I came across an interesting article called “The Ten Deadly Sins” by David X. Manners (published in The Writer’s Digest Guide to Good Writing). The article discusses the ten reasons why an editor would reject an author’s story submission. These concepts can be applied to most types of writing, so I’ve adapted these ten “sins” with my own interpretation.
What are the ten deadly sins of writing?
1. It has no hook.
Your story (or article) must have an interesting angle at the beginning to catch the reader’s interest. The method is not important. The key is to grab the reader right off the top to draw them in. A well-written headline is an effective tool for establishing your hook.
2. It’s confused.
Your story has no central point or constantly meanders away from what is supposed to be the central them. You might try to say too much or discuss a lot of different topics. But too many issues will confuse the reader and obscure the main point.
3. It’s trite
Your story is boring and repetitive, or it uses commonplace phrases and sayings. Find a fresh angle for your story, or a new way of saying it. If it’s not important to the story, then leave it out – or find a different and interesting way to make the point.
4. It has weak characters.
In other words, there is no life to the story or the people / characters in it. Everything appears two dimensional and bland to the reader. Add some life with fuller descriptions. With products and services, think benefits rather than just features. Add life and colour to the characters in your story. Make them real.
5. It’s badly paced.
Some stories are nothing but action from the get go. They don’t let you get acquainted with the story and characters – it’s too much in your face for you to care. In other stories, nothing interesting happens. Explanations are too long, and the story just seems to drag. The story should grow and build, so that the reader comes along for the ride.
6. It’s sloppy.
There is no excuse for bad writing, poor grammar and spelling, or inconsistent spacing and layout. It shows lack of care to the writing process, and lack of interest in the final product. Why should the reader care if you don’t put in the effort to create good content?
7. It’s repetitious.
Your story repeats the same points for no reason, or uses long-winded wording when just a few words will do. You’re not getting paid by the word to make your point. Get there as efficiently and clearly as you can.
8. It has no business.
You might be able to write about a topic, but if you don’t solidify the story with background, knowledge, experience or proof, then the story has no business. You have to put yourself, what you know and what you’ve experienced, into the story so that the reader believes it.
9. It has no twists.
If the story goes exactly as the reader expected and they know everything that was going to happen before they started reading, then there’s almost no point. You need to include something that educates, entertains or surprises the reader. You can’t just turn in the opposite direction for no reason – you have to explain why. But a good twist will get the reader thinking.
10. It has no snapper.
Your story needs a solid conclusion (and a call to action) to put an exclamation point on what is being written. Add something clever or interesting, or conclude with a result or finding that grabs the reader’s attention. Give the reader something to think about when they’re done.
What other sins have you found in poor writing? Let me know – firstname.lastname@example.org.