The Seven Deadly Sins for Writers

This last weekend I attended a conference for the Rocky Mountain members of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. One of the speakers was Bruce Coville, author of an amazing 95 books, including the bestselling Unicorn Chronicles. In his keynote speech, he used the device of the "Seven Deadly Sins", and tweaked them to apply to writers. I thought I'd share his insights.

The Seven Deadly Sins for Writers, from Bruce Coville

1. Dullness. No matter who you're writing for, your work should "spark and sparkle", according to Coville. There's no excuse for being boring.

2. Repetition. Coville says there are two kinds of repetition. Repeating what's been done by others, and repeating ourselves. A great book is only like itself.

3. Cliche. The words are dead on the page. They don't say anything (except perhaps that the writer has no imagination).

4. Sloth. Sit down and do the work. Use what Ray Bradbury calls "ass-glue" to stay in your chair. Stretch yourself. Make yourself better.

5. Inattention. This comes from not thinking things through. Remember, no character moves in isolation.

6. Perfectionism. This will stop you in your tracks. It is the enemy of the good, of completion, of achievement. Coville suggests using the first draft to "vomit" on the page. It won't be much good, but you can't edit something, until it's on the page.

7. Clumsiness. This is lack of craft. Learn the ins and outs of the language. What works and what's clunky. Editors and agents will spot clumsiness a mile away.

In two weeks, I'll share the rest of Coville's talk: The Seven Heavenly Virtues for Writers.


  1. Hey, Debbie! I enjoyed meeting you at the writing conference this weekend. You have a great blog here! Hope your writing is going well. :)

  2. Thanks for sharing this~ I wonder if you can buy Ray Bradbury's product at Wal-Mart??? Looking forward to the post on heavenly virtues :)

  3. Thank you, Hannah. It was great meeting you, too. I'm energized to finish my WIP. Plus, my crit group meets on Saturday, so I've got to have something to show for myself!

    Jess, you are too funny. You could make millions selling ass-glue, at least to me!


  4. What a helpful and unique blog! I'm happy to be a new follower (via MBC). If you're so inclined, I'd love to have you stop by Ad Bits sometime.
    ~Jules @

  5. Thanks Debbie! I wanted to go to that conference, but it was a little far away by now!


  6. Great advice! I especially like the point about paying attention to our characters. This summer at Tin House Writers' Workshop, Steve Almond told us to love our characters. Then, he said, "Love means paying attention." I love that.

  7. Jules, thank you for pointing me to your blog. Too funny! What a great angle.

    Anonymous, maybe you can make it to some of the events RMC-SCBWI has throughout the year. I'd love to meet you.

    Susan-you've got such great writing insights on your blog! Nice to meet another homeschooling writer.


  8. Debbie:

    Great info. Looking forward to the second part. As always great info.

  9. Bruce Coville was a great speaker. I hope I get to hear him again!



Related Posts with Thumbnails