Some people have a knack for substandard writing; others have to work for it. However, it's much easier to acquire scathing reviews than it is to get those coveted 5-star reader reviews. So, quit working so hard and do the following:
1. Deviate from the formula
If you write genre fiction, make sure you take your own path through well-trodden landscapes. When writing romance, that means failing to end your story with a happily ever after for all parties involved. When looking at your own genre, discern the common elements and then leave them by the wayside. You may still have a great story, but readers expecting those elements will be disappointed and not hesitate to let you and others know.
2. Neglect copy editing
Many readers possess sharp eyes for errors. They see and identify misplaced apostrophes, overused commas, misspelled words, missing words, and the like. Forget using a dictionary or the computer's on-board spell check and indulge in creative writing without regard to standard language conventions. That will surely draw the ire of your readers much to their delight.
3. Assume readers are stupid
"Fake it 'til you make it" doesn't fly when it comes to getting easily verifiable facts wrong. Watching Perry Mason, Matlock, or Law & Order doesn't count as research if your story includes legal procedures or courtroom scenes. Just because you rode the carousel at the county fair and once touched a real horse does not make you an expert equestrian. Do not have your character solve the Rubik's Cube in the early 1970s or pack a different outfit for every day in the mid-1800s. When in doubt, ask Google. Then delve deeper to get the real information. Readers love to catch anachronisms and blatant disregard for fact so they can point out such author errors to others.
4. Tell readers what you want them to know
When it comes to deeds, tell readers what your characters did. There's no sense in giving them a play-by-play of the action as if they had ringside seats. Do you want to make sure your readers understand your character's mood? Then state "he felt sad" or "she felt happy." There's no need to bother inflicting emotion upon your readers. After all, they certainly can't comprehend the depth of emotion in which your characters wallow in these moving scenes. After all, you wouldn't want your readers to become emotionally involved in the story, would you?
5. Use stilted dialogue
Good dialogue in good writing mixes conversational language (i.e., "write like you speak") with standard language conventions (i.e., "formal writing"). But you want to ensure your readers know that your character has a certain accent or drawl or speech impediment; therefore, you saturate dialogue such that the reader must spend extra time puzzling out the mangled dialogue to suss out just what the character said. Readers appreciate the extra work. Really. Or introduce backwards, convoluted, or anachronistic modes of speech to show the reader just how clever you are. They like that, too.
6. Make your characters caricatures
Nobody wants a perfect "Mary Sue" protagonist, so exaggeration is the name of the game. If your heroine is naive and stubborn, why not make her truly too stupid to live even as you describe her as intelligent? Have her make decisions no one with two brain cells to rub together would made. Have her opinions and attitude vacillate until she flip-flops like a jumping bean. There's nothing like a protagonist incapable of learning to earn a reader's disgust. For your hero, call him an alpha male and then make sure he acts like a wimp in every situation. That will showcase a manly-man in touch with his feminine side, right?
It's ridiculously easy to earn scathing reviews from readers. Trust me, I know. I've done it without even trying.
Seriously, though, the best way to avoid making these errors is to employ the services of good editors. That third party insight will mitigate the problems that annoy readers and inspire them to lambaste your book--but only if you act upon editorial suggestion to correct the problems.
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