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Ten Things Not To Do When Writing the Great American Novel

Since a lot of us share in the fantasy of becoming a world famous author, here is the Thirteenth installment of Ten Top Lists of What Not to Do by John W. Howell of Fiction Favorites at and Marie Ann Bailey of 1WriteWay at These lists are simu-published on our blogs each Monday. We hope you enjoy.


10.  If you are writing the great American novel, do not begin your manuscript with the words, “It was a dark and stormy night.” These words have already been copyrighted by Snoopy and you could find yourself in a nasty lawsuit.

9.  If you are writing the great American novel, do not let your spouse read a word of it. Your spouse will want to protect you from yourself and make suggestions that could lead to annulment proceedings by both of you.

8.  If you are writing the great American novel, do not use your friends, neighbors or family members as easily identified characters. People tend to be a little touchy when they think you have exposed them for what they really are.

7.  If you are writing the great American novel, do not include sex scenes that at some later time you will need to explain “how you knew that” to your spouse. Even worse would be the question, “why haven’t we done that?”

6.  If you are writing the great American novel, do not tell anyone you are doing it until it is all done. If you talk too much, the people you tell will give you a number of stories that they are sure you can use. Even worse, you will have to listen to all the stories about how they are also going to write a book as if it is as easy as saying.

5.  If you are writing the great American novel, do not start replacing frustrated moments with food and drink. The frustration will continue but you might be in a position to need new clothes beyond your tattered trusted terry cloth robe for that book launch party. It could also be that you will need to seek help for your addictions.

4.  If you are writing the great American novel, do not assume everyone in the world is causing you to come down with a case of writer’s block. The interruptions are a way for normal people to test whether or not you are still of sound mind and body. The writer’s block is all you.

3.  If you are writing the great American novel, do not try and get your family to understand why you would rather remain behind to tap on your keyboard than to go to the movies, theater, restaurant, bar or sporting event. Simply pretend to have come down with a bout of the flu and let it go. You may have to create some unusual sounds, but as world famous author you can do it.

2.  If you are writing the great American novel, do not suspend normal hygiene routines. The wild eyed,  disheveled, evil smelling iconic view of an author is long past. If you are clean and look healthy, you will avert unusual questions not to mention a threat of intervention from loved ones.

1.  If you are writing the great American novel, do not let anyone tell you that you are wasting your time. The fact that you just might be doing so is nobody else’s business but yours. You will eventually reach your goal (or not), but at least it was you who had the faith to get there.

Categories: Top Ten Lists

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Marie A Bailey

Writer, blogger, knitter, cat lover, and introvert.

43 replies

  1. Number 6 I haven’t had a pleasure of experiencing yet… And number 3, ah…. This is so true. I kind of feel guilty for wanting to use my free time on writing… Like, all of it.


  2. This is so funny – and so spot on! #7 – oh my, that *would* be embarrassing. #4 and #3 – oh yes – been there. Lots. My parents think I’m a hermit, and my best friend thinks I’ve already moved overseas! 🙂


      1. True – I meant really entirely single. Every time I break up with someone I breathe a sigh of relief that I don’t have to explain my weird and wonderful writing schedule and habits any more… silver linings and all that!


        1. I thought you might mean entirely single, but surely a friend with benefits, maybe? Gee, since everyone is talking about #7, I have sex on my brain 😉
          I definitely get the point about not having to explain yourself. My husband is very kind about it, but he has his own interests (amateur astronomy). So now his stargazing nights are my writing nights 😉


          1. Oh yes, but you don’t have to explain yourself to those – that’s the beauty of them!

            I think that’s the trick, to find someone with an equivalent job or interest – lucky you 😉


            1. Thanks, I actually wasn’t happy at first with him going out in the dead of night. But when I participated in NaNoWriMo last year, I saw the benefit. Now I practically push him out the door 🙂


  3. Brilliant stuff. I’ve just completed my ‘Great British Novel’ and some of the things you mentioned here bothered me as I churned out endless sentences in search of a conclusion. The sex scenes worried me. I used the 1950’s approach and became very interested in the lamp shades and view from the window while the lucky couple wheezed and groaned and wished they’d been a bit younger, and I think I may have allowed a couple of my good ladies notable characteristics to seep into a character. The book is due out around Christmas, after mauling by some editor, and I may well be found in a tent near a bus shelter in the city centre. Anything is possible.


    1. I like that your characters “wished they’d been a bit younger.” Sounds like the right age group for me 🙂 Looking forward to your book. Somehow I don’t think you’ll find up living in a bus shelter 🙂


  4. I loved # 6…when I was in high school my friends used to ask me to write them love poems to give to someone special. I did a few. I sure wish I had them today 😛 My views of love we totally hippie warped in high school.


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