- Multiple POV & tense changes. The kind that have you backtracking to figure out whose head you are in at the moment.
- Long sentences. I mean long. Stream-of-consciousness long. One sentence had 386 words and 30 commas. And two question marks, which did little to impede the sentence, since it did not actually come to a stop at either one.
- Lack of punctuation. I finally realized that the capitalized word in the sentence meant someone was speaking at that point, sans those helpful quotation marks.
- Sentence structure. Some had so many clauses that I forgot the point before the end.
- Non-sequential time travel. At least, it felt that way, with the main character's hallucinations transporting him back to his childhood and further, and back again.
- Long passages from a manual on clock repair. I understand that these were important to the story and paralleled his father's writings, but they began without warning. Just a slight indent of the paragraph.
- Slight overuse of a few favorite words. The words 'sibilant' and 'boreal' and 'arboreal' were used several times. I didn't have a problem with them (they are ethereal and slightly sensual) but they stood out because the words were distinctive, and most editors would have requested a word change.
Susie Finkbeiner raised a good point in her comments this week (thanks, Susie!). It is easier and more natural to break the rules when you're writing dialogue and when writing in first person. When you're in a character's head, you enter into a contract with him or her. There's an implied intimacy that allows for a natural flow of story. If the telling is stilted and proper, the story will not seem genuine, unless, of course, it's in keeping with the character's personality. I think this is why I prefer writing in first person. Short phrases, run-on sentences, dropped conjunctions - isn't this how we think in our heads? It's how we speak to intimate friends. At least, occasionally these are allowed in literature. Unless you have a Pulitzer on your hands, and then, anything goes.