This compendium of #UselessWritingTips will be regularly updated. Or not. They have been posted in reverse order to save you having to scroll down. You should be writing, not reading tips.
As the new year approaches, take some time off to burn those manuscripts, format your hard drive and get off to a fresh start.
Your novel is a safe space where you are in complete control, until you start editing and discover the awful truth.
The best thing about writing fiction is that you have colleagues all over the world who know how to lie about hating your guts.
All great writers have two things in common: 1) An excellent memory for detail, and 2)
Literary agents are more receptive to pitches over Christmas. Why not send a card to all those that rejected you? (#ProTip Include your email address and enclose a lock of hair.)
When authors approach you to assess their work, always ask them to reciprocate by rating the nude selfies you attach to your reply.
As all the best titles have already been used, simply revise a classic: The Pitcher In The Barley, Two Flew Over The Cuckold’s Vest, War & Cheese, etc.
Every author should have a website. Research shows that by using Comic Sans font you can boost sales via your site by up to 50%.
Never begrudge other authors their success. They too have worked hard and reviewed their own books under pseudonyms.
People will forget what you said and what you did, and they’ll definitely forget how your book made them feel, if anything.
Every Friday is #BlackFriday for writers, who experience a 50% discount in output as they review the week in despair.
If you include a dog in your novel, you will have to come up with convincing way to dispose of it at some point.
Rest assured that no great writer ever uttered the following words on his deathbed: “I wish I had written more.”
Good writing is all about coming up with good alternatives. Alcohol, drugs, sex, even swimming is better than writing.
All great writers are failed musicians. Form a band. Any genre will do. Play in pubs. Get paid in beer. Fail miserably. Write.
When self-publishing your novel, bear in mind that it will be viewed with the suspicion you reserve for home-brewed liquor.
Every author should write a novel about a major historical event. To do so successfully, you must die in the front line.
Write what you gnome. 1. Put on a gnome costume. 2. Take Drugs. 3. Pretend you’re a gnome. 4. Write about it.
If you feel the urge to stop writing, this usually derives from the fact that you have nothing meaningful to contribute.
The average writer sells around 100 books. But don’t let this worry you, because you are almost certainly below average.
Every novelist should have a Twitter account. Use it to create a monster hashtag. Feed the monster until it devours you and your novel.
Your book should be densely populated. Be creative. Have three different characters called Ruth. Let them meet and chat.
Friends will claim to love your writing. View their opinions with circumspection as no real writer ever has any friends.
Everyone has a book inside them. The trick is to sit back, pour yourself a nice glass of wine and leave it right there.
Imagine a monk. Now remove the free clothing and meals. Take away god and the hope of redemption. Now you have a writer.
You will be asked to write a synopsis and will discover, too late, that your novel didn’t warrant more than a single page.
Someday you will taste the joy of translating 6,000 words of your novel in a single day. But only if you’re bilingual.
Once your manuscript is edited, you will be granted 44.3 seconds for blurb writing, cover design and marketing strategy.
Rewrite your manuscript in a different language, by all means, giving yourself that final nudge off the Ledge of Doubt.
Social networks are ideal for honing your writing skills. Many great writers have chosen to end their career on Twitter.
So, you’ve submitted your manuscript and are waiting for a response from your publisher. One word of advice: methedrine.
As you approach the end of the editing process, you will come to realise that the end lies deep within an abyss. Weep.
Before starting a new project, always assure yourself of solitude & tranquility by way of estrangement from your family.
Try to develop a personal bond with your readers, so that you can sneak into their houses and correct typos if need be.
Never underestimate your readers. Some are very resourceful, heavily armed and equipped with high-tech tracking devices.
Statistics show that writers need to sell around 50,000 books a year to earn a decent living. Don’t ditch that day job.
Losing your manuscript in a digital disaster may be a personal drama, but it is also a blessing to many others.
Most writers have a cheap, inflatable muse to blame for their own faults. Try your local bookshop. Password: Belinda. (PS: Your bookseller will pretend not to understand, but you must insist. Pronounce the password repeatedly with a Brazilian accent.)
Always ensure that your characters seem unaware that their dialogue is written by a supremely-gifted, award-winning god.
Always bear in mind that everyone’s a stranger until they’ve read your book. Choose your pseudonym wisely.
Inside every story is a story about the story inside that story. It is a writer’s duty to seek that story and write it.
Mood is everything for a writer. Take time to discover your perfect mood. Only write when in that mood. Fail miserably.
Writing will open doors for you and allow you to make new friends. They will be poor and sad. And they will drink your wine.
Every writer should bear in mind that all great works of fiction have one thing in common. They were not written by you.
No. 202 (a & b)
If you’re struggling with your final edit, imagine yourself running towards the edge of a cliff. You dive off, soar briefly, then plummet. The final edit is the moment of horrified panic just before you hit the rocks.
Your manuscript is temple that will be cunningly transformed into a supermarket to make it commercially viable.
It is best to postpone your final edit until you have achieved the most peaceful frame of mind known to man: death.
People will forget your name and the title of your book, but they will always remember how it made them feel. Memories of nausea and rage are virtually indelible.
Do as much research as possible. Seek creative ways to use the interesting but utterly irrelevant factoids in your book.
When incorporating your mom’s death into your book, bear in mind that all mothers are doomed, as are their offspring. Despair.
Writers should celebrate Sunday as a day of rest. Kick back, relax, join a nudist sect that sacrifices small animals.
To qualify as a writer, one should write everyday, then go back and replace that with “every day” to avoid being disqualified.
Your novel can wait. There are other things to do, people to meet, new experiences waiting as you totally lose the plot.
There is more in your mind than you will ever be able to express, which means your best work is likely to be irretrievably lost.
Despite their name, it is preferable if the ghost writer you are working with is, in fact, not dead.
When you return from your holiday, you will find your manuscript waiting patiently. Alone. In the rain. With an axe.
Leave your manuscript at home when you go on holiday, and experience what it must be like to have a phantom limb.
Holidays present an ideal opportunity to recharge your batteries before attaching them to your genitalia with jumper cables.
There comes a time in every manuscript’s life when delusions of grandeur convince you it is the best thing ever written.
Always write the truth. It will set you free and enhance your appeal, much like a chicken escaping into the dog yard.
Your editor will deliver her final remarks to you on paper, so that you can use the edges to slowly slit your wrists.
Write drunk, edit sober, proofread naked in a public place, promote your book relentlessly while high on crack.
By tracking all changes in your manuscript before returning it to your editor, you can gain easy access to euthanasia.
Writers should travel extensively. Always try the local delicacies and liquor. Die clutching an unfinished poem in your sweaty fist.
Doing final edits can be cathartic, much like carving GOODBYE BABY in your child’s back with a rusty fork.
When writing literary fiction, bear in mind that your audience consists solely of other people writing literary fiction.
Tell as many people as possible that you are a writer, until you are accustomed to the question: “Should I know you?”
Writing assures you of many hours, and sometimes days, quietly wrapped in a warm blanket of utter desperation.
Promote your books ruthlessly online. Your tenacity will be forgiven by your only remaining fan, whose love is unconditional.
Some say writers walk the line between sanity and madness, but most of us are just trying to find the line through the tears.
Don’t let writer’s block get you down. It is simply a sign that you have written more than enough in this lifetime.
If you’re struggling with discipline, develop a writing routine and discover what it’s like to be an utter failure.
You will spend a great deal of time on social media, pretending you are writing. Your regret will poison you eventually.
There will always be people who write better books than you. Let that sink in. Finish your wine. Cry if you must.
Writing can be frustrating. The best way to alleviate this is by doling out one-star reviews to fellow authors based solely on titles and covers of their books.
Why not wind up your weekend’s writing with a nice long cry under the shower?
Never underestimate your own inadequacies.
Imagine your landlord’s surprise when you pay your rent in exposure. Give it a bash. Let us know how it goes. We’ll send flowers.
Be patient while your editor revises your manuscript. Experienced authors refer to this as the “Death Row Experience”. Execution suspended indefinitely. Cruel and unusual punishment.
If you’re wearing more than a blanket, you’re writing in the wrong place and will produce nothing of value.
Why not use the weekend to hook up with friends and tell them all about your latest book? Cry in the bus on the way home.
Q: Is my manuscript the right length? A: 1. Print your manuscript. 2. Roll it up tightly. 3. Get naked. 4. Sit on your manuscript. 5. If it slides in, it’s perfect.
Non-fiction may be roughly defined as “fiction that readers believe you think is true” and should be written as such.
Finishing your manuscript is much like unclogging a drain. No one really wants to know about it.
The acknowledgments present an ideal opportunity to thank various people and euthanise elderly relatives by omitting their names.
When numbering digital versions of your manuscript, always start with 001, to accommodate the triple figures you will eventually need.
Make sure your editor loathes you, as this will ensure your manuscript is first ripped to shreds by a sworn enemy.
It is common knowledge that disciples are far more important than discipline when it comes to spreading your word.
You will discover that every sentence can be improved. Soon thereafter you will find yourself gazing into the abyss.
Writing will free your mind, so that it may roam naked into the dark pit where hungry lions guard the door to fame.
The best way to get great early reviews is by ensuring that the wine is free and the finger food copious at your launch.
Your manuscript ain’t finished until the monkey with the golden scrotum snaffles your chutney with a cricket bat.
Make manuscript while the rain falls and the chill winds chews your window frames, for the sun preys on perseverance.
It’s an excellent idea to keep relaying updates on your writing progress to your ever-dwindling band of followers.
Never revisit any of your published work, unless you are feeling suicidal and need that final nudge.
There will come a day when your novel seems to be writing itself. Shortly thereafter your life will start to fall apart.
Two-thirds of what you write will be utter crap. The remainder is unfit for human consumption. Draw the line carefully.
If you’re invited to read, never do so from your own work, as people will invariably conclude that it is exceedingly boring and poorly crafted.
Writers don’t need time off, because their lives are like one long holiday in a burnt-out, two-star hotel in Chernobyl.
Friends will pretend they have read your novel. Organise a fun event where you lock the door and test their knowledge.
When editing, you will discover several other novels within your novel. Sadly, these must be removed before publication.
Writing is like walking a lazy cat, which just keeps growing. When it is the size of a lion, you have to start amputating bits. Without anaesthetic.
Writing a novel is a lot like running a marathon. Alone. With no one cheering you on. There are vicious dogs. All the gates are open. And around the halfway mark, you decide to start running another marathon. Simultaneously. Carrying two angry cats.
If at first you don’t succeed, write and write again until you are liberated from your reckless folly by death.
Before sending off your manuscript, be sure to carefully assess which vanity press is best suited to your work and pocket.
Contrary to popular belief, the reasons for writing a novel are far outweighed by the reasons to refrain from doing so.
Should you be suffering from an over-inflated ego, arrange a public reading of your work indoors on a sunny afternoon.
Discipline and perseverance are overrated. Writing is 75% talent, 25% substance abuse. (Or vice versa. I forget.)
The mortality rate of authors has never been higher than it is today. Many more are likely to die in the years ahead.
Try this exercise. Hold your breath as long as you can. Feeling lightheaded? Lean out of the window. You are flying.
Never get a day job. A good writer is a hungry writer. Some of the most successful writers are dead.
Feel free to keep submitting new versions of your manuscript. Editors are accustomed to this and have an uncanny ability to make any death look like an accident.
Try to avoid other writers as much as possible, as they will compel you to mask your inferiority complex by making them feel inadequate.
Some leading authors prefer to travel by train, as it is handy to always have a means of suicide close at hand.
Writing is a lot like picking a random location and digging a really deep hole in the hope of finding gold at the bottom.
You will ultimately come up with a dozen different endings for your novel, and you will invariably choose the wrong one.
As a writer, you are alone in a tiny boat, naked, in a vast ocean of uncertainty. Sharks are circling. And your boat has a crap name.
Your brilliantly crafted story will, to most people, read like a poor, drug-fuelled copy of that author you so admire.
US publishers have seen a 26.5% decline in unsolicited manuscripts since they launched Twitter 10 years ago.
No. 125 “Write what you gnaw” – this is why food writers are earning a shitload more than novelists. We misunderstood the memo.
Let the negative forces in your life drive you to the brink of suicide, and then write your way back into the light.
Prepare for criticism by wearing camouflage clothing in public and learning a martial art. (dedicated to Pamela Power)
If at first you don’t succeed, don’t give up your day job, unless you are prepared to give up eating and drinking.
Don’t let the cat out of the bag too soon. Perhaps drop in a snake and stir them up with your free hand. You must bleed.
Back up your manuscript every day, because there’s a good chance you’ll write an even more deplorable version tomorrow.
Your author photo is an integral part of your brand and should be taken by someone you trust, like your mom or sister.
Enter as many flash fiction contests as you can. Monitor your entries constantly, as you cut your novel into flashy bits.
So you’ve spent countless hours writing a superb novel, but you’re worried it may never be published. And rightly so, sucker.
In their darkest hour of doubt, many great novelists have found solace in the fact that they weren’t good enough to be poets.
At its very best, writing is an expression of profound love for humanity. That love may remain ever unrequited.
You can add depth to your writing by working outdoors. Take your laptop to the end of pier and drop it into the ocean.
You don’t have to be mad to write, but it is handy to fake an affliction and sell your medication at a profit on the street.
Send your manuscript to as least 20 beta readers. Be sure to incorporate all their remarks before seeking a publisher.
You will be asked to reduce your carefully crafted novel to a six-word sound bite. Look pensive as you reach for your pepper spray.
All great writers continually restructure their novels. Cut your chapter breakdown into pieces. Shuffle them. Rewrite. Be great.
Most great writers eavesdrop on diners arguing in restaurants. Feel free to interrupt them and ask for clarification, if need be.
Sex scenes are notoriously difficult to write. Authentic pillow-talk is best rendered by planting microphones in your guestroom.
Readers love puns and sundry wordplay. Try to wank them into your parrotive whenever you can’t. Die laughing.
One of the best-kept secrets of world-class authors is that, at some point in their career, they all worked with wild animals.
If you are under the age of 20 and working on your first novel, you may want to travel abroad as part of an infantry unit.
Relatives love being written into novels. You might even weave in excerpts from their journals and die alone in the wilderness.
As a writer, you *are* your own brand. Don’t be afraid to be yourself on social media. This is best achieved by posting drunk.
You can improve your writing by mimicking the style of your best-loved authors, sobbing quietly as you fail miserably.
If your novel lacks pace and urgency, try to imagine your protagonist writing a novel about you, a boring failure, writing. Weep.
1) Choose a fun topic. 2) Give it a lot of thought. 3) Research it online. 4) Call your dealer. 5) Cry as you wait.
As an author, you should mark all your tweets with the #amwriting hashtag, because even your shortest work is special.
Writing is a lot like life: just be yourself. Unless you were that weird, insecure, solitary kid. Then be someone else.
There will come a time when you’re too busy being an author to actually write anything. This is not as enjoyable as it sounds.
Publishers always reject the first fifteen titles you suggest. Save your top five for later. Then suggest in reverse order.
The French interviewer misheard Dostoevsky’s advice to writers. He said: “Write when it snows,” not “Write what you know.”
There is no such thing as writer’s block. There is only lack of talent, absence of will and poor occupational foresight.
Writers spend a great deal of time alone and in pain. You will frequently ask yourself: Is it all worth it? The answer is no.
Writer’s block is much like constipation in that no one wants to hear about it. Just press on silently. Have some decency.
Everything has been written before, often by people far more talented and capable than you’ll ever be. Let that sink in. Weep.
Never use second-person narrative unless you are Time, taking a cigarette and putting it in David Bowie’s mouth. Your mouth. His. Wait. The?
Structure is the enemy of creativity. Let your story ramble incoherently. Like an old drunk. Alone. At the end of pier.
Use Twitter to check whether the unsavoury opinions of your antagonist will have the desired impact on your target audience.
Writing is a religious experience in the sense that you are the one, true, omniscient God. All must worship you. Or die.
Some publishers are not real people. You can test this by touching their bodies and whispering: “Spirit of destruction.”
Never forget that writing is a powerful weapon in the War on Ignorance, and that you are little more than cannon fodder.
Writing in the present tense can be highly effective, as one can never be sure when Death may come calling.
When approaching an agent, be sure to enquire whether s/he has the depth of spirit to grasp the full extent of your suffering.
Writing is sometimes compared to childbirth, except that the midwife keeps pushing the baby back in to “give it some more time”.
Procrastination is the mother of invention. Inebriated procrastination is her midwife.
To become a writer: give everything away, move in with your most despised relative, adopt a cat, borrow a pen.
No one really knows or cares what you know. Bear this in mind when you write what you know.
At New Year, every writer should resolve to finish something. Even if it’s just those Christmas leftovers the neighbours gave you.
When proofreading, have different coloured pens at hand, as they ensure far more convincing floral doodles in the margin.
After Christmas, start planning your writing for the coming year. Carve the schedule in your arm with a blunt knife. Weep bitterly.
Christmas is a great time to update family and friends on your work-in-progress, and to let them know you’d much rather be writing.
When editing, never throw the baby out with the bathwater. Buy high explosives. Demolish the entire bathroom. Flee.
Treat your novel as you would an errant child. Berate it. Chastise it briskly. Place it in solitary confinement. Leave home.
Christmas is an ideal time to give your book to family and friends. Sip their drinks as they feign interest in your writing.
Writing is never a career, it is a calling. Hear the sirens luring the good ship Creativity onto the rocks. Drown, sucker.
Spend as much time as possible with other writers, as this will give you insight into insecurity, substance abuse and trauma.
Writers are inclined to share their secrets with other writers, because they hope to feature in their colleagues’ future novels.
Avoid expressing political opinions online, as it is very difficult to type with bandaged wrists.
Ask yourself whether Kafka, Nabokov, Eyre or Brontë ever needed a writing group to motivate them. Feel shame. Drink to excess.
Keep trying to raise the bar as a writer. This is best achieved by lying under the bar and pushing upward. Mind your drink.
All great writers apply the triple-S principle: structure, structure, structure. (A.k.a. sex, suffering, substance abuse.)
Should you decide to write about your secret/double life, choose a suitable pseudonym.
Try to refrain from expressing political opinions in your novel, as it is notoriously difficult to find writing time as Minister of Arts & Culture.
If you succeed as a writer, relatives will express their delight by asking you to write their biography. They must die.
When writing a novel, you will eventually find yourself staring into the Abyss of Doubt. Rest assured, no one gives a shit.
Should you be struggling to get reviews and publicity, console yourself with the knowledge that death is the best exposure.
You can add depth to your novel and enhance its broader relevance by dying of an overdose at an early age.
An agent is essential for any ambitious writer. S/he will arrange a cheap package trip to Thailand. Never return.
Listen to criticism, but don’t take rejection personally. An assassin will cost you around $2,000 plus expenses (ex VAT).
Don’t fret if you find a hole in your carefully crafted novel. There really is nothing a quart of gin and a sturdy rope can’t fix.
Use as many autobiographical elements as possible in your work, as this will make it easier to answer *that* question later.
People will want to know what genre you write. Always keep this a secret. Feign ignorance. Lie. Take it to your grave.
Royalties can be disappointing. On the bright, smaller figures hurt less when you have them tattooed onto your genitalia, as most writers do.
Reading is the key to good writing. Get up early. Read as much of the internet as possible. Feeling bored? Start writing. (Just kidding: Never write in the afternoon. Make a sandwich. Masturbate. Take a nap.)
Always have more than one project on the boil, as this will increase your chances of getting burned really badly.
Your publisher will assign an editor. Do whatever you can to resist this. When they come for your manuscript, torch your house. Flee.
It pays to develop good habits. Choose your addiction early. Go in hard. Keep at it. Die young.
Friends may ask to read your work. Invite them over. Make them comfortable. Poison them. Read to them as they lie dying.
Exercise regularly while writing. Take a walk or cycle. Down to the harbour, perhaps. Hop on a boat. Become a pirate. Die at sea.
You can Russify your story by adding an angry bear with an empty bottle. Also add an invading army, and snow, lots of snow.
Always wear loose-fitting clothing when writing, as this makes it easier for paramedics to resuscitate you when the postman calls the cops.
Should you ever find yourself obsessing about the plausibility of a character’s name, remember Katniss Everdeen.
There is a fool-proof way of ensuring that you never lose any of your precious files. Make your way to the tallest building in your city. Jump off it.
To cure writer’s block. Stand with your back against a wall. Throw your head back repeatedly, chanting: “I will die broken, bitter and alone.”
Every story begins with the first word. Choose wisely. Then go on Facebook and ask friends if this is the right word. Never go back.
Your research should be thorough. Do it at a library. Meet someone you love. Get drunk together. Have wanton sex. Forget.
You can follow me on Twitter, but it won’t make you a better person or writer.