I signed on this weekend to do a quick edit on a novel. I was hired to do a read-through/clean-up job as quickly as possible. It’s a long story on why I had such a short time to work, and where it came from, but the bottom line is this…it was really bad. How bad, you ask? Courtesy of this book, I now know how to write a bad novel as follows:
1. Use a cliché for your plot, something you could find in a Lifetime Movie. Make sure it has very little action and plods along slowly with just a hint of what’s to come in the story. Give cliché dialogue to your characters.
2. Do not put any action into the book until at least halfway through the book. Why excite people? Instead, spend this time pointing out uninteresting facts and giving your characters dialogue and conversations that go nowhere and serve no purpose.
3. Make sure your descriptions don’t go too deep, just keep it surface and boring.
4. Do not spend too much time on your character development, just make sure we know they are very good-looking and what kind of hair and what color eyes they have. Make sure those eyes are glaring, sparkling, angry, cautious, and of course, sultry.
5. Try to stay away from the word “said.” Instead, use phrases such as, he glared, he grinned, she laughed, she lamented, he growled, she whispered softly, he barked, she cried, she squealed, she cried, etc. You get the picture.
6. Leave plenty of plot holes in your story so the readers have to conjure up their own ideas and insert their own explanations. Make them think, damn it! Don’t check into any real facts either, just make them up. Even medical facts, what the hell! Make it up, who’s gonna’ know?
As I read and edited as best I could, I realized just how easy it is to write a bad novel and how much work it takes to create something exciting, suspenseful and interesting. I learned that I need to get my own project ready for publication and although I know for a fact it’s much better than the above-mentioned novel, it still needs work. I would love to thank the writer of the “bad novel” above for giving me such insight into my own writing and what I need to be successful, but that wouldn’t really be nice, would it?
So, I’ll say it here…Thanks Bad Writer. Thanks for showing me how much I need to work on my own project. Thanks for pointing out how important it is to keep a story moving with action, tension and character development. Thanks for keeping me from sending out something that is not ready for publication. And thanks for paying me for this realization.
(Just for the record, I am anonymous in my editing since I was doing a favor and finishing a job for another editor. The writer will never know I was involved and I would never bash someone publicly. I provided copious notes on my opinion and recommendations for improving the novel, which will be passed on to the writer.)