Wednesday, July 23, 2014

She Wanted to Be a Writer-- at 100 Years Old!

Photo Courtesy
A car accident took her husband. She'd barely turned fifty and no longer saw a purpose in life.

She didn't feel like eating and hid away from everyone -- until a friend visited her. "Ella, you can't die!" Her friend asked what career had she always wanted to do. "Work with children" was Ella's answer. 

Ella went to college (remember she is fifty), earned her certification and applied for jobs at age fifty-five. She taught for about ten years, saw the needs of many children, went back to school, and became a social worker.

While helping the needy children, she saw how drugs hurt their lives. She built up a camp, that provided a place for the children to clean out their bodies and find a new purpose in life. 

By age one hundred, Ella had many experiences. She felt as spry as her grandchildren and decided she wanted to learn to play the violin or maybe become a writer. A coin toss chose her next career. Ella became a writer.

She studied the craft while writing articles, a history of her county, and a novel, and probably more!

Dennis Hensley, professor at Taylor University, presented his interview with Ella and wrote several articles about her writing career that lasted until she was 106 years old. He told his class at the Write to Publish conference about this amazing lady.

There are times when life can rip us apart. Thankfully, God gives us friends and family to encourage us. Like Ella, what we choose to do with each day could impact more people than we realize.

Time is a gift given brand new, with no mistakes, every day. 

Twenty-four hours. Sometimes events, commitments, and pressures make the day feel like five hours, and that is okay. God will give us a new set the next morning. 

Dennis Hensley talked about two basic kinds of writers and how they used their time: the write players and the write producers.

A write player is one who shows the world her intentions to compose the next great novel. She attends writers' conferences, wears clothes that makes her feel like a writer, talks about her idea, tells all their friends even the hotel maid walking down the hall about the novel she is working on. In one year's time she's managed to have an outline, maybe. None of us want to be this kind of writer.

The write producer has her seat in the chair everyday. Sometimes for five minutes, hopefully for two hours. The plot of her book takes on twists and turns breathing excitement. Words are edited and fresh words keyed on the screen. The write producer knows when to walk away from the words to think and work through the next scene and when to rush back to the chair, ready to type.

Time Management is crucial to a write producer

Many things can suck the life out of our writing time without our noticing. Take this quiz to determine your need, or confirm you are already spot on as a writer producer. 

1. What is the greatest distractor of your writing time?
    A. Social Media
    B. Television
    C. Emails-Internet
    D. Other (not essentials like caring for family, etc.)

2. How much time do you spend with this distractor each day? (For now make a guess. Tomorrow, for just the one day, jot down the time you spend doing this activity. You may be spending more time than you thought.)
    A.  Thirty minutes
    B.  One hour
    C.  Two hours
    D.  More than two hours

3. What is the excuse that draws you to the distractor?
    A.  I will only take a minute.
    B.  I need a break.
    C.  Someone else calls my attention to the distractor.
    D.  I don't feel like writing at that second.

4.  What is the best way to draw you back to writing?
    A.  A reminder of my commitment to God to do this writing project.
    B.  Seeing my work space.
    C.  My main character pops in my mind.
    D.  Available time.

5. If your confidence has been lowered for any reason, what works best to restore your drive?
     A.  Time with God.
     B.  Sitting down/going for a walk and enveloping myself with the story.
     C. Talking about my story with a writer friend.
     D.  Writing the next scene

Answering questions like these helps me see where my focus is. I probably would answer the questions different from one week to the next--and that is okay. By confronting myself with these questions, I become aware of what I need to do to honor the time God has given me to be the best writer I can be.

Here is one last question for you.

What would like to be doing if you reach one hundred years old?


If you found any typos in today's post...Mary Vee, (that's me sheepishly grinning), is waving her hand as the guilty party. 

If you have questions or would like this topic discussed in greater detail, let me know in the comment section. I'll gladly do the research and write a post...just for you :)

Mary has moved to Michigan with her husband, closer to her three college kids. She misses the mountains of Montana, but loves seeing family more often. She writes contemporary and romance Christian fiction, is honing marketing and writing skills, and loves to pen missionary and Bible adventure stories on her ministry blog, God Loves Kids.

Visit Mary at her website and her ministry blog to families: God Loves Kids. Or chat on Facebook or Twitter

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Introducing our newest Alley Cat.........

Well, today is the DAY! We have a new arrival that we can't WAIT to introduce to you. She's sweet, cute, an adorable mom, a creative writer, and a complete dahling!
Are you ready to meet her?

Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono /
We are pleased to welcome, Laurie Tomlinson, to The Alley.

If you know her, then you probably won't be surprised by her answers to our Alley questions. If you don't know her, you'll probably enjoy getting to know her. She's fun...funny with a beautiful heart for God. But first, here's a little personal snippet about her:

Laurie Tomlinson is a wife and mom who writes stories of grace in the beautiful mess. When she's not writing, she enjoys car singing, baking, and going on adventures with her husband and little girl. 
(For the record, I also happen to know she's hopelessly addicted to emoticons and has an obssessive love for all things Potter)

Her first book won the 2013 ACFW Genesis Award (Contemporary), and her second is a current finalist in the 2014 Genesis Contest (Romance). She is represented by Rachel Kent of Books & Such Literary.
Let's put her through The Writer's Alley Interrogation for you :-)

Sherrinda: Where do you like to write and what is your writing ritual? 
My favorite place to write is at a little coffee shop in Tulsa called Nordaggio's on the squashy leather couch in front of the fire. Preferably when it's raining and with the door open. But usually, I like waiting until everyone in the house is in bed then stretching out on the couch with a big yellow puppy at my feet :)
Mary Vee: Do you play special music or a movie for each book? 
Great question! Music is very much linked to my writing. I have playlists for each book that go with what the characters are going through. When I'm writing, I also like to find songs that draw out certain moods/emotions that correspond with a scene.

Karen: What is it that draws you to writing?
This might sound weird, but I can't not write. When I go long periods without writing, I am a much grumpier person because the words won't leave me alone. 

Krista: If someone stuck a gun to your head and made you do the same activity for 24 hours straight without stopping... which of the following would you choose and why? Playing with Barbies... or watching Barney (complete with singing along to EVERY song…)?
I would definitely play with Barbies. I never played with them growing up, but I'd rather be able to use my imagination than listen to Barney. Now, if you replaced Barney with Bubble Guppies or Sofia the First, then this might be a different answer.

Julia: Besides writing, what else do you like to do in your few free moments?  Favorite Starbucks drink?
I love to cook and bake. It's kind of my love language! And in the same way I couldn't live without writing, I also couldn't live without singing. I am caught car singing at the top of my lungs way more than is socially acceptable.
My favorite Starbucks drink is a mocha chip frappuchino. But to maintain some semblance of self-control, I typically order a nonfat chai latte :) Not a big coffee drinker, I'll admit! *ducks*

Pepper: Name 3 of your fictional crushes and why? Do you have an overarching spiritual theme in your books?
Just three? :) Nathan from One Tree Hill, Captain Malcolm Reynolds from Firefly, and Hook from Once Upon a Time. They are brave, handsome, experience a lot of growth, and would do anything for their heroine. I'm going to cheat and add Tim Riggins to this list -- just because I can.
My writing tagline of sorts is "stories of grace in the beautiful mess". I want my writing to communicate above all that, no matter how messy life gets, there's no match for God's love and redemption and power to work good in the most unlikely situations. 

Ashley: Favorite boy band? When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
While most girls my age were swooning over NSync and Backstreet Boys, my all-time favorite was 98 Degrees! I know. Loved their lyrics. I may or may not have bought Nick Lachey's lullaby album "for my daughter" the second I discovered its existence.
I've known I wanted to be a writer probably since I was in the fourth grade. Creative writing was always my favorite exercise in school! I thought my novel writing would be my own secret hobby until I gathered the courage to join ACFW in 2013!

Amy: Best writer moment? Favorite food splurge? 

Wow! These are tough questions because I can't pick! There's a montage playing through my mind: getting good comments from my very first beta reader (my hubs), the first Genesis semifinal phone call in 2013, *the* long-awaited email from my soon-to-be agent during my weekly Hart of Dixie date with my sister-in-law, the camaraderie at conference of my critique partners and the writing sisters like you that I met there.

Favorite food splurges include: a good pasta meal (I'm Italian), chocolate mousse, white cheddar popcorn, Diet Dr. Pepper, and toffee chocolate chip cookies :)

Casey: Best book recommendation? Best all-time television series?

My favorite book ever is The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning. Life-changing. And we are big TV watchers in the Tomlinson household. My all-time favorite varies on my mood, but if I had to pick one, it would be The Cosby Show. No, Boy Meets World or Growing Pains. Okay, maybe Parenthood

Did I mention Tim Riggins?

And there you have it! Please stop by and give Laurie a welcome.

 You can connect with Laurie at or

Monday, July 21, 2014

Dialogue That Speaks to Me

Being a purebred Southern girl, talking has never been a difficulty– however writing about ‘talking’ can be tricky. Writer’s Digest has some great books on dialogue, namely Dialogue by Lewis Turco and Dialogue – Techniques and exercises for crafting effective dialogue by Gloria Kempton. The latter book is helpful in giving various exercises at the end of each chapter to support the info one just finished reading.

Dialogue serves several different purposes:
1. Characterization
2. Moves the story along
3. Creates Tension
4. Sets a mood

As far as Characterization is concerned, Jane Austen was genius.

If you’ve ever read any of her writing, you’ll discover that dialogue was as much a part of the character as his/her thoughts. Jane wasn’t prone to describing physical features of her characters, except maybe some ‘fine eyes’ here and ‘handsome features’ there, but she took the meat of the character and allowed the reader to figure him/her out.

For example, in Pride and Prejudice, Mr. Collins is known for rattling on about various things, basically just to hear himself talk. The reader quickly realizes Mr. Collins is a pompous, self-important man…just from his letter. Wow!

On the other hand, Darcy and Elizabeth give short, witty replies – and we end of liking them. It reveals characteristics of the one speaking and the ones responding to it. Within the first few pages of Pride and Prejudice, readers have a ‘handle’ on about six different characters mainly through…dialogue. Dialogue moves the story along, especially if you feel your getting ‘saggy’ in the middle. It should ALWAYS add to the story, never ending up as a bunch of empty words, and it also can cover lots of information in a short amount of time.

Obviously, dialogue can create tension.

Here’s a scene from Julie Lessman’s novel A Passion Denied.

“How dare you, John Brady? I have no choice! My heart is breaking because of you, and if it takes Tom Weston to get over you, then so be it.”
He jumped up. “Beth, forgive me, please, and don’t cry. We can pray about this-“

Disbelief paralyzed her for a painful second.
“No! You leave me be. I don’t want any more of your prayers-“
His hand gripped her. “Beth, please, sit with me? Can’t we just talk and work this out?”

Whew…and I didn’t even add any of Julie Lessman’s ‘oh-so-famous’ lip action

This is only a short example, but poignant – it shows the speed dialogue adds to a manuscript. Here’s Meant to Be Mine by Becky Wade:
another example from
"I know its a shock to hear from me. I'm sorry about that. I could call back later."
"No." Goodness, she didn't want that.
"All right, he answered. "So. Lunch?"
"No. I have nothing to say to you."
"Maybe not, but I have several things I'd like to say to you."
"Look..." She pressed her teeth into her bottom lip. "If you've come because you want a divorce, you should have saved yourself the trip."

Whoa MAMA! Makes you want to read more, right? We don't even need to characters names in that scene to know there's some trouble brewing :-)

 Dialogue can be set up to create fear in thrillers, sizzle in romances, and build subtle (or overt) comedy! It also tells you so much about the characters without info dumping.

Below is an example of how dialogue can set a mood.
Jane Austen Ruined My Life by Beth Pattillo (Although Mr. Darcy Ruined My Life is my favorite in this series)
(Emma is the POV character and her former best friend in the scene is Adam)

I thought I'd cried all my tears there were to cry in the months since I'd moved out of the home I'd shared with Edward. Clearly, I was wrong.
"I'm sorry," I said, my words muffled by the pillow.
"It's okay. It'll be okay." Adam rubbed his hand between by shoulder blades. I turned my head so that I could see him.
"I'm lying on a borrowed sofa, with no money to speak of, in one of the most expensive cities in the world, and I've just seen my former best friend in a towel. How in the world is that going to turn out okay?"
He really did have the nicest smile. His eyes lit with laughter.
"Well, number one, at least you have a sofa to collapse on, like a heroine out of some romance novel."
"True." I sniffed.
"Two, I'm something of an expert at living in London on the cheap. I'll show you the ropes. How does that sound?"
"Okay, I guess." I waited for him to address my third complaint. Now, though, he was the one suddenly looking uncomfortable.
"Maybe we could forget about the third thing."

If a few sentences can set moods, just imagine what an entire scene of dialogue can do.

Talk isn’t cheap, btw. It takes time to craft good dialogue, but it’s worth it. Just remember to ask these questions.
1. What does this say about my characters without ‘saying’ it outloud?
2. Does this dialogue move my story along or is it just a filler phrase?
3. Is there some sort of energy in the dialogue, whether good or bad, to keep me interested in what the characters are saying?
4. Does this dialogue set the sort of mood I want to present?

There are many more tips to writing dialogue, but these are a few to help build a memorable scene.

What do you enjoy about good dialogue? What does it communicate to you?

Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Alley Weekend Round Up

I don't know about you, but we are having the weirdest weather in Texas. The high today is in the 70's! For Texas, that is like some kind of record. Usually this time of year we start our stretch of 100+ days. Sometimes we will have over a month of them, one right after the other. (I think the record is 62 days...meh.) I hope you are having a great summer like me. If not, then maybe this will help. We've got some great posts lined up for you this week!

The Weekly Line Up

Monday - Pepper is starting our week with a great post titled, "Dialogue That Speaks To Me". Of course, she always has character voices running through her head, so this should be good!
Tuesday - Our guest today is a super big surprise, so stop by and be rewarded with a fabulous treat! You won't want to miss this!!!! Will our new Alley Cat be introduced? Maybe? Maybe not? The suspense...!!!
Wednesday - Mary's post is entitled "She Wanted To Be A Writer...At 100 Years Old!" Now doesn't that make you want to read it and be inspired?
Thursday - Krista has just revealed her new book's cover (see below), so she is all about the graphics. Check out her post entitled "Cool, Calm, and Covered".
Friday - Casey's got the "How-To's Of Writing A Strong Romance". Sounds wonderful, doesn't it?

Alley Cat Shout Out!

Alley Cat Krista Phillips has just announced the release date and cover of her new novella! Mark your calendars for August 18, 2014! You can find out more details on her blog HERE.

Isn't it fabulous?!?!?!

The Awesome Link Round Up

How To Win At Writing: Create Writing Routines (Go Teen Writer)

What Jane Austen Looked Like According to Forensic Science (The Passive Voice)

46 FREE eBooks on! (

Buy 1, Get 1 Free: Christian Fiction (Barnes and Noble)

Amazon Reveals Kindle Unlimited eBook Subscription Plan (Galley Cat)

Have a fantastic week!

Friday, July 18, 2014


To all my fellow unpublished authors out there, don't you dream of the day when someone, anyone, will fork over hard earned dough for the privilege of reading your book. I think about this from time to time. Sure I love it when a friend or a fellow author reads something I wrote. I love it when I have a reader! Yay! They like me!!! But someday... someday... there will be something so immensely satisfying in seeing my dream realized. In getting that first (however big or small) stack of green for my labors of love. Do you agree?

Okay, so we don't simply write to get rich (well, most of us don't). But being fruitful in this thing we love, finding a place where our voice meets an audience is something we probably all aspire to. We're artists in our own way. Writers. Readers. Dreamers.

So here's the thing... If we want this to take a crack at this whole career writing gig it'd be pretty nice to actually sell books. We learn all about promoting, we exercise our marketing muscles, we blog, we tour, we post, we tweet, we share, and we... (gulp) giveaway. I can imagine that last one has to sting just a smidgen. Giving away weeks, months, years of your blood, sweat, and tear laden story-love-child is probably not as satisfying as getting that royalty check and getting those sweet tastes of success (I'm imagining it here, people, just go with it.)

But let me tell you something I've learned... Free books are EXCELLENT marketing tools! Who doesn't love free books? I gotta tell ya, I get on amazon and search for freebies for my kindle all the time. This place, this glorious cost-free playground is like having your very own five-finger-discount to try out new authors without cramping your bank balance (or facing theft charges). There is no risk for the shopper. You get more than that measly sample they provide so you are actually invested in the ending. (Meaning you'll more than likely finish the book and get a feel for the author). The delivery to your device is instant. And you discover all kinds of books and authors that you would have passed by since you drained your book budget on the same three authors that can't crank out books fast enough to satisfy your hungry inner bookie beast. :)

Free books sell! Yes, that seems like an oxymoron of sorts but when the reader gets a taste of something they like (and are in an exceptionally positive mood since their enjoyment was free) they are more inclined to seek out more by that author and pay for the next installment. (Assuming you plan to write more than one book this will be a good thing to think about). Bada BING! Repeat customers! We all know that's easier than attracting new ones but in this case, win win!

Let's go shopping, shall we... Here are some great freebies available this week!

Lisa Wingate's The Prayer Box

Jenny B. Jones's In Between

Mary Connealy's Out of Control

Janice Thompson's Picture Perfect

And so many more! And since I'm feeling particularly jolly (postpartum and all) let's throw in a giveaway.
One lucky winner can pick two, any two, of these books below!
 Just share with me the best book you've read lately and why. (We'll do a little promoting for others, sound good?) I'll pick the winner out of a hat. Be sure to include your email addy for me so I can inform the winner! Hope you have a great weekend! Read up! And enjoy those freebies!

Amy Leigh Simpson writes Romantic Suspense that is heavy on the romance, unapologetically honest, laced with sass and humor, and full of the unfathomable Grace of God. She is the completely sleep deprived mama to two little tow-headed mischief makers, one pretty little princess, and wife to her very own swoon-worthy hero. Represented by the oh-so-wise and dashing Chip MacGregor of MacGregor Literary Inc.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Before You Hit Send...

You've been working on your manuscript for weeks... months... maybe years. You've gone through bags of Godiva chocolate and endless Frappuccinos. You've dreamed about these characters, argued with these characters, and maybe even talked with these characters (while no one else was around, that is).

Photo by  Ambro, from
And so, it's only natural to say you're desperately ready to send these characters off into the world. Whether that world be your agent, or a potential agent, or your editor, or a potential editor-- you're dying to know what other people think of these world you've been hanging out in. And, let's be honest, you're also ready to sell this story!

So, you hit "Send" while you still have the courage, right?


Bad idea. Trust me. Bad idea.

Sit back down, do some laundry or watch a rom com movie, and give your brain a little break from thinking about this book. I promise you, within a few hours, new ideas for revisions will flood in. And if you're already sent your book off into the world... well, that's the best it'll ever be.

This week, I sent my new manuscript to my agent after taking a loooooonnng stinkin' time to work on it. With every book, I've always spent time editing at least several drafts. But this one is my heart book. This one really matters to me. So I wanted it to be as strong as possible, even before sending it to Karen. I want to know that every fiber of what I'm capable of is coming out in this manuscript.

You'll hear people say that you want to get a submission in to an agent or editor as soon as possible if they request it. And yes, in part, that's true, because you don't want them to forget you. But quality always trumps quickness.

Consider this. You've (usually) only got one chance to capture your reader with this story, whether your reader is an agent, editor, or actual regular reader. One chance! And once that chance is gone... well... it's gone for good, unfortunately.

So with that in mind, here are a few things to ask yourself before hitting "Send."

1) Have other people read this story and given me feedback? Don't send your story to fifteen people and ask for their thoughts. Trust me. Too many irons in the kettle. But do find one, two, maybe three people whom you really trust, and ask for their feedback. A good critique partner can spot plot weaknesses you never would've noticed.

2) Have I let my book just sit for at least a few days? See what thoughts come to you after the initial adrenaline of I-just-finished-my-book-and-ate-a-pint-of-gelato-to-celebrate wears off. You'll be surprised by how much you come up with!

3) Have I done my research about this agent/editor? Have you met this person at a conference, or do you frequent his/her blog? How can you best prepare yourself to pitch this story? Do you know what particular genres this agent/editor is looking for?

4) Have I read other books in this genre? All too often, we get caught up so much in our own story that we forget the value of reading others'. Reading not only broadens your creativity and sharpens your mind, but it also works as market research. You need to be conversant about other books in your genre. It's okay if you don't have time to read twenty books a year, but you should at least know about a few books that are similar in style so that if you're asked by an agent/editor, or just another writer, what you write, you have something to compare your story to.

5) Do any of the scenes in this book give me pause? You know, this happens to all of us. At least, I like to pretend it happens to all of us, because it certainly happens to me. I'll be going along my merry-editing way, when I stumble across a scene that is just... well, not good. It's like a tofu scene. Nothing is really happening. Or maybe something is happening, and it's just not working with the surrounding scenes. These scenes are PAINFUL to delete/edit, because doing so sometimes means huge revisions. But just imagine how much more painful they will be if your book DOES get published, and you have to look at that scene every time you open your book. Don't leave anything in there that you aren't proud of.

6) Have I done a spell check, as well as searched for key pet phrases? I can't tell you how many times my characters cross their arms, run their hands through their hair, and smile. While editing, I always try to be aware of phrases I use repetitively, and then do a phrase search (which is so easy to do in Word!) for those particular words. It's oh-so-easy to replace them with more vivid descriptors, and it makes a huge difference for your writing.

7) Have I let the writing "gel" enough to see similarities through the book? After spending enough time with your characters, they would have personal habits, traits, and quirks. Maybe your character loves popcorn or hates country music. Be consistent in these behaviors/preferences, and develop them so that characters seem life-like to readers.

Your turn! What questions would you add to this list? What do you always check for before hitting "Send"?


Ashley Clark writes romance with southern grace. She's dreamed of being a writer ever since the thumbprint-cookie-days of library story hour. Ashley has an M.A. in English and enjoys teaching literature courses at her local university. She's an active member of ACFW and runs their newcomer's loop. When she's not writing, Ashley's usually busy rescuing stray animals and finding charming new towns. You can find Ashley on her personal blogFacebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. She is represented by Karen Solem.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

How to write a terrible novel

Photo by Phaitoon,

 I recently read two of the very worst books I’ve ever encountered.

The first was a book-club selection; an author I’d never read before. This could have meant that I came in with zero expectations, but the fact that this author has sold 15 million copies of her books led me to assume she must be pretty good.

Never assume. Never, ever assume.

I couldn’t make it past chapter five. It was that awful. I’m not being a literary snob in saying this. I can appreciate the skill that goes into different genres of writing, even when a book isn’t to my personal taste. This book was, quite simply, terribly written. And I wasn’t the only one to think so. The ladies in my book-club ripped it to shreds – the first time I’ve ever seen such unanimous disgust from these women. And we’ve read everything from Pulitzer prize-winning literary works to the latest pop-fiction crime thriller. There’ve been books some of us haven’t liked; but none that were roundly hated and derided by every single member of our club. (“Maybe she paid someone else to write this one for her? Like a school kid or something?”*)

(*Actual quote from disgruntled book-clubber.)

The second book surprised me with its awfulness. I expected to like it. The author was multi-published and had achieved success with his YA novels. When his name beckoned me from a bookstore bargain bin, I picked it up. Then I read the back-cover blurb, and I was hooked. The premise sounded fantastic. His first adult novel? No problem. The guy knows how to write, and I trust him. Besides, the book only cost $5. Surely I couldn’t go wrong for $5.

Hmmm. After dragging myself through 233 painful pages, I wasn’t so sure. Suddenly it became all-too-clear why this book had been in the bargain bin.

Two bad book experiences in a couple of short weeks. It made me wonder. Where had these authors – multi-published, successful authors – gone wrong?

Here’s what I learned from them. And so I give to you my top ten tongue-in-cheek pointers on How to Write a Terrible Novel.
Photo by stockimages,

1. Cram your writing with clichés.
Originality is overrated. Writing should not be a stretch; it should not require undue mental exertion. Put down the first turn of phrase that comes to mind. If it’s been used a million times before, so much the better. That means it’s tried and true – vintage, almost. Like a really, really old lump of cheese.  

2.  Don’t give your protagonist a clearly definable goal.
Let the reader wonder: what does this character really want? Is it a bit of this, or perhaps a touch of that? Goal-oriented characters are so… aggressive. So… (*shudder*) active. No, you must make him passive. Let him never want anything in particular or care about anything all that much. Sit him at the kitchen table and give him cups of tea and let him ruminate comfortably about his life. Preferably while a cat sits, purring, on his feet.

3. For heaven’s sake, keep the stakes low.
What will happen if the character never quite meanders his way toward that elusive, undefinable goal? Absolutely nothing. At least, nothing the reader will care about. If you make the stakes meaningful, the reader might be tempted to actually turn the page. This cannot be allowed! Our aim is to bore the reader into a mental coma.

4. Make the characters unlikeable.
To help keep the stakes appropriately low, it is essential that the characters do not engage the reader’s sympathy. Let’s say a boyfriend/ girlfriend relationship hangs in the balance. The guy is scared he’s going to lose the girl. Hmmm. This has the potential to be emotionally meaningful – a risk we cannot run. Solution: make the girl so irritating, so cold-hearted and pretentious and uncaring, that the reader is actually rooting for the guy to dump her. Bingo! The protagonist might have a goal, but the reader couldn’t give a rat’s whiskers about it.

5. Ensure your author voice trumps the story.
Your erudition and lyricism should take center stage, even though it sounds like you’re trying really, really hard and not quite succeeding. Doesn't matter, because the author’s voice is far more important than the story! Think of it as literary camouflage. The most skilful proponents are able to mask the story altogether, forcing the reader to wade through pages of try-hard authorial brilliance in vain pursuit of what the author is actually trying to say.

6. Never delete a single word you write!
It’s much more interesting to waffle endlessly, create circuitous dialogue that leads nowhere, devote page upon page to never-ending scenes in which nothing actually happens, and repeat yourself ad infinitum, just in case the reader didn’t get it the first sixteen hundred times. If you follow this rule diligently, over 60% of your book should be entirely redundant. It takes skill to achieve this, but with a few verbal laxatives and stringent avoidance of the delete key, it is entirely possible.

7. It’s not boring enough yet. Make it more boring.
A reader will forgive the author a multitude of sins if you just tell them a good story. Whatever happens, do not give them the satisfaction. The keyword here, remember, is PASSIVE. Did some action occur on that page you just wrote? Dun-dunn. The only action you want is when the reader smacks herself in the head with the book to wake herself up at the end of the page. 

8. Throw in a sprinkling of the bizarre.
A random dream sequence that seems to have no correlation with the plot. (But it’s incredibly poetic, all the same.) A momentary mystical blurring of fantasy and reality, in a book that is neither fantasy nor sci-fi. A purple polar-bear levitating in the frozen-food aisle. You’re the author. You’ll think of something.

9. Let your plot threads lead nowhere.
Tying things up is passé. Don’t worry if you forget where you were going with all this “plot” business. It’s fun to string along your reader and then leave them hanging… forever.

10. Be sure to end with a fizzle!
Building tension is so exciting, isn’t it? Nearly as rewarding as the look on your reader’s face when that payoff you’ve been leading up to never happens. Ah, the joy of lame endings. Nothing beats a good anti-climax for making the reader hurl your book across the room. We’re all surprised they made it that far; they obviously have true tenacity. Now might be a good time to remind your faithful reader that all those hours spent struggling through your book are gone. Gone forever. Mwuhahahaha.

So there you have it: my top ten tips on How to Write a Terrible Novel. Any of these you’re particularly good at? ;) Got any others you’d like to add?

Karen Schravemade lives in Australia, where she mothers by day and transforms into a fearless blogger by night. Her popular creative home-making blog, A house full of sunshine, reaches over 20,000 readers a month. She's a Genesis finalist for women's fiction and is represented by Rachel Kent of Books & Such. Find her on TwitterGoogle+, and Pinterest.