Don't you like declarative, forceful blog post titles like that? They're so confident and bossy. It's like my inner eight-year-old gets to come out and tell everybody what to do.
BUT. On with the DECLARATIVE DIRECTIVES!
These are all things you should never do in your writing, not in general. Man, that would be a long list, wouldn't it? They are also things that are huge pet peeves for me, and I do quite a bit of editing and proofreading, both for my betas, CPs, writing group, and friends, and also as freelance work on the side. Which means I have rather a large amount of experience, and am not completely unqualified to write this. It also means that this is not the only list of things you should never do, but is instead a small sampling of Stuff That Pisses Me Off, Which You Should Avoid Doing Because It Also Pisses Most People - Including Editors, Agents, and Other Important Industry Types - Off.
1. Ignore Grammar Rules
This one could be broken down into about 4,573 (as a rough count) separate common grammar issues, but instead of boring you all to tears, I decided to lump them all together. I am not referring to the poetic license type of ignoring grammar, but the much more common, and MUCH more annoying ignorance/laziness that leads people to eschew all basic grammar rules. I see everything from missing quotation marks to bad or missing paragraph breaks to sentence fragments to tense changes to inappropriate apostrophes and more.
Here's the bottom line: it makes me focus on your grammar (or lack thereof) instead of your content, and that is a very bad thing. There's no way I'll be engaged by your story if I'm not focused on the content. Please, use all the resources the electronic world provides, from style guides to grammar sites to the grammar check in Microsoft Word. If you need help, ask for it. Even when you're sending things to betas or CPs, save them some time and do your basic proofreading first, so that they can focus on the meat of your work, and on catching the little typos that slip past even the most strict grammarians.
2. Go For Melodrama Instead of Drama
(Small caveat: unless you're writing Gothic Romance or absurd comedy, in which case, go for it.)
For the rest of us, this is to be avoided at all costs. I define melodrama, personally (and for the purposes of this post) as unearned emotion. In other words, a scene that comes three-quarters of the way through a long story, in which Joe is screaming at Betty because Betty has been deliberately pushing his buttons and provoking him and trying to get him to explode is probably earned (probably. But still should be watched.) However, a scene that comes in the second chapter, after we've just met the characters, in which Joe is screaming at Betty because Betty just doesn't understand him and oh god the pain is probably melodrama.
I'm saying the emotions have to match the stakes, and have to follow an arc of rising tension that leads us to the big emotional moment. That arc can take place on a small scale in one scene, but the emotion should be subsequently smaller, too. The bigger the rising arc, the bigger the emotion. Earn that drama. Earn that weeping or the screaming or the throwing things (unless it's comedy, of course.)
Why? Because you need to take your readers with you, and let their emotions and investment rise, too, so that when the big moment happens, they're just as devastated as your characters. Don't rush it. Build it.
3. Favor Facts Over Emotion
This is the 180 degree opposite of #2, in which you throw all drama out the window and tell your story in a dry, yet thorough and detailed, way.
Your plot points are stellar. Your story lines are masterfully woven together. Your writing craft is exquisite and careful and exacting. And yet people read your work and yawn, because they have no investment in your characters.
We need emotion - we are (most of us) emotional beings. The why of an action is just as important as the how. So Joe can throw a plate at Betty, but if we don't know how he's feeling when he does it, or understand his motivation, it will just be one more dry fact.
Color things up. Shake 'em up. Just not too much (see #2 above.)
That's a small sample of MY pet peeves. What are yours? What else drives you crazy when you read/edit/offer critiques?