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IWSG - January 2021

 This is my Insecure Writers Support Group post for January.

Alex's awesome co-hosts this month

Ronel Janse van Vuuren ,
Please stop by their blogs and say thank you

Aren't you glad it's FINALLY 2021?
I am. 
Here's hoping for a better year.

January 6 question - 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?

Oh my. I almost decided to skip this month's optional question. I'm not sure you will want me to answer. My comments might stir up insecurities rather than calm them.

Keep in mind that I freelance as an editor. What makes me good at that makes me a picky reader.

Melissa's Naughty List

The #1 thing that will make me put a book down is poor editing. If I feel like I need to take a red pen to a novel, it ruins the enjoyment for me.

Anachronistic language in a historical novel. If your 19th century characters go out for some 'retail therapy,' I won't be a happy reader.

Historical characters who behave inappropriately for the period (as if it's 1990 instead of 1890). I don't mind characters who are a bit ahead of their time in their opinions, but I expect them to observe the social mores of the setting year. 

Stilted dialogue.

Weak or implausible motives. Implausible behavior. 

Boring openings. Disappointing endings.

POV errors. Not establishing POV in the first couple of lines of a new chapter or scene. Not setting up a new scene so that the reader is oriented to who, where, and what. 

Poorly crafted prose (excessive exposition, info dumps, word overuse, etc.). I like tight writing that reads smoothly.

Insta-love. Romance novels in which the MCs' relationship is based on sex. Physical attraction might cause them to notice one another, but give me more.

Characters whose emotions feel inappropriate or excessive OR characters who come across as flat / deadpan because there aren't enough emotional cues woven in.

Too much research or historical data inserted into the story. Research should form the skeleton of your book, not the skin. (The amount a book can bear varies by genre.)

Authors who use their book as a soapbox for political or religious views. I don't mind characters being characters, even when they're different from me, but if the author is using them to push an agenda, it turns me off.

Unlikable MCs. They don't have to be entirely lovable from page one, but give me a save-the-cat moment--a glimpse of his or her positive traits to keep me reading.


I have two announcements - one happy, one sad.

Lisa Buie-Collard has a new book!

Congratulations, Lisa!


Now for the sad.

I got word recently that Josephine 'Jo' Wake--avid blogger, bowler, and surrogate grandmother to many of us writers on the blogosphere--passed away. Jo was part of a private goal group with me and several other writers. She was a vital member of our group who kept us on our toes and was always willing to offer a critique whenever one was needed. Our beloved Grandmother Dragon will be very missed.

To honor her memory, we are posting a favorite recipe. 

Dad's Favorite Oatmeal Cookies 

  • 1 cup shortening, melted
  • 1 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 cup chopped pecans (or walnuts)
  • 2 cup raisins

  • Preheat oven to 350*F. Cream shortening and sugar, then add wet ingredients and mix. Combine dry ingredients in separate bowl. Add dry to wet a little at a time, mixing well. Stir in nuts and raisins. Place by spoonful onto greased cookie sheet and bake for 8 to 10 minutes. Don't over-bake.

IWSG is the brainchild of Alex J. Cavanaugh. It's a monthly bloghop that offers a safe haven for writers to express their feelings and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. It's also a venue for offering  support, both in the form of comments and positive posts. Writers of all kinds are welcome. 

We 'meet' the first Wednesday of every month. If you're interested in learning more, click on the link above. And don't be intimidated by the size of the group. We're not expected to visit everyone on the list

Twitter handle is @TheIWSG 
Hashtag is #IWSG


  1. Hi and Happy New Yaar!

    Looking at your list, I can use it as an aid on my writing journey. So many of us writers would like to know what an editor looks for.
    Your list is good.

    All the best for 2021.

    Shalom aleichem,
    Pat G @ EverythingMustChange

  2. So very sad Jo passed. I'm glad I got to meet her.

    I recently read a submission that not only did the POV jump around, it went from 1st to 3rd several times. Bad writing!

    1. I did that with my first novel. I was clueless. LOL

  3. I didn't know Jo but am sad to hear she passed. I agree with everything on your list. For me, I really need the story to grab me right away and keep moving along plot-wise to keep reading.

    1. I do enjoy a grabbing opening, but if the story description sounds really good or if I trust a particular author's writing, I'm willing to read on for a while and give it a chance.

  4. Hard to believe Jo is really gone.
    You certainly know what you don't like!

    1. I know. I miss her.

      I wasn't kidding when I said what makes me good at editing makes me picky when I read. I do let some of it go when I review, though. I know not every reader is as hyper sensitive as I am.

  5. I'm sorry for your loss.

    I enjoyed your naughty list. --Ack, disappointing ending are evil.

    1. I know, right? You invest all that time in a book only to be let down at the end. Blek.

  6. So sorry for your loss. :(

    Your naughty list made me laugh and nod along. I know I still suffer from writing characters who are "inappropriately unconcerned", so I have to rely on others to tell me when that happens because I seriously can't see it unless it's pointed out.

    On using speech appropriate for the setting, I had to laugh because I had someone comment on this last Wednesday at critique group. She's all, "the character is using modern terms and colloquialisms. It would help your world-building and immersion to pick something related to what is in their environment." And then the others in the group are all, "Nope, she did that on purpose." The gal hadn't encountered Derek before. ;)

    1. We all need that objective third party. We all have things we see in our heads about our stories that don't translate to the page.

  7. I think you nailed most of my complaints as well. Not that I look for reasons to put a book down but there is only so much a person can stand when hoping to be entertained. :-)

    Anna from elements of emaginette

    1. "...there is only so much a person can stand when hoping to be entertained"

      Yes! This! Well said.
      Thanks for visiting my blog.

  8. Your list sums it up pretty well. The more I read, the less willing I am to put up with those things, too. Now, as for my own If only I could keep all of those evils away ;)

    1. We all struggle with something. If you could have seen the first draft of my first novel, you'd've laughed and thrown it against the wall. :D

  9. I appreciate the list you shared, Melissa, something all writers need to watch for when writing. Congratulations to Lisa. I'm sorry that you lost someone important to you. I love oatmeal raisin cookies, so thanks for sharing your recipe in honor of your friend. I will bake them and thing of you, your father, and Jo.

  10. Love your list! I think instant attraction is fine but insta-love always makes me roll my eyes.

  11. That's a really good list. You make some excellent points. It bothers me in historical fiction when characters are too modern.

  12. Good on you for honoring Jo. She meant a lot to many.
    Thanks for the professional 'Naughty List':)
    Many congrats to Lisa.

  13. So sorry about Jo. Its sad.

    Congrats to Lisa.

  14. Love oatmeal cookies, although nobody here bakes them. I buy them. I miss Jo very much. Can you believe that after all we've shared, it feels odd to comment here? I feel like instead of knocking at your door, I'm peeking through the window. So rusty blogger I am now.


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