I am pleased to introduce Nimue Brown, an English author of vast experience. She’ll be sharing the secrets of ten years in publishing and editing, and for the next few Mondays will be telling us exactly How To Write An Awful Book. Find her work (which is certainly NOT awful!) on Amazon, at loveyoudivine and also AllRomanceEbooks.
There are plenty of books, courses, websites and other things you can pay for that will tell you the secrets of writing a best selling novel. Stephen King aside, these are usually written by people who have not written a best selling novel. This makes me suspicious.
If writing a great book was as easy as buying a how-to manual and following the instructions, more people would do it and write best sellers… except pretty much by definition there’s a finite amount of scope here. There can be only one best seller in any given day, so even assuming we each only get a day at the top, that’s a mere 365 best selling authors a year. What happens to everyone else?
At the time of writing this blog column, I have not written a best selling book. I’m not going to tell you how to write one, either. If I knew, with absolute certainty, then I’d be working on that right now and carefully keeping it to myself. However, for the last ten or so years I’ve also spent a lot of time at the publishing, editing and reviewing ends of the book world. As a consequence it has been my unfortunate ‘privilege’ to read some truly awful books. Some of them in the form of submissions, which I was able to protect the rest of the world from as best I could. A small minority came to me when I had the editor hat on. Rather a lot have turned up in my review pile, and not all of those were self published. It’s understandable, if you’re self publishing, that you might not realise how bad your work is, but for anyone calling themselves a publisher…. there’s no excuse.
In this ‘how to write an awful book’ column I’ll be sharing the agony with you. If nothing else, it’ll be good therapy for me. I will, through illustration, and examples drawn from real life tell you all the ways to make your novel a sure fire disaster. There are a number of roads to literary doom, and we can explore them together, while I take the opportunity to poke fun at a few authors who have made me want to do things too terrible to describe. I will, so far as possible resist the temptation to name names, but if you know I’ve read your work, and my complaints sound like I’m probably talking about you, please assume I am. It would help if you could then identify yourself to the world in a vitriolic comment. That way, readers will know to avoid you and I can’t be sued for having called you rubbish in public. Please, please, out yourselves here.
If you follow my instructions over the coming months I can guarantee you will end up with a book that no one in their right mind would be able to read cover to cover without either weeping or dying of boredom. I promise you a book that no publisher will consider, and that if you self publish, gullible buyers will come to regret purchasing. It is my sincere promise to you that my advice is all you need to write a book even worse than some of the ones I’ve already read. Why set out to achieve great things when you can be breathtakingly crap instead?
Writing a bad book depends on having the right attitude. Total confidence in your own superiority is pretty much essential. The more certain you are about your own rightness and innate value, the better hope you have of writing drivel. Traits like diligence, integrity and a creative mind will hamper you, try and avoid cultivating them.
If you are foolhardy enough to imagine that this advice can be turned around and somehow magically transformed into all the insight you need to write that best seller after all – no one’s stopping you. Don’t come whinging to me if it doesn’t work. As I mentioned before, I have not written a best seller. Sometimes the things that make for a really awful story turn up in things that sell well. This is because there is no justice in the world. Consider yourself sufficiently warned, and proceed at your own peril!