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Advance praise for How Not to Write a Novel

“…good…”
–The New York Times

“…for some reason[able]…[pass]ages…in the book.”
–Washington Post Book World

“one of the most [amaz]ing books of the year.”

–Philadelphia Inquirer

“Among the…books I have reviewed in 20 years.”
–Austin-American Statesman

How To Not Write A Novel

Many people have mistakenly come here to How Not To Write A Novel when searching for advice on how to not write a novel.

While not writing novels is not our field of expertise, we’ve been around long enough to know that despite the claims of the many expensive in-patient programs available, if you’re truly serious about not writing a novel, the best thing you can do is locate a local twelve-step group. Call your local library; most groups meet in library basements. Friends of ours have managed to not write novels for years at a time with no more than these weekly meetings for support, while still leading outwardly normal lives.

If you’ve tried that route before and find you are still writing a novel, this time around try to avoid spending time with people who are writing novels during your first year. Remember, if it’s gotten to this point, it’s time to admit you have a real problem and make some serious changes.

No, it’s not fair that other people can write novels safely, while you cannot. But if you could write a few pages in the evening after work and still show up at the office the next morning; if you could concentrate on your job without sneaking in a little work on your novel when you think nobody will notice, you wouldn’t be here. You have a disease, and once you start writing a novel, you will be compelled to keep on writing until you are once again completely out of control.

If there are no meetings in your area to help you not write novels, consider attending one of the meetings for those trying to not write screenplays. It might seem strange at first, and the people who attend these meetings might look like a different crowd, a slicker, more superficial crowd, but you’ll find that underneath it all, they need your help just as much as you need theirs.

Let Gandhi choose your topping


They snatch Gandhi out of the past just before he’s assassinated. They bring him to a Baskin Robbins ice cream franchise in a strip mall, and chain him to one of the tables by the counter. He sits there in his loincloth with a chain around his ankle, under a sign on the wall that says, “Let Gandhi Choose Your Topping!”

Gandhi, resigned to his fate, selects toppings for the ice cream of suburban children. What he hates most is when the high school kids get stoned and make him choose toppings as a goof. No matter what topping he chooses, they laugh.

How To Not Write A Novel, Part II: The NEA Fallowship Program

Since becoming writers in the field of writing-manual writing, we have grown increasingly aware of a situation that threatens the financial and spiritual well-being of writers everywhere.

Where there were once hundreds of novels written for every one that was published, the ease of self-publishing and the lure of celebrity has increased that number to thousands, if not tens of thousands. Add to this the innumerable MFA programs springing up on campuses all over the country like mushrooms springing up on campuses all over the country, from each of which springs each spring like a river a freshet of fresh young novelists, each of them novel, yet the same, and each of them driven, wound tightly like a spring inside a watch that is driven by a spring, ready to tick off the pages of their novels like the seconds on that watch, the chapters like the minutes, and whole new novels like The Hours, and we face a state of affairs that we as writers can no longer ignore: there are simply too many novels.
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