Category Archives: How Not To Write

Saying Goodbye to How Not to Write

Note: All posts from How Not to Write are available on this site. I’ll be adding more of course. This really isn’t the end, but rather the beginning of something new.

It seems strange to say goodbye to something that was never supposed to stay around. Yet nearly seven years later it is now time to say goodbye to How Not to Write.


I created How Not to Write to record my journey from wannabe writer to actual writer. Along the way, HNTW not only became my online persona but also my writing persona as well. I became known as the guy who wrote about not writing which in turn became the guy who didn’t write at all.

Of course, I never really stopped writing. No writer does. Still, I stopped writing with a purpose because I’d said just about all I could say about the process of “not writing” (such as it is).

As an aside, I also had this crazy job that sucked up all of my free time and energy. It was awesome, but each day the job left me with a cabbage for a head. From this experience, I learned that it’s really, really hard to write with a cabbage for a head.


While I might write more about that some day, today won’t be that day (sorry). What I will say is that the hundreds of posts and many tens of thousands of words contained in How Not to Write are not gone for good. They right here and all the links should work just fine.

I thought it was fitting to incorporate it into the whole because in truth it was a huge part of my life and always will be. I’ve also archived all the comments here too because you the readers of How Not to Write were also a huge part of my life and always will be.

Before I move on to what’s new (which may include some actual writing), I’d like to take one last look at what was and highlight some of my favorite posts from How Not to Write. They’re not in any particular order, so take them as they are. That’s what How Not to Write has always been about anyway…

A Writer’s Love
Best Mornings
The Bother of Writing is Totally Worth It
The Poverty of Distance
You Must Write
A Writer Must Believe

Oh yeah, and King Moonracer will always be my hero, but I ought to point out that I blogged about him here first.


NB: I’ve also changed my Twitter handle over to @jamiegrove. If you were following @hownottowrite, you are now following @jamiegrove.

Some Try, Some Do

Racist, sexist, bigots are everywhere and unfortunately more than a few have learned to write. Like most chronic diseases, these individuals flare up from time to time. Sure they’re irritating but they’re also dangerous as well. They do real damage those they pursue to say nothing of the perception of their craft. They also recruit others to their cause, which is perhaps the worst part of all.

Ugly stuff, folks.

The world of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America is dealing with one of these flare ups. There’s a lot of ink (both real and virtual) flying around.

Then there was this post by Tobias Buckell:

Later, he tweeted an apology for cranking out his post in a hasty manner. I thought… Well, at least he did something, and I told him so. His response?

“One tries.”

Now think about this for a second. This guy didn’t just write a blog post, or even a single book about this issue. He created an entire universe and a trilogy where he could grapple with issues of race and gender while still providing readers with a rockin’ good ride.

This is a little more than trying in my opinion. It sounds like a helluva lot of doing. Writers like Toby make me want to be a better writer and a better human being. They make me want to DO something.

So, I did… I bought Tobias Buckell’s books.

All of them. Including different formats of the books I already owned.

Then a tweet by Mur Lafftery pointed me in another direction:

I’d heard about N. K. Jemisin’s work awhile back. I just hadn’t made the time to dig in.

So, I did something. I bought N. K. Jemisin’s books.

All of them.

Am I saying that opening your wallet and doing something good for people who are trying to do good is the way to combat chronic assholery? Yes, I that’s exactly what I’m saying.

And sometimes, the people who need a boost are those who haven’t always been good. Sometimes you have to extend a hand to someone who is trying to do better, trying to lift themselves out of the shit and be a better person:

So yeah, I bought all of Matt’s books too.

Finally, if you’re in a asshole smashing mood, but maybe not in a reading mood, you should drop by John Scalzi’s blog. Scalzi’s thrown up a donation challenge for the Carl Brandon Society and the Octavia E. Butler Memorial Scholarship Fund. You should get in on it…

I did.

So after I did all this stuff, what else did I do? I wrote this post. I wrote it because one person out there might go and do something too. I hope it’s you.

Paul Theroux's Writing Method


I don’t carry electronic apparatus. I don’t have a tape recorder. I don’t have a computer. I write everything in longhand, and I usually write it twice. I write it during the day in a small notebook and at night I expand it in a larger notebook. For 40 years that’s what I’ve done. And then when I get home I type it out. I used to use a typewriter, now I use a computer. But it’s all written, hundreds and hundreds of pages of notes, some of which I use, others not.

– Paul Theroux via National Geographic

WriteChain: Thank You * 280000

Closing in on 28,000 downloads…

Back in 2009, I wanted a simple word count tracking app on my shiny new iPhone. There wasn’t one, so I wrote it myself. From what I recall, creating WriteChain was a really fun process. I look at the app now and I still smile when I see the interface and think about how much things have changed since those “early days” of iPhone development.

So, tonight, I was checking in on the little guy and I wondered just how many people had tried it out. I haven’t looked at these numbers in a long time and I was surprised to see that about 5,000 people had tried it. Then, I realized I was only looking at a single year’s downloads… This year, which isn’t even half over.


Adding it up, WriteChain is just shy of 28,000 downloads now. I see a lot of people download the app around Nanowrimo and that makes me happy. I hope it helps out Wrimos and other writers alike.

Anyway, nothing else special to note here. I just felt like saying thanks, so thank you… 🙂

WriteChain is FREE. Nothing fancy. No hidden editors or quotes or any of that fiddle faddle. Just a super simple tool that any writer can use to set a daily goal and hold themselves accountable.

Click here to get WriteChain on iTunes

The Bother of Writing is Totally Worth It

I’ve been playing at being a writer for nearly thirty years, which seems like a very long time. But whenever I begin to wonder if I will ever get tired of the bother of being a writer, I find myself writing once more and falling in love all over again.

It’s a bother to be a writer, but it’s totally worth it.

The Bother of Writing

A.A. Milne knew more than a little about the bother of being a writer. He was the creator of Christopher Robin, the Hundred Acre Wood, and Winnie the Pooh. This is what we remember of his work, but he wrote for nearly fifty years in total. Twenty-five before the bear and roughly twenty-five after, until he was finally hobbled by a stroke.

Still, no matter what Milne tried the critics always came back around to the boy and the bear. It was something he took quite poorly by all accounts, but he kept on writing.

From Milne’s essay, “The Ideal Author”:

The truth is that a layman will never take an author quite seriously. He regards authorship, not as a profession, but as something between an inspiration and a hobby. In as far as it is an inspiration, it is a gift from Heaven, and ought, therefore, to be shared with the rest of the world; in as far as it is a hobby, it is something which should be done not too expertly, but in a casual, amateur, haphazard fashion.

Even Then He Knew…

Milne had no choice. I assume the same is true for you too.

Most of us who “become writers” have always been writers. No matter what else we do we remain such creatures all our natural lives.

From Milne’s story, “The Sunny Side”:

There, just inside the gates, was Mary. He was only six, but even then he knew that never would he see again anything so beautiful. She was five; but there was something in her manner of holding herself and the imperious tilt of her head which made her seem almost five-and-a-half.

“I’m Mary,” she said.

He wanted to say that he was John, but could not. He stood there tongue-tied.

“I love you,” she went on.

His heart beat tumultuously. He felt suffocated. He longed to say, “So do I,” but was afraid that it was not good English. Even then he knew that he must be a writer when he grew up.

She leant forward and kissed him. He realized suddenly that he was in love. The need for self-expression was strong upon him. Shyly he brought out his last acid-drop and shared it with her. He had never seen her since, but even now, twenty years after, he could not eat an acid-drop without emotion, and a whole bag of them brought the scene back so visibly as to be almost a pain.

Yes, he was to be a writer; there could be no doubt about that. Everybody had noticed it. The Vicar had said, “Johnny will never do any good at Polwollop, I fear”; and the farmer for whom John scared rooks had said, “Thiccy la-ad seems daft-like,” and one after another of Mrs. Penquarto’s friends had given similar testimony. And now here he was, at twenty-six, in the little bed-sitting-room in Bloomsbury, ready to write the great novel which should take London by storm. Polwollop seemed a hundred years away.

Feverishly he seized pen and paper and began to wonder what to write.

Writing Through the Bother

Being stuck in the bother of being a writer is particularly troublesome if we should find ourselves in some other line of work. Even if the work is pleasant and the pay substantial, we are nagged by the idea of writing night and day till we set down to do it. Then, we find ourselves paralyzed by the excitement and the fear.

This rush of adrenaline coupled with stirrings of old ideals becomes the ruin of many attempts to write. The writer fears they may fail. They fear they may become a success. They fear many things, but they often fear is that they will have to return to the real world.

And often, they are right on all accounts, but it hardly matters. Fears, real or imagined, are still there but the pleasure of writing cannot be denied. It’s worth all the bothers.

Trust me… Just write and you’ll see.

From Milne’s essay, “The Pleasure of Writing”:

Sometimes when the printer is waiting for an article which really should have been sent to him the day before, I sit at my desk and wonder if there is any possible subject in the whole world upon which I can possibly find anything to say. On one such occasion I left it to Fate, which decided, by means of a dictionary opened at random, that I should deliver myself of a few thoughts about goldfish.

But to-day I do not need to bother about a subject. Today I am without a care. Nothing less has happened than that I have a new nib in my pen!

OThis post was originally published on Medium…