Thursday, 18 February 2010

HOW NOT TO WRITE A NOVEL


I'm reading a screamingly funny book at the moment called How Not To Write A Novel by Howard Mittlemark and Sandra Newman. I buy the odd writing manual for pithy quotes and examples to use in teaching CW. This one is definitely the funniest. It's as funny as Katherine Lynch's Single Ladies on a bad day - and that's funny! The examples of bad prose are over-the-top but, sadly, such ill-thought-out rubbish has come to me as judge/editor of this and that.

The book might scare off wanna-be writers and much of it may be too obvious for experienced writers but it's so hilariosly well-written, I recommend it - at least to editors and CW teachers for a good laugh. And some tips to pass on to the non-faint-hearted student.

Here's a couple of examples of the style of this book:

The Crepuscular Handbag - wherein the author trips over his own cleverness

A Test: Do I Know This Word?
Ask yourself: 'Do I know this word?'
If the answer is no, then you do not know it.

Men Are from Cliché; Women Are from Stereotype - wherein the characters are built solely of broad gender stereotypes:

"Melinda picked up Joe's beer-stained sports section with a wry smile, replacing it with another saccharin-berry scented candle. As she sat on the pouffe to enjoy her copy of Brides' Shoe Monthly, she wondered if he would remember to call for their third-date anniversary." etc etc

17 comments:

Kar said...

This given to me a while back, I haven't picked it up yet but will do now...thanks Nu

WOMEN RULE WRITER said...

It's a scream!

Tania Hershman said...

Oh god! I have just "read" a book exactly like the final example, all cliche and stereotype. I won't name it, of course, but I did wonder to myself, Who does enjoy reading something like this? Are the cliches somehow comforting to some readers... or do they just skim over them on their way to the Grand Denoument where she leaves him and takes her candles with her?

WOMEN RULE WRITER said...

Ha ha, Tania. It sounds like TORTURE! Obviously they have their readers but I always feel those people don't love good writing, just escapist, skim-thru-the-lot, easy yarns. Not my cup of tea, for sure.

Desmond Swords said...

Oh, I dunno Nuala, I and millions like me, lurve Celia and the Alana Partridges of fluffy romantic pulp who service the deep and profound needs honest and plain readers like myself, possess - locked within a yawning ache of sheer desire to lol when facing that plazzy void of faux-intellectual gobble dee gook failing to prance with the innate, no nonsense narrative grace of pink tinged titans like Miriam, and the many sensitive gen-neutral, femminine freindly man tale tellers spinning in a similar style, all that gosh at work in jolly yarns that fill a literate wanting and one's inner desire for candyfloss authors, unafraid to tell it like it isn't, who'll present a pre-collapse yummy all tigerish tales and everyone living happily in perfect economic nirvana, making one pine so for those very happy and proud times I am a stakeholder supporting fluffy luvviness the only true and emotionally open, reflexive hippies have as reality within our neural web,

Spontaneous waffle and e-reads, direct to the readers. That's my future fave.

prelobv is the word verification
indyg was the first word ver.
sulned is the third

arghh!!

chiccoreal said...

Talking about humour, Erma Bombeck's Classic "The Grass Is Always Green Over The Septic Tank" is riotously funny. How I wish I could be the modern day Erma with an edge. Maybe only found outside the suburbs neatly manicured lawns. Naming a girl Jasper, is that edgy?

WOMEN RULE WRITER said...

Desmond - "locked within a yawning ache of sheer desire to lol when facing that plazzy void of faux-intellectual gobble dee gook " - why yes!!

WOMEN RULE WRITER said...

Chico - Jasper is a cool name for a girl.
Just pretend someone called you 'the modern day Erma with an edge'. We won't tell!

Rachel Fenton said...

Well, if this book is anything like the comments it has created it's worth a read! I need some fun.
ispoclo

Jessica Maybury said...

sounds good! Have you read the Stephen King one? It's not funny or anything but I liked it

chiccoreal said...

Thar be a daye when aye wake up speaking in broken Irish tongue channellin me ancients thinking but mostly feeling those most tender loves with gobbly guck stuck in the soul raisin muck. I have something else other than that same feelin' for all you soulful sprites with elfish hair Celticly knotted up with wee leprechaun entities dancing on a pin which always gets me right here and totally and wholly animate me soul to river dance.

WOMEN RULE WRITER said...

J - I love King's On Writing - it is so no nonsense. He works VERY hard. A great read too. N

WOMEN RULE WRITER said...

Chico - I know the feeling and I'm Irish!

BarbaraS said...

Another one to add to the ever-growing list. I like the humour angle: make it humorous and they'll remember it well... there's another part to that quote I can't quite pull together now...? :)

WOMEN RULE WRITER said...

Dunno that quote B but it rings true.

movienewsfirst said...

Hi there,
Came across your writing blog; I'm a children's writer based in Cork. Haven't read this book yet, so will check it out, it sounds really good!
Olive

WOMEN RULE WRITER said...

Olive - welcome! Hope the children's writing goes well. I'm teaching the short fic workshop at the West Cork Lit Fest in July. And doing a reding. Maybe see you there?
Nuala