A few months ago I started writing reviews of the books I read. This prompted me to look at adding a bit more variety to my reading habits. That doesn’t mean I’m suddenly going to start perusing the sort of books I wouldn’t normally touch with a barge pole, but rather, those I might previously have only have glanced at and moved on.
Now, not wishing to lumber myself with a pile of unreadable tat to wade through, whenever anyone asks me to consider a review, I always have a peek at the book in question before agreeing to anything. Sadly, a lot of the time, I can’t even get past the first page for the mass of bad grammar, poor spelling, illogical sentence structure and general profusion of utter drivel. Nevertheless, I am taking on literary tomes that are new to me (in style, genre etc), and while I know that at least some of these may not leave me gasping in amazement, I’m okay with that, as even mediocre books can teach us something. (They can, can’t they?)
In casting my literary net further afield (and this particularly applies to the eBook market), I’ve begun to wonder why it is that some folk write so badly. Is it laziness, stupidity or what? I don’t know. But thinking about it prompted a few thoughts on how these people might justify churning out such dross.
So here’s my 12 rules on how not to write a novel, inspired by some of those (sorry) really shit writers:
1. Always assume your particular writing style is totally unique and utterly compelling.
2. Your writing will come over as dead clever if you stuff the dialogue with clichés, making your characters sound totally unique and utterly compelling.
3. Don’t worry if you get writer’s block, it’s a sign you’re breaking new ground.
4. Re-writing and all that editing stuff – that’s just for people who aren’t very good.
5. Use loads of adverbs, that way readers who don’t have good imaginations will be able to visualise what’s happening.
6. Always write what you think will sell well.
7. Don’t worry too much about spelling, grammar and punctuation – if you’ve got a totally unique and utterly compelling writing style, and the story is okay, readers will overlook a few errors.
8. Don’t read anything by the writers you really like, cos that’ll just put you off.
9. Write in a genre you’re not familiar with. In fact, the less you know, the better.
10. Make your central character just like you.
11. If you’re new to novel writing, you’ll probably start by creating a mythical/fantasy/magical world of some sort. Be different – come up with original character names such as RthMiiert–Bogg, Argzipztrg, and FTarttMinger–Plural. It doesn’t matter if readers can’t pronounce them, so long as they look interesting.
12. Finally, before you upload it to Amazon et al, don’t let anyone read your epic tome – they’ll only drag you down with their criticism. Publish and be damned, as some famous author once said.
I’ve always believed you can’t teach anyone to be a good writer – that’s something they have to work out for themselves. A little guidance is great, but I’m pretty certain that you only get to be good by constantly striving to be the best, by being critical, by cutting the dross, by working at it and being a writer.