Badder Writing: 10 Reasons I Trashed Your Novel
I like to consider myself a Young Adult aficionado. I read at least a hundred a year, I review them, I write them and as many of you know I edit them as well. Most of the ones I read are decent, but there are a few that downright suck…sorry people, but it’s true. Below is a list of my biggest pet peeves. They don’t happen too often and they rarely happen all at once (ugh, I shutter at the thought), but consider these tidbits while you draft your big YA debut.
1) THE WISHY-WASHY WOMAN
It’s the Twilight effect. The girl can’t breathe, move, walk, or talk without the man in their life. I get it; she is one half of a whole, but when you make her a driveling mess, she becomes unsympathetic. This is fine for a secondary character, but not a leading lady. I need to see strength, a fight. And how come he was the love of her life, the light in her eye, her reason for drawing breath through the first two books, yet one hot biker dude walks into town and her undying love is tested? Come on. Let’s get real here.
This isn’t enough to make me to bow out of a story, but it is enough to make me throw the book against the wall and curse the author for being a total a-hole. I do want to mention that I love the push and pull, the cat and mouse…he loves me…he hates me game, but only when the girl pushes back.
2) I GET IT ALREADY…THE HORSE IS DEAD, SO STOP BEATING IT!
This one is pretty simple. Don’t tell me over and over again that she feels rotten, that the bad guy is really bad, that her mom is a total nagger, or that her friend is hotter, SHOW ME! I don’t need things spelled out, I need to be engaged, drawn there through dialogue and inferences, not through a self-effacing inner monologue. I’m not stupid.
3) SELF PUBLISHED AUTHORS: PlEase FoRmat YoUR teXt
Paragraphs are indented or separated by a space and sentences must have a period followed by a space. It’s pretty simple. You don’t do this…I don’t read it.
4) T.M.I. EMILY DICKINSON
I am a writer. I get it, you want to show me your talent and trust me I want to see it, but enough with the mundane metaphors that have been told time and again.
I don’t want to know that every step you took felt like marshmallow on a one-hundred and five degree, mid-July morning and when you fell against the prickly floor of the once lonely, graveled path, every bone in your body should have been shattered like tinder beneath the weighty fall of a giant, but miraculously the mighty hand of God spared your severed soul from eternal damnation, so you and Bruce could further regain your popularity at Pretentious High School.
I think I fell asleep writing that. You get the point.
5) THAT CHARACTER ISN’T DOPE, OR FRESH, OR PHAT…HE IS AN OLD AUTHOR HOPING TO SOUND HIP.
Why encourage young readers to talk like idiots? You can make the protagonists friends sound, “like, totally dumb”, without risking your main characters credibility. You can even inject it into dialogue here and there, but don’t force it and don’t use words that are fads, you just end up dating your book and yourself.
6) ME TARZAN – YOU JANE
I want to like the leading man, I really do, but chivalry doesn’t translate to verbal abuser. He can play the game without being an ass. An please stop referring to women as bitches. Girl to girl or guy to girl, just end the “Love ya bitches!”
7) WAIT! WHERE DID YOU GO?
Introducing a character only to remove him or her from sight forever is a flaw in continuity and sucks for the reader. However, this isn’t always a fatal flaw unless it is the leading man or woman in a love story and they disappear for most of the book. At the very least, keep me posted and if you do it, you had better have a kick-ass storyline to hold me firmly in place.
8) HEY IT’S ONLY A NAME. RIGHT?
Wrong. If I have to read it repeatedly, if it fumbles around in my mind, if I constantly mispronounce it or have to read some dumb nickname acknowledging a large appendage, I will likely check out. Think about the characters personality, your audience, make it simple to read, and form it to their personality. Katniss was unusual, but so was she and the world she lived in. Hermione on the other hand, was awful to read before I saw the movie. Sorry England, I’m just being honest.
9) WHATCHA’LL DOIN HER – SAID THE LEADING SOUTHERN PROTAGONIST
Tell me where they are from, don’t force me to read a Southern drawl through the entire book. It is clumsy, annoying and should be shown through other means. Be creative not obvious and don’t underestimate your reader. Brontë didn’t need to include an English accent in Jane Eyre, it was implicit. Instead, include some words that are exclusive to the region. “Mate! Wait up” is enough.
10) OH COME ON…HE DIDN’T SAY THAT
They are teenagers after all. They might talk about how much they love each other, but they won’t swear to cast out all evil in the name of love five minutes after meeting. Be authentic to the age of the character. This isn’t a Fabio cover romance novel. It’s a YA novel with hormone crazed teenagers. They might say how much they love each other and the moon and the stars, blah, blah, blah, but teens are limited in both vocabulary and experience. Be authentic to your characters. If they have been cast out of heaven for 600 years…yeah they would probably speak like adults, but 16-year-old virginal high schoolers? Come on.