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How Not to Write a Novel: 200 Classic Mistakes and How to Avoid Them—A Misstep-by-Misstep Guide
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How Not to Write a Novel: 200 Classic Mistakes and How to Avoid Them—A Misstep-by-Misstep Guide

really liked it 4.00  ·  Rating details ·  3,457 ratings  ·  621 reviews
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
Paperback, 262 pages
Published April 1st 2008 by William Morrow Paperbacks
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really liked it Average rating 4.00  · 
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 ·  3,457 ratings  ·  621 reviews

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Start your review of How Not to Write a Novel: 200 Classic Mistakes and How to Avoid Them—A Misstep-by-Misstep Guide
Michael Herrman
Apr 04, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Jeanette (Ms. Feisty)
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
Julie Ehlers
Dec 31, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I was going to give this 4 stars, but within the last five pages there was a joke that made me laugh so hard I awarded an additional star. Review to come.
Ova - Excuse My Reading
Sep 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is just a brilliant read- not only for the writer, but as a reader I very much enjoyed this and chuckled so much...
Micah Adams
May 20, 2008 rated it really liked it
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.
Ben Aaronovitch
Jul 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, writing
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. ...more
Jonathan Peto
Jan 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing
The subtitle promises 200 classic mistakes. I’ll take their word for it, because I did not count them. Those mistakes are grouped into parts, such as plot, character and style. Each mistake includes an example, followed by commentary. Each example and comment usually runs only a page or two, so the book is an excellent way to tune into writing at the beginning of a session.

It is also funny, very snarky. One of the funniest things is that I often recognized the mistakes, having seen them in other
Aug 25, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, reviewed
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
Juho Pohjalainen
Jul 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
It's actually rather depressing how many authors not only get published, but also become celebrated bestsellers, despite gleefully disregarding so many rules outlined in this book. So as useful and indispensable as it may seem, the real world continues to thwart it. Depressing, really.

At least it's funny.
Libby May
Jan 10, 2018 rated it it was ok
Ok so I pretty much knew all the tips in this book just because I read so much. Blah Blah Blah.
It was super inappropriate. Almost every example clip was a lust or suggestive scene. It was very unnecessary for the content of the book.
I didn't end up finishing it, although I did read the little headers for most of the tips, to get brushed up.
I wouldn't recommend this book. Most of the stuff the author blabs about you can learn simply by reading.
Jake Goretzki
Mar 21, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014
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-
Jun 12, 2008 rated it liked it
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 mir ...more
Emma Sea
Jun 20, 2014 rated it liked it
Made me laugh = +infinity invisible stars.
May I just say, JR Ward does everything in here.
Lord Beardsley
Mar 17, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read2009
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... ...more
Aug 31, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 28, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: writing
The ingenious format of catchy title-exaggerated sample-funny explanation started to wear on me about half way through (200 examples is a lot to present this way). But I kept laughing and even though the mistakes were obvious to most of us, if we’re honest with ourselves, we know we sometimes think we can get away with one or two of them just this once.

“A good approach is to allow one dream per novel. Then, in the final revision, go back and get rid of that, too.”

“There is no substitute for sa
Caidyn (he/him/his)
Apr 22, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, humor
While this is a nonfiction,"self-help" book, this is an incredibly sarcastic one at that. The humor it had was right up my alley, which meant I was giggling while reading these awful examples of writing. However, I think we've all read every one of the 200 classic mistakes the authors identify. Think about it. Everyone has read a book that made you think: "And this got published how?"

That was why I really enjoyed it. If I planned on being an author (as I had at one point in my life), this would
Jul 30, 2020 rated it liked it
REVIEW: Examples of bad writing to avoid. Touches on problems with POV, tense, flowery language, adverbs, inappropriate use of exclamation marks*, dialogue, sex scenes, and more. Also some funny stuff on how to NOT get published. 3 stars or a skosh more.

BONUS: Two laugh out louds--one was when the author gave their own translation of deus ex machina.

*SAMPLE CONTENT: (view spoiler)
Namera [The Literary Invertebrate]
An incisively funny book, perfect for those of us who fancy ourselves real reviewers as well as for writers.

[Blog] - [Bookstagram]

 photo c l i m b C2A0e v e r y C2A0m o u n t a i n 2_zpsykn9gbgr.png
Jul 31, 2012 rated it it was ok
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
Darcy Conroy
Apr 18, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: humour, writing, wordplay, how
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!)

Michael Perkins
Jan 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
As example, check out Meg Gardner and her book that's just been optioned for a CBS show. A lot of very bad writing out there.
Jul 30, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 17, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Henrik by:
Shelves: scholarship
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 15, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Jul 30, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
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
Feb 05, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: writing-books
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? ...more
Jan 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
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.
Danielle Klassen
Feb 13, 2019 rated it liked it
This book started off kind of promising and a lot of it was fun to start. Unfortunately, it wasn't a concept that lent itself to a longer book in this case. What started off as good advice framed in a humorous way quickly started to get a bit tired and after a while, I started noticing that the examples weren't as funny and the advice wasn't as sharp. In fact, I found it kind of going against what it had said it was doing. The book begins by telling you that it's your novel and that they won't t ...more
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yet another book on how to write 1 3 Apr 28, 2020 09:32AM  

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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

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