Novel Publicity relies on people like you, readers and bloggers, to make our authors’ work leap off the screen and into reading devices across the globe. So we decided to ask our authors to donate to a huge giveaway thanking you for all your time, and take part in this blog series. From now until the end of the month, authors are writing posts for you, instead of the other way around! Check out their thoughts, gripes and writerly advice here, and don’t forget to enter the giveaway at the bottom of the page. Happy Reading!
New Years Blogger and Reader Giveaway
Novel Publicity relies on people like you, readers and bloggers, to make our authors’ work leap off the screen and into reading devices across the globe.
So we decided to ask our authors to donate to a huge giveaway thanking you for all your time, and take part in this blog series. From now until the end of the month, authors are writing posts for you, instead of the other way around!
Check out their thoughts, gripes and writerly advice here, and don’t forget to enter the giveaway at the bottom of the page.
By Guest Blogger Mary Maddox / Sometimes, a book takes you on a magical journey. One full of twists and turns that make it really hard to put down that book. Other times…
I love to read fiction. That’s one reason I became a writer — to create those magical portals called books. I begin each story hoping to be swept away, so caught up that nothing else exists, but sometimes it fails to happen. After a few pages or a few chapters, I lose interest and abandon the book, never to return. Here are a few reasons why:
The dreaded info-dump
Exposition is necessary at the beginning of a story. Accent on necessary. Writers can overestimate how much readers need to know. Suppose you’re reading a story that opens with a family in a car bringing their daughter to college. You’re getting to know the family from the daughter’s point of view — their conversation, her thoughts, and reactions. Then you come to two lengthy paragraphs of background info — how she feels about her stepdad, the financial struggles of her family over the past year, her hopes and dreams. Nothing in the paragraphs is needed to understand the present scene. All of it could have surfaced gradually.
Those paragraphs are like lumps of flour in stew, that hasn’t been stirred enough. They distract from the flavor. They may even spoil your appetite.
In medias chaos
Unless the prose is exceptional, I have trouble getting into stories that begin in the middle of a frantic battle or hot pursuit. Other readers might be drawn into the action. Not me. I have no clue who’s fighting (or chasing) whom, what the stakes are, or why I should care. This technique works better in movies, where the viewer processes details visually and events unfold so fast there’s no time to wonder about context.
Too f**king much
Some readers detest foul language, and anything stronger than damn makes them gnash their teeth. I’m not one of them. The profanity in my own fiction has inspired a few bad reviews. But I have a limit. Occasionally I encounter a story with a first-person narrator who spews constant profanity. I can’t fault the realism of the writing; most of us know people who swear all the time. But a constant stream of profanity gets tiresome unless the writing style is brilliant and the storytelling is original. I love Trainspotting and Naked Lunch. Most of the time, though, profanity works best when used sparingly, like Tabasco sauce.
Waiting for the uh
In college I took a philosophy class from a brilliant professor. His lectures were hard to follow, not because they were disorganized or incoherent, but because he had a distracting habit. In the middle of almost every sentence he paused and said, “Uh.” I began waiting for the uh. It became so distracting I struggled to follow his argument.
All writers have habitual ways of expressing themselves. They’re normal and necessary. They create the writer’s style.
These habits only become a problem when they’re conspicuous and serve no purpose. As soon as I start noticing strained similes or clauses that begin with as or a string of sentences all the same length, I drift away from the story.
Curse of the red pen
For years I taught writing to college students. I’m trained to spot errors in grammar, punctuation, and usage. I understand that perfection is impossible and most books, including mine, contain a few mistakes. Errors and typos don’t bother me until they start cropping up on every other page or the same one occurs over and over. Repeated errors in usage annoy me. Professional writers, who expect readers to pay for their books, ought to know the difference between its and it’s and between there and their.
People associate typos with indie books, but some Kindle books issued by mainstream publishers are riddled with typos. These books, usually from the publisher’s backlist, seem like they were produced by scanning pages and converting them to digital form with an optical character recognition program, then an eBook was created and published without proofreading. The books sell for seven or eight dollars, yet the publisher was too cheap to pay a proofreader. It’s an attitude that shows contempt for readers.
This is a personal list. You might not care about the things that bother me. Most of us have one thing in common, though: we want to forget we’re reading and experience the world the writer has created. What kind of writing distracts you from the story?
Mary Maddox is a horror and dark fantasy novelist with what The Charleston Times-Courier calls a “Ray Bradbury-like gift for deft, deep-shadowed description.” Born in Soldiers Summit, high in the mountains of Utah, Maddox graduated with honors in creative writing from Knox College, and went on to earn an MFA from the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop. She taught writing at Eastern Illinois University and has published stories in various journals, including Yellow Silk, Farmer’s Market, The Scream Online, and The Huffington Post. The Illinois Arts Council has honored her fiction with a Literary Award and an Artist’s Grant. You can visit her online at www.marymaddox.com
To learn more about the books Mary has published, check out her Amazon Author page.
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