Tuesday, February 22, 2011

How to Write a Bad Novel

copyright 2011 by Ron Adams

A while back a friend of mine found out that I write books and short stories. After his initial astonishment, (turns out he didn’t even know I read), he informed me that he had always wanted to write a fantasy/sci-fi novel. I recall his exact words:

"I want to write so bad!”

So I scoured the Internet for advice on how to write a truly bad novel. After much diligence and a few cold adult beverages, I found and submit for your review, the following (really funny) list:

1. Remember that real writers use a typewriter. They don’t like these newfangled computers. A manual typewriter and a bucket of Wite-Out™ are the tools of a serious writer.

2. Never pick an average name that a regular person would have. Go with something that explains the character. If your character is a cop on the edge, then try a manly nickname coupled with the name of a gun — something like Rip Magnum.

3. If your book is about a real person, just alter their name and location slightly — Jorge M. Bushe, Presidente of the Federated Territories.

4. Make sure that the good guys are clearly good and the bad guys are overwhelming evil. Don’t confuse your readers by having all the characters have good qualities and bad ones.

5. Explain everything. When your character is angry, just say that she’s angry. There’s no point in trying to show that through her actions when you can just tell that to your reader.

6. Don’t explain anything. Why did your villain spend the whole book clutching a blanket? Leave it up to the readers. They’ll fill in the blanks.

7. Pile on the adjectives and adverbs. Why have a woman speak when you can have her whisper breathlessly in her lustful, wind-swept voice?

8. Fill your book with coincidences, especially towards the end. Nothing beats having the exciting climax occur because the hero bumped into the villain in a small-town cafe when they both had a craving for peach-filled semi-sweet chocolate pie. Did you mention that both characters love the exact same pie? Now would be a good time.

9. Don’t let your character’s established traits get in the way of a good plot twist. Just because your hero is a priest who preaches non-violence doesn’t mean he can’t be an expert marksman with an itchy trigger finger.

10. If you are writing a historical novel, don’t sweat accuracy. The reader won’t care. Go ahead and have Napoleon invent the automatic rifle. Who could say he didn’t?

11. Don’t feel as if anything has to happen. Plots are optional. Two people sitting in a room staring at each other is great material, as long as it is handled with plenty of adjectives and adverbs (see tip five).

12. Exclamation points! Exclamation points! Exclamation points!

13. Don’t sweat the order of the action. If the big football game needs to occur just after the prom, then that is when it should be.

14. Brothers are always very different and they always argue about everything. Never portray brothers who are similar and get along unless they are twins (except if one is an evil twin). If they are twins they must finish each other’s sentences and no one should be able to tell them apart.

15. Sisters must always steal each other’s boyfriends. Additionally, one sister must be outgoing and the other must be quiet and serious. This makes no difference to the boyfriend though, he’ll gladly dump either for the other.

16. Don’t start your novel with an interesting event. Take a few dozen pages to explain everything that would lead up to that interesting event. The reader will gladly hang around until you get to the point.

17. Don’t make your secondary characters interesting. It will just detract from the main characters. Lesser characters don’t need reasons for their actions. They are just there to keep the plot moving.

18. If the plot seems to slow down, give someone a gun or a knife and kill off one of those secondary characters you don’t care about anyway.

19. Writing a book about vampires? You probably don’t need any help making it bad, but you should definitely make sure you show how cool it is to be a vampire and make up your own rules for the way vampires can die or have sex.

20. If you are writing about sports, make it clear that sports always provide important life lessons. Make sure the novel has one obsessive and one downtrodden coach.

21. If you want to write a serious novel, make sure the main character is jaded and has lost interest in life. This anti-hero must view all other people as phonies, fakes or idiots. The character should experiment with drugs and sex, watch someone die, or at least be assaulted. At no point should the anti-hero feel any real pleasure. Happy endings are strictly prohibited.

22. Writing a mystery? Make sure the clues are really obvious or really obscure. Either way, your hero will be the only person who can piece these things together. At some point they must accuse the wrong person and be ridiculed for it. In the end though, they should deliver a speech that explains exactly how everything happened.

23. Character conversations should always be used to explain what is happening and how people are feeling. It is perfectly natural to have a character explain to his office mate (whose brother is a bank president) that he used to be a safe cracker, but now he just wants to go straight.

24. At the end of the book, you must have the main character reach an important and life-changing epiphany. Make that epiphany really obvious. Don’t worry about why they had one, just make sure they had it so the reader knows the book is ending.

25. Editing is just a waste of time. Spell check it and move on.

Armed with all this, go forth and be sure to follow NONE of this advice. Cheers!


Marta Stephens said...

Ron, this is an absolute hoot and certainly worth the wait!! LOL Oops!!! Did I do a #12?

Okay, now I need to go through my WIP and make sure I haven't done any of these. :()

Aaron Paul Lazar said...

Oh, Ron. You had me rolling on the floor with these. Wonderful! I think Dame Agatha probably didn't see this, though, 'cause she always had Hercule Poirot deliver a long and detailed speech at the end aobut who dunnit. ;o) Have a great night.

JessicaMiller said...

Very funny. I learned and laughed a lot.

(and I'll be starting another revision immediately)(lol) (I'm sure there's a rule about adding an abundance of parenthesis to make your novel more interesting.)

Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

Ha ha ha. Loved it.


Rosalie Skinner said...

Great negative advice Ron. Will keep these notes handy, with my 'what not to do in hindsight' list.

Terry W. Ervin II said...

I've only been using 16 of the 25 listed!!!!! No wonder I've not written that NYTimes Bestseller yet!!!! Thanks for getting me back on the right path!!!!!!

Fun article.

Ron Adams said...

I think at one time or another we have all done some or all of these things. As much as anything, the truly bad novel comes from a combination of bad words, bad habits, bad intentions, and bad decisions. I wrote this to poke fun at those who pursue the art of literature, forsaking the fun of a truly good story. And for those who know me, no real authors were harmed in the creation of this article.

Kim Smith said...

I can tell you have read my books. HAHAHAH!!!!

Sheila Deeth said...

!!!!! This was great!