- Too Much Telling. This is my biggest sin, first on the list because it’s the one I struggle with. As I understand it, if your sentences explain everything happening and how your characters are feeling it gets old fast and it’s too boring to buy. Don’t be like me. Show, let your readers interpret, describe, show some more.
2. Boring Characters. Along with the yawn-inducing telling, boring characters will kill your book. A heroine who is so ‘everyday girl’ that she literally has no personality, a hero who is too perfect to be believable, friends who exist just to move the plot along with stereotypical behavior (and, what’s worse, it’s obvious) are all sins. Go forth, find resources to help you write developed characters, and sin no more.
3. Plot Holes Big Enough to Fly a Starship Through. She’s trying to text her beloved about some critical plot point in a tunnel, under a river, in a no cell service area, and complains that she can’t hear a dial tone. Ominous, chilling childhood memories are alluded to in a dark, brooding fashion and then never mentioned again. This is why God created critique partners. Use them. And then say thanks, find another one, and have your story read over again. It has saved my story, and it will save yours.
4. A Book That’s Much Too Long. For the record, J.K. Rowling’s books are the perfect length and in fact need a few hundred thousand more words all about Harry Potter, the Grown Up Years. Hint hint Ms. Rowling. The quote below was funny, that’s the only reason I used it. In general, if your books are routinely hitting the 150K + range it’s possible you need to evaluate. Do you really need that many words? This isn’t fantasy or science fiction, the world building is minimal. Unless you’re writing paranormal romance, in which case, carry on while keeping in mind that over 200,000 is still a bit much.
5. A Book That’s Much Too Short. On the other end of the stick, if your books can barely tiptoe out of the 20,000 word range (this is another one of my sins) you may also need to evaluate your writing. There are lengthier stories on fanfiction websites, why should someone pay money for your teeny book when they could find longer stuff on the internet for free? What complications are you leaving out? Are your characters developed, and doing interesting things? Consider Snape’s displeased face down there, and go attack your manuscript with some more words.
6. Corrupting the Common Comma: Self-Publishing is a thing. It is a good thing, and I am 100% for it. Still, don’t publish without getting your grammar together. Traditional publishers will have a line-by-line edit before your book is printed but in self-publishing you’re on your own (or hiring an editor, which can get pricey.) Please, please know the basics of periods, commas, nouns, verbs and general spelling. There is no excuse not to know the difference between two, to and too, for example. I have seen self-pubs that don’t do this, and it’s not pretty.
*Note* that I’m not saying your manuscript should be perfect in every detail of the most obscure grammar. For one thing, I’m not that good at the picky details myself (bless me Father for I still cannot remember where exactly the semicolon is appropriate and I have to look up the difference between affect and effect every time.)
7. Thou Shalt Not Envy Other Authors. In this long, frustrating and rejection laden process you will find comfort from a community of helpers. Other authors are a fantastic group who truly want to see their fellow writers succeed. This includes you, towards other authors, whether you like it or not.
At some point a friend from the query trenches will leave them for a fantastic book deal, or self-publish something that turns out to be super popular and you will feel jealous. You will not want to, you will try to push it back, but the green-eyed monster is sneaky and slithers through anyway. Acknowledge the feeling, admit the monster sunk its fangs into you and then banish it.
Feeling envious doesn’t make you a bad-author friend, it makes you human. What would be bad is letting the feeling stay and fester, which you will not do because you are part of the wonderful supportive author community and have been educated on the seven deadly sins for romance authors.