Follow TV Tropes


YMMV / How NOT to Write a Novel

Go To

  • Do Not Do This Cool Thing: "The Fig Leaf" mentions how some authors will describe a titillating scene in salacious detail, then apologize for it by having the protagonist express their distaste. The book recommends against this, and suggests that if exploitative scenes are to be shown, the author should embrace sleaziness wholeheartedly.
  • Everyone Is Jesus in Purgatory: Discussed in "The Reading Group Guide" in regards to the synopsis, in that you should only bring up facts, lest the synopsis ends up longer than your novel.
  • Genius Bonus
    • Their slam on Shown Their Work throws in a whopper. The biologist mentions sexual reproduction's origin in algae 2.7 million years ago. That error is off by a factor of about a thousand.note  We don't have a common ancestor with algae at this time; any common ancestor between humans and algae would have lived long before this. Due to Stylistic Suck, it's impossible to tell if the authors were sneaking in one more example of how important research is, including a little bonus, or failing biology forever while telling authors they cannot afford to make such mistakes themselves.
    • Other such bonuses show up everywhere. In "The Long Runway", in a moment not related to the subject they're demonstrating, Reynaldo mentions cancelling his pangolin lessons. While "pangolin" certainly sounds like the name of some sort of musical instrument, a pangolin is an animal vaguely resembling an armadillo.
  • Advertisement:
  • Hilarious in Hindsight: In the chapter about how not to pitch a novel, they warn against trying to sell fanfiction to a publisher, instead advising writers to "go back and change all the names". Three years later, Fifty Shades of Grey, a novel which originated as Twilight fan fiction, was published to massive commercial success.
  • Nausea Fuel: "The Unruly Zit" is this intentionally. It's part of an example saying that making one scene disgusting is okay if that was your intention, but discourage making the entire novel like that, since no one likes being disgusted.
  • Pet-Peeve Trope: While its hard to disagree with most of the advice given, some of the tropes mentioned are more mild annoyances the authors have rather than ones you should actively avoid to not be seen as the worst writer ever, such as the Pet's Homage Name and their heavy discouragement of Post-Modernism.
  • Advertisement:
  • Shocking Swerve: "Dear Penthouse Letters" is when a sex scene occurs without foreplay, while "'And One Ring to Bind Them!' Said the Old Cowpoke" has a Genre Shift happen near the end of the novel with no buildup. In both instances, it effectively ruins the mood.
    This type of ending is a special instance of deus ex machina, known as the folie adieu, which is French for "Are you FUCKING kidding me?"
  • Squick: Nearly all of "Special Effects and Novelty Acts—DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME".
    • The "half a kitten" analogy.
    Giving a reader a sex scene that is only half right is like giving her half of a kitten. It is not half as cute as a whole kitten; it is a bloody, godawful mess.


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: