10 Ways to Fail at Writing (Shayla + Oren)

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1. Don’t read in your genre.

You have an imagination, right? Then what’s the point in reading books in your genre? No point! That’s what! Just make it up as you go. If you’re writing a fantasy novel and your goal is to fail, then don’t read other fantasy novels. You don’t want the authors’ skills to accidentally rub off on you and teach you something.

2. Don’t request and listen to constructive feedback.

By asking for criticism, you could risk being offended or hurt. What if the reviewer says she doesn’t think your character has any flaws and starts recommending changes? That would mean you’d have to do rewrites, and no one has time for that.

3. Don’t educate yourself.

Think of all the money and time you’ll save by skipping the following:

  • College writing classes
  • Writing conferences/workshops
  • Books
  • Online courses
  • Editors
  • The internet *note: not the same as online courses
  • YouTube (videos, interviews, etc.), Pinterest (tips, guides, how-tos)

It’s easier and cheaper to skip educating yourself. Plus, it’s just so time-consuming.

4. Stay isolated.

Writing is an isolating job, so don’t go to conferences or workshops, don’t get accountability partners, and don’t strengthen your relationship with others in the business.

5. Let writer’s block/procrastination/self-doubt control your life.

Related Reading: Punching Writer’s Block in the Face

6. Remain ignorant of the rules of grammar and punctuation.

What on earth is The Elements of Style? You don’t know—you’ve never touched the stuff! And you’re going to keep it that way. Grammar rules are strict and rigid, and you’re a free spirit. If the reader doesn’t know what on earth you’re talking about because you refuse to edit your work, that’s his own problem.

Related Reading: Manuscript Errors Novice Authors Keep Making

7. Don’t improve your vocabulary.

Thesaurus? No thank you.

But I mean, if you’re into that sort of thing, which we don’t recommend because the goal is to fail, then here’s what N. H. Kleinbaum from Dead Poets Society had to say about vocabulary:

So avoid using the word very because it’s lazy. A man is not very tired, he is exhausted. Don’t use very sad, use morose. Language was invented for one reason, boys—to woo women—and, in that endeavor, laziness will not do. It also won’t do in your essays.

Recommended Watching: Dead Poets Society — To Woo Women

8. Don’t be humble.

Humility is for weaklings. You’re a fabulous writer . . . right? Then tell the world how awesome you are! What can humility really teach you in your writing anyway—that you’re inferior? Forget about it.

9. Muddle up the plot.

So, despite all your valiant efforts to wallow in your own amazing ability and begin spewing out a glorious churn of golden swill (likely also born out of your great knowledge of writing learned from many years of how fun it was in junior high when you had that book report on Shakespeare you made a C+ on), there are several fantastic ways to completely and utterly write it the wrong way.

The Plot: Beginnings, Middles, and Ends:

  • Introduce your character, then their mother, their father, their cat, adding a long scene we where find out all their typical behaviors, followed shortly by how they interact with each other. The characters’ problems are presented contemplatively over many pages, and then BEHOLD: Chapter 9!
  • Write scenes where nothing happens. Try it. It’s fabulous for not getting your novel anywhere successful. Much like the plot.
  • So somehow you set up the story well, and it’s heading toward a fantastic and exciting finish. Let’s stall it by using meandering plot lines, multiple irrelevant characters, and really slow narrative.
  • Uh oh, looks like you’ve got a good setup and a great middle. Well, we can fix that too. Simply add in a deus ex machina (where your character suddenly gains the ability to solve his problems from out of nowhere), or switch your genres right at the end (your romantic urban high school comedy is devastated on the last four pages by a giant squid alien that collapses the school and empties most of the antagonists pals into a giant pit of darkness that leads to a dimension full of talking tentacles).

The Characters

  • Description: You must always describe your character in front of a mirror, or in deep thought while in public, or just in a nice, long, three-page soliloquy.
  • Make sure when you’re writing those three pages, you cover every item in their daily routine, such as banter, eating out, who they run into, what they have to do on their to-do list, etc.
  • Shoehorn your own ideology onto the character, even if that’s not how the character fits. That soft spoken shy girl would look great going ballistic on a passerby about how Trump is the devil and should be impeached. Loudly. In a crowd.
  • Sidekicks: Add 17 or so. They don’t need any purpose. We like filler in our novels if we want them to flounder into obscurity. Even better, have just one buddy to exist solely make the main character look good; who cares about plot—we gotta make that protagonist shine.

The World

  • You should most assuredly write a Victorian fantasy and do no research at all into that era, because what you see on TV is usually what happened back then.
  • In fact, don’t research anything. You’re probably right about how it was portrayed back then.
  • Keep your reader guessing about what’s going on. They don’t need to know the society, the events, the culture. Keep them guessing.
  • Or, even better, explain EVERYTHING in long and meandering detail, down to the history of each political officer for the last 200 years, including genealogy. Bonus points if you can explain the architectural history in under ten pages.

10. Accidentally finish your book—aka fail.

  • Somehow, you finished a publishable novel. Bad! Bad! Don’t worry! This is fixable! With luck, we can can get your query letter to be the only thing anyone ever reads of your work.
    • Query Letter: Express your feelings about the world of publishing in your synopsis. Include your plot doubts. Painstakingly list every single thing that happens in your book, regardless of plot.
      •  Confident of your plot? Nice, that works too. You should express how amazing you are at writing in great detail.
      • Don’t address your query to anyone in particular. Keep it generic. Much easier to send it out to fifty agents at once.
    • Manuscript: Format it how you like. No one cares, and you shouldn’t either. They can fix it on their end.
      • IN fact, just send your beautiful baby novel to anyone. Harvard University Press is a great start for you fantasy novel. Don’t even bother picking the appropriate publisher or agent, they’re they professionals, let them sort out genre.

Source: How Not to Write a Novel: 200 Classic Mistakes and How to Avoid Them-A Misstep-by-Misstep Guide by Howard Mittelmark


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The Yukon Writers’ Society is an encouraging, supportive group for fiction writers in Yukon, Oklahoma. They meet biweekly on Thursdays to embrace accountability, to learn more about the craft of writing, and to help group members start and finish their books. The Yukon Writers’ Society was founded in 2016 and provides free meetings for its members. Their group anthology, Shivers in the Night, was published in April 2018.