Bits of Books - Books by Title

How Not To Write A Novel

200 Mistakes to Avoid At All Costs If You Want to Get Published

Sandra Newman and Howard Mittelmark

We do not presume to tell you how or what to write. We are merely telling you the things that editors are too busy rejecting your novel to tell you themselves, pointing out the mistakes they instantly recognize because they see them again and again in novels they do not buy.

More books on Books

As a writer you have only one job: to make the reader turn the page. Of all the tools a writer uses to make a reader turn the page, the most essential is the plot. It doesn't matter if the plot is emotional ("Will Jack's fear of commitment prevent him from finding true love with Simone?"), intellectual ("But Jack, Simone's corpse was found in a locked room, with nothing but a puddle on the floor next to her and a recently thawed leg of mutton on the table") or physical ("Will Jack's unconstitutional torture of the suspect reveal the location of the ticking bomb?") as long as it compels the reader to find out what happens next.

Typically the plot of a goodnovel begins by introducing a sympathetic character who wrestles with a thorny problem. As the plot thickens, the character strains every resource to solve the problem, while shocking developments and startling new information helps or hinders him on his way. He finally overcomes the problem in a way that takes the reader totally by surprise, but in retrospect seems both elegant and inevitable.

The plot of a typical unpublished novel introduces a protagonist, then introduces her mother, father, three brothers, and her cat, giving each a long scene in which they exhibit their typical behaviours one after another. This is followed by scenes in which they interact with each other in different combinations, meanwhile driving restlessly to restaurants, bars and each other's houses, all of which are described in detail.

A great many plot problems that show up in unpublished manuscripts can be resolved with a single strategy. Know what the chase is, and cut to it. Do not write hundreds of pages without knowing what story you want to tell... or you'll find that what you write will not be shelved in the libraries of the future but will instead form the landfill on which those libraries are built.

The central dilemma of a novel should be important enough to change someone's life forever, and it should be something of broad interest. A novel is not the place to vent your gripes.

While you need to know a lot about your character, it is seldom necessary to share it all with the reader, and by 'seldom' we mean 'never'.

Books by Title

Books by Author

Books by Topic

Bits of Books To Impress

Reputation Control .........................................................................................Client William Flew