Learning from someone else’s mistakes – How to NOT write a novel

I’ve been reading a lot of romance novels lately. Not because it is my favorite genre, but to help strengthen my skills in writing inner-thought and making an emotional connection between the reader and the character.

I recently read a book that was AWESOME at this.  I was totally engaged. I liked the heroine. I cared about her. I liked the hero even more. They were both complex characters with faults that drove their characterization, and I completely believed them and felt like part of their lives. It was everything I wanted in a novel. This author totally deserved the “bestselling author” splash on her advertising.

At the end of the novel, there was one of those lovely magic buttons nice and handy so I could buy the next book.

Did I buy the next book? No.

Wasn’t I interested in the story? Didn’t I want to know more?

Yes. I totally did. I was ready to stay up late and read more.

So why didn’t I buy the next book?

The author, despite being incredibly talented, lost my trust. The story was not complete. Not by a long shot.

The heroine is being threatened by her brother and a former boyfriend who raped her. She had been in hiding for years, but they found her. She needs to go home and face them because her mother is dying. The hero of the story agrees to go home with her so she is not alone. BAM. It’s over. If you want to see what happens, you need to buy the next book. There isn’t even a neat, tidy closing thought to make the novel feel like it ended, like “I would be fine, I knew I would be fine because we would face this together.”

Nope—a closing line like that was not there. The chapter just ended, and the next page prompted you to buy the next book.


Now, if this had been a free read, I totally would have cut the author some slack. I would have purchased the next book. Call me snobby, but I expect a story to be complete when I pay $5.00 for it.

But maybe I was wrong. Maybe I misunderstood. So I checked to make sure there was not a worded warning like “part one” that I overlooked.

Nope. Nada.

I went from being a wildly enthusiastic fan to a lukewarm, disappointed reader in a matter of seconds.

But the novel was great. Why wouldn’t you buy the next one?

Like I said, she has lost my trust. Will the next book finish the story, or will I be prompted to buy another book? I don’t know. I cannot trust that I will ever see a satisfying ending.

For now and probably forever, I will see this author’s name and red flags will pop up all over the place.

Why not just tell the truth?

Now, if it was stated up front that this was an add-on series, a work in progress available in installments (and priced at $.99 rather than $5.00 each) I would have totally slipped the next book in my cart. In fact, I think that’s an awesome idea.

But you just need to be honest about it.

Don’t lie to your readers.

Would I recommend this book? No. Absolutely not.

I sure did learn from it, though.

What would you think if you finished a book, and it totally left you hanging… Holding you ransom until you paid to find out what happened?


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36 responses to “Learning from someone else’s mistakes – How to NOT write a novel

  1. I would never do that. I would leave a small hint at the end that the story could possibly continue, but the present story would have been complete.

  2. Yeah, I hate when this happens to, I really hate cliffhangers, that’s why I’ve been avoiding a lot of the newly popular books lately. This seems to be a common problem in romance these days. I agree that honesty and trust is very important in an author-reader relationship.

    As a reader, I like knowing what I’m going to get, and as an author, I like to be clear about what kind of book I’ve written, and so I’ve stated the rating in the blurb, so readers who don’t like that type of book can avoid it if they wish.

  3. A friend of mine was advised by her publicist to split her book into 3 parts. She scrapped the idea after a weekend when a load of people (me included) bought them, even though we already had the complete book. I knew how far along she was with book 2 so why I thought the rest of the series was suddenly published I don’t know. Maybe ‘book 2’ is the second part of the same book? It’d be awfully expensive then if it was $5 per part!

  4. I’m with you on this one! I enjoy series, but each book has to leave me with a sense of completion for that part of the story. I won’t continue with an author who plays this game, either.

    (This is a sticking point for me with the movies of “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit.” I’m a huge Tolkien fan and enjoy them, but they leave the audience hanging at the ends of Parts One and Two. For people who know the books, this isn’t a problem. But for someone like my husband who never read them? It’s a problem.)

    • Yeah, but in movies like that, at least I KNOW that there will be another one… because those books were actually one book split in three, and they said they were splitting the Hobbit up. If I know beforehand, and expect it, I’m okay with it. Ya know?

  5. This type of ending isn’t something I’d forget. This is just wrong. Like you mentioned, I also wondered how the publisher allowed it.

  6. I hate this, too. I read a YA series and the last book ended like this. Kind of that WT…moment. Even in series books, I think that each one sort of needs to stand alone. There needs to be some sort of wrap up. Was this a big publisher or an indie?

  7. I agree totally. In fact one of my WIPs could easily, naturally do this as it is made up of at least two diaries. I’m acutely aware of the problem and like you said, I want to be up front that the first book is part 1 of 3 or something.
    Another question is how would you price the various installments? All the same or make the first one(s) cheaper to draw readers in? The latter sounds like cheating too, IMO.

    • I would have been fine if this was a free read. It want. Or make it known up front that you will need to buy more. Maybe $1 or $2 each would be fair. But $5 for have a story seems wrong to me.

  8. I’m with you 100%. I don’t like to be left hanging. I want the plot finished, I want a satisfactory (believable) conclusion. To find out i’m “jipped” is a disheartening feeling.

  9. That sounds… so annoying! I’m not sure how an author could do that and not expect to alienate readers.

    • I’m a little surprised the publisher let her do it. Come to think of it… I didn’t check to see who the publisher was.

      • This sounds like a self-publishing strategy, honestly, or that of a very new small press. Frustrating as a traditional publisher can be, they staff will have had the experience to tell you it’s not a good idea.

        • Ahhhhhhaaa. I just looked it up. There is a publisher listed, but digging deeper – it is self published. Kudos to her though. Her reviews are in the thousands. Which means tens of thousands have actually read it. Apparently this is working for her. She is an excellent writer, no doubt. I am just not terribly fond of the execution.

  10. I think it depends. In a series, certain plot circles are left for the next story to wrap up, but the main conflict and relationships in the current story are resolved. TV shows do this all the time. Leave us totally hanging. That might be why it’s showing up more in books. Heck, Sherlock Holmes jumped off a building to his death (or it sure looked like it) and we had to wait months to find out how he pulled that one off, and so on. Did I buy the next series? Fell all over it. Would I in books? If I liked the story well enough, I sure would. But eventually, all the hows and whys and so on need to be reasonably tied up.

  11. I am totally with you. I feel cheated when this happens and it kind of feels like a marketing manipulation. I hate to be manipulated and refuse to buy again just like you did. I like a beginning, middle and end. All in one book. Series are fine but I want closure for each book.

    • Yes. As a reader I want closure too. It’s okay if there is an inkling that there could be more, but not completely leaving the storyline open.

      • total agreement. Leaving it open sends me into orbit. I read a YA once that “ended” with the girl running to her aunt for help when she was being pursued and when she gets to the aunt’s house, the people pursuing her were there and the aunt helped them inject her with something to knock her out. The End.

        I kept thinking as I read the last chapter that there weren’t enough pages left for a wrap up and boy, was I right. I never bought book two so as far as I know, this chick is in a coma. LOL

  12. Yeah, I’ve had this happen before…and I usually don’t buy the next book because I’m a little ticked off. I want some sort of closure by the end of a book…even if the story continues onto book 2 and 3. That particular story line for book 1 needs to come to a satisfying end so I can go do laundry and clean my house that I neglected while I read.

  13. This is so true! Time an time again, I see reader pages on Facebook polling their followers about cliffhanger endings. From what I can tell, everyone hates them. And what you described is why. Authors think they are adding suspense but they’re not. It’s unfortunate. And what’s worse is readers will try to find out ahead of time if a book ends in a cliffhanger and if it does they’ll avoid it. Even if the cliffhanger is done right! Such a shame.

  14. I kind of felt that way with ‘A Discovery of Witches.’ I’d heard such good things about it, I decided to read it, even if I don’t usually branch out into the fantasy realm. While it was interesting and well written, it was a long book that I felt left too much hanging. I never did read the second one, probably for the same reason you didn’t continue on with the book you describe. But I know other people loved it and probably couldn’t wait to devour the next one. Thank goodness for diverse literary interests, I guess. Something for all of us out there!

    • There certainly were no lack of five star reviews… something like 1000, which made me reach for it. I should have looked at the 250 one and two star reviews, because they had the same complaint.

  15. I dinno. I’ve read a couple books like this. Honestly, maybe I’m just gullible, but I went after the next book.
    Heck, one of these books haunted me for decades. Remembered reading a book in middle school called “The Dreamweaver’s Loom” or something like that, and it totally ended on a cliffhanger. I didn’t find the sequel for over a decade, when I mentioned it to my wife (keep in mind, I had read this when I was like 12, and I got married when I was 24, it plagued me for that long) and she hunted it down for me. I was finally able to scratch that itch!
    But that’s what librarys are for. I haven’t bought into this digital book business. So except for making me long for the conclusion of that book for over a decade, I bore the author no ill will.

  16. Same thing happened to me. The author never declared that there would be a sequel. It’s really dishonest.

  17. I sooo agree with you! I once got hooked on a YA series where every time she claimed the next book would be the last, she kept writing another one to drag it out! Finally, I gave up! The new stories weren’t anything NEW either. I felt like I was reading a soap opera . . . ya know, how you can be a fan and then miss every episode for the next year and the same storylines are playing out? I will NEVER read another book by this author again b/c, just like you, she lost my trust.