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Top Ten Things Not to do When Writing a Novel

Here is the 31st installment of Ten Top Lists of What Not to Do by Marie Ann Bailey of 1WriteWay at and John W. Howell of Fiction Favorites at These lists are simu-published on our blogs each Monday. We hope you enjoy.
10.  When writing a novel, do not try to explain to anyone what you are doing. If you do, at best they will walk away shaking their head.  At worst, you might find yourself as a recipient of an intervention by well-meaning friends and family which you didn’t know was being filmed until you see it on Dr. Phil.

9.  When writing a novel, do not assume everyone in the world is waiting for it to be finished. If you do, at best you may get used to the sound of crickets when it’s done.  At worst, people might start avoiding you on purpose without trying to hide the fact that they are.

8.  When writing a novel, do not ask your spouse to read parts and provide an opinion on how they like it.  If you do, at best you might end up in an argument over whether you really only used your imagination in writing those sex scenes.  At worst, you both might end up paying a lot of money to a divorce lawyer.

7.  When writing a novel, do not ask your children to be quiet while you write. If you do, at best they will make even more noise and you will have to find a way to soundproof your room. At worst, you might just be investigated by child protective services at the request of neighbors who are tired of the screaming and crying (mainly from you).

6.  When writing a novel, do not think you need a rest by playing a video game or knitting the sleeve of a sweater. If you do, at best you’ll lose your focus on your plot. At worst, you will finish the sweater and reach the god level in the game, but never finish the book.

5.  When writing a novel, do not try to make a decision on whether you should plan the book or just write it. If you do, at best you may get stalled on starting the novel and have to adjust your publication deadline. At worst, you may end up having an argument with yourself and end up not on speaking terms, which would totally blow your deadline.

4.  When writing a novel, do not keep your own counsel on word usage or grammar. If you do, at best you may get lucky and have only a few mistakes. At worst, you will need to leave town and change your name to avoid the laughter from your peers.

3.  When writing a novel, do not do your own editing. If you do, at best you may be surprised by the number of problems in your book.  At worst, you may want to book a trip to a country with no extradition treaty with the US.

2.  When writing a novel, do not avoid rich characterizations. If you do, at best you will have a book filled with pounds of boring material that not even you will want to read. At worst, you will need to find a decent disguise when meeting other authors and readers to avoid being called out by your characterizations of them.

1.   When writing a novel, do not skimp on the plot thinking your literary style will pull you through. If you do, at best you might have a book you love, but no one else does.  At worst, you might win the Worst Literary Book of the Year Award in recognition of your achievement.

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Marie A Bailey

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

31 replies

    1. Thanks, Jill. My favorite is #6 because I am truly guilty of taking “rests” from writing only to get totally sidelined by a knitting project 😉


  1. Oh, #6, you torment me so… Luckily, my son refuses to allow me to use the Xbox, so the only game at my disposal is on the phone or my computer, and I can walk away whenever I want… no, really. I can! Honest! 😉


  2. Good morning Marie. I love number 10. I can’t tell you how many glazed over eyes I have seen when talking about my writing. One gets the old, “uh huh and you quit work to do this?”


      1. You know you’re allowed to edit comments on your own blog. You could have slid that question mark in after the fact and no one would ever know! And yes, we have crickets in NJ. We don’t all live next to a 300-ft tall stack of cargo containers on the New jersey Turnpike. Especially since half of those containers are filled with dead Mafioso. 😉


        1. I was using my WP app on my iPad. It was faster just to note that I left off the “?” Anyhooooo, I imagine those containers draw insects other than crickets. I’d like to have crickets as my audience … better than the maddening buzz of the d**n mosquitoes that are just as ubiquitous here in FL, even after a few days of freezing temps ;(


      2. I think Florida and NJ are similar in some ways: Lots of nice beaches, very flat, plenty of swampland, and humid as hell. You can keep your gators though!


        1. Heh heh. I like gators but their proliferation here has put a damper on my enjoyment of canoeing 🙂 And I definitely don’t swim around here, even where it’s supposedly “safe” to do so.


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