On Wart Trolling in Mediocre Bridge Trolls

Everyone out there will have heard one of the most common pieces of advice for new writers:

To be a good writer, read more.

OK, zajebisty, but what exactly? The usual advice is to read the classics, and the classics in your genre. So, if your genre’s fantasy, then read LOTR. If it’s romance then read… I honestly have no idea. Danielle Steele? Either way, read everything George Orwell ever wrote and a bunch of turn-of-the-century American writers.


I’ve learned more from reading crap books that I ever did from reading the luminaries in the field. I only really read other indie books, and I only ever read those with 4 or more stars on Amazon, which I guess is pretty common for a lot of (cheap) readers. None-the-less, a lot of the books I read are worth significantly less than their ratings – and I love them for it. A few examples:

  1. I’ve mentioned this classic charmer a few times recently (in various places). Some book (I don’t remember the title) as the protagonist die in chapter 1 and become a trainee guardian angel. It’s her job to save human souls from demons. Then she gets all kissy kissy with the leather jacket-wearing “bad boy” supervisor, then she gets the job of rescuing a special baby from demons. Apparently it’s special because it’s mother was a guardian angel, which is a big no no. Anyway, so now guardian angels and demons will instantly die if they touch this baby (the birth and breast feeding must have been fun for its mother) and so she’s given special gloves. Lo and behold, she has to pick up the baby without the gloves and doesn’t die. Why? Apparently her mother was also a guardian angel, so she’s special too. OK, so why isn’t her new boyfriend toast? Guardian angels (her boyfriend) can’t touch these special babies (her) without instantly dying.
    1. What I learned:
      1. Plot hole!!! And it’s the size of, well, the whole book.
  2. I’m currently struggling through a very well-written book that’s excruciatingly slow and monotonous. I’m 11% in and so far nothing’s happened, but I keep reading because I want something to happen. I’ll probably give up soon. In the first 11%, a new wizard has been trained (no exposition on what that involved or how, just conversations about how grey his room is) then been kicked out of his master’s tower with a cruddy map and told to never come back. Now he’s wandering from town to town and getting sore feet. The highlight of his journey so far has been the 2 or 3 pages the author spent explaining, in graphic detail, how to skin, gut and clean roadkill. A squirrel, I think it was.
    1. What I learned:
      1. Pacing is critically important. Don’t let it go on for so long with explanatory stuff.
      2. What the author finds fascinating might be boring, or even just plain gross, for the readers.
      3. The whole My character starts his journey with amnesia thing really is a cop-out.
  3. I gave up on the last book I tried to read at 19%. So, in this one, apparently humans engineered true A.I. and it took over the world. Then it escaped from the confines of the Internet to become a free-roaming intelligence made up solely of swarms of electrons that move through the air, so it can’t even be killed. Aaargh!
    1. What I learned:
      1. If you don’t understand physics, don’t write about it.
      2. If you don’t understand IT, don’t write about it.
      3. If you must, find someone to help you make your plot reasonable.
      4. Don’t repeat the same thoughts and ideas in multiple conversations with too many characters – setting the stage for 19% of a book gets monotonous and boring.
      5. If every character is always negative, then so will the reader be, and they’ll solve their problem by deleting your book.

I could go on, but I guess you get the point. Now, these are all broad-brush lessons that I’ve included here, but on reading these 3 books (as much as I could stand anyway) I learned a lot of specifics about how these authors committed their sins, so I know what to look out for in my own books, specifically.

Those lessons are worth the few hours I put into these freebie books, and so should you.

If you’re interested, I’ve also added a condensed version of this to my page How to Edit & Proofread a Novel in the section Don’t Do As I Say.


2 thoughts on “On Wart Trolling in Mediocre Bridge Trolls”

  1. Gotta disagree w/ not reading the classics. Some were bad as can be, yes, but this was WELL before indie publishing came into vogue. Instead of those who claimed to write–more on that in a sec–were behind a plow, teaching, selling merch to community members, preachers, or other vocations suited for the 18th and 19th century times.

    Now for the indie books (and the authors that write them). I don’t give a rat’s pimpled pat-tootie if it’s four stars or better on Amazon; if the voice or the style doesn’t grab me, it’s not going in my library. Period. Conversely, if that voice grabbed me, 4 stars and all, but it’s rife with editorial errors–misspelled words, typos all over, wrong word usage, punctuation splatterings like uncooked rice all over a kitchen floor–that book goes in the review dump, too, and is sent back.

    But you’re absolutely spot-on with plot-holes big enough to drive an Airbus through. To their credit, the trad houses release books with this problem also, so don’t get on the indies too much about this (though you’d think they’d know better after the rejection letters and went the I’ll-publish-this-anyway-because-I’m-butthurt-and-I-need-to-see-my-name-on-a-shelf ego). Just boils down to my original point: those who have no damn business in this industry, get behind a plow. Teach. Or dog groom. Learn a trade. Quit wasting time, and our eyes, dollars, and data usage, and spend it better at an ability you’re more talented and proficient in than trying to get rich from a rotten storyline and unoriginal characters.

    Want to write fantasy? Read Jules Verne. Piers Anthony. J.K. Rowling. Roahl Dahl

    Liked by 1 person

  2. That got away from me before I could edit, sorry 🙂

    …Or Dr. Seuss, Madeleine L’Engle, Ursula K. Le Guin, J.R. Robb, and Tolkien. And C.S. Lewis.

    Romance? I’m not totally schooled on this either, but Jill Shavis is a good start. Meg Cabot. Anne Rice. Denielle Steele’s a good pick, yes. And Patricia Kay.

    Mystery: Poe, Block, Spillane. Surprisingly, James Patterson’s Alex Dross series gets a nod (and if he’s the most sellingist author, according to Guinness, that’s saying something). Lee Child. And let’s not leave out the gal who outside even Patterson here: Agatha Christie. #GirlPower!

    Westerns: Larry McMurrtry and Louis L’Amour. That’s all I know; I don’t read Westerns enough to say with authority.

    Yes, you learn more in reading crap what not to do. But if you’re bored with what not to do, read the good stuff who got it right, find that voice/style that sparks, and go nuts.

    Have fun. 🙂


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