Eight Easy Steps To Writing a Bad Novel

Lots of folks have painstakingly tried to write all sorts of guides to writing a bestseller or a perfect novel. How-to guides are quite abundant. But I thought I should try to write a guide on how to write a bad novel. How does one go about that? Let’s find out.

1. Choose the least believable, most cliched, overused plot you can imagine, then make it twice as complicated.

2. You must have a love story. Love sells. Sex also, but that’s not so easy to write about. Let’s just write about love, shall we? She must be an incarnation of Aphrodite, and he must look like chiseled into perfection by the gods themselves. Something like that. Of course, they should be star-crossed lovers. Something is always ruining their love story.

3. Use lots of adverbs. Try to be as poetic as possible. Everything can be a metaphor.

4. Characters. You need to think real hard about their names. Try to come up with memorable stuff. And add as many characters as possible, at least three of which are identical.

5. Make the story as long as possible. Write, write, write. Add dialogue that doesn’t do anything for the story, write about your character’s daily routine, one that does not propel the story forward.

6. You need a happy end. Be as Pollyanna as possible. Optimism is going to save the world one day.

7. Tell, don’t show. Readers are stupid creatures, so you’ll have to explain everything to them. Don’t let them imagine stuff, because they’ll screw up. They’ll screw up every damn time.

8. Don’t be vulgar. You’ll be sent straight to hell for this. Use nice words. Be as PG-13 as possible. Not only no one dies in your novel, but they don’t even get as much as a paper cut. It’s all so beautiful it becomes kind of pink.


I did my best to be as sarcastic as possible, but I do recognize how ironic it all is. I can think of at least five Pulitzer Prize winners who kind of followed some of these rules. The art of novel writing is not very fond of rules. It can break them all and still be a work of utter brilliance. Go figure. There are no rules unless you think you need them.

Kind of like life.


16 thoughts on “Eight Easy Steps To Writing a Bad Novel

  1. You have me thinking of every single word I’ve ever written in my life. Oh, god! If all of this was 100% accurate and true I’d be the shittiest writer in the history of writing. Especially points 2, 5 and 8. What’s wrong with love stories, huh? And writing in PG-13 is perfect! Dialogue is great! I’m sorry. I’m just joking, :D In all honesty though, it was really funny. You can a thick block of irony droping on the floor and making a look thud. Really nice post.

  2. I like characters that are somewhat unexpected. For instance, a good guy who almost shot a guy in the back because he pissed him off once (and someone who alter becomes a bad guy stopped him). A Christian Pastor who tells everyone, “I’m a SEAL. That means I know what to do after I’ve turned the other cheek”. And a cold blooded assassin who is confronted with the blood on her hands and tries to make amends.

    • Characters who are paradoxical? Yeah, I guess that’s what we like about characters. The worst of the worst must have some sort of redeeming quality, while a perfectly good character is rather boring.

  3. Great points. :)Your end notes bring up a very valid point, which is that many of the cliches still sell well. My own mother told me she does not like a story in which it ends dismally. My sister-in-law suggested a writing prompt about a magical island a couple could go to where time never passes -and I had such trouble convincing myself that sort of setup wouldn’t have a sinister plot behind it.
    (Oh, and she is definitely a PG romance person. Even though it was a romantic island getaway…)

    • Cliches sell because cliches are true. I just remembered something about romance as a genre. I read somewhere that Shakespeare intended Romeo and Juliet to be a sort of criticism to the way most people perceived love to be. “These violent delights have violent ends.” Passion gets the better of you in such a way that it’s no longer love. It’s obsession. Anyway, he wrote his play and people just missed the point. They thought it so romantic what Romeo and Juliet did. They were like, “OMG, relationship goals.”

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