The Prompter Room

For Friday, December 11, 2015:


“The best style is the style you don’t notice.”

Somerset Maugham

My last trip to the library had to be quick, so I didn’t have time to roam through the stacks and just picked up a couple of books that looked halfway interesting.  As it turned out, neither book, both novels, was wonderful, but one stood out because it was pretty bad – one of the worst I’ve read in a long while.  I was surprised because the cover proclaimed the writer was a New York Times bestselling author.

It didn’t take long before I couldn’t help but notice that her style lacks some of the most fundamental techniques of fiction writing.  She doesn’t ‘show,’ she ‘tells’ all over the place.  The dialogue is stilted in places and rarely builds up or moves the storyline along.  Smooth transitions from scene to scene or chapter to chapter are almost non-existent.  Some of the characters are brought into and then deleted from the storyline too easily, with little forethought and no believable follow-through.

The one good thing is that the punctuation, grammar, and spelling are all correct, so the line editor did his or her job well.  The developmental editor … not at all.  The novel reads as though the author took a bare outline and filled it in with snatches of ideas that beg to be expanded.

How this book became a bestseller is beyond me.  At least I was able to put it down easily at night and go to sleep.  And it does serve as a good example of how not to write a novel.


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