Never-Fail Formula for Writing a Book That Won’t Become a Bestseller

Blogger: Cynthia Ruchti

Never-fail formulaMaybe it’s not discussed often enough in writers’ circles. We talk about what we can do to ready our work for a publisher’s eyes. We list ways to draw readers’ attention with our novels or nonfiction.

Who’s offering us a never-fail formula for writing lousy books with little chance of gaining reader interest?

It’s about time, isn’t it?

The never-fail formula is less complicated than one might think.

Don’t finish the manuscript.

Completing a manuscript is an important accomplishment that inches an author closer to the goal of publication, even if this book isn’t the first one to be published. Statistics tell us that it isn’t uncommon for an author’s first published book to be the fourth he or she completes. So, if you’re intent on avoiding publication or are allergic to the idea of reaching readers, whatever you do, don’t finish the book.

Rely on Wikipedia alone when researching.

Good writers know to confirm their research with at least three other reliable sources and at least one unrelated to internet information. So if you want to write bad books, stick to Wikipedia.

Let your muse do all the heavy lifting.

Logic is overrated. Great books–you know, the ones we’re trying to avoid writing–have solid structure and logical progression. So consider abandoning all attempts at story progression, pacing, character arcs, believability…

Whatever you do, ignore the people who tell you a first draft isn’t your final draft.

Rewriting is for the professionals. Amateurs know better.

Disable the computer functions that point out misspellings or grammatical concerns.

If you can’t disable the function, ignore the squiggly or doubled-straight blue, red, or green underlining on your manuscript. Make sure you have plenty of them remaining in proposals you submit to agents or editors, too. It’ll prove your skill at avoidance.

Leave reader felt-needs out of the equation.

Reader felt-needs will make you work too hard when you write. They’ll make you care. Who needs that hassle?

When caught between a big, fancy word and one that communicates clearly, opt for the brobdingnagian.

Enough said.

Refuse all professional counsel about your book.

Stand your ground. never-fail writingAfter all, you’re not trying to write a bestseller.

Spend at least as much time on excuse-making as you do with your fingers on the keyboard.

Your next book may be about excuse-making.


Using your best attempt at satire, what would you suggest we add to the list? What else is involved in creating a book destined to go nowhere?


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49 Responses

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  1. Everyone will be more captivated by my life story than I am because . . . I am the most interesting person. Ever.

  2. Some of the most enjoyable writing/reading is that in which we have our tongue firmly embedded in our cheek. This was an enjoyable read except for those parts that hit me right between the eyes. I really wrestle with some of the counsel I get from my critique group. I don’t want to dig my heels into the soil, but when you have multiple people telling you the same thing … … It’s time to switch on the ears, to listen, to swallow that nagging pride, and do what needs to be done to improve the work.

  3. Spend all your time on facebook telling people how much you are writing, taking screenshots of recently written words, and bemoaning the state of publishing in the Americas.

  4. Nothing succeeds like success, so take ;proven ideas, make them your own, and build from there. Think of the adulation that your new series will receive, the one about the Amish vampires Elizabeth and Jane Bennet and the seemingly haughty but seriously buff Mr. Darcy (might he be a werewolf?), inhabitants of a dystopian future who are forced to participate in a lethal competition, the Thirst Games…and are rescued by zombies who have set up a cartel dealing in zippers, earrings, and other forbidden items

  5. Make sure you include as much solid backstory as possible. Paragraphs and paragraphs, even multiple whole chapters at the beginning of the book. Since you’re interested in when your protagonist switched from bottles to baby food, your readers need to know too!

  6. Carol Ashby says:

    Can I use Lilliputian? Surely everyone knows that one.
    *I like your advice about Wiki-only research. I actually built a working platform off the books I bought to get my Roman history right.
    *I’d add if you haven’t done something yourself, watch a how-to video before writing that scene. I learned how to drive the Model T planetary transmission from an Australian video for my 1925 Colorado novel after a Genesis judge pointed out my error in assuming the T transmission was like the sticks of today. For driving chariots, I’d recommend the newest Ben Hur.

  7. CJ Myerly says:

    The more, the merrier. Keep adding characters. It’s not a worthwhile story until you have at least 30. Then, don’t forget to add in heavy accents–and you must dictate with exactly how each word is pronounced.

    Cliches are what make a book great. Use them. All the time.

    • Carol Ashby says:

      This is a great idea as long as you include a Cast of Characters list at the start. You can include all the important backstory details there. Don’t worry if it runs more than 6 pages. Your readers need to know that the hero and villain are 3rd cousins on their mothers’ side.

    • Cynthia Ruchti says:

      Great “counsel,” CJ. More laughter!

  8. Carol Ashby says:

    Serious note: Andrew’s having a worse-than-normal bad day and would appreciate prayers.

  9. I think my readers need to know that my books come to me in dreams from God, and if they don’t read them, they can kiss financial prosperity goodbye.
    Click like if you agree. I know which of my friends will click like, and which ones won’t.
    (PS-I DESPISE those kinds of posts…)

  10. Carol Ashby says:

    Thanks to my brilliant critique partner, awry ended up as part of the back copy of my first novel. I really like that word…but not when it’s actually happening to me.

    That brings up another strategy for success: write your back copy so you reveal every twist and turn of the plot to show how clever the book is to make people want to buy it.

  11. Nancy Lohr says:

    If you happen to finish the manuscript and move to publication–whether traditional or self-published–do not allow the professional editors, designers, marketers to spend their expertise on your behalf. Your name is on the front, so every decision should be yours. What could possibly go wrong?

  12. Oh, my goodness. You have made me laugh. I don’t think I can add anything at this point. But I loved the big word one. I struggle with this (not personally, because I don’t use big words) … I don’t mind learning meanings of new words, but looking up a word kind of throws me out of the story. And I’ll never remember what the word means, and I promise I’ll never use it in speaking or writing. But some of my favorite authors do this. I’m not sure why. But I’d never complain … I’ll just look it up and dig back into the story. Sometimes you can guess the meaning, but sometimes, you really need to know.

  13. David Todd says:

    Although I must say, concerning Wikipedia, that I’ve never found it wrong on engineering things. Several times I’ve looked up things there, used the information, and later happened upon another source the proved Wiki was correct. The same is true for several literature topics I’ve researched. Generally speaking, the quality of any Wiki article is immediately obvious.
    But, I wouldn’t use it for medical topics research.

    • Cynthia Ruchti says:

      David, I too have found that Wikipedia is often right and informative. Those in the know have the opportunity to correct any incorrect information. But it harkens back to my high school term papers when my English teacher reminded us to cite our sources and confirm with the rule of three. 🙂

  14. David Todd says:

    And, as a corollary to your fifth point:
    Accept every grammatical correction your word processing program suggests.

  15. Keli Gwyn says:

    Don’t sweat the small stuff such as punctuation, spelling and grammar. That’s what editors are for.

  16. Pat Iacuzzi says:

    Really afraid to post to professional authors, agents & editors sites as my comments might be considered irrational. (This is true–just posted here today first time). = FEAR.

  17. Barb Roose says:

    Super-fun approach to remind us of the importance of humility. Thanks!

  18. Carol Ashby says:

    Use lots of slang, jargon, and obscure acronyms, especially ones that are similar to commonly used ones, and don’t provide a glossary. Also, throw in lots of foreign words. This will give your book an international flair. It’s OK to have a glossary for these, but don’t include the Spanish and French words because every educated person ought to know those already.

  19. Swati Chavda says:

    Also, adverbs are your friends. Use them lovingly, generously, scintillatingly, at every chance you get. Never miss opportunities to sneak them in. Not unless you want to fail miserably at becoming astoundingly successful.

  20. Good points. I found that to get over the hump I had to go out and hire professional counsel. Bringing the right people on my team got me from aspiring to published–and into the category of award finalist for debut novels.
    Prayer, persistence, and patience!