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Punk Writes

  • Punk Writes

How *Not* to Write a Dystopian Novel

The following is how I've managed to not write a novel in eight years:

1) Get the idea when you're forced to take a semester off from college and the fiction workshop you signed up for was cancelled so now you're in the novel writing workshop. You're barely 19 while everyone else is middle-aged. The year is 2012.

2) Take the title from a song by one of your favorite bands and base the entire plot around bringing "real" music back, because nothing is worse than a world full of Top 40 pop hits and nothing else. Start writing with no idea of where the story is going.

3) Stop writing. Forget entirely about what you've written. Live life.

4) Start a new document on your computer, at least a year has passed. New character names, new concept—now it's a classic dystopia with the government as the Big Bad. You still have no plan on how the story goes

5) Become frustrated, stop writing again

6) Read a book called "Wired for Story", which is the best writing guide you've read ever. Feel a new burst of inspiration. Dedicate a composition notebook to actually pre-writing this novel. Write character bios and a general plot outline. Start writing your novel for real. It's 2015.

7) See Donald Trump announce he's running for president. Laugh.

8) Graduate from college, forget about your novel again. Start an adult job.

9) See Donald Trump win the presidency. Drink an entire bottle of wine. Wear black to work the next day. It's your third day on the job.

10) It's the early days of 2017 now. You come back to the novel now that Trump is in office. You decide your characters need to be queer and people of color. Plus the mood of the story should be more syncophantic. You scribble down these ideas in a notebook while at work and promptly forget about them.

11) Become incredibly disheartened about writing a dystopian novel when you're increasingly living in one.

12) It's the end of 2019. You add some novel writing guides to an Amazon wishlist. Your dad doesn't know what books to pick so he just gives you a $125 gift card. You still haven't spent it by the time you write this list


13) 2020 starts of with a bang, or well, a drone strike. WWIII might happen and all you want is to write this novel.

14) It's been 5 years since your last serious attempt at this novel. You're inspired again. It has morphed into a cyberpunk dystopia set in 2050. You're researching quantum computers. The government isn't the Big Bad, a corporation is. You get the name of the corporation from Norse mythology. You have a rough plot outline, but no actual outline. You've never been good with outlines.

15) You're 2000 words into the novel using a used laptop from an internet friend. You still owe them for it, though they said you didn't have to pay

16) COVID-19 is happening. Maybe you should write short stories instead. After all, the biggest problem with why you haven't managed to write this story is because you can't decide what kind of dystopia it should be: totalitarian government? Environmental disaster? Disease outbreak? Megacorps? All of the above? Also, it's impossible to write a novel without an outline. Maybe you should order one of those books.

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