Wednesday, January 6, 2021

January 2021 IWSG: Book Problems, Winners of the IWSG Anthology, and the Upcoming IWSG Twitter Pitch

Created by Alex J. Cavanaugh, The IWSG blog hop gives writers a place to vent, to ask questions, and to encourage each other every month. The website and the newsletter hav loads of helpful information, and the social media pages are a place writers can connect. 

Being a writer, when you're reading someone else's work, what stops you from finishing a book/throws you out of the story/frustrates you the most about other people's books?

First, I have to say, minor grammar errors don't usually turn me away. I understand the 95% editing standard. It makes sense to me. I own and read grammar guides. I have a college grammar class under my belt, taught by a professor who wrote several English grammar books. I still make lots of mistakes. Typos happen. I don't like turning down the invite of a magical world of bookishness based on a handful of grammar errors.

It usually takes at least three of the following items to turn me away from a book:


1. A LOT of foul language. I grew up in a swearing household. You name it, I said it before I turned six, with one exception ending in "uck" - the only word my mom didn't allow so therefore it was the only word I knew was a swear word until teachers started correcting me. 
One might think this would make me shrug at swear words in books, but instead, I really don't like it if the author decides to throw in swear words more than a few dozen times in a novel. 

2. On the other hand, dialogue that doesn't make sense in the context of the story really bugs me. I know it's hard to keep out our modern words, but "okay" came into usage in 1840. If you're writing 16th century historical fiction, please keep it out. Unless, of course, a time traveler introduces the word.

3. Real world settings gone wrong. We have the internet and google maps. While I'm okay with a few things being different (the world changes constantly and small business change), please be careful with distances and travel times. 

However, I do enjoy watching movies and poking at all the hilarious bits about Seattle. I mean, Meg Ryan walks around downtown in Sleepless in Seattle and visits places that are many miles apart. Maybe she took the terrible public transit system? (For more tips about writing for Washington State, go to this page.)

4. While I've read plenty of excellent action scenes by people who have never been in a fight, or been in a martial arts class, or boxed, or fenced, or done many activities due to disabilities or health issues, I get annoyed when a writer doesn't seem to understand the reality of gravity on Earth.
Even if a writer has never held a fencing blade, or taken a martial arts class, or done anything like that, a writer can think through the actions. If a character is super-powered, super-strong, etc., that's fine with me. A writer can walk/draw/visualize the scene in slow-motion, like an actor preparing for a stage-fight. A writer can also watch some fight scenes in martial arts movies. Yes, the fiction movie landscape includes plenty of badly done fight scenes, but watching a dozen movies and one or two Youtube lessons in the activity/action, a basic understanding can be created. 
And, please, writers, don't let your character walk away unscathed unless they have a super-healing ability or other reason that they can have their head banged against pavement without a concussion.

5. Not always, but sometimes, what gets to me is: improperly formatted dialogue and paragraphing. I don't know why this drives me nuts, but it does. I've made some mistakes here, by dropping quote marks at the end of dialogue sections accidentally, so yes, I get we're all human. If a writer doesn't create a new paragraph for each new speaker, I start to get annoyed. 

6. Too much description. This is a matter of personal taste, but I'm more of a fan of The Hobbit than The Lord of the Rings for this reason.

7. Also, similes are beautiful when they are used to emphasize a certain point, a symbol, or an important piece of character description. Similes in every paragraph or on every page distract me from the book. I start wondering about things like "the shiny highlights in her hair were like the luscious waxy apples under the local grocery store's fluorescent lights." What? I haven't read that in anyone's book, but I did read a novel in which a simile showed up in every paragraph, and some of them were that bad. It started making me laugh every time I read one. 
8. A lengthy introduction in which nothing of note happens. Introductions that last more than eight chapters without an inciting incident/call to action are just too long for me. 

Oh, and just in case you're wondering, I've seen all of these faux pas in traditionally published books as well as indie-published books. Even the professional gatekeepers make mistakes. 

What bugs you in books?


First, as one of the admins who has the honor of pre-reading all of the entries, I can say the entries this year were strong examples of good writing. We had a lot of entries to read, and they were all good science fiction stories. If you sent in an entry and it didn't make it in, I can say there are three reasons:
1. Somehow, the story didn't fit the specific theme or genre parameters we set. 
2. The story didn't fit the parameters of our partner publisher.
3. The judges chose the best of the best, and there were many really good entries.

So, if you submitted and didn't make it, send those stories onward to another short story market. There are many, many short story markets out there. As a short story writer, sometimes it takes me ten or more tries to get a story published. My current average submission ratio to publication is 5:1, but it used to be higher.

So, if you won, wow! Congratulations!

Dark Matter: Artificial

An Insecure Writer’s Support Group Anthology


Discover dark matter’s secrets…


What is an AI’s true role? Will bumbling siblings find their way home from deep space? Dark matter is judging us—are we worthy of existence? Would you step through a portal into another reality? Can the discoverer of dark matter uncover its secrets?


Ten authors explore dark matter, unraveling its secrets and revealing its mysterious nature. Featuring the talents of Stephanie Espinoza Villamor, C.D. Gallant-King, Tara Tyler, Mark Alpert, Olga Goldin, Steph Wolmarans, Charles Kowalski, Kim Mannix, Elizabeth Mueller, and Deniz Bevan.


Hand-picked by a panel of agents, authors, and editors, these ten tales will take readers on a journey across time and space. Prepare for ignition!



Founded by author Alex J. Cavanaugh, the Insecure Writer’s Support Group offers support for writers and authors alike. It provides an online database; articles; monthly blog posting; Facebook, Twitter, & Instagram groups; #IWSGPit, and a newsletter.


Release date: May 4, 2021

Print ISBN 9781939844828 $14.95

EBook ISBN 9781939844835 $4.99

Science Fiction: Collections & Anthologies (FIC028040) / Space Exploration (FIC028130) / Genetic Engineering (FIC028110)

186 pages



Artificial - Stephanie Espinoza Villamor

Space Folds and Broomsticks - C.D. Gallant-King

Rift – Kim Mannix

The Utten Mission – Steph Wolmarans

Sentient – Tara Tyler

One to Another – Deniz Bevan

Resident Alien - Charles Kowalski

Nano Pursuit – Olga Godim

Resurgence – Elizabeth Mueller

Vera’s Last Voyage – Mark Alpert



BTW - I am planning a belated post about my #101daysgratitude challenge I took on at the end of 2020, and how I plan to do the #365gratitude challenge in my next post. 


Erika Beebe said...

Haha! Your list made me laugh. Thank you. Did you really hang on for 8 chapters? Minor typos don’t bother me. All authors have them. Happy IWSG day :)

Tyrean Martinson said...

Erika - well, sometimes I hang on for 8 depends on if the characters are interesting. :)
Glad my list made you laugh!

Rachna Chhabria said...

Hi Tyrean, Happy New Year.

I love the book turn-offs you have mentioned :)

Nicki Elson said...

I'm with you on all of those pet peeves. Especially the similes - sometimes I read a book and can tell that the author just came out of a workshop on and is working very hard every page to make something "like" something else. Hilarious waxy apples example!

Toi Thomas said...

Wow, I can't believe you made it eight chapters with nothing happening. That's dedication. I like your list, it makes sense. I'm so excited about the Dark Matter anthology. Sounds awesome!

Pat Garcia said...

Hi and Happy New Year!

I do try not to be judgemental. When I see serious mistakes, then I try to get in touch with the writer with an email and respectfully explain what I've found.

Wishing you a great 2021.

cleemckenzie said...

I love good dialogue. When it doesn't ring true, I have a hard time reading on. Grammar issues do annoy me, but I can overlook a few if the story's compelling.

Here's to more great reading and--I hope--some good writing as well in 2021.

Lynn La Vita said...

#5 improperly formatted dialogue and paragraphing. This reminded me that I'm turned off if a tutorial is poorly formatted. No page numbers, text over image, single sentence before the page break. I could go on and on.

Apparently, too much description is a real turn off for most of us. This has been an interesting blog-hop.

Wishing you a creative and healthy new year!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I'm with you on the description. And people in fights who get hit bad and still keep going like nothing happened. Someone pops me in the nose, unless I am defending my wife, I'm done for.

H.R. Sinclair said...

Holy Cow! "Similes in every paragraph" I can't believe that happens but I know it does. I read one. And the similes end up being strained and forced. GRRRR.

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

When I write early drafts, I let the similes and metaphors gush out all over the place. When I revise, I try to cut as many as possible, leaving only the strongest to survive. (At least I hope so!)

Patricia Josephine aka Patricia Lynne said...

Your number 3 is why I like to make up cities and places to have my characters live in. It's cheating, but whatever. =P

Jemi Fraser said...

That is a completely awesome list!!!
Description can totally weigh down a story - while I'm a huge Tolkien fan, I do tend to skim through lots of it when I reread!

L. Diane Wolfe said...

You will find all of those in traditionally published books. Sometimes they come from big authors who should know better but no one wants to say no.

Sarah Foster said...

Haha, great list! I hate huge chunks of description. I usually find myself skipping it to get to something more interesting.

J.Q. Rose said...

All excellent points! Thanks for sharing.

Tonja Drecker said...

Love your list! And yep, the points are right.

Cathrina Constantine said...

Minor typos don't bother me either because no matter how many times I read over my drafts and then send it to an editor, typos always happen. They haunt me!

Great post. I agree with everything you said. I was never in an actually fight, but I write them into my books all the time. Sometimes it works, sometimes not.

Steph W. said...

All very valid points! Simple grammar errors do not bother me either. I spent a decade reading stories written by kids ages six to nine. They have fantastic stories and terrible grammar :)

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

That is a great list of turn offs. Those of you with educational backgrounds in writing probably get a better in depth feel for problems. Thanks for sharing.

Jacqui Murray said...

Interesting about 'too much description'. That is true. Michener is wonderful but there aren't a lot like him.

emaginette said...

Congrats to all the winners. You did it!

Kalpana said...

What a well thought out list. I will certainly ensure I understand how fencing works before ever attempting to write about it. Congratulations to those whose stories made it to the Anthology - I didn't try this time because of the genre. I wonder now whether I should have. Well - here's wishing you a fabulous 2021.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Tyrean - your 'hates' about books I so agree ... one of my bugs is an interesting book ... which fades out and has a weak ending ... so disappointing. Great to read about the Anthology - congratulations to all entries - have a good year - Hilary

Diane Burton said...

Good list. I had to laugh at the similes. Too forced. Good luck on the 365 days of gratitude. Not sure I could keep up with that. I do thank you, again, for introducing me to the #30 days of gratitude. My whole attitude changed. Have a good month.

Gwen Gardner said...

*snort* Some of your answers cracked me up. LOL. Thanks for the laugh, Tyrean. Happy New Year!

Ellen Jacobson said...

That's a really great list! The one about too much description is resonates with me. I just need enough description so that I get a feel for a place or what a person looks like, and then I let my imagination take over from there.