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3 min Read
Published March 17, 2015

4 Easy Steps To Writing A Terrible Novel

Since the arrival of Kindle Self-Publishing, terrible novels have literally become a dime a dozen. There are more poorly designed stories available to purchase on the cheap then there are obscure music references in Stephen King books.

The amateur writers of today have no need for skill refinement when there’s money to be made! You might think it’s difficult to hop on this gravy train, because completing a long series of words is hard when there’s TV to watch. But don’t worry, it’s easy! So instead of taking years out of your life to hone your wordcraft, join the flood and earn a few bucks by writing a terrible novel!


Step 1: Make sure your main character does absolutely nothing.

The first hallmark of a terrible novel is having your main character sit on a stump and contemplate existence for twenty-seven pages. If you’re feeling a little less adventurous, sit them in a diner or on their couch. It doesn’t matter if the story takes place in the past, present, future, your backyard, an alternate dimension, or a planet devoid of gluten. Setting is less important than exploring an unstable mass of delicate complexes.

No one cares about where or when, as long as you meander through eleven murky philosophical debates through your protagonist’s mind. Also, it is absolutely essential that you muddle any and all progression of events. You want your readers to assume that you are so good at writing they won’t even be sure what they just read made any sense!

  • I found myself on the beach thinking about peace, and what it would take to obtain it. An end to war? Perhaps, but humankind is far too primal to give up hostilities. To be hostile is part of human nature, a part of real nature. Nature is hostile with itself, dog eat dog. It’s psychological, emotional, zestful, and like the wind. It’s like many things. Peace is like the wind. Peace is war. War is peace. Nothing is truly peaceful, except peace itself. And war, because that is also a type of peace, brought along by a vicious cycle of peace and war and wind.


Step 2: Have your characters eat all the time.

When it comes time for your protagonist to interact with other characters, stage almost every scene around a meal. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner is what all bad stories focus on. Everyone eats, so meals provide a perfect opportunity to show just how relatable and stale your characters are. It’s also a good time for product placement, so you can let especially sharp readers know what you enjoy when you’re not pounding out three terrible novels a day.

Sure, it may be more interesting to read about relationships or ninjas, but food absolutely has to have a presence. The more descriptive, the better. You want your reader to feel like they’re biting into chocolate cake while not actually experiencing any pleasure. Make sure you hit every bodily sense, too, lest your reader forget what cheese looks like. Your readers won’t even notice the awful, sporadic, and very narrow character advancement happening around that handcrafted mahogany dinner table. At the very least, it will make your characters even more boring!

  • Danny grabbed his plate and placed a mountain of garlic mashed potatoes on top. He scooped up a handful of green beans, too. He waited behind his sister, eager to get a piece of chicken their mother made. He could smell it, too, even from two feet away. Rosemary, lemon, and… was that flower pepper? Ooh, he was in for a treat. His taste buds were already waiting, and he could just imagine that in a few minutes he’d be biting down into his favorite dish. He picked up his fork, and then a knife. Danny thought about the last time he had his mom’s Rosemary chicken, and how it made him feel calm. Calm was good, not that he ever got angry at all. At last, his sister moved out of the way and the prize of mom’s chicken was his. Sweet, savory, supple chicken breast topped with a balsamic glaze was all he could think about.


Step 3: Set up a lot of plot points and don’t resolve them at all.

This is for our more advanced writers. “Plot points,” as we in the novel business call them, are things that happen in the story that promise some kind of climax or resolution. Your job as an author of a terrible novel is to make sure every idea you set up just goes away with no satisfaction. Especially terrible novels will start with a premise and will do absolutely nothing of importance with it, instead opting to take an entirely different route.

Good writers come back to a premise and revisit it with fresh eyes, making the reader want to read the story again. Your readers don’t care about any of that! They need meandering, head-scratching stream-of-consciousness stories that will leave them with hours of their lives well-burned, like extra crispy chicken tenders. Doesn’t that sound appetizing?

  • Sally punched the bully with her fist. Then, out of nowhere, an alien ship descended and brought her aboard. She was roughly guided to the cockpit, and was astonished to see Chuck Norris! Chuck Norris turned to her and pointed behind her, and he punched the aliens with a hidden fist in his beard. Sally fell in love in that moment, and she and Chuck Norris flew around the galaxy together on the most romantic honeymoon ever. The End.


Step 4: Describe everything unimportant with as many unnecessary words as possible.

Finally, you really, really, really want to impress your readers with your ability to page through a thesaurus with the skill of a 14-year-old writing his first English paper. Crack open that thesaurus and get to work affixing every adjective and adverb you can think of to describe a tree. Make sure to use words you don’t even understand either, because if you don’t know what you’re saying, your audience certainly won’t know the difference.

It’s not just that the tree was tall, it was stupendously tall. It was also bark-adorned, vibrationally thick, loquaciously supple, and as vigorously enigmatic as a tree could possibly get. After describing this photonically gifted floral organism, be sure to have your character touch it for an enraptured, zestful moment, then never, ever revisit the tree or even mention why it was important that your readers had to know it was zestful, supple, and amoriously vigilant in the first place. Also, never spell-check your complicated sounding words. Shakespeare didn’t have spell-check, you know!

  • Gloria rambunctiously rested in the gloriously spread-out fluffy meadow. The malodorous bee-droppings had a zestfully sublime defiance about them, as if the pistils of the cyan-blue flora dangerously dared the black and gold behemoths to vigorously sample their ample collective postulators. Gloria thought about grasping the base of the stem and tugging mightily to upheave the cyan-blue floral beauty, like she wished Phil had done for her on their laboriously enrapturing, yearly tradition among their closest gregarious friends. Also, they ate pie that day.
RELATED: 6 Terrible Life Lessons Learned By Playing Final Fantasy.

There are plenty more examples to learn from! Write your terrible novel today!

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  • Greg Trombley


  • I'm an RDU-based novelist and passionate champion of scientific progression. Nature and science live side-by-side in my heart. I clean dinosaur bones in my spare time, and love reading about local history. All my articles.

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