The 7 Deadly Sins of Writing

7In a thought-provoking, writing tips based ThrillerFest panel provided by WD managing editor Zachary Petit, four popular authors shared what they believe to be the deadly sins of the writing craft. Here are seven of their offerings. Have you committed any of them?

1. Laziness
(David Hewson, author of the Nic Costa series)
Intellectual laziness is something all writers are prone to: as in writing the same type of book, and doing it annually. “I think you really have to fight against laziness and constantly keep challenging yourself.” Like great art, books aren’t ever finished—they’re abandoned. (In other words, don’t just finish writing a first draft and call it a day.)

2. Trying to be a good student
(Lisa Gardner, author of The Killing Hour)
Gardner said it’s a thrill to rope a lot of cool forensic facts in the research process. But the danger is in going home and regurgitating all of them in your novel—“When really thrillers are all about entertaining. …” Keep that story moving forward.

3. Marching down the outline
(John Sandford, author of Buried Prey)
This occurs when you sit down to write and follow your outline exactly. Sandford said some people use an outline like a frame, and merely embroider within it. Outlining is fine, but sticking too closely to it can stifle your story. “If you do outline, you have to be aware of the problems that that kind of thing can cause.”

4. Denying jealousy
(M.J. Rose, author of The Hypnotist)
“I try to not allow myself to be jealous of other writers and the books they’ve written,” Rose said—but in fact, she believes it’s a good thing to let some of that jealousy seep through. So don’t bottle it up. “I think it’s really healthy to let yourself have the full range of emotions.”

5. Focusing too heavily on the business
One of Sandford’s friends obsesses over the business end of writing—his friend writes a book, and then gets lost in all of the trappings of business and promotion … “to the exclusion of actually writing novels.”

6. Not reading books
Reading is essential for writers. Rose cited a study that said that 23 percent of people in the United States want to be writers. If all of them read 10 books a year, Rose said, “We’d all be doing a lot better.”

7. Imitation
There is a difference between imitating a book, and being influenced by a book. Hewson added that it’s valuable to figure out why you think certain things work in the books you read, and why others don’t.


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4 thoughts on “The 7 Deadly Sins of Writing

  1. jcurtis618

    I very much enjoyed this post and agree with the authors. These are well-established authors. For the new writer, I doubt laziness would be a player as a sin. We are not in a position to “repeat” our work. That’s one value for being new.

    The fact that writers are not reading scares me. I read all the time and I read everything I can. I don’t just read in my writing genre. Reading is the way we keep learning the craft.

    Another deadly sin might be thinking we know how to do it. I’m startled when I read books that have won prestigious awards and how badly written they are. Clearly even those who win prizes must keep learning.

    Thanks for a great post!

  2. cajun

    As a self-published author, I am particularly guilty of the constant promoting sales of the book. Very difficult! Always trying what I think is a “sure-fire” scheme, and being very disappointed when it doesn’t work! Meanwhile, that next novel ferments in my mind, and I wake up one morning to find out someone else wrote it! I’m working very hard to be a writer, and to just do the “tried and true” promotions and let it go at that! Maybe some day, someone will read it and I’ll get that inquiry from an agent, but that is a mighty, mighty longshot! My web site, and my blog have been somewhat helpful. I like this blog. Please keep this kind of stuff coming!

  3. cecalli

    Difficult is not to have these sins, they can appear at any time. Fortunately, there is not a hell for sinful writers. Well, I hope that it doesn’t exists. Maybe we should start a contest on how it would look like.


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