There’s plenty of advice on how to write a novel. You can create a structural outline, use notecards, chapter and scene summaries, or you can just write the darn thing and revise like a madwoman. Yes, those are all great ideas for getting the project completed, but what if you want to sit on your work-in-progress until you’re gray and never get anything published? Well, you’re in luck because I’m an expert at that. Here are a few tips on how not to write your novel:
- Start writing a work of “fiction” based loosely on your life because you’ve been told you should write what you know.
- Write your book in first person and then rewrite the entire thing in third person because someone in your critique group thought it would eliminate your problem of show vs. tell.
- Follow all the suggestions from the unpublished writers in your critique group until you create a manuscript so schizophrenic that it resembles some kind of Frankenmonster.
- Remember that you need a genre for your novel, and decide to go with the latest trend. Add zombies.
- Realize you’ve written 250,000 words (after all, you had to write in all the new scenes with zombies!) when most novels are around 80,000 – 120,000 words, and you haven’t even decided on an ending yet.
- Put your novel in the drawer for a very long period of time—so long that when you pull it out again you think, who wrote this?
- Read through your novel and compare it to your favorite bestselling author’s books and put it back in the drawer because you know in your heart that you will never write prose like them.
- Invest in a library of writing instruction books and become overwhelmed by the sheer amount of writing and publishing advice there is out there.
- Take time off to find yourself—again—because you heard you can’t write in a vacuum and need life experience and that means time away from writing. Wait for inspiration to strike.
- Start freelancing for websites and publications about topics that don’t really inspire you creatively, but remind yourself that at least you’re writing, right?
- When January rolls around again decide that this is the year you will finally complete your novel.
- Make a plan to write daily and stick to it for almost a whole month.
- Run into an old friend you haven’t seen in years and wince when they ask you, “Did you ever publish that novel you were working on?”
- Decide to stop calling yourself a writer because only real writers write books.
By following these steps and adding a dose of self-loathing, you can be successful at not writing your book, too! Set yourself up for a path of regret for what could’ve been.
All kidding aside, there are times when we unknowingly sabotage our writing dreams. Realizing the patterns that are holding you back from finishing your book is a step in the right direction. Sure, there are legitimate times in your life when you need to take time off from writing. You can’t force creativity, but you can cultivate good writing habits that set you up for success.