Want to be certain your writing career never leaves the ground? These 23 tips will help you stave off success and fail as a writer!

To ensure you fail as a writer:

1. Don’t worry too much about your opening line. Readers will soon be past it and into the good stuff.

2. Don’t be concerned that your ending goes off with a fizzle. The rest of the book was worth the price of admission.

3. Don’t worry about typos and grammatical errors. Trivial details won’t bother veteran readers.

4. Go with your first complete draft as your final draft. Your gut instincts were correct the first time around, you’ll just dilute them when you edit.

5. Only write when the urge hits you. If you need discipline to write, it’s not really writing.

6. Do not exercise, enjoy hobbies, or have any kind of life . Any minute spent not writing is time down the drain.

7. Sleep as little as possible. Sleep deprivation will unlock your inner writing god.

8. Quit your day job immediately. Work gets in the way of your writing.

9. Be as original as possible, forget conforming to any genre expectations.

10. Ignore the belief that publishable books have structure or that you need one.

11. Leave details as ambiguous as you can. Let your readers rely on their mind-reading abilities to intuit what you really meant .

12. Make sure your readers cannot easily form mental images from your story.

13. Don’t worry about logical inconsistencies, keep your readers on their toes!

14. Do not waste time learning the craft of writing. Focus on producing lots of words – that’s what writing is all about.

15. Don’t read, not even the great authors. And especially never read other authors in your genre . Their writing might rub off on you and make yours less original.

16. Do not research your topic. Your intuition is more compelling than facts.

17. Do not ever read for other writers. Critiquing will just cloud your mind and take your focus off your own work.

18. If an editor critiques your writing, stick to your guns that it’s his fault he didn’t understand “what you really meant.”

19. If a reader gives you feedback that something in the plot seems to be missing, ignore her. Better yet, prove it’s “all there” by pointing to page 224, where three words in the middle of a paragraph at the end of the chapter “explain it all.”

20. Never back up the electronic copy of your work. It’s good for your creative juices to be in constant fear of losing your book beyond the event horizon of the cyber black hole.

21. Forget the idea of practicing any kind of writing other than your book. It’s just a distraction.

22. Do not stoop so low as to take the advice of writers who have walked the path before you. You need to find your own path in your own way.

23. Never show your writing to anyone.

I’m sure I missed a few… help me out in the comments section!

 

How To Guide for Authors

 

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Dawn Field

About Dawn Field

Dawn Field has written 31 posts in this blog.

Dr. Dawn Field is a book lover interested in what makes great writing. After a 20 year career as a research scientist, her first book, Biocode, was published by Oxford University Press. Now a columnist of The Double Helix, Dr. Field is exploring new writing venues and writing a second book. Based in Virginia, Dr. Field is looking to collaborate with a range of fiction writers as a writing coach, editor, and consultant on the publishing process: fiedawn@gmail.com.

88 thoughts on “How to fail as a writer

  1. Brant says:

    Ignore cover design. After all, it’s what’s inside that counts. Readers never judge a book by its cover anyway.

    1. Dawn says:

      Good one!!!!!

      1. Walker says:

        Forget the notion of sub-text. Devoted readers can’t be bothered by being asked to think beyond the written word.

    2. Lyn Ayre says:

      Ah, good one.

  2. JC says:

    If you have political views people will love to hear them stressed time and time again in your writing. Especially if it is not even remotely part of the topic of the book.

  3. Dan Saliken says:

    Write long tedious paragraphs of detail about how some technology works, especially in science fiction where alien technology is at play. Let the readers know pages of detail of how some fictional equipment is designed or functions. Who doesn’t like that?

    1. Ian Ferguson says:

      Tell that to Andy Weir – “The Martian”

    2. This is what I do best. People fall asleep when I do death by powerpoint

  4. AHJ says:

    Use plenty of generalities and abstractions, and let the reader know from the start that you are a whole lot smarter, more educated, more verbal and more sensitive than he could possibly be. Concrete images are for sissies.

  5. Daniel Hooberry says:

    Never support other writers at book signings or other events. They will be happy to be with you at your’s too remember.

    1. Nelson Miles says:

      Genius!

    2. Ann Smith says:

      I hope you really know if you are a writer that yours does not have an apostrophe.

      1. Nacy de Flon says:

        And that “to” as part of an infinitive has only one o.

        1. Shiroe says:

          In this sentence, too = also, so is correct.

  6. Kassie says:

    Love Love Love this!
    I once sat at an in-conference manuscript critique workshop and watched someone totally implode this way! He was so sure that the moderator was just out to change his story around enough to steal the whole thing as his own. Oy!

  7. Carla Doria says:

    I loved this one “It’s good for your creative juices to be in constant fear of losing your book beyond the event horizon of the cyber black hole.”

    Other ones would be:
    – “Don’t even think about creating a social media profile as an author. If your book is good, it will transcend all boundaries and bookstores will sell it as hotcakes”.
    – “Never ever put tags into your dialogs, if readers are into the plot, they will surely be able to understand and follow up dialogs”
    – “Change your POV as many times as you like in a scene, if readers are smart, they will know when you change character’s POVs”
    – “Don’t ever worry about sentence length and variety. If readers can read, then they don’t need to question this.”
    – “Don’t worry about the flow, users should be patient and deal with the flow you proposed. After all, you’re the writer.”
    – “Fill as many pages with descriptions of settings if you want, you’re the writer, and if your inspiration calls for you to write 10 pages about the shape of a cloud, then readers should appreciate your inspiration.”

    1. Helen says:

      very good! What is a POV?

  8. No need to bother practice your writing at different locations– nahh!–what’s the point? It’ll just boggle your mind even more…; After all, writing is writing no matter what you put down and where you wind up!

  9. Chris Olson says:

    Never actually finish anything you write, it it’s not perfect, it’s not done!

    1. Guilty of that one. That is, I am guilty of it. I have guilt similar to that. Being a perfectionist, I sometimes take longer than usual to put words, write words, on paper. I do things like that, sometimes, occasionally… Damn.

  10. Purfectionist says:

    It’s only worth being a writer if you are absolutely the best at it, so whenever you encounter a text that is so good you couldn’t have done it better, be it a story by an accomplished author or a friend’s Facebook post, take it as a personal offense.

    Guilty of 5 and 23, myself.

  11. Ron Jameson says:

    Just think of yourself as the best writer since sliced bread.

  12. Never create ebooks or white papers. They make you seem unprofessional. WRONG!

  13. David says:

    Great idea for an article and well executed..

  14. I think I have stuck to all 23(Except the exercise thing),however, once completed, the hard part is getting the readers to find and buy your story. I have completed my first book ” Into the outside” Part I-The Beginning. It is the first of a trilogy. I printed and sold around 300 locally and it was so well received that it motivated me even more, as I was half way on Part II- Into the Outside- a Quiet town in a busy country. I am one week away from completing that. I sent two copies to editors at Daily Dispatch newspaper, who came back and did a book review. Things were great.
    I think it would be impossible to expect people to even comprehend what I went through finishing the first book, which took fifteen years. 70% complete in 2002/3, laptop stolen, with back up out of my office. Started 2006 again and virtually on completion hit by lighting through phone line and toasted computer drive.Shelved for three years. Started again in 2009/10 and once again at 90% completion got hit by malware virus which reformatted all my files, dropbox, backups, as i was live on line at the time it came through. Gone. Fell in love and inspired by my muse, started again in 2014 and half way through we broke up, devastated, for long period of time and had great difficulty in trying to stay focused, not only on my book, but work, life, eventually buried my head and completed in 2016. Put it onto amazon/kindle last week and busy with book baby now.
    As life would have it, in May this year, while on way home with laptop, tablet, phone, backups, stopped at grocer. The old South African story, smashed drivers window and took my bag. That was 43000 words into Part II. Crushed. Knuckled down and started again. I am now one week from completion and super excited.
    I read up for tips and ideas, but the hard yards are, never give up if you believe in your story, believe in yourself, and don’t be afraid of obstacles, they may set you back but they cannot break you, if you have faith,passion, nothing will break you.

    Happy writing. it’s amazing and the climax is the last full stop.

    Ezpa

    1. Adrienne says:

      Make 7 backups, 3 hard copies, bury two underground in a waterproof baggie, pull down the shades, unplug the phone (or turn off the cell), wrap your laptop in static proof covering, call in sick, don’t leave the house! 😉

      1. Teri Graham says:

        Why not use a thumb drive, keep it current and never in the same place as your computer. I know. Hind sight is 20/20. Sorry for your losses!

    2. Ely Brown says:

      Get a Mac, and never go back to a PC!!!! (And always a plug your computer into a plug-in with a built-in breaker!

    3. Marlee Riggin says:

      Your story is the makings of a great story! Perhaps a memoir, The Book that Almost Was Not a Book.

    4. Chris says:

      Bloody hell, Ezpa… are you sure that isn’t the plot to your next novel?

    5. Cheryl says:

      Sounds like you need to start uploading copies of your book to Google drive or a external hard drive or memory card. So many ways to store copies other than on the same device you are writing them on.

    6. John P Robert says:

      Ezpa,
      It is clear that the only luck that you have is bad luck. Please never stand next to me! Seriously, congratulations on part 1 and best wishes for part 2. (I wanted to wish you good luck but I couldn’t do it)
      John

    7. Elaine Durbach says:

      In awe of your persistence. Did the book get better with re-writing? Best of luck. No use saying you deserve it because we don’t necessarily get what we deserve, but you clearly have faith and passion. Wishing you great sales (from a fellow South African, living in the US).

  15. Rob says:

    If people don’t appreciate your writing, they’re idiots. You are a genius. It is up to them to understand that. If they don’t get it, it’s their problem, not yours.

  16. Don’t bother hiring an editor to correct your errors and give you feedback on how to improve your writing. Editors are a waste of money.

  17. Kirsten says:

    Funny – thank you for sharing…..I feel I might just make it one day, as I got them all ….I’m going to enjoy trying at any rate.

  18. janet says:

    Don’t ever promote your work. If it’s really good, people will find it.

    Stay off Facebook and Twitter, someone might see your book and try to steal it.

    Work as long as it takes to get your book in perfect shape before publishing, years if need be. Don’t worry about writing anything else until that book is on the best seller list.

    Fill notebooks with outlines, descriptions of settings and characters, and facts about the backstory. Until you have written over a hundred pages to prepare to write something, don’t start writing.

  19. Thanks for the useful tips. Since your tutorial came out, I have started to follow them all religiously and I’m pleased to say that my prospects as an author have nose-dived wonderfully. I’m ashamed to say that I used to be an ambitious novelist with great hopes and dreams, but thanks to your marvellous advice, I am well on my way to being a washed-up has-been. Much appreciated!

  20. Wendy says:

    If you write longhand, write quickly. In pencil. After all, you can always read your own writing, right? And you’ll copy it over before it smudges.

  21. Barbara says:

    Don’t bother with correct English. No one will notice if you use past and present tense verbs in the same paragraph. Also, be sure to use every adverb and adjective you can find in every sentence. It will give color to your prose. Who cares if you end every sentence with a preposition or even if you even have sentences? Phrases get the point across. Readers don’t pay attention to things like that when reading.

    Don’t worry about making your characters look, sound or act like they are in any way reasonably normal. Readers will understand who your characters are and love them for being different. Just keep it really vague as to what they look like, the way they dress, speech mannerisms, movements, etc. No one really cares about that stuff anyhow.

    Spend chapters describing in detail a fight scene. Don’t worry that no one knows why they are fighting or even who is who in the fight. It’s all about the action.

    Plot? No one reads for a plot. They just want action. Also, who cares about those characters swirling around your hero. They don’t matter so there isn’t any reason to spend time on them. They are just filler for the rest of the book. It’s all about the hero,.

  22. Stewart Giles says:

    Introduce as many characters as you possibly can in the shortest amount of time. Readers will think you’re a genius for intersecting the lives of 200 or so people in such a short space of time. Who cares if the reader gets somehow lost along the way. You’re the clever one here aren’t you?

  23. Claire says:

    This one I’m guilty of: if you are going to write, you don’t need books, boring classes, book signings, because you have God given talent to produce a literary knockout. I think I’m wrong, very wrong.

  24. luke collins says:

    Good post ! I was enlightened by the specifics ! Does anyone know if I could get access to a fillable UK SET(M) document to use ?

  25. Vicki says:

    You can’t use enough adjectives, use them in abundance. More is good – and all descriptives are important.

  26. Paul says:

    And one more: Always quit for the day when you don’t know what happens next. That way you will come to tomorrow’s session with a clear mind . . . and no idea where you wanted to go in the first place.

  27. Acey says:

    Write 5 books and two series at the same time. Who cares if you haven’t published a single book, get that diversity! You won’t mix up the stories at all…

  28. Irene Burnett says:

    Poverty is good, because you won’t be able to afford food while writing just think of how slim you’ll be for the marketing interviews.

    Loved all of the suggestions and comments.

    Writers of the world unite.

  29. Cindy says:

    Don’t worry about plot or fulfilling story promise. Just toss in a “magical” event or character that tidily explains everything at the end and wraps up the book without any real effort on the writer’s part.

  30. Barbara says:

    Spend years perfecting that opening chapter. If it isn’t perfect, why move on and complete the book/story/novel.

    Complete multiple novels but never edit or publish. It’s all about volume. You will become famous, just not yet. Aim for the posthumous credits.

    As another said, never take a class. Your readers won’t care about your plot, setting, characters or dialogue. You are naturally an expert and don’t need to follow any rules or expectations while writing.

    It is best to have your friends edit your book. Who else knows better what you mean? So, your conversations are stilted and your phrasing is like you just learned English, the readers won’t mind. Punctuation? Why worry about that? No will notice if you don’t use it in any expected manner. Syntax doesn’t matter either. Forget complete sentences or using the correct words. No one will notice.

    I loved your 23 ways to fail. It points out how many sabotage themselves.

  31. Rory Graham says:

    “Here is a lesson in creative writing. First rule: Do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you’ve been to college.”

  32. Viv says:

    Don’t bother trying to get published or read by a literary agent, and don’t bother trying to submit queries. You’ll never get in anyway, it’s not about your and it’s definitely not about who you’re writing to. Just keep writing and bury your head in the sand. That way, you’ll save yourself the pain of rejection!

    1. Chris says:

      Quite right, Viv… Never put yourself through all the hassle and hard work of submitting to agents and publishers until one eventually agrees with your opinion of your work’s worth. Don’t bother, it isn’t worth having them provide you with proof-reading and editing services at their own cost ’cos none of this matters.

  33. Ohita Afeisume says:

    Use everything you have garnered from your research after all, how are your readers going to appreciate your efforts in doing research for your novel?

  34. Janice Jimenez says:

    If you have actually lowered yourself to proofreading your work and you come to a sentence which boggles your mind as you have no idea what you meant when you wrote it…for Heaven’s sake, don’t get rid of the sentence! And don’t repair it either. Don’t you understand that this is genius? You can boggle your readers’ minds too. They’ll love you for it!

    1. Lyn Ayre says:

      hahahahaha. This really made me laugh as I’ve read a few of those. Written a few, too. 🙁

  35. Ken says:

    Never read articles that tell you what not to do as a writer.

  36. Jim Weber says:

    Settle for okay. Nothing in life is perfect. This is good enough.

  37. Vanessa says:

    Write an article which gives a precise number of tips. As though your audience is not intelligent enough to read anything longer than bullet points.

  38. Jim Weber says:

    Get angry when a person that doesn’t write at all, offers suggestions. What the hell does he know?

  39. Sara Shira says:

    Never rewrite.

  40. I would add–

    “Don’t allow anyone to read your book until you find an agent, because you’re just positive they’ll steal your ideas.”

    “Explain to everyone that your book is unlike anything else ever written. You couldn’t even begin to tell them what it’s about. They’ll have to buy it.”

    “Be rude to established authors. After all, they only got where they are because they knew someone, right?”

    “At conferences, during the question and answer period, make sure you preface your question with a long summary of the wonderful book you’ve written.”

    “When on a panel, narrate your book. Tell the audience exactly what happens, scene by scene.”

  41. Rely on spell check. It’s… its… its’ never wrong.

  42. Gabriel says:

    “19. If a reader gives you feedback that something in the plot seems to be missing, ignore her.” When you say this you are implying that we have to ignore only men?

  43. Dave says:

    Don’t listen to how real people talk. So what if your Southern farmer character sounds more like a New England college professor? Don’t bother reading books by Elmore Leonard or others who do dialogue brilliantly either.

  44. Jim says:

    Use lots of punctuation!!! Be excited!!! Ask lots of questions??? Lots and lots of questions???!!! Dissolve into oblivion… … … !!! Especially if John touches Lydia’s knee by accident???!!!…

  45. Lyn Ayre says:

    Use at least three adverbs per paragraph so that each and every action is adequately described.

  46. Lyn Ayre says:

    Don’t worry about the title. Readers don’t look at that anyway.

  47. Jolyon Sykes says:

    Don’t enter short story competitions. Those deadlines and word limits just stifle creativity. And some competitions give feedback! Who needs that?

  48. Kapena Nemo says:

    This one should be the 007 of all mistakes.
    Letting a friend or family member critique your work and taking it to heart regardless of its positive or negative focus.
    I gave up a lot of writing time because I boxed up my muse when people well meant I’m sure told me a work wasn’t any good, or not grammatical, or not factually right.
    They can be as lethal to the writer’s spirit as a 9mm Berretta in Sean Connery’s hands.

  49. juliemhopper says:

    If you are thinking of entering a story in a competition, take no notice of the deadline. Your story will be terrific anyway, so the judges will be so busy falling all over themselves to read it and give it first prize that they will totally forgive you for sending it in a week late.

  50. Ama says:

    Hahaha! Way to get your points across.
    Great comments too! Thanks, everyone. This is gold.

  51. Sue Barnard says:

    Make sure at least eight of your characters have the same initial, and ideally at least three of them should have the same name.

    Make your paragraphs as long and detailed as possible. Readers love glossing over large blocks of text, and won’t mind in the least if they miss any important information buried in the middle.

    Don’t worry about keeping to a proper or logical timeline. Readers love it when events happen out of sequence.

    Don’t bother to check local references, either. Nobody will notice if a book set in Portugal has all the natives speaking Spanish or Italian.

  52. Charlie says:

    – Use my stories to rant about politics or religion in the hope I can force the reader to agree with my standpoint.
    – write a series of events all the way through with no attention to emotional development, characterisation or atmosphere, and call it plot.
    – Provide no emotional context so my reader does not understand what they should be rooting for, or why the bad thing is bad for the character.
    -neglect creating anticipation of plot events, particularly scary things.
    -over-explain EVERYTHING, thus wiping out all intrigue.
    – Write scenes in retrospective rather than forward moving scenes involving action (a sure path into the fires of Tell)
    – Assume that plot doesn’t count, only beautiful, poetic lines of prose

  53. Chris says:

    And of course, especially if you’re writing fiction… or fantasy… it doesn’t matter if the real bits aren’t real. After all, it’s fiction, isn’t it?

    It doesn’t matter if the A30 doesn’t go to Chelmsford (or Route 66 to New York), or that Concorde can’t land on London City Airport’s tiny runway and there’s no seaport in Lincoln Nebraska. Likewise your character should always pass every famous London landmark on his breakneck ‘must get there as quickly as possible’ dash from Manchester to Bristol, or drive round the Eiffel Tower on any journey in France (Why not?… Countless movies seem to have followed this rule.)

    Want to fail with honours?… Then ignore the rules of nature, and the laws of physics. Make your timeframes as impossible as you want. Let the hot summer midday Sun glisten on the morning hoar frost, and the spring mating calls of songbirds echo around the autumn leaves in the trees.

    There’s absolutely no truth in the saying that if the facts are right, the reader will believe the fiction.

  54. Rob Dorsey says:

    Have you checked out the prices editors charge? Ridiculous! Why, I’d bet you could get any English major to do it for a couple of hundred bucks, or better, do it yourself. How hard could it be?

  55. Alma says:

    Don’t get hung up on the Do’s and Don’ts, Sometimes the Don’ts become Do’s! And it’s best that the Don’ts become Do’s. Think outside the box!

  56. You’re now published, I would add, don’t let the so called experts tell you that you now have to start a new career by spending all you time marketing your book. Author’s are writers, doing anything else becomes a distraction and diversion from what you do best. Now that we have all of that out of the way, leave all the other stuff to the experts and keep writing.

  57. Marcia McFarland West says:

    Don’t bother with a plan. Just write whatever comes to mind.

  58. Paul Lidberg says:

    Never use pronouns, they just confuse people. Use the character’s names all the time so they are clear on who is speaking or acting. That won’t seem childish, people will like that.

  59. Sherry says:

    Forget about having a good blurb.. if the cover is good they won’t even look to see what the book is about.

  60. Shawn P McWhorter says:

    Don’t write anything else or start a new project after you’ve finished your first book! You’ve already written the GREATEST NOVEL EVER, right? Why spoil it by trying to write something else? Leave that great manuscript on the desk and know that, every time you see it, you’ve already accomplished your life’s work.

  61. Sageoftruth says:

    Go out of your way to explain everything:

    1) Try to get all of the story’s lore out there from the start, so the readers don’t have to waste time getting acquainted with the world it takes place in. If they’re unwilling to dig through a 15 page exposition dump at the beginning of the book, then they’re hardly worthy of your time anyway.

    2) As you’re proofreading, ask yourself “If I was a 3 year old, would I understand what it going on in this book?” Keep that in mind to ensure that nothing in your story is too subtle for your readers to grasp.

    3) If you’re trying to make a point about a certain political viewpoint you have about the world, have one of your characters transition into a lengthy lecture about politics. Otherwise, the readers may not realize you were trying to educate them about politics.

  62. Sageoftruth says:

    Remember: Memes are your friend

    It’s a proven fact that everyone loves internet memes (even if some say they don’t) so ensure that your story is filled with them. Compile a list of at least 80 internet memes and don’t leave your computer until each and every one of them has been referenced somewhere in your story. It’s okay if you don’t get the memes yourself. The readers will, and that’s what matters. Nothing makes a reading experience more enjoyable than a bunch of winks and nods from the author to let the reader know he’s hip and understands internet culture.

  63. Sageoftruth says:

    All well-written characters can be separated into two categories: Perfect, and Perfectly Awful.

    The readers need to know who they are supposed to root for, so make sure that your protagonist has no flaws whatsoever. Your protagonist must be staggeringly beautiful, charming, intelligent, and always more aware of what’s going on that anyone else in the book. Don’t confuse the reader by giving your protagonist flaws. A good protagonist never has flaws.
    Save all the flaws for the other characters, like the weak and helpless supporting characters who need the protagonist to prop them up, or the mean, snarling, ugly and spiteful villains who exist to be beaten by the protagonist. Avoid giving any of them redeeming qualities, or the reader might end up mistaking them for the story’s protagonist and mess up your whole story.

  64. Jean says:

    Believe that your book will “sell itself” because “so many people need to read it.” Don’t do any marketing, advertising or advance publicity, and ignore the competition completely.

  65. W. K. dwyer says:

    many of these are covered (even managed) by simply hiring developmental and copy editors. and if you are as lucky as i was, you will find top-notch professional editors who have had prior experience working in traditional publishing. the editing process is grueling, painful, and very threatening tbh, but in the end is well worth it. regarding finding a good cover designer: yes, it is definitely critical imho; i was extremely picky because i considered the cover art to be an integral part of the story, and it was expensive — a couple thousand in my case because it was original art — but was so worth it. if i had gone with a traditional publisher i would not have even been allowed to choose the cover art, and i shudder to think how bad it might have ended up. after spending 7 years on a MS there was no way in hell i was going to hand something so important over to individuals who had no emotional investment whatsoever in the work.

  66. Gwen says:

    Write only what you know, esp. in fiction, then insist, “But it really happened that way!” if you receive feedback on plausibility. If you try to write about something you have not personally and preferably recently experienced, you are a fraud (or a real writer, but I digress).

    Also, use lots of exclamation points!!!

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