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How Not to Write a Novel
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How Not to Write a Novel

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4.03 of 5 stars 4.03  ·  rating details  ·  1,814 ratings  ·  387 reviews
"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, wildl
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ebook, 272 pages
Published March 17th 2009 by Harper Perennial (first published April 1st 2008)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Michael Herrman
Reading this book, I tossed my head wildly about in exuberant agreement. My cobalt blue eyes rolled as my long, golden locks bounced upon the delicate curves of my hard, bulging shoulders. "These examples are awful!" I extolled.

"Truly," my snarf-muffin, Suzy, bubbled helpfully. "As you know, hating bad writing is a very good thing to do; and as the Schlarm power flows through your twenty thousand year-old veins, I know that you hate it very much."

"The power of Schlarm," I exploded, with a winnin
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Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
I don't know why I find Mittelmark and Newman so entertaining, but they crack me up. My default setting is silliness, and these two are good at silly, while also providing a lot of very helpful information. I loved Read This Next, so I decided to give this one a go, even though I have no intention of even pretending to have novelistic aspirations. I enjoy books like this because they help me define why some books/authors work for me and others just make me want to stab someone.

The only reason I
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Micah Adams
A common sense guide to avoiding the missteps committed by the novice. Its presented in a clear, fast-paced and entertaining way.
People who critique this book as "too basic" are probably still convinced that they have something original to add to the literary canon, or they are MFA's that are so inundated with literary criticism they couldn't recognize an interesting story if it bit them in the ass.
Anila
I was going to give this book two stars and call it basic, full of rookie mistakes, until I hit the last few chapters and realized that there are people making these mistakes and still getting published. (You may have heard of them. A great number of them are vomiting partially digested versions of Twilight into the YA market.)

Given that realization, I had to let go of the review I'd been planning. Here, instead, is the one I'm making up on the spot.

I, personally, didn't learn anything from this
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Ryan
A nice, light-hearted, & witty guide on some of the more disappointing mistakes beginning writers can make when writing a novel. Most of the sections were pretty obvious (duh, who would do THAT?), but others seemed eerily familiar. Problems include: "Where the author tells you what you think of his dialogue," "Wherein the author flaunts his vocabulary," "In which every single last solitary word of conversation is included," "Wherein there is a cat," "Where the character must be in front of a ...more
Lord Beardsley
Hilarious, true, brilliant. The only thing I don't understand is despite all of the ways one will never get published, Stephanie Meyer was able to use tenfold. I guess sometimes you can't take everything for gospel...
Katri
Aug 31, 2009 Katri rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: writers and readers too
Shelves: on-writing
This is priceless. The writers go through all sort of ways in which you can write a novel badly, from flat characters to non-existent or implausible plots to unintelligible or ridiculous writing, and illustrate each problem with an extract of writing which exemplifies and parodies these mistakes. Their style is so hilarious that I couldn't stop laughing out loud, and it was so addictive I gobbled up the book in one evening. You can definitely recognise many flaws that you have seen in bad writin ...more
Ben Aaronovitch
I read this book, twice, wrote a novel and now I'm a successful published novelist. This is the single most useful book on how to write a novel ever written, ever, by anyone in the entire universe, and you dismiss it to your cost.
Oana
This particular blunder is known as deus ex machina, which is French for “Are you fucking kidding me?”

I had fun while reading this, I actually laughed out loud a couple of times, and I have read some particular parts many times over, just for the fun of it. It was hilarious. The problem with this book is the practical part of it, or rather the lack thereof. Any basic creative writing course could offer a lot more, and any accustomed reader has the common sense to catch and then avoid making such
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Jakey Gee
Right. While this book is perfectly upfront that it's about showing mistakes (not successes) and is really more 'humour section' material than lit crit, it could actually have been quite a bit better. This is not to say that there aren't perfectly valid points here (e.g. non-native speakers of English tend to learn words like 'Yes' and 'Hello' quite quickly, Poirot).

A lot of the time though, it's stating the bleeding obvious and seems directed at a kind of wretchedly deluded E.L. James vampire-
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Emma Sea
Made me laugh = +infinity invisible stars.
May I just say, JR Ward does everything in here.
Lau
Cómo NO escribir una novela está escrito por dos editores literarios que según parece lo han visto todo. Es una lista extensa y llena de ejemplos muy divertidos sobre todo lo que no hay que hacer si se busca ser publicado por una editorial. Esas cosas que los editores detectan en los manuscritos pero no tienen tiempo de decirle a cada uno de los autores que rechazan.

Aunque tu trabajo como escritor es conocer muy bien a tus personajes, pocas veces es necesario compartir toda esa información con e
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Martha
Do you take your writing self too seriously? Is there a chance that where others see rather monstrous gaps in your work relating to the concept or mechanics of your stories, you see unappreciated genius? Does the thought of laughing at your past errors make your lip curl in derision, because if politicians can so successfully deny any and all gaffs, so should any self-respecting writer like yourself?

If so, it's time for you to read How Not the Write a Novel: 200 Classic Mistakes and How to Avoid
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Darcy Conroy
We all know that the best way to teach is to engage and entertain with the material – this book does it in spades; I couldn’t put it down!

Rather than write another how-to book, Mittelmark and Newman have produced a book in a format which will be familiar to TV Tropes readers, naming, describing and creating their own hand-crafted, hysterical examples of many of the mistakes that unpublished authors make in spec manuscripts (though I have certainly seen many of these in published books, too!)

Ask
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Rachel
I had so much fun reading this book and "laughed out loud" many a time, as my fellow BART train commuters will attest. I thought the book was going to contain examples of bad writing submitted in earnest, but actually it's a bunch of writing samples that the authors have concocted to illustrate the various nuances of bad writing style. At first I wasn't so amused, but eventually, I was won over by some of the uproariously hilarious passages. And I learned a lot about writing, too, although you c ...more
Meaghan
Not only is this the funniest writing advice book I've ever read (the authors must be very gifted writers to write so hilariously badly) but it is also, I think, going to be one of the most useful. As it says in the afterword, if you follow all the advice on what not to do, "You could hold both Harper and Collins hostage without a chance of their employees ever agreeing to print a book on which your name appears. If Mr. Random were desperate to sleep with you, Mr. House would still step in to ma ...more
Laura
This book is so funny and creative, I couldn't concentrate on any of the lessons. The examples were ridiculously amusing and so I really didn't get much out of it on my first reading (I will read it a second time to study it). I can tell that the writers are brilliant, knowledgeable and experienced, therefore I value this book immensely. Do all novices really write that badly?
Sheila
How Not To Write A Novel, by Sandra Newman and Howard Mittelmark, reads like several novels in one, crossed with a late-night comedy show. Short neat sections detail each of its “200 mistakes to avoid” if you want to get published. And short neat, over-the-top examples (from those several pseudo-novels) illustrate the points. Okay, so most aspiring novelists don’t write quite that badly, but the errors are bold and clear, and seeing them, watching them humorously deconstructed and analyzed by th ...more
Jennifer
Enjoyable even if you are not a writer, but a reading enthusiast. Excellent advice for writers, and perhaps if more editors read this book, fewer terrible novels would be published.
Stacy
4.5 stars

“As a writer you have only one job:to make the reader turn the page.” page 1

If there is one thing this How-Not-To book does it is to make you turn the page. You won’t want to stop, really. This hilarious book focuses on the 200 most common mistakes that unpublished authors make and offers solutions. It provides examples of the bad writing that it is offering up for ridicule, followed by an explanation and how to fix it (if you want to be published). Let me provide a couple of examples…
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Rick MacDonnell
In the pursuit of brevity, I’ve written this review in bullet points. It’s an attempt at a slightly less garrulous tirade.

- If you’re one to fall into any of the 200 traps listed here, you probably don’t have the chops to produce something of significance. Sorry, that’s just my take. The majority of these tips should be common sense for anyone with even a bit of talent.
- How Not to Write a Novel assumes your goal is to write a BAD novel, and it tells you how to do it. While it’s a funny premise
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Henrik
Sep 14, 2009 Henrik rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Henrik by: Amazon.com
Shelves: scholarship
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Ana
Jun 20, 2012 Ana rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fiction writers
Podem ler a opinião completa, em português, no Floresta de Livros.

A good book for fiction writers, that points out some of the mistakes we should avoid.
And even though I'm far from agreeing with all 200 'mistakes', this was an enjoyable and elucidating read, which made me realize some mistakes I've made in the past (and still do, every once in a while).

A book probably every fiction writer should read.

One note for the portuguese edition: Although the translation is nearly flawless, I do believe a
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Deadwish
Es un libro corto, ágil y entretendio que en vez de tratar de explicar cómo escribir una novela, te explica como no hay que hacerlo con ejemplos exagerados y por lo general cómicos. Puede ser que no sea un humor para todo el mundo, pero es difícil no sonreir en algunas partes.
En cuanto a su utilidad, se dedica a cuestiones más bien básicas pero que muchas veces se pasan por alto. Está enfocado principalmente no a crear una buena novela, sino una publicable, para un público promedio y de un largo
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Alicia
I think this book is a must-read for many authors going the non-traditional route. Most of this stuff, I already knew not to do--either based on reading or my own research, or based on just plain common sense. But other stuff required a little thought, and I was able to add to my mental rolodex of stuff to avoid doing when I write. So even though the book doesn't pinpoint anything I've done yet, there were a few ideas in there that I appreciate having the opportunity to think about so that I can ...more
Olethros
-Por momentos, hilarante, de verdad.-

Género. Ensayo.

Lo que nos cuenta. La pareja de autores, con cierta experiencia en diferentes ámbitos del mundillo editorial, nos muestran un buen número de situaciones con las que se han enfrentado al leer libros, valorar manuscritos o corregir obras, con la doble intención de llamar la atención sobre cosas que los escritores deberían tratar de evitar por el bien de la obra y que el lector de este libro pase un buen rato.

¿Quiere saber más de este libro, sin
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A.M.
Cleverly written, and quite original in its approach, telling readers what to avoid rather than giving them a prescriptive list of how to write a novel. My only complaint is the book is hard to dip in and out of, meaning I will have to reread this eventually and mark out the most interesting advice.

It's separated into 7 parts, each tackling a different aspect of novel writing, from plot and character development, to style, setting, and querying agents. Many of the examples were eerily familiar f
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Ocean
Dec 09, 2009 Ocean rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: novelists, people who think bad writing is hilarious, creative writing grads
this may have been the funniest book i've ever read. i'm not exaggerating.

they teach by negative example. for example, every chapter begins with a one-sentence example of what not to do. the chapter on endings started with, "...and jesus lived happily ever after!" which made me laugh so hard my boyfriend came into the kitchen to see what all the ruckus was about.

plus, as someone who's writing a novel that's been in the works for over three years, it was really helpful in terms of what i've bee
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Hilary
Very entertaining for the reader - only a writer of novels will be able to tell if this is a valuable manual or not. The authors illustrate and describe their 200 worst sins of novel writing in a very amusing and eerily skillful fashion (it must take an advanced mastery of technique to get each of their examples of ineffective writing exactly right). I say ineffective writing, not bad writing, as their other piece of genius is to emulate a good writer making a mistake, rather than a doomed write ...more
Wendy
This book is hilarious and informative at the same time. Rather than dictate to you, the authors point out why certain writing styles and choices are a bad idea, in the most humorous way possible.

I recommend it even if you aren't planning to write a novel, because it is funny and worth the read.
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I moved to NYC in the eighties to be where they made books, and I've been working in publishing, either writing or editing, pretty much ever since. About ten years ago, I took everything I figured out reading hundreds, possibly thousands, of published and unpublished novels, and wrote How Not To Write A Novel with Sandra Newman. It's sort of an encyclopedia of mistakes every beginning writer makes ...more
More about Howard Mittelmark...
Read This Next: 500 of the Best Books You'll Ever Read Age of Consent Como no escribir una novela. 200 errores clasicos y como evitarlos The Mysterious Stranger and Other Stories The Travels

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“...This particular blunder is known as deus ex machina, which is French for "Are you fucking kidding me?” 215 likes
“Giving a reader a sex scene that is only half right is like giving her half of a kitten. It is not half as cute as a whole kitten; it is a bloody, godawful mess.” 27 likes
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