Hello everyone – apologies for the long absence. I could dish out an excuse revolving around my novel re-writing, but a new book review will dish out more fun.

Sorting alphabetically is popular these days: our technology enjoys arranging everything, and computers often see numbers as coming before letters. If you put the title “5 Editors Tackle The 12 Fatal Flaws of Fiction Writing” into an alphabetical list it’ll probably emerge at the top. That’s where the book with this title belongs.

Image of dice with letters instead of numbers

I’ve read this book four times – the last time I took notes of the important parts, and those notes came to twenty pages. I can string coherent sentences together, but I always felt I could improve; tweaking word order seemed to improve things though I was never sure.

This book does what its title says. Five experienced editors pool their thoughts on the twelve common errors made by beginner writers. Each error has its own chapter, each editor outlines the theoretical problem and follows with practical examples. A final checklist helps you carry the lessons into your text.

It works. Guidance is clear, and the theory meshes well with the examples. For example, the chapter on Point of View violations shows how head hopping confuses readers, and the editors outline each error in their own way. I found every explanation lucid, but if one account doesn’t work for you four others are waiting. At the same time the book avoids duplication – one editor’s commentary expands on the previous work. Many of the ‘bad writing’ examples contain their own comedy value – the cynic in me says this book will improve your sneering skills no end.

Before anyone asks what the twelve errors are I’ve made a list.

1) Overwriting
2) Nothing Happening
3) Weak Construction
4) Too Much Back-story
5) POV violations
6) Telling instead of Showing
7) Lack of Pacing and Tension
8) Flawed Dialogue Construction
9) Underwriting
10) Description Deficiencies and Excesses
11) Pesky Adverbs and Weasel Words
12) Flawed Writing Mechanics

Quibbling about the categories is possible – duplication creeps in on the POV discussion (yes it’s important) and the later categories felt thin (was twelve a more marketable number than eleven?) but this remains an excellent book.

I bought the e-book version though the hard copy may be easier to use. Many examples work best if you can flick between pages to compare passages – I imagine it depends on the e-reader and the reader.

I’ve yet to use this book’s lessons while re-writing my current novel, but now I have the skills to strengthen my writing. Constantly working on your novel is one thing, but learning from those who have mastered the craft can speed up the process.