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I’ve now destroyed three Kindles by flinging them at the wall. Number of paperbacks taken to recycling – three bags full. I am so tired and weary of reading half-baked bollocks, I want to give up my treasured pleasure of literature and watch Blackadder repeats.

No, you beard-strokers and bespectacled nodders, this is not the ‘Great Unwashed Tsunami’ of self-publishing. It’s far too many shite books by authors whose gaze rests otherwhere than on their readers. It’s self-indulgent crap and it comes from every kind of publishing arsehole.

This week I hurled a Booker Prize nominee out the window. Gave up on a small press manuscript. Spent three hours trying to refine a critique which should simply read: Don’t.

book job

From a reviewer’s perspective, here are the Golden Bloody Rules.

  1. Stand in your readers’ shoes. We don’t know your characters or storyworld as well as you do. Tread that fine line between hinting at what happened before/shitloads of backstory which makes us need a fucking diagram.
  2. Sure, go off on masturbatory indulgences into whatever you studied, experienced, heard about from some bloke in the pub… but why should anyone join you? Who cares?
  3. Understand POV. Whose story is this? Exceptional authors can head hop and do – eg, Kate Atkinson – but first, learn how to orient your reader. Most people need to be good before they achieve exceptional. Cop yourself on.
  4. Will you ever call someone the same buggering name? Gramps/Mr Hootenbacker/Albert/Crusty/Rooter are five different people to me. Signposts should include us, not confuse us.
  5. Do not bloody tell! If you ever need to use the word ‘felt’ you are frankly fucked. Make it happen, do not tell us how it happened or I swear, bad things with felt wings will swoop down and smother you in adverbs.
  6. Learn how to differentiate voice. If your characters all sound the same or have exaggerated speech/accent tics, you are officially a lazy git author. Put the work in – make individuals distinctive or just piss off home.
  7. Do the basics. What kind of arsehole allows their opus out there with typos, homonyms, names misspelt and factual errors? Get a proof reader and do the sodding legwork. No matter who publishes you. Twat.
  8. Go to the theatre. Learn the three-act structure and stop with that soggy middle bullshit. Pace, people, pace! Flabby mid-sections are so boring I’d rather watch videos of cats falling off shit.
  9. Never tell an unpaid reviewer how lucky they are to review your book. Two to three days reading someone’s manuscript is a shitload of my time when I have better things to do. Like clipping my toenails. You’re the lucky one, Cocky Wanker.
  10. The most important person in your story is your reader. Treat us right. Do not patronise, overload, embarrass, cheat, deceive or shill us. Or we will hunt you down and cull you. Seriously.

lit crit

And now your mission, should you wish to accept it, is to hunt down every example of the above in my work and go ner-ner-ner-ner-ner. Bring it on.

Images courtesy of Creative Commons.

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