How to Not Write a Novel: A Reading List

The next time you sit down to write a novel, I guarantee you will not fail to fail if you follow the following:

1)  Go to the bathroom.  Realize that the bathroom has achieved a level of dankness heretofore only imagined in gothic fiction.  Consider cleaning it.  Instead, grab a glass of wine and read “The Cask of Amontillado.”

2)  Look out the window.  Notice the leaves changing color and drifting from the trees.  Consider raking them.  Instead, indulge your poignant sense of the inevitability of loss and read Shakespeare’s Sonnet 73.

3)  Google bestselling authors in your genre.  Realize that they are all a year younger than you, except that one chick who’s, like, fifteen.  Wonder if you will be sporting false teeth in your first dustjacket photo.  Consider brushing your teeth.  Instead, wistfully read The Time Machine and/or The Picture of Dorian Gray.  Wonder what those guys were so upset about.

4)  Catch up on the day’s news.  Shake your head.  Consider moving to one of those countries where people aren’t stupid.  Instead, read Gulliver’s Travels.  Wonder if you’d get more writing done in a stable.

5)  Realize you could use some exercise.  Consider taking a turn about the neighborhood, during which your figure, honed to perfection by hours in front of a computer, will be shown off to its best advantage.  Instead, read Pride and Prejudice.  Lament the passing of those long riding coats men used to wear.

6)  Make yourself a cup of tea or coffee.  Dwell on the fact that, because so many writers talk about this crucial component of the process, it must be done right.  Obsess about it.  Read George Orwell’s instructions for how to make the perfect cup of tea.  Despair, because the man could write directions more engaging than your current work in progress.

7)  Contemplate the mad, Herculean nature of the task you have set yourself by endeavoring to write a novel.  Ponder the fact that all writers are crotchety lunatics.  Read Moby Dick.  Realize you’re craving fish and chips.

8)  Wonder if you’re losing your mind.  Read Margery Kempe.  Resolve to refer to yourself in future interviews, when you’re published, as “this creature.”

9)  Fret that there is no such thing as an original idea.  Allow yourself to be seized by an overwhelming sense of dread that someone else has already done this better than you, and that you are merely cobbling together freakishly unoriginal stories from bits and pieces.  Read Frankenstein.

10)  Answer the phone.  Always answer the phone.  Then try to remember where you left off.  Realize that brilliant, irreplaceable idea is gone.  FOR.  EV.  ER.  Read “Kubla Khan.”  Wonder how Coleridge refrained from strangling the visitor from Porlock.  Wish the telemarketer would actually come to the door.

If, despite your best intentions, you’ve still managed to finish the novel and are wondering how to not get published, read this.

4 thoughts on “How to Not Write a Novel: A Reading List

  1. I actually laughed out loud when I got to the one about Margery Kempe. Obscure medieval references FTW!

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