Day One of July Blogging Month

Well, this is exciting. A whole month of me blathering at youse. And, hopefully, youse lot blathering back at me in them there comments below.

I’m overcome with joy at the prospect. So overjoyed that I know that I said I wouldn’t blog on the weekend but this year the 1st of July is a Sunday and I couldn’t not blog on the very first day of my blogging month, now could I?

I thought I would start with some frivolity. Did you see #badwritingtips on twitter? There were some truly awesome ones. I loved Elizabeth Knox’s “Begin as many sentences as possible with a verb + ‘ing’, it makes everything so much more active.” Cracking good advice!1 You should all follow her.

Here are the bad writing tips I tweeted:

Repetition’s your friend. Really & truly repetition’s truly your friend. Repeat things or your readers really won’t remember.

Make sure you have a prologue. Make sure it’s as long as your book.

Ha, yes, @mysterysquid, a prologue is even better if it has absolutely no bearing on the book that follows it.

“Really” “you know” “actually” and “just” are the most useful and versatile words. Make sure you use them A LOT.

Don’t use specific details. Rather than describing actual smells call them “pungent” or “redolent”. Details slow the story.

It is always much better to use your precious writing time coming up with #badwritingtips than, you know, actually writing.

The last few huge bestsellers I read did all of these things.2 Seems to be the rule that to become a giant, world-wide, sell-millions-upon-millions bestseller you do, in fact, have to write in a way that the majority of the writers and readers I know would describe as “bad writing.”

The theory behind this is that for a book to sell in those insane numbers it has to be picked up by people who don’t normally read books. And that those kind of readers therefore haven’t learnt the reading protocols that frequent readers have. Thus clunky, obvious, repetitious writing works for those newer readers in ways it doesn’t for us jaded, sophisticated readers.

I suspect it’s a lot more complicated than that. Because that does not explain all the hard-core readers who read the mega-bestsellers. They can’t all be reading them to point and laugh and write side-splittingly funny one-star reviews.3

Not to mention that there are mega-bestsellers that aren’t full of this kind of “bad writing.” The Harry Potter books for instance. Especially the third one.4 For my tastes, they do get too big and insufficiently tightly edited as they go on but even then they are not full of the cringe-inducing repetition and generic descriptions of more recent bestsellers.5

Basically I don’t think we can explain how these mega-bestsellers happen. It’s kismet.

Any of youse got some entertaining crappy writing tips?

So this is the first of almost thirty posts this month. Feel free to suggest topics in the comments.

I leave you with a link to this really funny musical number about internet trolls and bullies. It’s very NSFW6 as it includes language that I know upsets many people. I loved it. My apologies to everyone who’s already watched it a million times and is now over it.

Happy July Blogging Month!

Team Human Alert: So, um, I have a new book out, Team Human, which I wrote with Sarah Rees Brennan and which publishes in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the USA this very week!

You can read the first chapter or take a squiz at some reviews or read about how Sarah and I wrote it together.

This week there’ll be a twitter chat where you can ask us whatever you want about Team Human organised by our US publisher, Harper Collins. It will be held on Tuesday 3 July at 6pm US East coast time. (That’s 8AM Wednesday 4 July for East Coast Australian types.) The hashtag to use is: #THchat

There’ll also be an online chat with Sunday 8 July 8PM US-ET (5PM Pacific Time, 10AM Monday AUS-ET) Scott Westerfeld will be me and Sarah Rees Brennan about Team Human. Mostly we’ll be discussing what it’s like to collaborate on a novel.Click here to find out how to take part.

  1. I cheated and made my gerund a modifier. Whatever. []
  2. Well, okay, not the prologue thing. []
  3. Yes, one of my favourite things in the world is reading the most popular one-star reviews of the most popular books. They are an art form! []
  4. My favourite. []
  5. Which I am not going to name. Because I don’t diss living writers. Not on the permanent record anyways. []
  6. NSFW = Not Safe For Work. Yes, I know you know that but there’s always someone who doesn’t know and is bad at google. []


  1. jennifer laughran on #


  2. Justine on #


  3. Gwenda on #

    Look, here I am, commenting!

    It seems true that bestsellers and Everything Else are almost different beasts, in pure writing terms. Have you heard about the Hit Lit book? It’s written by a professor who studied the major bestsellers of the century to identify what he feels are the common elements among them. I must admit I want to read it, as this is an endlessly fascinating topic…

    But for now back to trying to write good.

    (See commenting! Not much content, but points earned surely? Did I mention I’m on deadline? *weeps*)

  4. Justine on #

    Gwenda: I tried to write like that for a came-to-nothing-ghostwritten project back in the day. As that was what they seemed to want. It was disturbingly easy.

    Good luck with your deadline!

  5. Cyndy Otty on #

    Yay Team Human! Very excited to get my grubby little hands on my copy. (Okay, my hands will be decidedly clean since I’ll be reading on Kindle, but that didn’t sound nearly as cool did it?)

    Also, the third HP book is my favorite, too. This may also be part of why it is my least favorite of the films.

  6. Leah Cutter on #

    Readers don’t read for grammar. They don’t notice the things that a writer will. Readers read for story. You’re a story teller. Your medium happens to be writing. Respect the reader and tell a good story. They aren’t wrong.

    I’m looking forward to your posts this month. I am buying “Team Human” for the young woman who I mentor, who loves your writing and will eat up everything you write, regardless of grammar or “proper” English.

  7. Jenna Rose on #

    Harry Potter Book 3 – COSIGN. It is my favorite one. Oh pre-angst Sirius Black, how you slay me. 🙂

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