How Not to Be a Successful Author

I love to write. I’ve always loved to write. And I’ve always wanted to be a professional, published author with a book on the New York Times Bestseller List. But I’m not. Because I’ve carefully crafted a formula for never getting a book published and I’ve followed that formula to the letter (pun intended) for the last 10 years.

If you too want never to publish a novel, please, by all means, read and follow the steps below.

Step 1: Talk about one day being a great novelist constantly. Seriously. Tell anyone who will listen that you plan on writing the next great American novel and that you have some really amazing ideas in your head just waiting to be put to paper. Really bring home the idea that you can write and write well so that when, in a few years, people ask you about it, you can mention how busy you are but that you’ve written a few short pieces here and there. They’ll know that eventually you’ll sit down to write an entire novel.

Step 2: Become an English teacher. Here, you will be surrounded by brilliant and fabulous stories which will inspire you regularly, but since they are all so good, it will effectively stomp all over your self-esteem because you didn’t really think you could write an entire novel, did you? Who do you think you are? Jane Austen? J.K. Rowling? Some other author that you admire ardently and are super intimidated by?

Step 3: Blog. As often as you wish and about you whatever you want. It’s great practice for writing really short pieces, pieces that are much shorter than the average chapter. This will in no way prepare you for the rigor and discipline sitting down to write an entire novel requires. Also, since you’re probably writing non-fiction pieces, you won’t be practicing anything important in a novel, like character development. Unless you’re counting the fact that you are still a character in development.

Step 4: Over the course of a summer, sit down to write. Pick a genre that you like to read and then choose all of the things that published authors in that genre have done wrong. For example: At the height of its popularity, you might have picked supernatural romance and written about vampires who did not sparkle and who ate humans because they’re vampires and not sweet fairy creatures. Spend a lot of time writing this book, send it to your friends for criticism, then re-read it, acknowledge the fact that it’s terrible, and never look at it again.

Step 5: Come up with a genuinely interesting and unique idea for a novel. Talk about it. Think about it. Let it really germinate. Write down the basic plot in about 200 words with a few important details so you don’t forget. Then leave it alone. Go back to reading or blogging or teaching, but whatever you do DO NOT WRITE THIS STORY. If you find yourself really itching to, look into publishing.

Step 6: Look into publishing. First you need an accredited editor. Do you have one? No. Good. You can stop here because no one will read your book if you don’t. You do? Then consider this, are you going to send your book, your entire book, off to publishing houses to be ripped to shreds and rejected tens, possibly hundreds, of times? I didn’t think so. But, wait! There’s another option! Do you have a few extra thousand dollars lying around? If so, thanks to the popularity of e-readers, you may be able to self-publish. Self-publishing is a perfectly acceptable way to get your story read and your name out there. But honestly, you probably shouldn’t do this because what if no one likes it? What if no one reads it? What if you’re not any good?

You know what, you should probably just stick to blogging. At least here, if you write something terrible, it’ll be over in less than 10 minutes.

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