Last night, I was a very disappointed reader. It was definitely the fault of both the writer and her editor. After all, what the author did wrong, the editor should have found and had the author fix. I’m not going to name names and I hope I can do this without dropping too many clues as to the author’s identity or accidentally disclosing the book in question; I’m certainly not established enough in this craft to actually point fingers, but as an avid reader I think I know what fails me.
In every writer’s workshop, seminar or class I’ve attended and in every craft development book I’ve read, I am told to read a lot, especially books in my genre/niche. And I do. It’s amazing what you can learn from reading a good book, but there is a lot more to be learned from a bad one – primarily, what not to do in your own writing.
If a bad book is bad enough, the errors will jump right out at you, kick you in the brain and leave you wondering just what the flip the author is trying to do!
That being said, the book I was reading was not bad for story (once you found it), but the technical errors just left me stunned and hoping I never make them. There were a lot of them, and they yanked me out of the story many times. Bad grammar, improper use of words, use of the wrong word (“accept” instead of “except” was a star among these), and missing and misused commas galore!
But the headliner of this flop was the plot itself. It gets the award for most poorly planned and badly executed plot I’ve ever read.
First mistake: opening with a steamy sex scene. Sensuality is probably this author’s strong point. She writes them pretty well. However, I didn’t feel the opening was an adequate inciting incident to set up what was to come. It only established that the two characters involved were really hot for one another. There was no mystery, no sense of forward motion, nothing to really make me want to keep on reading – and I almost didn’t. All I really wanted to do after reading it was have a smoke and go to sleep.
I prodded on, and by the time I found the second act, there was a pretty decent story developing with a little mystery and suspense and frightening things happening to the protagonists – just as it should. I was wanting to know who had done these nasty things and why. I was waiting with bated breath for the resolution – that never came. All that followed was a clue that the mystery of the story was going to take a long time to resolve then the final chapter where it seems the protagonists will live happily ever after. It was not just a contradiction, it was a lie. With the antagonist still on the loose, how can these two be headed for the bliss room?
There was a note at the end of the final chapter that suggested there would (will) be a second book, but for crying out loud, where in this book did she set this up? I went back and re-read the last half of the book and I could not find a sequel setup anywhere other than it would ‘…take a long time…’ The entire main plotline was just left hanging at a standstill.
There’s nothing wrong with leaving a plotline open if you’re going to do a sequel, but let the reader know that’s what you’re doing, in the story – not in a post scriptum. The author, instead of writing the happy couple living in Leave it to Beaver-land, should have taken the unresolved plot and had them trying to be Cinderella and Prince Charming but they’re going to have to do a lot more to earn it. She should have written another ‘disaster’ to end the book on; something that threatens the happiness the protagonists are hoping for and in such a way that I just can’t wait for the next book.
As it is, I wound up nearly pulling my hair out because nothing was resolved – I didn’t get my answers – and I wasn’t informed that there was more to come until the after the narrative ended and I bumped into the, “Oh-by-the-way” note at the end. How dare this author – after a shaky start – finally get me into caring what happens to these two lovers, happy to see things working out, only to drop me like a bad date (the social kind not the fruit).
I can only hope that if I ever do something this evil to my readers, the person who takes issue with what I’ve done also identifies me. That way, I’ll never be given another chance to bludgeon readers’ senses and get away with it. They simply won’t read me again.