This book posits all the really bad habits writers have and the miriad of ways that they sabotage their own stories.
I haven´t finished it yet but already I can see some of the pitfalls that have plagued me. I am going to add my two cents
Seeing as this guide was written before the ebook, self publishing revolution started. Here are my pet peeves and observations after reading scores of Indie novels.
1. Please start the book, first page with the back-story.
2. Do not have any action at all in the first scene. By action, I don´t mean NO shoot-outs or fisticuffs. I mean no action at all. Have the main character (or even better, some secondary, minor character that we will soon forget about) just sits there, musing on the past. This will surely grab the reader’s attention.
3. Be sure, if you do have any action that it is a description of some inane mannerism or tick that the character has like biting his/her lip or flipping a bit of hair behind her ear. Repeat often.
4. If at all possible, repeat the same inane action but write it exactly the same way.
Mary caught a bit of side hair that had fallen out of her pony tail and pushed it behind her ear. Pg 2. Mary caught a bit of side hair that had fallen out of her pony tail and pushed it behind her ear. Pg 6. Mary caught a bit of side hair that had fallen out of her pony tail and pushed it behind her ear. Pg 12. Etc. The reader loves to read these things over and over.
5. Always tell us what is going on. The narrator is GOD and our sense of perception sucks. Why bother to show us the poster glued to the wall outside the gym, the old glue and bits of older, ripped posters still clinging onto the wall like fighters in the last round – a poster that announces the title fight at 9 PM between Buster ´Knuckles´ Jones and Tommy ´The Mule´ Smith. That takes too much time. Just say that Buster Jones had a title fight with Tommy Smith at 9 PM. It´s so much easier.
6. Whenever possible, include your protagonist’s morning ritual. We need to know what kind of shampoo our heroine uses as it is for sure to be a crucial point in her solving the murder and wooing the beau-hunk detective.
7. Make sure that there is a cat or dog in the story and give them a really cutesy name like Miss Puss´n´boots or Mr. Poopy. Repeat that as often as possible.
8. Beatles references. There must be a Beatles reference in every good genre novel. Especially cool when it´s a futuristic sci-fi novel set in the year 2067. Your protagonist will be considered ´JUST THAT MUCH COOLER´ if he still grooves to Yellow Submarine after 100 years.
9. When writing genre fiction, there is absolutely no need to follow previously established norms or folklore …. Writing a Vampire novel? To hell with that ´Going out in the sun-light crap´ better yet, make them sparkle in the sun. Didn´t Dracula get all sparkly? Lestat? Why not? To hell with it. Better yet. Pick a genre you know absolutely nothing about and have never read any books in. Write one of those. Sure to be a bestseller.
10. (And this one also applies to television scripts as well) Whatever the reader has been waiting for from the first page or first episode (in a TV series) don´t deliver. Don´t give them what they want. 12 episodes later and our ´Masked Man´ who is soon to undergo a transformation and become that SUPERHEROE ….. give him a crap costume in the final of season 1. Did your readers think this was a romance and the girl was going to end up with the hero at the end. Nah! Let her run off with a one legged circus dwarf. Makes for a better ending if everyone is dissatisfied and feels cheated. That way you can flaunt your superiority and catch them for the sequel.
Good luck with that.
David Gordon Burke
Find my books here.