How Not to Write

How to Write inspired this post. Check it out.

It seems as if everyone has said “I want to write a book someday…” Well, so do I! And, after trying very sporadically for the last eight months, I’ve learned a few things about what not to do. I reached a max of 59,000 words, and now, because of doing what I have learned not to do, I am back down to under 10,000. This list might not be new to you, but it’s what I went through and learned the hard way. So here’s what I learned…


Edit. Do not edit. Sounds silly, right? I mean, you want your first draft to be ready to sell, right? Not so much… By saying to not edit, I do not mean that you should not correct your grammar and/or spelling. What I do mean is that being halfway through the second chapter and thinking “Oh, my main character should be a girl!” and trying to change that, well, it isn’t a good idea. Then when you go back through what you’ve written, your main character’s gender is a blur of he‘s and she‘s and his‘s and her‘s. Just don’t do it. Find and replace doesn’t work well enough. If you feel like you’re early enough to make a change, rewrite.

Read what you’ve already written. It may suck, or it may be great, but you will be your toughest critic. Write it out. Write write write write FINISH! Then read.

Stop writing. If you leave your book for more than a week, the flow is gone. You will have trouble keeping the tone and the pacing. The only exception would be at the end of a chapter, where you’ve already planned out the next section and it is going to be a different pace no matter when you write it.

Stop reading. People are worried that they’ll unconsciously steal ideas from the books they read. (See link at the top of the page.) Go to your local bookstore. Look for your genre. Take in the amount of books that are on those shelves. Your idea is not new. I’m sorry if you’re hearing that for the first time (if you are, you still haven’t clicked that link at the top of the post.)

Use words you wouldn’t feel comfortable trying to use in a conversation. Chances are, you won’t use it right. You may or may not have read the link that I posted to start this, but you’ll notice the author’s vocabulary right away – if you’re like me, it was because he used more than one word you’ve never heard of. But he actually uses them in his daily conversations! There is no pretense to his writing. A dictionary is NOT your friend. It is alright to have a thesaurus handy to avoid monotonous descriptions, but if you’re going to say something was big, and big was the first word into your head, do not try to use capacious instead. Whatever comes the most naturally will read the most naturally.

Reinvent common items. One of my friend’s example was a book that had horses, but named them something else. DO NOT REINVENT THE WHEEL, or the horse, in that case. Don’t describe a horse thinking the reader may never have seen one before. Show the reader, don’t tell him, as the saying goes.

Worry about length. Don’t aim for words. Don’t aim for pages. Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes was 940 pages. Many call it the greatest book of all time. Of Mice and Men by Steinbeck was 107. There is no correct number of pages. This goes for total and in chapters.

Limit yourself. If you’re serious about writing, don’t make excuses. If you think you “have no time to write”, then make some. Find a writing partner, one who is also having this problem. Meet at least once a week, for at least an hour. You don’t have to share your work with your partner, just be an encourager to writing.

Spend too much time preparing. I made the mistake of spending hours and hours working on insignificant content. The characters will make themselves. The world will shape itself. The plot, if you have an end, will develop twists and turns. Do not wear yourself out on details before you’ve even started.

Waste time on “resources.” I could give you a page and a half of links to “useful resources” for writers. I probably wasted a good three or four hours of writing time finding those. How many have I used so far? One, maybe two of those links.

Broadcast that you’re writing. I’m not saying don’t tell your spouse or significant other and a few friends, but you will get a few overeager people wanting details, and you will get people critiquing the time you’re taking, and you will have people who just don’t care; all of which are stunting to the writing process… Let people know you’ve finished a book. It’ll be that much more impressive.


There are many, many more things that could be included in this list. But instead of focusing on the negatives, I will leave you with one thing. Write, and write what you love and what you would read. Writing, assuming you’re not a professional author, is not about work. It isn’t about the sweat and tears that go into the novel or series. It’s not about the blisters from typing or the number of pots of coffee you go through to finish. It’s about the journey. Enjoy it.