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How to write a great novel or advice for an aspiring writer How to write a great novel or advice for an aspiring writer
by Alexander Mikhaylov
2007-11-04 09:59:29
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When art becomes a plaything of politics, it ceases to be art and turns into propaganda. When it follows political or social fad, it becomes trash. It is especially noticeable when an utterly stupid, half-cooked book suddenly touches real themes. It is also at this very moment when it starts to generating absurdities and trivia at the highest speed.

Great many contemporary books turn me into an unreasonable person. For instance, they always leave me with an urge to collect banalities. I used to ponder on this until I decided to write something of it down. That is how I ended up with this open letter: ‘How to write a great novel or advice for an aspiring writer’.

Dear aspiring writer:

So you want to write a book. Let me explain to you how it might be done easily and with the best result.

Step one:

Set an exciting backdrop for your novel. Your best bet is either Europe or USA. If you wish to set your story in Europe, place it in Paris. Even if you have never been, go ahead. Everybody knows that Paris exists. But please, don’t even mention such places as Finland, Norway, Denmark, Poland, etc. or you’ll have to spend a half of your book trying to explain where the hell those places are (risking that many of your future readers won’t believe you anyway).


Rome is all right, but rather complicated: you have to mention the Pope, the Italian mafia, spaghetti, ‘Stepfather’ movies, Robert De Niro, the Coliseum, Leonardo da Vinci - but avoid Leonardo Di Caprio at all cost, Michelangelo and the canals of Venice, a lot of confusing stuff in short. The canals of Venice are actually situated in Venice, not in Rome, so, oh well, perhaps you’d better not touch Rome after all. Still, as an aspiring writer you have to know how to use cultural associations well.

For instance: Tokyo – ninjas and green tea. Moscow – mafia and vodka.Finland – snow and well…more snow. Sweden – welfare society and Abba. Eastern Europe – the Iron Curtain and communism. Berlin – World War II and the Berlin Wall, and so on.

Of course, you might ditch it all and set your book in a truly exotic place, something utterly outrageous, like say in the steppes of Mongolia. There are no steppes in Mongolia, just a desert, but do not let it stop you. Naturally, most people would think you are talking about the Moon, or simply joking, but at least you will be original.

Main characters

Create at least one strong feminine character. It can be anyone, so long as it’s the daughter of an alcoholic or millionaire. She must be no younger than 27 and no older than 32. She is single, unengaged and extremely good-looking. Key words are: brusque, perky, critical, independent, sexy, inquisitive. Do not forget to mention ‘hazel eyes’, ‘auburn hair’ and ‘sensual lips’. She is lonely, traumatized and unhappy. She’s either unemployable or her profession is journalism or politics. Under no circumstances make her blonde! Her mother is either dead (car accident, cancer) or dying (from cancer). If you are a rather more upbeat type of a writer, use breast cancer instead but I think leukemia is the best type of cancer, since it won’t require you to elaborate on medical details.

If the heroine is well-to-do, then she lives with her father (politician, CEO or another VIP). If she is poor, she has never met her father. In both cases, she hates her father. Also do not forget to mention that she had some dangerous accident or traumatic experience in her childhood (molestation, rape) but do not elaborate too much. Just drop a few hints.

Male characters

If you’re talking about a VIP or such, always use words like ‘power’, ‘powerful’, ‘to gain power’, ‘saturnine’ (I’m not sure about that one though), ‘power lunch’ (or breakfast, dinner, etc.), ‘appetite for power’, power ties, etc. In short, a typical male character (if he is not a loser) is into power and sex. It is OK to make him a collector of antiquities (fake). In case your male personage is a college teacher, then he should be a poet, an ex-hippie, an alcoholic and impotent.

Even if you are writing a comedy, or a family story, or anything, mention a dead body right at the start (I believe it is called ‘an attention grabber’).

Always include in your book

Inspirational speech:

Ever since Gladiator and Master and Commander, inspirational speeches are a must, not only for movies but also for books. Do not sweat over details and make it pleasantly sentimental but vague – a few words about ‘freedom’, ‘freedom fighters’ and so on will suffice.


Every decent book must have at least one hard-core villain. Choose your villain well. Unfortunately, black-eyed Sicilians, brutal Irishmen and drunken Russians with golden teeth, hairy arms and KGB connections are not fashionable any longer. Middle Easterners and Muslim Fundamentalists are still going strong but you would better get yourself updated. Simply browse all latest political news.

In crime stories, political thrillers, even stories about children always include a sexual maniac, who is lurking behind the house.

I’ll never understand for the life of me why every contemporary book and movie contains at least one detailed scene of childbirth (not to mention rape and wife beating as well). Well, to be on the safe side, just throw in those things also.


Language is important. Use as many useless adjectives as you can. Squeeze your thesaurus! Also, keep in mind that your prospective reader is mostly a semi-literate moron – so please include one ‘educated’ word, such as ‘precipitate’ for example, on every page of your writing. It will demonstrate your mastery of language and impress your reader immensely. Other than that, keep your prose inanely simplistic.

In final chapters:

Do not forget to kill your villain at the end. A scene of his death should be dynamic. Description of the dying process should be as prolonged as possible, with a healthy amount of gory details. In fact, an actual quantity of blood, broken bones and such depends on the evilness of your villain. The more stubborn and evil he is, the bloodier his end should be. (If you feel that you cannot convey this to your future reader, imagine a particularly annoying fly that had kept bothering you all afternoon. Imagine a deep feeling of satisfaction when you have finally smashed it into a pulp. You should convey similar feelings to your reader when you describe the villain’s death.)

For those who want to write a historical novel:

Please remember that life was not drastically different back then. It is OK to make your 19th century English governess to think and act like 21st century feminist. Knights and lords must speak with forcefulness and vigor, just like rock 'n' roll radio station announcers. For a historical detail, it’s nice to mention that tampons were not widely used in medieval times and for a sexy touch you might note that underwear is a recent invention as well. That will demonstrate the breadth and depth of your erudition.


Don’t forget to throw a bone or two to all those bloody environmentalists: include a couple of rude remarks about McDonald's but don’t go too far.

Now, let me give you the last and the greatest tip:

Unless you are a hopeless dreamer or a dangerous idealist, your literary goal would be to get your book published. Do not feel scared. It is not as Herculean a task as it seems. To accomplish this you will need to:

  1. Marry a literary agent.
  2. Marry the son or daughter of a literary agent.
  3. Marry the son or a daughter of a publisher.
  4. Turn yourself into a prominent politician (or a movie star, or a rock star, or any other celebrity and then no matter what kind of nonsense you write your book will be instantly published.)
  5. Publish your book yourself (after that simply distribute hard copies of your book to all your friends and relatives, your dentist, your hairdresser, your neighbors, etc.)

In addition:

  1. Hire an experienced ghostwriter to write your book for you.
  2. Hire a team of experienced ghostwriters/consultants to write your book for you.
  3. Let your publisher hire a team of experienced ghostwriters/consultants to write your book for you.

If you still insist on writing it ‘any old way’, meaning by yourself, then I am washing my hands of you. And oh! I almost forgot!

Never include 'The End'! In case your book will become famous, you should be able to continue with your story as long as your contract states. Once you have written ten or so books and your five or ten year contract is over, do not sit on your hands: start it over again. It will be much easier for you the second time around: simply change the names and some minor details and you are in business once more!

Well, Good Luck!


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Get it off your chest
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Sand2007-11-04 20:45:59
Considering what a lethal world we live in it's rather delightful to know that nobody knows where Finland is,

Matt Williamson2007-11-16 21:20:41
**Looks up where Finland is**

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