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Do You Need How Not To Write A Novel?

We don’t want you to waste your time with a book that’s not right for you. We want every copy of How Not To Write A Novel to reach only those people who need it most.

To that end, we have designed this simple quiz so that you can find out if your life might be improved by our book.

How Not To Write A Novel: The Quiz

What about I, the literary novelist?

It has oft been said, and we will say it again, oft; our book is not for everyone. Yes, it is for men and women of all genders, creeds, and sleep numbers. It is for the hot and the not, the tomato and the tom-ah-to, the hokey and the pokey. Whatever your favorite color, there is a home for you at How Not to Write a Novel.

Still, some have come to us and said “How Not to Write a Novel is not for me, for I have an MFA: I have achieved mastery of fine arts. I have wrestled fine arts to the ground, and they have cried like a little girl. I–I–am their master! What use do I, the literary novelist, have for How Not To Write A Novel?”

Nonetheless, we as people and writarians, are for everyone, even if our book is not. (It can be bought by anyone, though, here. A CRAZY bargain!!) It has oft been said that Howard and Sandy are the kind of people whom you either love or hate. How true that is, except for the love part. But those who hate us need our help far, far, more than those who love us, in a hypothetical situation where someone loved us. Those who hate us should seek our help without wasting a second on thought. We know what the nay-sayers will say. They will say nay. But you are a grownup now with a college degree and you can put your fingers in your ears and go “la la la!” until they stop.

Now that you have your MFA, you may think it’s too late for you to write a dreadful novel. Howard! you are thinking, Sandy! How will I ever be able to write the bad novel of my bad dreams??? Quell those fears! Experience teaches us that years of study and training are no obstacle to unreadable, inarticulate prose. For you we have written How Not To Write a Novel II: How Not To Write A Novel Goes to College. The title, not the book. For us to truly exhaust this topic would take months, hundreds of pages, and a substantial advance. But just off the top of our heads, we can offer some tips and techniques to overcome all your time and effort.

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Fowler on Irony

In How Not To Write A Novel, we recommend readers take a look at Fowler’s Modern English Usage for a quick lesson in the use of irony, both the term and the device. Realizing now that not everybody has a copy of Fowler close at hand, as a service to our readers we reproduce here the entry on irony from the first edition of H. W. Fowler’s entertaining and instructive usage guide.

Irony is a form of utterance that postulates a double audience, consisting of one party that hearing shall hear & shall not understand, & another party that, when more is meant than meets the ear, is aware both of that more & of the outsiders’ incomprehension.  1. Socratic irony was a profession of ignorance. What Socrates represented as an ignorance & a weakness in himself was in fact a non-committal attitude towards any dogma, however accepted or imposing, that had not been carried back to & shown to be based upon first principles. The two parties in his audience were, first, the dogmatists moved by pity or contempt to enlighten this ignorance, &, secondly, those who knew their Socrates & set themselves to watch the familiar game in which learning should be turned inside out by simplicity.  2. The double audience is essential too to what is called dramatic irony, i.e. the irony of the Greek drama. That drama had the peculiarity of providing the double audience–one party in the secret & the other not–in a special manner. The facts of most Greek plays were not a matter for invention, but were part of every Athenian child’s store of legend; all the spectators, that is, were in the secret beforehand of what would happen. But the characters, Pentheus & Oedipus & the rest, were in the dark; one of them might utter words that to him & his companions on the stage were of trifling import, but to those who hearing could understand were pregnant with the coming doom. The surface meaning for the dramatis personae, & the underlying for the spectators; the dramatist working his effect by irony.  3. And the double audience for the irony of Fate? Nature persuades most of us that the course of events is within wide limits foreseeable, that things will follow their usual course, that violent outrage on our sense of the probable or reasonable need not be looked for; & these “most of us”  are the uncomprehending outsiders; the elect or inner circle with whom Fate shares her amusement at our consternation are the few to whom it is not an occasional maxim, but a living conviction, that what happens is the unexpected.

That is an attempt to link intelligibly together three special senses of the word irony, which in its more general sense may be defined as the use of words intended to convey one meaning to the uninitiated part of the audience & another to the initiated, the delight of it lying in the secret intimacy set up between the latter & the speaker; it should be added, however, that there are dealers in irony for whom the initiated circle is not of outside hearers, but is an alter ego dwelling in their own breasts.

For practical purposes a protest is needed against the application of “the irony of Fate”, or of “irony” as short for that, to every trivial oddity:–But the pleasant note changed to something almost bitter as he declared his fear that before them lay a “fight for everything we hold dear”– a sentence that the groundlings by a curious irony were the loudest in cheering (oddly enough)./ It would be an irony of fate, according to many members, if Mr Chamberlain were elected to succeed Mr Balfour, for it was his father who dealt the first blow at Mr Balfour’s ascendancy (interesting)./ “The irony of the thing” said the dairyman who now owns the business “lies in the fact that after I began to sell good wholesome butter in place of this adulterated mixture, my sales fell off 75 per cent.” (“It’s a rum thing that…” seems almost adequate).  The irony of fate is, in fact, to be classed now as a HACKNEYED PHRASE.