Really helpful crap about writing

You know how some blogs have these pages that have absolutely no connection to the actual theme of the website? You go to a blog that’s all about parenting humor, for example, and the author has tacked on a page about, oh I don’t know, writing or something? I hate that.

I said I hate it; I didn’t say I won’t do it.

So every once in a while I’ll toss some stuff that has nothing to do with becoming my parents onto this page. Mostly it will be about writing. I’ve learned that actually writing only marginally improves your chances of getting published over just telling people you’re a writer.

The rules and expectations from those in the publishing industry are clear and unambiguous. All editors, publishers and agents look for the exact same things. Add the fact that writers are some of the most emotionally secure and confident people on the planet and it becomes clear why there is very little advice on the Internet for aspiring writers: nobody needs it. I get that. But I’m sure there’s someone out there who could use some information, some tips and advice.

Well I don’t have any. But I do have a blog, and that qualifies me to call myself an expert and cook up some advice anyway.


Here is Barmy’s Bountiful Bag of Advice for Writers, originally tweeted and published here:

  • Writer’s block is caused by a virus so antibiotics won’t work on it.
  • Remember: if people don’t understand your writing, they’re just not the target audience.
  • “Literally” is just another word for “Hey, here comes an exaggeration.”
  • “Write what you know” only matters if you know a lot more than other writers.
  • Remember: when in doubt, put an apostrophe before the “s”.
  • Always write the ending first. Otherwise you won’t know what to write about.
  • If it worked for Tolstoy it will work for you.
  • Add about 20% more words to your story. That way, when the editor’s done, it’ll be about right.
  • When finished with your manuscript, search and replace all commas with semicolons; they make you look way smarter.
  • Fonts. It’s all about the fonts. Fonts can pretty much make up for any crappy writing.
  • Don’t start writing until you have t-shirts and action figures designed. Need to be ready when your book is optioned.
  • All the good genres are taken. Invent your own.
  • If you don’t use a thesaurus every other paragraph, you’ll look like a catechumen.
  • Write a bunch of sex scenes one weekend. Then, any time you get stuck in your writing, just insert one of those.
  • Always include a picture of your family with your query. Agents can’t resist that.
  • Everyone writes from left to write. If you really want to stand out, go right to left.
  • Your mother really will be your harshest critic. If she likes it, you know the agent will.
  • Just do what I do.
  • Step 1: get a pro bio pic.   2:  get business cards.   3:  tell everyone you write.    4: quit your job.  5: stalk agents.  6: write
  • Realism is important. Remember, the average person uses the bathroom about once an hour.
  •  The real work begins once you’re published. No I mean it: you’ll be working at McDonalds.
  • Bold all your writing if you can’t be bold with your writing.
  •  Hand write your MS and deliver the only copy in person, in its entirety, to the agent of your choice.
  • Sure you can get rich writing in genres other than YA.
  • The first draft is always the best. Don’t mess with it.
  • Non-fiction is just fiction with real names.
  • If your manuscript is rejected, change the title and resend it.
  • Plot is a left-over technique from when people didn’t have TV. You don’t need it anymore.
  • Remember: the good guys wear white and the bad guys wear black.
  • Oh come on, how hard could writing be?
  • Just write a blog. Agents and editors will find you.
  • “Remember, your readers can’t be sure who’s talking unless you clearly state it between each line of dialogue,” I said.
  • Most people couldn’t pull it off but you’d be great at the passive-aggressive voice.
  • Always do it the way Disney does: Kill the protagonist’s mother early.
  • If you buy a million copies of your own book, you’ll be more likely to be a best-seller.
  • Sure, your life would absolutely make a riveting memoir.
  • Use emoticons in your writing. All the modern novels are going to have them.
  • This is my genre. Go find your own.
  • Don’t waste time reading. You should be writing, not sitting around reading other people’s stuff.
  • Don’t write; become one with your keyboard and just let it flow.
  • All the good writers sit around on Twitter on Saturday evenings because they have no lives. Wait, that one’s true.
  • Remember: authentic dialogue requires the insertion of “um” and “uh huh” with some regularity.
  • Agents are way more likely to take you on if you send chocolate with your query. (You’re welcome, agents)
  • Make sure to tell your readers everything they need to know. If you show them, they might miss it.
  • Why be interesting when you can just use a different font?
  • Always grammarize your work well.
  • Pick a writing schedule and stick to it. For example: every third Tuesday from 5:00 to 5:45.
  • Quit your day job the minute an agent asks for partials.
  • Write when drunk. Most of your readers will be and that way they’ll understand you better.
  • Naw, don’t worry about marketing; the publisher will deal with all that.
  • I have a blog so that makes me an expert.
  • If you’re not writing at least 100 pages/day, you’re slacking.
  • Plagiarism is only if you use more than 3 paragraphs of someone’s work. You worry too much.
  • Yes, just because you think it’s funny, everyone else will too.
  • Authors get paid by the average number of words per sentence so use as many as you can.
  • Cliches became cliches for a reason; why mess with a good thing?
  • Start with a good cover. Agents and editors always judge books by their covers.
  • Yes, many successful writers got their start writing epitaphs.
  • One word sentences? Yes.
  • Plot is just a crutch for people whose writing style alone isn’t good enough to hold a reader.

I know what you’re thinking: with expertise like that, why on Earth isn’t this guy a household name by now? Well, just because YOU haven’t heard of me doesn’t mean I’m not a household name.

I should probably point out that when I say “you”, I kind of mean anybody anywhere. And when I say “doesn’t” I sort of mean totally does.

If, as some might suggest, I am not yet a household name, here’s a query letter that’s guaranteed to land me a huge deal and change that. I’ll be sending it in an email to the entire list of all literary agents. It only takes a second to hit the send button, and given the size of the list, it should get me loads of offers. If you want to cut and paste your own details and use it, go ahead. You’re welcome.

My winning query letter

Finally, a quick note to all the aspiring authors out there:

Keep it up. Writing, as you already know, is the easiest profession (With perhaps the exception of the buyer for SkyMall. How hard is it to recognize products that nobody needs and add them to your list?) Anyway, my point is that I wrote this and I’m a total idiot, so you can probably write, too. The only hard thing about being a writer is the actual writing part, but that’s a tiny fraction of the job compared to attending parties and telling people you’re a writer, coming up with great covers for the book you’re talking about writing, tweeting about your cover design for the book you’re talking about writing, and stalking agents that you know will love the book you’re tweeting about talking about writing.

At an average hourly rate of about minus $3.75, writing is also unparalleled in it’s ability to provide for one’s family. What, exactly, it provides is up for some debate. Some, for instance have found writing to be a great excuse for spending long periods of time holed up behind a closed door tweeting and Facebooking. Others derive great satisfaction from having an excuse to never change out of their pajamas. Still, others love the ambivalence in the attitude of friends who on one hand think your profession is really cool, and on the other hand feel bad that you’ve intentionally committed yourself to a life of poverty.

There are some of you, however, for whom writing provides something that nothing else does. It’s more than just an outlet; it’s not simply a form of release, or a way to sort out what’s bouncing around in your head. You don’t write to pass the time, nor is it about the prospect–however small–of being able to call yourself an author. You write because you can’t image not writing. If you know what I mean, then you know who you are. Don’t stop.

18 Responses “Really helpful crap about writing” →
  1. I particularly like the one: The real work begins once you’re published. No I mean it: you’ll be working at McDonalds.
    You mean not every book makes a million?

  2. Okay I can handle that, but make sure that mine (whenever I get a book published) is one of those million dollar books. I don’t want to work at McDonalds.


  3. nancy a arensdorf

    June 22, 2013

    I use um but my characters are teenagers, so you have to excuse them. 🙂

    • It’s fine once in a while, and it’s fine for some characters, but if every character did it as much as real people do, that would be unreadable!

  4. You made me laugh so hard, especially your query letter! Thanks!

  5. Oh, yeah. I can see me sending out that query letter! NOT! Wait a minute…did I **write** that letter? Oh dear! 😉

    Praising Jesus for His sense of humor – and for sharing it with us!

  6. This is excellent news. I had no idea writing was so easy! I had mostly been using Papyrus and had NO IDEA how wrong I was. Thanks for setting me straight. I’ll be looking for a quote from you for the book jacket.

  7. LOVE IT!!
    One small request, could you PLEASE check out my blogs?? I would love it if you could grace my sites with your virtual presence: and

  8. LoL, as I sit in my pajamas pondering a WordPress theme. Thank you! I needed a good laugh today!

  9. Just thank you, Barmy. Really needed that laugh about writing today.


  10. softsspoken

    November 21, 2014

    “You don’t write to pass the time, nor is it about the prospect–however small–of being able to call yourself an author. You write because you can’t image not writing. If you know what I mean, then you know who you are. Don’t stop.”

    Thank you for saying this. Thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you

  11. Hi, I just started writing a few days ago, It’s probably crap but it feels like something Im compelled to do.


  12. Curtisdace

    April 1, 2017


1 Trackback For This Post
  1. Really helpful crap about writing | Tina Friesen

    […] Really helpful crap about writing. […]

Hey, wait, you weren't gonna leave without commenting, were you?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: