Saturday, 11 February 2012

How NOT to write a novel

(one of the) broken biro 'techniques'
There's plenty of useful advice about writing a novel 'out there'. I have at least half a dozen books telling me the BEST way to construct a plot and write a best-seller - all of which are wildly different from each other. I'll do a separate post on them.

But meanwhile, here are my Top Ten ways NOT to write a novel. I think most of the books I've got will probably agree on much of this:

  1. Make your opening the least interesting part of the book
  2. Fiddle about editing what you’ve already done instead of finishing it – at which point you realize whole beautifully-edited chunks are no longer required
  3. Stop working on it for a couple of weeks so you can’t remember where you’re up to
  4. Change genres half way through like Tarantino did it in Dusk til Dawn, leaving you sitting there with your mouth open
  5. Do a wholesale ‘find and replace’ for a name change when a name could be part of a ordinary word. e.g. change the name Wish to Noon and end up with ‘Noonful thinking’ and ‘a yellowNoon hue’
  6. Write sections so dull you fall asleep over them and end up with a keyboard pattern on your head and 25 pages full of the letter ‘Y’
  7. Stressed about the parts that aren’t working, put it all away in a box for 9months to see if it sorts itself out
  8. Wait until you’ve written 50k words before deciding it would work better in third person.
  9. Send the first three chapters out to readers – or even better, agents – when you haven’t finished the rest of the book
  10. Write a blog post that implies you’re disorganized and the novel isn’t any good, when actually you’re pretty pleased with it.

Related posts:
On writing - what started me back into my novel
A novel request - appeal for volunteers to read by first three chapters
Bringing back the dead - changing genres mid-novel


  1. I'm obviously on the right track with the one I don't seem to be writing.

  2. 11. Get sidetracked with the forthcoming 1st anniversary of a truly wonderful, news-related poetry blog.

    1. Sidetracked, moi? That wouldn't be the marvelous Poetry24 blog would it?

  3. 11. Show it to your best friend, who will tell you it's wonderful whether it is or not.

    12. Tell ANYONE when you hope to finish it.

    13. Tell yourself you've written a bestseller, and plan your new car/house/yacht and your Desert Island Discs, because it's just a matter of time before you're invited onto the programme.

    14. Write for money and success rather than pleasure, because if you don't enjoy the writing, and the novel bombs, then you've lost out on both counts.

    15. Waste time posting long coments on other people's blogs.

    1. 11. I don't think the word 'wonderful' came up - but she did laugh!

      12. Ah! Guilty as charged!

      13. Tick

      14. Nope - I write for pleasure / terrible compulsion

      15. I've cut back a lot on that, but feel guilty. 8-(
      .... oh, you mean you?... well I'm glad you did 8-)

  4. "A Yellownoon Hue" sound a good title. I noon I'd thought of it.

    1. It does roll of the tongue, doesn't it?

    2. "Yellonoon", no?!

      Snoon, either way.

  5. Have been following every bit of this advice for years.

    1. Yes, and then you go and secretly pull a couple of eBook's out of your hat, you little minx!

    2. p.s. I have no idea what that apostrophe is doing there... must have fallen into my bag when I went to the greengrocer's!