Being self-taught I’m always aware that I’m the last person anyone should ask for advice on How to write. It’s not like I’ve been to college, university or sat an exam in creative writing. I don’t have a degree, or letters after my name. I’m not an expert, but I’m a reader.

When I set out on my writing journey, I read as many books as possible on how to write to be published. One of the most important lessons I learnt from the books I read was to improve one’s writing was to read, and keep on reading across the different genre as well as the one you want to write in. In my lifetime, I have read hundreds of books across all genres. So, I consider myself to be an expert on what’s good writing and what isn’t.

Many of the books I’ve read were brilliant, books like Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, the debut novel by British writer Susanna Clarke. Published in 2004. This book grabbed me from the first sentence and took me to a magical world. Charlaine Harris’ Grave Secret. Everyone knows Sookie Stackhouse (True Blood) series, but I enjoyed Harper Connelly series more. P. D. James The Children of Men, this book is far removed from P.D. James normal crime books with Superintendent Dalgliesh. The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton. This book is stunning and has everything from a mystery, a forgotten garden, a missing authoress and an abandoned child. It’s also a time travelling book with a difference. It’s told by two people, the grandmother and granddaughter. You just can’t go wrong with an Agatha Christie’s book. Just pick any one of her collections of brilliant well-plotted books. R.J. Ellory’s The Anniversary Man. I do love the flow of R.J. Ellory’s writing.

Obviously, I can’t list all the books I have read here now. A few of the books I read have been outstanding, ones like The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom and Robert James Waller’s The Bridges of Madison County. Both of these books just flow beautifully. Then there were some that showed promise, but never lived up to my expectations. Some were an easy read, and because of that they were easily forgotten for no particular reason, too. But never have I read a published book that has left me with my jaw hitting the floor as I try to work out how it got published.

Normally, as I turned the last page of a book, I would say to myself: it was okay, maybe not to my taste. It could be anything, from not gelling with the characters, unrealistic dialogue, or the book might have plot holes, which spoils the reader’s pleasure. Three novels which were well-written and hooked me from the start were Gone Girl a 2012 crime thriller novel by American writer Gillian Flynn, and The Girl on the Train a 2015 psychological thriller by British author Paula Hawkins, and not forgetting Before I Go to Sleep a novel by S. J. Watson published in Spring 2011. The endings of those three books had me weeping in frustration as I started questioning why the holes in their plots hadn’t been spotted by proof-readers.  

With this latest book I’ve just finished reading, I wanted to scream… Where’s the plot! The thing that bugged me most was the poor quality of the writing. It didn’t sweep the reader up and carry them along with the story. Nothing made sense. The characters never came alive for me. They seemed angry all the time as they shouted, swore and rolled their eyes hard.

Out of curiosity, I forced myself to read on. For long periods nothing much happened apart from head hopping and repetitive scenes about stomach pains and clenching fists, and eye rolling. Events unfolded so rapidly there wasn’t any time to build up the tension. Sentences were confusing. Example: He gave her a blank look and then his features started working in tandem like circuits clicking. His eyes fluttered and his jaw shifted side to side. Finally, it stopped, and he blinked fully.

There are pages of unnecessary purple prose and a bleeping alarm clock. If you’re a non-writer purple prose means overwritten and too many descriptions which breaks the flow of the story. Though given it didn’t seem to have a story line, I guess it didn’t matter. There was no sense of place within the book. No real feeling of how or where the characters lived or worked. Yes, the reader was told it was an office but not what it looked like.

I’m not even sure that the reviewers of the book who have given it five stars already were reading the same book as me. As for the horror and sex elements within the story I must have missed them all together because there wasn’t a slow build up in shared emotions between the characters. By the end of the book, I was left speechless 😶. No, I won’t be reviewing it.

Why?

Because I would have to proofread the whole book and point out to the author their book has been poorly editing. It might have had all the Is dotted and Ts crossed but the construction of the book is very weak, the characters poorly drawn, there’s too much head-hopping, there’s lack of tension leading up to any crisis in the so-called plot line. And as for the shocking murder at the end of the book, it was so unrealistic as it took place in an office. The noise of someone getting beaten up, with crashing furniture, would have brought people running to investigate. The last scene and speech by the main character was rubbish, too.

As I say, I’m not an expert, and this is just my opinion.

For the sake of the author, I’m not going to give their name or that of their book.

Paula R. C.

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