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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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4.02  ·  Rating details ·  2,510 Ratings  ·  479 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,

...more
Kindle Edition, 274 pages
Published (first published April 1st 2008)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Michael Herrman
Apr 04, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
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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Julie Ehlers
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.
Micah Adams
May 20, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Kogiopsis
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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Jonathan Peto
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
...more
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.
Jakey Gee
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-
...more
Ryan
Jun 12, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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...
Emma Sea
Made me laugh = +infinity invisible stars.
May I just say, JR Ward does everything in here.
نسرين غندورة
كتاب مفيد يتناول الكثير من الأخطاء الشائعة التي يقع فيها الروائيون غالبا. للأسف غرق الكتاب في كوب قهوة ساخن، انسكب فوق.

إذا أردت أن أنظر إلى الجانب المليء، فيجب أن أقول أن رائحته أصبحت زكية.
Katri
Aug 31, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  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
Kathleen
Jun 28, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
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 editoria: 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 el
...more
Caidyn (BW Book Reviews)
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
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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
...more
Martha
Jul 30, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Henrik
Aug 17, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  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.
Darcy Conroy
Apr 18, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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!)

Ask
...more
Rachel
Mar 15, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 05, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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?
Jennifer
Jan 02, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Rick (from Another Book Blog)
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
...more
Stacy
Nov 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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…
...more
Sally Melia
Sep 26, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Not a 'Guide book' on how to, but a comic illustration of 'How Not.'

I had high hopes for this book because this is a great title, and the write-up and recommendations. 'Heavens - what a joy!' Sunday Times. were all great, but on reading the book I was extremely disappointed.

The basic structure is good covering Plot, Character, Style part 1 & 2, Worldbuilding and special effects. So I opened up the first chapter on Plot Beginnings. The authors then set out to illustrate how not to begin a nov
...more
Deadwish
Mar 18, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: no-narrativo
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
...more
Ana
Feb 11, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  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
...more
Sheila
Oct 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: humor, non-fiction
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
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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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“...This particular blunder is known as deus ex machina, which is French for "Are you fucking kidding me?” 308 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.” 29 likes
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