The Writing Guide to End All Writing Guides

The web is full of articles trying to tell you what you should and shouldn't do if you want to be a successful writer. Well, those are all bullshit. This guide right here is the only one you will ever need. If you follow these guidelines, your success is guaranteed. The knowledge I'm sharing with you (you're welcome!) comes from a decade in the business...and stuff I've stol...er, I've learned from observing some of my favorite professional authors. In other words, you should totally make this your bible. Let's get to it.


1. Write every single day

Don't have a life. Don't go out. Don't make friends. Don't spend too much time reading. Don't travel. Every second you spend away from your keyboard is a second you spend saying "Nah, y'all can have all the fame and money. I'm good with slacking off and not getting work done." If you really want to do this, you have to look at it as a more than something you do; you have to learn to see it as the only thing you do. Fuck being a whole person with other hobbies and interests, you need to produce new material constantly or you run the risk of vanishing into oblivion like most other "authors" out there.

2. Only write what you know

The idea of drafts is for losers. You don't repeat your first kiss, right? No, you fucking nail it and move on.

Would you like to see Michael Jordan playing chess? No, so why would you try something different if you already know what feels comfortable for you? If you're a crime writer, stay in that area. If you write horror, stay in the horror zone and don't dare venture into new spaces. Evolution is bad. Look, chimpanzees just entered the stone age and, based on the way things are going in this country, it looks like we're going back to that...and probably meeting and battling the apes somewhere in the middle. See? Evolution and change are pointless; stick to what you do because flexing new muscles is an easy way of feeling pain in muscles you didn't even know you had.

3. Editors are mostly haters and frustrated novelists

You know what you want to say. You understand your stories better than anyone. With that in mind, why would you let some random person read your work and tell you what to do? Screw that; you can edit yourself much better than any editor ever could. Editors are unnecessary, and no one wants to let you in on that little secret. You write solo, right? Yeah, so edit solo as well. No one really minds a few typos anyway.

4. Understand that first drafts/novels/chapters/ideas are awesome

If you're a storyteller, you're a master at what you do, and don't think that your game is ever off. Every word, line, page, chapter, and book you write is your best work and you should keep all of it. The idea of drafts is for losers. You don't repeat your first kiss, right? No, you fucking nail it and move on. Rewriting is for weak, untalented writers who need to work and rework the same piece time and time again. If you're talented, then you don't need to do that. Seriously.

5. Clarity is overrated

Too many stupid articles tell rookie writers to strive for clarity. They're wrong. Be obscure. Be complicated. Write in ways that not even you understand. Dense literature sells. Look at Pynchon. Try to emulate his style. Simplicity in a narrative is a clear sign of a simple mind.

6. Tropes are popular for a reason

Tropes are there because they work. Tropes sell. Take a look at most published books from big publishers and you'll see that innovating is a great way to stay in the minor leagues. Read bestsellers and copy the formula. Cliches don't need to be played with, so leave them alone when you use them. There's no need to reinvent the wheel, so don't try.

7. Friend as many authors as you can on Facebook

You know who buys books? Authors. You should friend as many of them as you can because they understand the struggle and don't mind when you post an Amazon link to your book on their wall. Authors love books, so they should be your main audience; sell to them. Also, remember that Facebook is about building community, so post as much as possible about all the stuff about writing you hate. This will give fellow authors a chance to give you encouragement and stroke your ego with their "likes."

8. Abrasiveness is memorable

Imagine you're walking down a sidewalk on your way to work. It's a long walk. On your way there, three people nod at you, two give you a smile, a bunch ignore you, and one stops in front of you and, when you stop, lifts up both middle fingers and says "Hope you die today, fuckface!" Which of them do you think you're going to remember for the rest of the day? Which person will you talk about to your coworkers? People will remember things like that, so you have to be a strong, extremely vocal, in-your-face type if you want to succeed at the writing game. Now go out there and get in someone's face. 

You can pretend to be nice on Facebook and Twitter, but never forget that every time someone buys a book by some other author, they're not buying your book.

9. Everything is about promotion all the time

This one is a bit complicated, so pay attention to these rules:

- Whenever people ask for book recommendations, recommend your own book.

You know your own work better than you know anyone else's, so make sure that you recommend it to everyone all the time. It's the right thing to do.

- Sharing links is sharing love.

Share your link everywhere. Post it on walls. Drop it in comment threads that have nothing to do with it. Email it to people. Post it in writing and reading groups. If you don't share it at least fifteen times a day, people won't see it.

- Make sure every profile pic is your book cover.

Show them your book cover on all your profiles. Show them your book cover all the time.

- Carry a book with you so you can bring it out in case someone wants to take a picture.

This is one is easy. Also, keep one in the car and another copy in the office just in case.

10. In reality, every other author out there is your enemy

You can pretend to be nice on Facebook and Twitter, but never forget that every time someone buys a book by some other author, they're not buying your book. The best way to combat this is is to drop hateful 1-star reviews on Amazon and badmouth writers on social media. Personal attacks will let people know you mean business, so go for it and destroy your enemies.

11. Remember that you're a gift to the world

You are a storyteller. You're an entertainer. You're an author, and that makes you super special. Without your words, the world wouldn't be the same. Everything you decided to share with readers, even if it's a blog post, is a gift to them and they should appreciate it as such. Not everyone can sit down and write, and the fact that you do makes you special, and everyone should care.

12. Pretentious? More like smarter than you, amiright?

Do you evade big words because someone told you readers don't like them? Do you find yourself taking awesome adjectives out of your writing? Stop both of those things. Rejoice in words and your own smarts. Why would you write "The daughter saw her mother enter the room," when you can blow everyone away by writing "The young girl witnessed, enraptured and with dilated pupils, as her female parental unit shifted spaces and, one thin, supple, tanned leg in front of the other, entered the yellow-walled chamber"?

13. Genre is everything 

Pick a genre and stick to it. Follow the rules. Never mix elements from other genres into your work. That's just dumb and confusing.

14. Social media drama equals sales

More people read Facebook than books, so whenever you see an opportunity to do so, engage in awful online arguments. Talk shit about other people who aren't on that thread. Let everyone know their opinions don't matter. Establish yourself as the dominant force quickly and brutally and people will be immediately drawn to your work. Guaranteed.

15. This is a joke

"We already knew this was a joke, Gabino!" Well, you...probably wouldn't be all that surprised at the number of people who read my columns and react with a sack of righteous anger, so this is just me covering all the bases. Everything I said here? Do the opposite. You're a writer because something inside of you pushes you in that direction or because you have something to say and writing is the way you want to say it or because there are voices in your head constantly talking to each other and writing is like an exorcism for that. Whatever the reason, you're a writer and that's great. Sadly, it doesn't make you special, almost no one cares, and there's a million of you out there, so the best thing you can do is have fun, do whatever the fuck you want, break all the rules, support your fellow authors, be a decent literary citizen, and hustle as hard as you can. Much love to you all...unless you call writing your "craft" or have ever called yourself a "wordsmith" a million miles from the nearest sliver of sarcasm. 

Image of Zero Saints
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Image of Scratch: Writers, Money, and the Art of Making a Living
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Gabino Iglesias

Column by Gabino Iglesias

Gabino Iglesias is a writer, journalist, and book reviewer living in Austin, TX. He’s the author of ZERO SAINTS, HUNGRY DARKNESS, and GUTMOUTH. His reviews have appeared in Electric Literature, The Rumpus, 3AM Magazine, Marginalia, The Collagist, Heavy Feather Review, Crimespree, Out of the Gutter, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, HorrorTalk, Verbicide, and many other print and online venues. 

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