Thursday, September 8, 2011

HOW TO WRITE Really Bad Fiction and Enjoy the Benefits

...of Rapid Rejection

 (Please give a warm welcome to my returning guest Hank Quense)

By Hank Quense
© 2011
Originally published by March 2011

I'm an author of five books and over forty short stories along with a number of fiction writing articles. From my experience, I've learned a number important lessons and I want to pass them onto others. One important lesson involves getting a book published; it changes your life. No longer can you sit in your office and spend your time writing more fiction. Once you become a published author, you also become the book's marketing manager and its sales manager, a terrifying situation if you're not prepared for it.

To protect others from the trauma of this situation, I've put together a list of fiction writing techniques that will guarantee non-publication. Following them will ensure a rapid reply from editors who will use a preprinted form or a terse email. This rapid reply will allow you to maximize the rejections you receive in a given period of time.

Here is the list in no particular order:

• Always use adverbs! Lots and lots of adverbs. One of your writing objectives should be to use an adverb to modify at least fifty percent of your verbs. And don't forget about using them in dialog tags. Why show the reader a woman shredding a paper tissue? Make it easy on the poor readers. Tell them the woman is nervous. Thus, "He's making me so fidgety," she said nervously.

• A naked noun is evil! Adjectives exist to be used. Their primary purpose is to modify a noun, so make use of this most excellent writing technique. Load up your nouns with modifiers so the reader will have no doubts about the noun. "The skinny, ugly guy wore a hideous, ripped t-shirt, dirty, baggy pants and shredded sneakers." Here's an even better example of clever adjective usage: "The scrawny boy used his undersized biceps to try to pick up the clumsy weight and place it in the old-fashioned truck before the foul-mouthed old man became aware of his clever trickery." Get the idea? Remember, a naked noun is e-v-i-l!

• Use conversation. Don't limit yourself to dialog. Conversation is the stuff of life. Don't allow your characters to be stuck inside the story by restricting them to dialog that moves the story forward. Make your characters more life-like by letting them engage in idle conversation just like real people do.
" How you doing?"
"I'm cool. What's up?"
"I'm good. Couldn't be better. Watching the Yankees tonight?
"Who they playing? . . . Yada, yada, yada.
This stuff doesn't move the story along like dialog does, but it shows the characters are just as boring as real folk.

• Motivation is overdone. To properly show motivation requires a lot of creativity, time and words. It is much better to skip over that part and get right into the action. So what if the guy disarming the ticking bomb is only doing it because his shift doesn't end for two hours and he doesn't have anything better to do. The character doesn't have any motivation, but who cares; it keeps the story moving and doesn't slow it down with a lot of words explaining the motivation.

• Don't worry about Point of View rules. POV is perhaps the most technical of all aspects of writing and handling it correctly is time-consuming and requires advanced planning. Who needs all that extra work when there is another scene to write or another crisis to defuse. Most of the readers will figure it out and sort of follow the story.

• It's wise to develop writing habits such as peppering the page with -ing words. This technique will give your writing a pleasing sing-song effect. "Opening the door and running down the corridor while waving her hand, she tried shouting, calling attention to her life-threatening situation." Doesn't that sentence make you want to hum along from all the -ing words?

• Use empty words. Very, really, ever, still, just and others are words with no meaning but they do fill up sentences and make them look more impressive. Fiction writing is filled with opportunities to use these words and titillate the readers. With a bit of imagination, you can also use these words to punctuate the sentence.

• Why bother with multiple-dimensional characters? Flat characters work just as well. Flat characters can fight, love and die just as well as the more complicated ones, but take considerably less work. The simple approach gives you more time to write still more stories.

• Character Voice. This attribute allows the reader to identify the characters from their dialog "voices." What nonsense. That's what names are for. Just use the names in all the lines of dialog and the readers will be able to keep the characters straight.

Keep this list near your keyboard and refer to it frequently. Within a short time, your friends and family will be impressed by the huge stack of rejection notices you've accumulated. A side benefit is that your family will know you're really doing something in your office. Right now, they probably think you're goofing off and playing computer games.

If you chose to ignore this excellent advice, there are alternatives listed in my book, Build a Better Story. Note that following the advice in Build a Better Story can significantly increase the response time from editors. 

Hank's latest project is Zaftan Miscreants: Book 2 of the Zaftan Trilogy.  It will become available on October 15, 2011.  He assures me he didn't use any of these techniques in the process of writing the novel.

He started a new website to handle the growing number of stories set in Gundarland and Zaftan 31B:

Thanks so much, Hank. Please come back soon! 

Other quest spots by Hank:


  1. Howdy Hank,
    Fantastic! Note the usage of an exclamation mark (!) for dramatic impact!
    Hey, I is likin' your advice and your handy-type tips are just what I can relate too. Me? I'm like totally into 'grandma anarchy'...whoops...'grammar anarchy'. I'm keeping your list near my lil' ol' keyboard cause Hank, this is like some of the bestest darn techniques my eyes have ever cast themselves on. May I add one of my favourites ('favorites' as an American would spell it). That of course would be the run-on sentence with the over-usage of the conjunction word 'and' and we know that 'and' can be a vital element in any notable run-on sentence which if you keep reading leaves you gasping for breath because you wonder when the heck the run-on sentence peppered with 'ands' and lack of commas is actually going to finally end and then for no apparent reason without any commas it ends abruptly!
    Thanks Hank. You is like my latest hero n' stuff! :)
    In kindness and a Toronto Blue Jays t-shirt, your way, Gary

  2. Hi Joylene and Hank .. I'm glad Gary commented first .. I can very simply endorse him and add my 'ands' and my ellipses ... as I'm very fond of them.

    But as a good typist must I hit the enter key fairly often and break my terrible 'speak' up ...

    Sure know what to do if I want to sit by the fire all winter and all the winters to come just writing .. just writing - no point in wasting the stamp for the query!

    Cheers .. great fun - Hilary

  3. Gary! Nobody welcomes a guest quite like you do. That was wonderful. You're wonderful! You and all your ANDs and exclamation marks and well all that other stuff.

  4. I like the Enter Key too, Hilary. I especially like the !!! and the .... As you know, I, Joylene, grandma, have a new baby to swoon over, so, I'm finding myself in possession of a mite full of "ahhhha" these days.

    Thanks Hilary for stopping by. Best to your mama.

  5. Gary

    You can win any "run on sentence contest" with the one you just wrote

  6. Hi Nancy and Carrie, thanks for stopping by. Isn't it great to have a list to follow?

  7. Dear Joylene and Hank,

    Thanks awfully and greatly--this list can be my new miniBible.

  8.'' keep handy at all times!

    Good points!

  9. Even though I wrote this article, I still go back and review these do's occasionally, not to edit them, but to remind myself what I should be writing. I find it invaluable in that regard.

  10. @Hi Shethra. Thanks for stopping by. Your "new miniBible"... I like that. Hope you writing lots of poems. One day a book maybe?

    @Hi Carol. I'm glad you enjoy Hank's sense of humour. Myself, I learn better through humour too.

    @Hank, I don't blame you. No matter how prolific a writer is, getting on top of mistakes is a must. Thanks again!

  11. Hey, this is real good stuff. I've been planning on redecorating my office, and all those rejection slips are going to save me a bundle at the wallpaper store. Thanks.

  12. Thank you, Jim. Yeah, I wish I'd read this before collecting all my rejections. Have a great weekend.

  13. Do you have suggestions for someone looking for a particular shade of rejection letter? I'd like them to match my couch...

  14. M.L, hi. Now you've got me thinking. Should I wallpaper the bathroom first or go big and do the dining room? And the next time I send out a query letter, I should ask for their rejection in diamond squares of black and white.

  15. Very funny post - thanks for sharing. Some of the comments are just as funny!

  16. Thanks, Karen. Yes, I know some very talented funny people. Love when that happens. Hope your weekend is great.

  17. Hey, Joylene and Hank! Thanks so much for this great interview! There's a lot of good stuff here for writers, so thank you.

    And many congrats to both of you on your publishing accomplishments! I wish you many more.

  18. LOL I love irony for teaching. That was fun!

  19. @Lauren, thank you for your kind words. I can't speak for Hank, but having to books to hold and smell is pretty kewl indeed. Hope your weekend's great.

    @Hi Amanda. I agree. I just wish they'd make humour part of the curriculum. It sure would have helped my sons.

  20. Wonderful post! I love how instead of a to-do list, you used a to-don't list. :) Made it much more fun to read.


  21. Thanks, Adriana. Yes, Hank's humour and wisdom is a wonderful gift.

  22. This is wonderful advice and I got my laugh for the evening. I wonder how many I am guilty of?

  23. By way of background, I didn't set out to write a list like this. I started to write a list of writing to-dos: avoid adverbs, show don't tell etc. I stopped and asked myself, "why are you doing this? There must be hundreds of lists like this on the web. The world doesn't ned another one."
    So using a technique I often employ in writing my stories, I looked at the list from the opposite side and discovered the world needed a list of to-dos on how not to get published.

  24. @Hi Harley. I think we're all guilty of some some of the time. That's why editing and revising is so much fun. If we got it right the first time, imagine how boring editing would be.

    @Hank, your approach to the list was brilliant. You certainly got our attention. Do you have a list on how to market to be unsuccessful?

  25. Joylene. What a brilliant idea. I have a lot of experience with unsuccessful marketing. Actually, unsuccessful marketing is then only kind I do. I'm an expert on this subject. I AM ON IT!

  26. Hank, that's excellent. Can't wait!

  27. FYI When I'm not writing fiction or articles, I'm the CEO, editor and reporter (under a dozen names) for the Faux News Network. Our motto is, "We make it up so you don't have to." FNN reports are available exclusively on my blog Click on the "follow me" button to ensure you'll know about every FNN report.

  28. Thanks for the link, Hank. I checked it out and I see what you mean. Fascinating reports. Thanks again for being my guest. I look forward to your next visit.


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