Great book I found on bad writing

In my experience, books on writing haven’t been that useful to me. The ones I’ve read make a big deal about stories having a beginning, middle and end. Or they tell you things like “write every day” or “write what you know” or “use active voice.” Timeless advice found in any book on writing, but nothing new. Stephen King’s book was good, but mostly because I was interested in Stephen King. He had a few good tips in there, especially on editing out things like “that” and what not.

Yesterday, I stumbled upon a great book recommendation at my favorite editor’s blog (the Editor’s Blog). It’s called, “How not to write a novel.” In it, the authors go over all the things they hate to see in submitted works by the unpublished masses (like me). Not only don’t they pull punches, but they actively ridicule anyone who makes these mistakes (without naming names). It’s actually pretty funny. Just this morning, I got caught off guard by the observation that some writers dredge up vocabulary from “the darkest regions of the dictionary.” This caused me to snort, which caused my hand to jiggle, sending coffee dribbles spilling onto my shirt.

I’ve read about 2/3 since yesterday and I have to say: I’ve done many of the things they’re talking about, at one time or another. Recently, I committed the crime of writing what they call a “benign tumor.” A benign tumor, according to the authors, is when you write a scene that extends the book, but if you cut it out, absolutely nothing happens to the story. Imagine the good guy going to kill the villain and taking 5 pages to talk about a detour he was forced to take through a nice part of town, musing how after he kills the villain maybe he’d move there. Benign tumor.




Filed under Publisher's Advice, Submission Tips, Writing in general

2 responses to “Great book I found on bad writing

  1. I have that book! It’s very good.
    King’s book was good, as well, but I actually preferred the first half, which was pretty much an autobiography, to the second half, which contained the actual writing advice.

    A few more I liked are “The First Five Pages”, by Noah Lukeman; “Bullies, Bastards, and Bitches: How to Write the Bad Guys of Fiction”, by Jessica Morrell; “The Writer’s Guide to Character Traits”, by Linda N. Edelstein, Ph.D; and “The Practice of Creative Writing: A Guide for Students” by Heather Sellers.

    I Have a couple more in a pile that I should probably get to, soon: “Plot versus Character” by Jeff Gerke, and “Alone with All that Could Happen” by David Jauss.

  2. Hey thanks for the book advice. You know, I never get any comments so I only just now noticed yours. Take care.

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