How Not to Write a Novel

In a monogamy plot, friends and relatives only ever call the protagonist in order to have long conversations about Ronald’s behavior on dinner dates. In real life, friends and relatives only call to have long conversations about themselves.

This particular blunder is known as deus ex machina, which is French for “Are you fucking kidding me?”

No, Jack thought, man was not meant to combine ergonomics and hydraulics without sufficient government regulation,

No one thinks of himself as a brown-haired man of average height.

A blunder we have seen more than once recently is when authors, reacting against the plethora of “large-breasted” girls in fiction, describe a heroine as having “medium-sized breasts.” This amounts to saying she had breasts.

Remember: blonde, brunette, and redhead are not personality types.

Santa Claus was always her best friend—could he be something more? No. Absolutely not. Under no circumstances. He cannot.

Ask yourself: “Do I know this word?” If the answer is no, then you do not know it. The short-term solution is to use a word you do know. That means a word you would comfortably use when talking to an overeducated and sarcastic friend who would not hesitate to make fun of you for misusing a word.

If you feel that limiting yourself to words you know leaves you with too small a vocabulary for your purposes, there is no short-term solution.

Getting individual words wrong can make you sound illiterate; getting idioms wrong can make you sound as if you don’t speak English.

On the day of the marathon, Joe got out of bed and hit the ground running.

In almost all situations that do not involve immediate physical danger or great surprise, you should think twice before using an exclamation mark. If you have thought twice and the exclamation mark is still there, think about it three times, or however many times it takes until you delete it.

Were a novel an aged and nuanced wine, advertising copy would be artificial grape-flavor concentrate: it is only by convention that we call it grape, and more than a little bit of the straight stuff can make you sick.

Just as the elements of a plot must seem to flow logically from one to another, the sentences that convey your ideas must lead smoothly from one to the next. For those occasions when you want to change the immediate subject, nature has given us the paragraph break.

The Unruly Zit When the author has read too much Bukowski

whose personal hygiene is described in terms of microbiology.

Readers will generally find such descriptions repulsive. They will go on to find your characters repulsive, your book repulsive, and harbor strong suspicions about you.

Published authors use the word “said” almost exclusively when they wish to indicate that a particular character is saying something.

People sitting next to us on the crosstown bus are very unlikely to tell us about their unhappy childhood, the ongoing tragedy of their mother’s alcoholism, or their foot diseases. If they try, we change seats.

“Am I the third person?” I wondered.

God, my dick’s as hard as Chinese arithmetic.”

You have to correct all the typos. Surprise Quiz How many of the typos do you have to correct? None of the typos Some of the typos All of the typos

To the Fuxom and Snickers Agency: Enclosed is the manuscript of my novel that you asked to read, along with a check to cover the $500 reading fee.