10 Ways to Really Write an Awful Novel

In this post, I’m going to tell you how to write a bad novel. And by bad, I do not mean the more-than-implied badness of the tweet with which Josh Unruh executed #TweetVengeance upon me yesterday:


Instead of that sort of badness, I bring you the badness of truly horrid writing. Because, really — there are so many cramazing, beautiful works of written art out there, you don’t want to be like all of them, do you?

I didn’t think so.

(This is going to make some of you very sad. But it’s for your own good, I promise.)

10 Ways to Really Write a Truly Awful Novel


1. Never read.

Novels, short stories, magazines, newspapers, poetry journals — reading all of that stuff is way overrated. You have your own style, your own voice. You don’t need anyone else’s examples of writing to clutter up your thinking.

2. Only write when you’re inspired.

You wouldn’t want to tax yourself. Writing is supposed to be fun and flowing and brilliant all the time.

3. When writing dialogue, never use the word “said.”

Instead, use booed, chuckled, hissed, demanded, muttered, mused, mumbled, other verbs starting with “m,” protested, retorted, agreed, and so forth.

These beautifully complicate your writing. Besides, you need these tags because your readers can’t figure out your character’s tone, and they can’t do that because you:

4. Never stay in character.

There’s too much noise in this world already. What? Your characters don’t need distinctive voices! It’s much safer and easier on the brain if you make them all sound happily the same.

Besides, crafting unique voice is what our plethora of dialogue tags is for.

5. Writing a novel, your participles should absolutely dangle.*

Having gone to the store, the groceries cost $20.
Cleaning the house, the broom handle broke.
Frolicking on the lawn, the lumberjack watched the kittens.

6. Do what I did in the title of this post: Split infinitives.

In case you don’t know, a split infinitive is when you conveniently take an infinitive verb such as to write and insert a word between to and write. There are reasons why this is a bad thing to do, but let’s not talk about what they are.

In fact while, we’re talking points 5 and 6 just don’t pay attention to any rules of grammar spelling or punctuation, while your writing. Grammar does nothing for clearly communicating with you’re reader’s. Especially you should ignore, correct apostrophe usage; definitely insert things like “This gift is from the Smith’s” instead of “This gift is from the Smiths.” Oh and definatly every comma in this paragraph, is incorrect.

7. Mix your metaphors.

Every main character who knows his stuff will bite the bullet up his sleeve. She’ll cut off her nose to go out on a limb. If you don’t mix your metaphors, you’ll be a small fish to fry in a big pond. But if you do it right, you’ll really be living high on the hog while the sun shines.

8. Use lots of adverbs.

Fortunately, I’ve been giving you a terrific example of this throughout this blog post. The more adverbs you use, the more overwhelmingly receptively your audience will respond to your story. And if you pair an adverb with a non-said dialogue tag, your audience is likely to chorus enthusiastically, “Butterflies wouldn’t melt in your stomach!”

9. Don’t prepare or do prewriting of any sort.

That way, when you get to the end, you’ll run out of ideas, and those pesky plot twists won’t bother your readers so much.



*Writing a novel, your participles should absolutely dangle. = The participles write the novel.
Having gone to the store, the groceries cost $20. = The groceries went to the store.
Cleaning the house, the broom handle broke. = The broom handle cleaned the house.
Frolicking on the lawn, the lumberjack watched the kittens. = The lumberjack frolicked on the lawn.

And after that, he beat the writer to a pulp.

10 thoughts on “10 Ways to Really Write an Awful Novel

  1. I loves me some frolicking lumberjacks! And not to be contrary or anything, but Grammar Girl has some excellent things to say about split infinitives. http://grammar.quickanddirtytips.com/split-infinitives.aspx

    • Jessie I see her/your point, and I don’t necessarily disagree. My main beef with split infinitives is that they read funny. I think they interfere with sentence flow. That might not apply in every case, but I think it’s bulky enough often enough to judiciously avoid it when possible. ; )

      And yay for frolicking lumberjacks, indeed!

  2. Brian Westmoreland says:

    Best metaphor ever, written by an acquaintance, about a pregnant woman in her ninth month complaining of her discomfort:

    “I feel like a beached whale giving birth.”

    It’s important to know that the character was not giving birth at that time.

  3. patricia says:

    thanks a lot. I now know more about writing an awful novel.Courtney can I quote you on my blog? or link up with you?

  4. Hey Courtney,
    I’m SO guilty of mixing my metaphors in real life!LOL I catch them in my writing, though. But in real life they sputter out of me one on the back of the other.

    Seriously, though,I recently purchased some grammar guides. It only makes sense that if you consider yourself a writer, you need to master the tools of the trade. This is why I am so mystified by the [mis]use of the English language by reporters today!

    Now as I write I’m wondering how many grammar rules I am breaking here! đŸ˜® (Darn! I just ended a sentence with a preposition!!!) Who KNOWS what else I’ve done unaware!

    • No worries, Lori! I consider speech and comment writing exempt from the more rigorous rules — and I certainly don’t go around correcting my readers’ grammar! ; ) But I do advocate learning the rules before one goes around breaking them in “formal,” published writing. Grammar, spelling, and punctuation rules exist for the the clarification of communication…and if a novel isn’t communicating clearly, it’s not going to have an audience.

      Lori, thanks for sharing your thoughts (and concerns)! Great to see you here. : )

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