1. Using a foreign language when you don’t really know it. Your sweet heroine is sitting at a café in Paris. Sipping her café au lait, she waits impatiently for Monsieur Ooh-la-la to come along. Just when she feels all hope is perdu, a gorgeous artiste wearing a horizonally-striped shirt and black beret approaches her. He says the equivalent of “How you doin?” à la Joey from Friends. Except in the manuscript this delicious pick-up line is written as “Comment vous faire?” which is the kind of trash you get when you use those straight translation programs. This slip-up might land on e-reader of an editor who is fluent in French. Make sure you consult someone who speaks the language.
2. Announcing intention before showing it. I’m nitpicky about this and I’m going to tell you what I mean. Oh wait. I just did what I hate. Let me explain in a more practical way:
Hannah was shocked that Trevor complained about the overcooked carrots. She was going to tell him so. “I’m shocked you’re complaining, Trevor.” Did you catch that she’s telling us three times? I don’t blame her. I’d be really upset if Trevor didn’t like my cooking. This repetition is an easy crime to commit. It might be part of one’s speedy train of thought, but it reads as lazy filler and I cut, cut, cut. Editing these ineffective sentences will make an editor happy. Go back over what you’ve written a few times, put in a more interesting sentence. Hannah could secretly decide to put the carrots in Trevor’s breakfast smoothie the next day.
3. Predictability. With so many stories being told, my pet peeve is a cliché. Being new and different is not new and different anymore. As an editor of romantic suspense, I can smell the hero-arriving-at-the-right-time-to-defeat-the-villain-who’s-holding-her-hostage at around p. 10. Readers may like this kind of ending, but for some, it doesn’t make the story worth reading after the 20th version. Recently, I was editing a tale that was proceeding at a nice pace, good romance, lots of bells and whistles. Then the author really shocked me in a way that left me gasping. The story became more precious to me, with a happily ever after I wasn’t quite expecting. This is pure gold–happens but rarely for me. It’s difficult to write an unpredictable plot, but still I challenge writers to find a way to surprise the reader.
That is all…