Creative Writing Writing 101 2016-08-17 00:00

How Not to Write a Novel

How NOT to Write a Novel

I Googled “how to write a novel” and found about 92,800,000 results in 0.60 of a second. There’s a lot of advice out there—some good, some not so good—to help you write your masterpiece.

We’re taking another side street this month with our novel-writing adventure. Let’s talk about how NOT to write a novel.

I found an interesting article on Writer’s Digest website by James Scott Bell titled 7 Things That Will Doom Your Novel (& How to Avoid Them). It’s a must-read for anyone contemplating putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard).

Here’s another writer’s take on five of Bell’s tips on how NOT to write a novel:

  1. 1. Wait for inspiration.
  2. 2. Look over your shoulder.
  3. 3. Ignore the craft.
  4. 4. Take as many shortcuts as possible.
  5. 5. Quit.

1. Wait for inspiration.

Bell offers this as the number one defeater of writers everywhere. What I learned early on in this writing business is that waiting for inspiration doesn’t pay the bills. The only thing that does is writing. Every. Single. Day. I don’t have a muse. I may have felt struck by inspiration a time or two, but it usually happens after I’ve been pounding at the keyboard for a while and things start to click. Key take-away: You have to do the work, and the only way to do it is to sit down and write.

2. Look over your shoulder.

This is Bell’s version of the inner critic, and he quoted Jack Bickham, a novelist—words that every writer should print out, frame, and hang over the writing desk: “All of us are scared: of looking dumb, of running out of ideas, of never selling our copy, of not getting noticed. We fiction writers make a business of being scared, and not just of looking dumb. Some of these fears may never go away, and we may just have to learn to live with them.” It almost brought tears to my eyes, it was so spot-on.

3. Ignore the craft.

Bell points out that those who actually sell their books spend time learning the craft. They’re always reading, analyzing, and learning what works and what doesn’t. I’ve run across plenty of writers in my years who are proud to be mavericks who don’t follow the wisdom and knowledge of those who have come before in the writing field. I like to think those who have made it can teach me a thing or two that will help my journey be smoother and perhaps shorter. In fact, I have several of Bell’s books on the craft of writing. I highly recommend you read a few.

4. Take as many shortcuts as possible.

Here Bell takes a shot at the self-publishing mindset that anything written is worth being published as an e-book. He advocates strongly for beta readers and good freelance editors. If you want to successfully publish your work and build a platform for future books, everything you put out on the internet or through self-publishing print books better be as professional as what comes through traditional publishing sources. Anything less than that might have readers tossing your work in the trash or leaving a scathing review on Amazon.

5. Quit.

Bell wraps up his list as strongly as he started it. The sure-fire way you can NOT write a novel is to just stop writing. Then the world will never hear your voice. And your voice is unique. People want to hear what you have to say because only you can tell the story you have inside. Take heart from those who have gone before and sometimes spent years trying to get published. They never stopped. And they finally got there. Hats off to JK Rowling, Stephen King, Beatrix Potter, Dr. Seuss, Agatha Christie, and countless others.

Maybe something in the above list will give you heart and help you persevere through to the end of your novel. At ProWritingAid, our mission is to help all writers improve their writing.

If you haven’t yet, give ProWritingAid a whirl. Put her through her paces. See just how strong your writing can be with this powerful self-editing tool at your side.

Happy writing, friends!

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