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"What do you think of my fiction book writing?" the aspiring novelist extorted.
"Darn," the editor hectored, in turn. "I can not publish your novel! It is full of what we in the business call 'really awful writing.'"
"But how shall I absolve this dilemma? I have already read every tome available on how to write well and get published!" The writer tossed his head about, wildly.
"It might help," opined the blonde editor, helpfully, "to ponder how NOT to write a novel, so you might avoid the very thing!"
Many writing books offer sound advice on how to write well. This is not one of those books. On the contrary, this is a collection of terrible, awkward, and laughably unreadable excerpts that will teach you what to avoid—at all costs—if you ever want your novel published.
In How Not to Write a Novel, authors Howard Mittelmark and Sandra Newman distill their 30 years combined experience in teaching, editing, writing, and reviewing fiction to bring you real advice from the other side of the query letter. Rather than telling you how or what to write, they identify the 200 most common mistakes unconsciously made by writers and teach you to recognize, avoid, and amend them. With hilarious "mis-examples" to demonstrate each manuscript-mangling error, they'll help you troubleshoot your beginnings and endings, bad guys, love interests, style, jokes, perspective, voice, and more. As funny as it is useful, this essential how-NOT-to guide will help you get your manuscript out of the slush pile and into the bookstore.
Offering observations rather than rules ("'No right on red' is a rule. 'Driving at high speed toward a brick wall usually ends badly' is an observation"), authors and editors Mittlemark and Newman identify writing pitfalls in each aspect of novel writing, from plot ("The Benign Tumor, where an apparently meaningful development isn't") to character ("The Vegan Viking, wherein the author accessorizes with politics") to narrative technique ("The Tennis Match, wherein the point of view bounces back and forth") to dialogue, setting, research and theme. Each mistake is illustrated with an example of unpublishable prose and, typically, a biting but worthwhile lesson: "unpublished authors are far more intrigued by their characters' backstory than their readers are." Useful lists and sidebars break up the formula and address more specific problems like cell phones (equal to the fall of Communism in its threat to thriller writers) and irony ("now virtually meaningless, routinely applied to any situation in which one thing bears some relation to another thing"). A great resource, this tongue-in-cheek guide is a fun read with a lot of solid advice for would-be novelists.