“Compound Suck,” and How to Avoid it In Your Writing

Ever notice how something can get so bad that it achieves a life of its own and gets exponentially worse the longer it goes?

I’m sure it has a fancy, scientific name, but I call it “Compound Suck.” The more crap there is in a book, the more that crap starts to link together, each end feeding the other. With each link, the flaws become even worse than they were on their own.

Example: I read a book where Main Girl thought love was a weakness because of stupid reasons. Then she fell in love with a lackluster Main Guy because of stupid YA reasons.

Individually, both made me roll my eyes. But together, they evolved. The love-is-weakness idea was already poorly constructed, but now it’s inconsistent thanks to the second part. And the guy is so lackluster that you wonder how she fell in love with him, especially if she thought love was weakness. Wouldn’t it take an awesome guy to break that shield? Now both ends of the spectrum are worse for having been in the same book.

If the guy was awesome, I could see her falling for him, regardless of her views on love. Or if she had a good opinion of love, I could see her falling for someone less-than-worthy. But the coexistence of two lousy points make combination worse than the sum of its parts.

And that’s just two connections. The more flaws a book has, the more it becomes a web of stupidity. Each failure connects to another. Bad dialogue makes bad characters even worse. Bad characters can damage poorly-developed worlds. Weak worlds and make poor plots even thinner.

So how do you stop this careening snowball of terribleness? 

Simple. Cut the bad stuff. Every single flaw that’s fixed severs its connections to other problems, making each of them weaker. Every snip makes everything else better.

That’s the awesome part: Compound Awesome is also a thing. Good characters strengthen weak worlds. Good pacing strengthens base stories. Every good thing in a story improves upon the other good things.

So how to turn bad connections into good ones?

  1. Revisions. The lowest amount of drafts I’ve ever had in a published story is two, and that was a nanofiction, less than 100 words (click here). Read your work again and again and you’ll see more things to fix.
  2. Beta Readers. Friends, family, and strangers can offer insight outside your perspective. Consider their comments carefully.
  3. Critique Groups. Actual writers can help modify your work, and you can sharpen your own editorial skills by polishing theirs. Plus, you get some writing community! Google groups in your area/genre/etc.
  4. Read. Every writer must read. See where other authors excel and absorb their wisdom into yourself. You can’t copy, but you can steal. You can also see what stories have been done to death.
  5. Research. Writing a historical novel? You’d better know the time period. Writing about a nuclear physicist? Better hit up that library. Writing fantasy? Yes, that has rules, too. The more you know about your topic, the more credible you become.
  6. Listen to Professionals. Hear what money-making, game-changing authors, agents, and publishers are saying and polish your book accordingly.
  7. Listen to Wise Critics. You don’t need to be a 5-star chef to know when food tastes bad. Some people aren’t creators, but they’re excellent judges. Youtube is full of them. And WordPress. Hey there.
  8. Listen to readers. What are they sick of? What are they craving? Where do you fit in those two questions?
  9. Hire an Editor. Every book must have one at some stage, whether for story or grammar or both. These are pros who excel at and love to find flaws, but also love helping writers become awesome. If you need one, you’re looking at him. Click here to see my rates and services.

In short, you be a writer. All those steps I just listed? Sound advice for any writer. You write, you find flaws, and you fix them. Never hole up in a bubble and ignore advice. You don’t have to take every correction you receive, but you can’t reject it all, either.

With every flaw you turn into a flair, you reduce the strength of other flaws and enhance the power of other flairs.

There comes a point where a book has so many problems that even its good parts are tainted. But likewise, if a book has endless good points, the flaws pale in comparison. Harry Potter has flaws, but nobody cares.  Dual Realms had strengths, but I only remember the many problems.

Don’t just write a book, craft it.

Thanks for reading. If you liked this post, share it with your friends or subscribe to see more and get a free book. And if you want to help keep this site alive, as well as create some new fiction, consider supporting me on Patreon and get some cool perks in the process.

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