Five Ways to Ruin Your Novel
Writers are always trying to make their novels better. BORING! Why make it better when you can make something so bad it’s good? Stop spending all those hours mulling over word choice, stop reading how-to books, stop sending your work to beta readers and editors and all that time-wasting bull crap. Don’t work harder, work smarter!
What about those first five pages?
There are people out there that would have you believe that you need to rock those first five pages. Sometimes it’s ten. Hell, one book claimed the first fifty pages are integral to your book’s success! Balderdash. There is no way the first pages are important. Everyone knows readers always skip to the end to find out what happens. THAT’S where you need to concentrate your writing prowess. Last five paragraphs. Kick ass there and everything else will be golden. See? Already there’s less work for you. Five pages, five paragraphs. Which one would you prefer to focus your powers of concentration on?
Grammar and spelling? Who needs them?
Seriously, if you don’t have a grasp on grammar or spelling, it doesn’t matter. Think about it. If you don’t know how to conjugate verbs, it’s a good bet your readers won’t either. Can’t spell definitely? Who can? No one is going to notice a few misspelled words or grammar mistakes in your novel. A lot of novels have over 100,000 words! That’s like finding a misspelled word in a haystack full of them.
Bah. Besides. That’s what spell check is for. To catch what you don’t.
Your characters don’t need to be consistent, likable, or even alive.
Think about it. How sucky would a novel be with a dead person as the main character? And I’m not talking some literary, artsy-fartsy novel about a ghost floating around trying to get revenge for their murder. I’m talking about an actual dead person who just lays there. You know, being dead. Don’t try to make your characters likable either. Just write ‘em out. If someone cares for them, great but don’t sweat it. Remember, the reader wants to know what happens and will skip to those fantastic last five paragraphs anyway, so it doesn’t matter what your character does for those other billion or so paragraphs. This means you can pretty much do what you want with the character: change his gender, change her hair, change his/her name, age, birth place, etc …
Coincidence is a part of real life and should be part of your novel too.
I totally ran into coincidence on Wednesday. The past two times I’ve visited McDonalds, One is the Loneliest Number has been playing. Now, if my life were a novel, some bossy, over-achieving writer would be making that a SIGNIFICANT PLOT MOMENT. In real life, what does it mean? It means I go to McDonalds too much. It means McDonalds is playing the same songs over and over again.
You can be miles ahead of other authors. You can make your novel REAL by adding coincidences all over the place. Lead your readers down merry paths of dead ends and red herrings and broken plot strands. They will think you are wickedly smart and praise you above all others.
If things get boring, make your characters fight.
You don’t want to bore the readers who do read your book all the way through, do you? There are strange people out there who read from page one to the end, who don’t know how to properly peruse a novel. For those wacky kooks who think a novel should be read front to back will expect you to entertain them. I know, that sounds like hard work but don’t forget, you’ve created a masterpiece of misdirection, plot holes, and inconsistent characters–the reader will already be on her or his toes. Even with all the drama of not knowing what the hell is going on, some lame readers will want excitement too. Give them excitement by stirring up arguments between characters.
Over in a writer’s group I frequent, we were discussing arguments. The writers who waste their time working hard on their stories agree that conflict for conflict’s sake is wrong. Right there is your indication that it must be a good thing to do. Think of the possibilities! Your characters can fight over who gets to be dead in the book, who gets to wander aimlessly around following red herrings, who gets to mangle their participial phrases, and more.
DING! Into the ring with them.
Don’t be afraid to be lazy. This writing thing is hard work and you don’t want to spend all your time indoors, hunched over a keyboard, sweating about gerunds. If you must do something wonderful, remember those last five paragraphs need to be kick ass. Other than that, throw out those how-to books, throw out your dictionary and thesaurus and ruin your novel. It will be good for you!