Identifying your Pet Peeves
Personally, I don't like spending a lot of time reading books on how to (or how not to) write. Plenty of tips pop up on the internet every day (like this!), and I'd prefer to read fiction books. If this is also your style, all you have to do is learn to read like a writer.
One way to do this is to notice while your reading what annoys the crap outta you, so you can avoid it in your writing.
Here are some of my reading pet peeves, in no particular order:
1) A description of a character taking a shower. For some reason, some authors think a shower scene is the best place to show off their descriptive skills. But despite their confidence, all the shower scenes sound the same. She "felt the hot water pour over her body," etc... I know what it's like to take a shower, why am I reading about it? Is it really significant to the plot, or even character development?
2) On a similar note, I don't need to read about anyone getting reading in the morning. I don't even like going through my own morning routine, I'd rather sleep in. So when I read about morning routines, they make me want to go to sleep.
3) An action scene coming to a halt so characters can sort out their relationship issues. If you're surrounded by danger, it's just not the time. The relationship will seem insignificant compared to the mortal peril. Plus, leaving the discussion until later builds suspense. Will they ever make things right? Will one of them die before they can fix things? Stopping the action to let them work things out is kind of confusing. Did those bad guys stop chasing you? Did those guns stop firing? Why? I can't focus on your dialogue when I'm wondering where everyone else is. That's not suspense, it's just confusion.
4) Over the top descriptions. Stop showing off and tell me a story. I'm not saying you can't have beautiful descriptions, but there's a line between beautiful and slow. If your showing off, it takes me out of the story and drops me into a high-school English class, where some annoying kid is reading their paper out loud to prove they're better than all of you peasants of average intelligence.
5) Love triangles. I think this is my #1 pet peeve, especially when the story slows to rotate around this all important emotional dilemma. How will she choose? I care so much! And it always has to be dragged out, and the girl turns into a drama queen who cries all the time, when realistically, she could just be upfront about it. She could let one guy down gently. Or, let them both down gently. I mean, GROW UP! I don't care if you're sixteen, you're better than that! UGH! Seriously, if I see a love triangle, nine times out of ten I will close the book. Now, there is an exception. If the drama is kept on the side, the main character handles him or herself maturely, and the plot is excellent, then I can tolerate it enough to keep reading. Still, I can't think of a time I ever enjoyed reading about a love triangle.
6) That poor girl who is stunningly beautiful but has no idea until someone takes pages and pages convincing her. Let’s face it, if you’re hot, you probably know it. That doesn’t mean you can’t be humble about it, but it’s probably not a big issue.
7) On a similar note, that poor girl (or guy) in a fantasy story who's main problem is too much magic--how will you control it?? These too-beautiful, too-powerful traits are just not relatable, and really make readers roll their eyes. We just feel soooo bad for you!
8) Love stories where nothing happens. My favorite love stories are usually the unexpected ones, between two minor characters that develop a relationship while assisting the main characters. Personally, I don’t think relationship development is plot. Relationship develops through plot.
Yes, a lot of these have to do with love stories. Why? Because love stories are, in my opinion, very difficult to get right. In the real world, people who fall in love act like idiots, but I don’t want to read about a couple of people running around being stupid.
I'd like to note that these are just my pet peeves, and yours will probably be different. I'm not saying that these are going to ruin your story, and if you really want to include one, that's up to you. Like, if I had never read any vampire book before "Twilight" I'd probably list vampires in my reading pet peeves. But we all know that real vampires in a fantasy story won't automatically destroy everything. The idea is to identify your pet peeves so you know what not to put in your book. Your audience probably includes people much like yourself, so chances are, the things that annoy you will also annoy them.