've read this particular book, but I've read ones like it. Alas. There are more out there than there should be.

  11. My current theory is that there is a subset of the reading culture that enjoys this kind of book. It's the kind of book you can easily put down when the bus ride ends. It's the kind of book that you can skim a few pages and not miss anything.

    The extra 150 pages of fluff make this kind of book huge and impressive when you read it in public. Imagine how many people you can fool into thinking you're a speed reader if you skim ten pages at a time!

    ... Well...

    It's a theory...