Skip to Content

How not to serial 7


This is the seventh excerpt from David Armstrong's wry and entertaining How not to Write a Novel: Confessions of a Midlist Author

7. How to ... books

There are any number of books on the market that claim to be able to tell you how to write a bestseller. I know quite a few writers, including some who have written bestsellers. They're a mixed bunch, male and female, British and American, tall, and short, gay and hetero, but they have one thing in common: none of them has learned to do what it is they do by reading a book about it.

Books come from within. You really cannot write to a specific plan (beyond the obvious things such as having an outline of the plot and the characters etc.).

Every writer I know goes up blind alleys and round cul-de-sacs in their struggle to get the book out of them. For most of us, the book just has to evolve.

This, of course, is not what many would-be writers want to hear, any more than someone learning to drive would want to be told that there are very few rules, and that they'll probably have to have a few (expensive) crashes before they'll learn how to do it.

But writing a novel isn't like driving a car.

Yes, I would recommend that you have some road sense, and that you've seen how cars behave avoid travel, in the same way that I'd recommend any would-be writer should start by writing shorter pieces before beginning a novel of eighty or ninety thousand words. I'd also recommend that writers manque do some reading to see how other practitioners do it. As Debra Isaac, a reader for a London literary agency says, 'I wonder why would-be authors never seem to have read published authors ...’

Beyond that, get writing, start crashing into the obstacles that most of us find the road to publication is littered with and, eventually. with practice, you'll work out how to avoid at least some of them, how to make detours and take short-cuts and how to plan your journey so that you don't drive off the road with weariness and exhaustion.


Tips and summary:

1) Read other writers

2) Avoid How to... books

3) Get it written, don't get it right


The next excerpt from How not to Write a Novel will be in the November Magazine.


About How Not to Write a Novel

The first excerpt
The second excerpt
The third excerpt
The fourth excerpt
The fifth excerpt
The sixth excerpt
The seventh excerpt
The eighth excerpt
The ninth excerpt
The tenth excerpt
The eleventh excerpt
The twelfth excerpt


© David Armstrong 2003

Related Items in our Amazon Store

List price: £9.99
Publisher: Allison & Busby
Sales rank: 603,255
Publisher: Allison & Busby
Kindle Edition
Sales rank: 800,472