Monday, 27 August 2012


It took me a good while to find a use for Twitter. My vampire-sponge-mind bounced from hint to hint until I landed on something called #badwritingtips. People and robots from across existence gathered to impart this wisdom. I couldn’t resist. Here are a few bad writing tips. I hesitate over some of them, as I could get mileage from more than a few. Oh, the irony.

#badwritingtips. Type with your tongue.

#badwritingtips. Insert K and/or V in a name to provide an air of villainy.

Let’s do a few #badwritingtips. Never start your character on an aeroplane. That’s a bad tip if you’re writing a book about Charles Lindbergh.

#badwritingtips. Give away the plot in the opening sentence. It saves time.

#badwritingtips. Hunch as you type.

#badwritingtips. Use the first person for thoughts, the third person for actions, and the second person for a Last Will and Testament.

#badwritingtips. Always heroically sacrifice the most boring character in a story. Your readers will NEVER see that coming.

#badwritingtips. Give the best advice through the worst character, and have that character fail to follow the advice. Works in the movies.

#badwritingtips. Open a major shootout with a character you killed in a previous chapter. Continuity is for pussies and dicks.

#badwritingtips. Don’t laugh as you type bad writing tips. Maybe I meant DO laugh…

#badwritingtips. Copy the same tips to #goodwritingtips. Yes, with a straight face.

#badwritingtips. Name characters Agnes Day, Lingua Franca, Eve Adam…

#badwritingtips. Admittedly, that last entry’s pretty rich coming from the creator of Albert Crabbe: Jet-Powered Investigator…

#badwritingtips. Okay, just take your character names from classic literature. No one will know that Ahab Dracula was a knock-off.

#badwritingtips. Switch from science fiction drama to comedy western halfway through.

#badwritingtips. Base a novel on your own messy divorce and tell yourself it’s cathartic.

#badwritingtips. Generate plots from the backs of cereal packets.

#badwritingtips. Always begin with the middle, and make that the end too.

#badwritingtips. Just invent all the diseases in your medical dramas.

#badwritingtips. It’s a sobering thought that #badwritingtips has finally made me see a use for Twitter.

#badwritingtips. Follow every piece of advice on writing you can find. No. EVERY piece.

#badwritingtips. Publish posthumously for greater acclaim.

#badwritingtips. Write a plot-twist that negates the previous hundred pages. Logic is overrated.

#badwritingtips. Avoid clutter. Leave the villain out of your thriller.

#badwritingtips. Build to a finish in which hero and villain have a knife-fight over the girl. No one has tried that ploy yet.

#badwritingtips. Don’t waste time inventing indestructible clothes for your indestructible superheroes.

#badwritingtips. If the action isn’t sexy enough, throw in a penguin.

#badwritingtips. Always have two spy characters discuss the plot as they walk through a park. This will never be done to death.

#badwritingtips. Allow the tough guy to dash away a manly tear once in every book – and always while thinking of football.

#badwritingtips. Always and/or never base steamy scenes on porn you’ve watched and/or starred in.

#badwritingtips. Allow magic to solve every structural problem. Even when writing non-fiction.

#badwritingtips. Set up your files to allow right-to-left text on alternate pages.

#badwritingtips. Use black text on a black background when writing mysteries.

#badwritingtips. Invent new names for everything. That takes effort, so don’t waste time explaining the changes.

#badwritingtips. Create bold heroes. Serial-killing dog-shagger with a heart of gold. Wait. Been done. Jack Russell Terrier the Ripper.

#badwritingtips. Explain it all away with ghosts.

#badwritingtips. Switch IT WAS JUST A DREAM with the phrase IT WAS JUST A DRAM.

#badwritingtips. Write that Jane Austen/Third Reich mash-up you’ve been hankering after. A little less pride, and a lot more prejudice.

#badwritingtips. Your novel is nothing without a scene featuring Elvis.

#badwritingtips. Do obvious sequels. THE FORTY STEPS. 1985. Off the Road. Vegetable Farm.

#badwritingtips. Research your book in the real world. The serial killing of prostitutes? Just go for authenticity.

#badwritingtips. Nazis for the plot. Commies for the plot-twist. Yanks for the villains.

#badwritingtips. Hate a political figure via inclusion in a western/vampire tale/brothel saga. I didn’t mean those 3 in combination…

#badwritingtips. Switch the last chapter for chapter four.

#badwritingtips. Your hero and villain should meet at hotel check-in, with identical suitcases and last names.

#badwritingtips. Interrupt every attempted explanation of the plot with a car-chase. Even in Ancient Rome.

#badwritingtips. Mimic titles. Planet of the Japes. Dragula.

#badwritingtips. Remove everything not central to the plot – including doing words.

#badwritingtips. Kill the villain six times in each book.

#badwritingtips. Only edit punctuation.

#badwritingtips. Write the first eight pages in French. Provide no explanation for that.

#badwritingtips. Eat and drink at the keyboard.

#badwritingtips. Improve your writing by marrying an editor solely for that purpose.

#badwritingtips. Place a character under an EXIT sign to indicate impending doom. Works in the movies.

#badwritingtips. Have your hero ignore fifteen pages of exposition and let the guy just play a hunch.

#badwritingtips. Lone maverick cops with war-zone love-lives are in. You write that bad boy into your porno.

#badwritingtips. Give your female lead a rather androgynous name to show she has a pair of balls.

#badwritingtips. Swipe the plot of a fairy tale.

#badwritingtips. Write one-page paragraphs.

#badwritingtips. Have the villain reveal his scheme in Latin.

#badwritingtips. Open a major fight with a musical number.

#badwritingtips. Have your main character spend his free time reading your books.

#badwritingtips. Squeeze as many songs into casual conversation as is physically possible.

#badwritingtips. Bring an obviously-dead character back from the grave via that little-used literary standby, a magic lamp.

#badwritingtips. Throw a frantic dash to the airport into your romance. Works in the movies.

#badwritingtips. Kill off a supporting character who is about to retire.

#badwritingtips. When all else fails, have your near-destitute hero win the lottery.

#badwritingtips. Turn your tale of natural disaster into an allegory about your least-favourite political party.

#badwritingtips. Having trouble raising laughs in that comedy you’re writing? Throw in a character who farts cyanide gas.

#badwritingtips. Liven a stodgy political thriller with the introduction of zombies.

#badwritingtips. Have the city’s top forensic investigator develop psychic powers to cover the moments when the science doesn’t stack up.

#badwritingtips. Pace a zombie epic with the introduction of stodgy politicians.

#badwritingtips. Nothing screams sex-comedy like some gerbil action.

#badwritingtips. Develop a tinder-dry sense of humour in your comedies by removing all jokes.

#badwritingtips. Base your plot on a banana, leprechauns, a fiery sombrero, three types of sauce, a random aeroplane, and seaweed.


#badwritingtips. Use gloves while typing. Reverse in sentence second every construct.

#badwritingtips. Keep the plot secret from the readers. Just black that sucker out.

#badwritingtips. Invent three-dozen major characters.

#badwritingtips. Set your Victorian melodrama on a moon made from cheese.

#badwritingtips. Have the heroes miss their last-minute rescue by 61 seconds, killing everyone in the process though somehow leaving scope for a sequel.

#badwritingtips. That last one was a bad tip, as it couldn’t actually fit on Twitter. I started out with a few of these on Twitter, but I knew I’d end up doing this on the blog. This one wouldn’t fit on Twitter either. Have your hero fall for the cat he rescued. Make the plot all about bringing in new legislation for, er, cat-lovers.

#badwritingtips. Have your hero die suddenly in the flashback. NO ONE ever sees that twist coming.

#badwritingtips. Invent a new writing style. The eighth person.

#badwritingtips. Have the chick marry her wardrobe instead of the chunky hero.

#badwritingtips. Use the American spellchecker on every third page.

#badwritingtips. Save effort by using the same character names in every single book, even though you aren’t writing a series.

#badwritingtips. Start your trilogy with book two.

#badwritingtips. Simpering women must clash with brooding men, or else you just aren’t writing a decent war novel.

#badwritingtips. Determine final page-count by multiplying two random numbers.

#badwritingtips. Pad out your story by using very broad page margins and large type.

#badwritingtips. Pace your courtroom drama by opening with the verdict.

#badwritingtips. Is her metal armour boob-shaped? If not, you aren’t writing heroic fantasy.

#badwritingtips. Have your all-powerful wizardy villain die of DVT on a long-haul dragon flight.

#badwritingtips. Give away the villain’s identity by making him a smoker.

#badwritingtips. Have your villain’s victorious monologue interrupted by the surprise arrival of an even more powerful villain spouting his own victorious monologue.

#badwritingtips. Allow your villain to spout a Victorian monologue, preferably in the style of a witty after-dinner verse.

#badwritingtips. Threaten downtown Tokyo with polystyrene. Hasn’t been done. Much.

#badwritingtips. Have the villain call the hero by name, even though they’ve only just met, no names were mentioned in the lead-up, and the villain couldn’t possibly have been in a position to find out.

#badwritingtips. Remember the golden rule of terrorism plots. Bombs without timer displays are for pussies and dicks.

#badwritingtips. For your smuggling epic, invent a new designer drug known only as THE PRODUCT. Never allude to its actual chemical composition. Make sure it is bad, and kills those crazy young kids who should know better than to get mixed up in the shady world of…whatever drug that is.

#badwritingtips. End a car-chase with a wedding. Start a firefight with a divorce. Repeat as needed.

#badwritingtips. Use pastel colours and jolly typography for the cover of your biowarfare thriller.

#badwritingtips. Chicken out of having the hero just kill the villain. Let the guy develop a crisis of conscience and go off on a ten-page toot moralising about declining standards in stories for kids.

#badwritingtips. Start every sentence with the phrase IT WAS.

#badwritingtips. Write a gnome into the odd-numbered chapters.

#badwritingtips. Base the main investigator on yourself and have dozens of beautiful women fall at his feet in a pyramid of writhing limbs. Develop the plot around this phenomenon.

#badwritingtips. End your vampire story with the phrase THE END?

#badwritingtips. Give your werewolf a peanut allergy. Silver just isn’t cutting it these days.

#badwritingtips. Always have a major character mentally consider a forthcoming plot-twist from two angles, as though you yourself haven’t quite decided which way the story is going.


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