Wednesday, January 6, 2021

IWSG: Seven Deadly Sins of Writing

Welcome to the first Wednesday of the month. You know what that means! It's time to let our insecurities hang out. Yep, it's the Insecure Writer's Support Group blog hop. If you're a writer at any stage of career, I highly recommend this blog hop as a way to connect with other writers for support, sympathy, ideas, and networking.

If you're a reader, it's a great way to peek behind the curtain of a writing life.

January 6 question - Being a writer, when you're reading someone else's work, what stops you from finishing a book/throws you out of the story/frustrates you the most about other people's books?

The awesome co-hosts for the January 6th posting of the IWSG are Ronel Janse van Vuuren , J Lenni Dorner, Gwen Gardner Sandra Cox, and Louise - Fundy Blue! Be sure to check out their posts as well as some of the other fabulous posts in this blog hop after you see what I've got to say:


Becoming a writer can be hard on your reading life. Once you know "how the sausage is made" it can be harder to just lose yourself in a story. You find yourself noticing the structure, turning pages back to figure out how the writer elicited that effect, etc. Reading like a writer can make it harder to just relax and read without analyzing. At this point, I'm extra thrilled when I can fall into a book and become so immersed that I stop looking at the structure and skill and just hold on for the ride. 

I had good luck in 2020, reading way more good books than bad ones. Maybe I've gotten better at figuring out which books are really for me. 

Still, I'll give even a flawed book a fair shot. If the characters are strong and the plot compelling, I'll keep going in the face of poor editing or small continuity errors. I can even forgive a bit of clunky expository dialogue. But I do have some deal-breakers. It's not IMPOSSIBLE for me to enjoy a book that does one of these, but it is definitely far less likely. 

So here they are: the Seven Deadly Sins of writing, at least if you want me to read your work: 

Samantha's 7 Deadly Sins of Writing

  1. Sexism: Nothing will pull me out of a book faster than outdated, patriarchal, or condescending treatment of female characters. (The same goes for other isms: racism, classism, ablism, homophobia, etc. I will give *some* slack to very old books if there are other compelling reasons to keep reading)
  2. Outright Preachiness: Characters can have points of view and politics, of course, and I'm fine with authors exploring issues through their fiction, but when it starts to feel like the book might actually be a political or religious tract? I'm out. 
  3. Rape: I'm so tired of rape as a character motivator or backstory element. Double yuck if the rape of a female character only happens for its effect on a male character. Overused, and usually just plain lazy. There are TONS of ways to traumatize a fictional person. Why must we always go here? 
  4. Obvious Thinly Disguised Biography: We're all in our characters, but if you want to write memoir, write memoir. Don't just change the names and call it fiction. If we don't know each other and I can STILL tell that you're working out your daddy issues on the page? Yikes. 
  5. Big continuity problems: As a writer of a series myself, I know that it's hard to keep track of all the small details, but if the continuity errors are too big and glaring, you're asking me to do the writer's job when I just came here to read. Throws me right out of the story and makes it hard to fall back in.
  6. Unbelievable coincidences: Writer-convenience-itis is a terrible disease. The most egregious kind is when a character suddenly gains knowledge or abilities that the story has offered no hint about before the moment that it solves the problem. Not fair. Feels like cheating. 
  7. Characters Acting Out of Character: If you've created a fictional person I've started to believe in, then have them do something that character just wouldn't ever do, I feel as if I've been lied to, so in the donation pile your book goes. 
So, how about you? Any deal-breakers for you? Of course, it all comes down to personal taste--and my poison might be your perfume. That's the beauty of it--so much to read out there, there's bound to be something perfect for you. 


  1. That's a good list. Preachiness bothers me a lot too. If you wanted to make a point with your story, that's great! But once the point has been made, you shouldn't need to spend extra pages explaining it.

  2. Oh, writer-convenience-itis. I know it well. I do try to keep it out of what I write, but I'm sure it's snuck in there from time to time.

    An excellent list.

    Happy New Year!

  3. That's a good list. For me, I have to enjoy the story by about page 50.

  4. Great list! I hate when you see too many coincidences in writing (or TV or movies). I try to avoid them as much as I can.

  5. Ooohh, 5 and 7! That's so true. I didn't think about that when I wrote my post. Those are certainly things I'd mention in a review as a reason for deducting stars. I hope your New Year is going well. I only read and reviewed 23 books last year, but my goal for this year is 30. My other goals are to publish another fiction book in 2021, do the Blogging from A to Z Challenge in April, and increase the number of authors helped by Operation Awesome.

    1. Last year was rough on a lot of people for reading life--there was too much fiction in real life! I aim for 52 books each year, one a week, and I usually do a little better than that. I didn't do AtoZ last year since I was on deadline at the time, but maybe I will pick it up again this year. Great blog challenge.

  6. Great list. Numbers 3 and 5 are my biggest deal breakers.

  7. A thought-provoking list, Samantha! If I'm absorbed in a book, I don't even see the words. I have to go back later to see how the author crafted his or her magic. Wishing you many great reads in 2021!

  8. I'm getting better at shifting modes . . .or maybe I'm just picking better books :-)

  9. Oh you went deep! And I agree. #1 and #3 are my biggest no-go. I read for pleasure and no way do those fit into my requirements.

  10. So true about one reader's perfume being another reader's poison. I also don't like to see rape.
    Wishing you easy reading and writing this year.

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  12. Heh. I just noticed your Old Mother Hubbard Meme. Love it.