Friday, November 20, 2015

Writing: Twelve Fatal Flaws

I rarely do book reviews on this site, but I recently had the opportunity to read a pre-release copy of a book I think should be on every writer's bookshelf (or e-reader). It's The 12 Fatal Flaws Of Fiction Writing. It's a multi-authored book, which means you get the collective wisdom of editors C. S. Lakin, Linda S. Clare, Christy Distler, Robin Patchen, and Rachel Starr Thomson. And they do a masterful job of weaving everything together into an understandable work that I found very helpful.

The book not only talks about each of the flaws, but also gives examples of them and how to correct or avoid them. The chapters include Nothin' Happenin', Too Much Backstory, and Pesky Adverbs and "Weasel Words," among others.

In the section on showing and telling, the editor talks about an author who is told they should reveal backstory through dialogue--but instead of jettisoning their precious words, they simply put them in quotation marks. Rather than simply saying, "Don't do this," the editors go on to provide examples of what not to do, then how to correct these flaws.

In several places, the Rule of Three is invoked. It not only makes good sense, it's easy to remember. One application is that, when a character speaks three lines of dialogue, the writer either switches to speech by another character or inserts an action beat. Good advice, and it works.

The section on adverbs and weasel words is one I bookmarked for that final review of a manuscript--and we writers know how important that can be.

For those who think novels spring, fully formed, from the keys of an author's computer, this book will be eye-opening. For authors who are sweating out a manuscript, whether their first or fiftieth, this book serves as an excellent review. I highly recommend it.

I'll be doing a follow-up interview with one of the editors of this book on the Suspense Sisters blog in a week, and there'll be an opportunity to comment and win a copy. Stay tuned.

My question for you: What fatal flaws have you encountered in either reading or writing? I'd like to hear.

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Patricia Bradley said...

Sounds like a great book! I so agree about the rule of 3, whether it deals with writing or pottery.

Richard Mabry said...

Patricia, I had to point out the rule of three to a copyeditor just a week or two ago, saying I intended to write it that way. Thanks for your comment.

Rachel Starr Thomson said...

Thanks for the great review, Richard! I'm so glad you enjoyed the book and found it helpful. Speaking for all of us five editors, we're grateful for your help in spreading the word.

Richard Mabry said...

Rachel, although I've been writing for a number of years now, I learned a lot from this one. Any praise was well-earned. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

Patricia Bradley said...

BTW, I preordered. :-) Do you know if there will be a print version?

Richard Mabry said...

Patricia, I'll hope one of the editors will reply--I don't know for sure, but one isn't shown right now.

Christy Distler said...

Thank you for the review, Richard!

Patricia, the book will also be available in print. The print version will be available from the online sellers by December 1.