Author Scott Morgan - It's your jugular he's after

This weekend, brilliant jugular-ripping writer, Scott Morgan, and I are exchanging blogs on the same subject. Here at the RoW Studios, Morgan will unleash his experience, talent, and interminable wit in sharing with you, my readers, five surefire ways to ensure your writing tanks. That’s right—want your writing to suck? Morgan will tell you how.

Then, after reading his golden anti-rules, you can cruise over to the Write Hook blog and read my recommended five things to do if you want to improve your writing (just keep an eye on your jugular whilst there—if you read any of SM’s writing, yours is at risk)!

My contribution to this fabulous fray can be found here: 5 Things Writers Should Never Do (When They Want To Suck):

So without building further suspense, dear readers, heeeeeeere’s Johnny.



Lest you think I’m just ripping off my earlier post ” 5 Tips On Writing (for When You Want To Suck At It),” I’m only ripping off the title, because I think it’s funny. Besides, that post deals with nonfiction and journalism-style writing.

This one’s for all the creative writers and authors out there, and it’s a companion piece to R.S. Guthrie’s “5 Things Writers Should Never Do (When They Want To Suck).” Please be sure to read his (as usual) excellent thoughts on my website, Or, just follow this link.

So. What should you do if you want to fail as a writer?

Caricature by the AMAZING Ed van der Linden

1. Write for an audience. In one of my earlier blog posts, I mentioned that I’m quite a fan of David Bowie–the ’70s Bowie. Still the best stuff on earth. But…then the ’80s came and ruined pretty much everything cool and innovative in him. Why? Two words. Let’s Dance. Not a bad album, but the enormity of that release turned Bowie from someone with a solid cult following into someone who suddenly had to contend with (and appeal to) a massive mainstream audience. The result? Five words: Tonight and Never Let Me Down.

My point? Even the immensely influential, criminally cool pop god BOWIE (!!!) became (ahem…) bowie…. when he stopped writing for himself and started trying to appease an audience.

The minute you start trying to appease (rather than try to convince the world you’re right), you become fodder for some god-awful ex-celebrity one-hour special. Always remember: Your audience became your audience in the first place because you convinced them you’re right. So keep doing your thing and your core will stay with you.


2. Listen to haters. Listen, I could spend half the day telling you what Danielle Steele does wrong and she’ll spend the second half showing us her bank account. You know how you hear stories about the greatest novels being turned down by publishers who thought they were crap? Well, if I were in charge, there’d be no Harry Potter, no Lord of the Rings, and no Stephanie Plum, because I would never have made it past the first page. I couldn’t even watch the movies!

Translation: I don’t know anything except what works for me. And that’s all I can really give you: Know what works for you. If Ms. Rowling, Mr. Tolkien, and Ms. Evanovich (whom I should like because she sets her stories in my hometown of Trenton, NJ) somehow manage to read this (Tolkien would be an especially neat trick), take no personal offense, I mean no harm. Your books are just not my thing. As I’m sure mine are not your thing. I only mention you to illustrate the point that there is no one single way, and that what doesn’t work for some works out really freakin’ well for a whole lotta others.


It just doesn't get much thicker.

3. Take it personally. Did you ever stop to think about why nobody wears rhino, but lots of people wear mink? Worrying about the people who don’t like you will get you draped around chilly necks faster than…something really fast that likes chilly necks.

There is no substitute for a thick hide. And if you don’t have one as a writer, you will be miserable, always. So get the hell over it. All of it. And do your thing (just close the drapes, nobody needs to see that).


M. Night

4. Imitate your faves. Yes, I’m aware of the saying, but the real truth is, imitation is the sincerest form of plagiarism. We’re all influenced by writers. We all aspire to tell the kinds of stories our favorites tell. But trying too hard to sound like Faulkner or Poe or, for the really daring, Eco, will lead to endless comparisons. You will always be trying to meet their standards, and people will always notice that you’re trying to sound exactly like them.

What’s worse (and you won’t realize this until you get too far into it to back out), you will come to a point where a particular effort is well-received and you will be called “the next…” And you will be expected to come out the next time living up to that. Which you won’t. Because you’re not “the next…” You’re you.

Don’t believe me? Google the words “Spielberg” and “Night Shyamalan.”


Moolah. It may not be just what the doctor ordered.

5. Write for the money. I’ve long held the belief (and have yet to be proven wrong) that if you do something solely for the money, you’re making a bad sale. Please consult Merriam-Webster under ‘Prostitute’ or see my resume for reference.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m alllll about making money as a writer, or anything else. Writers who say they don’t care about money either don’t have to (because they’re married to someone with a shitload of it) or they’re in their twenties.

You need money. Money’s good. Making money as a writer will keep you from making sure your timecard is signed and dated properly and from asking permission to go to the potty. But for the love of all things chocolate-covered, don’t just try to write something because you think it’s a genre you can sell. The biggest sin in literature is romance writing, not because the genre is bad (I’m a big fan of Nora Roberts, actually), but because so many people think they can just whip something out (no jokes).

Unless you know the genre, unless you understand its nuances, and unless you really have a certain understanding of drama and the human condition, you can’t write it! And even if you like it, if it isn’t you, the story won’t work.

Better advice? Write for the jugular. You know where yours is. You just have to give in and go for it.


The blank page is dead…long live the blank page.



Author known to use spontaneous satire, sarcasm, and unannounced injections of pith or witticisms which may not be suitable for humorless or otherwise jest-challenged individuals. (Witticisms not guaranteed to be witty, funny, comical, hilarious, clever, scintillating, whimsical, wise, endearing, keen, savvy, sagacious, penetrating, fanciful, or otherwise enjoyable. The Surgeon General has determined through laboratory testing that sarcasm can be dangerous, even in small amounts, and should not be ingested by those who are serious, somber, pensive, weighty, funereal, unsmiling, poker-faced, sober, or pregnant.)




18 Responses to Scott Morgan: 5 Things Writers Should Do (When They Want To Suck)

  1. Bert Carson says:

    Rob – Scott did a grand job but I have to say, you won’t catch me wearing his cap – and, btw, tonight, I’ll be back in my Rob “black cap” Guthrie outfit. Your fans will be waiting.
    Thanks both of you – damn fine work.

    • rsguthrie says:

      Hey, Bert! LOL…you’ve got me so paranoid I got rid of all my black caps! Please, don’t tell the STALKERS. I know I speak for both Scott and I when I say we’re damn humbled by your praise. Cheers, my friend. 🙂

  2. rsguthrie says:

    Have to say for the record, I think similar to television hosts, bloggers aren’t supposed to pick favorite guests, but you know damn well Letterman was near giddy any time Drew Barrymore was scheduled to come on the show (and he was visibly aroused whenever Paul was replaced by Warren Zevon). Well, Scott Morgan is my Barrymore and Zevon rolled into one. He’s the man—the unadulterated original; the REAL THING. Love this guy. Bromance, aside, though, I sincerely hope he doesn’t raise his shirt on any return visits. No one needs to witness that again…

  3. Katherine says:

    Long live the blank page…

    so that it is there waiting for the creative spark of the writer! Nice points.

  4. This was damn funny. I’m especially fond of rule #4 next to a picture of M. Night Shamammallaman, or whatever his name is. I’m going to go out on a limb and argue (my jugular is important to me, but I’ve cut my teeth, I think I can take it) that the 80s were awesome. Ok, there, I said it. Granted, I grew up in the 80s, so I’m biased.

    • rsguthrie says:

      Hey, Sean! I’m with you on the ’80s! But same thing…I grew up in them, so I’m biased. 😉 Make sure to catch the B-side to this on Scott’s Blog…just keep that damn jugular protected! Cheers and thanks much for the read and comment.

  5. Mimi Barbour says:

    Congrats Rob! You have won the coveted “Versatile Blogger” award. Please accept your award at

  6. YOU ROCK! Loved this post. Thanks. Needed to hear it. No one’s writing should suck! (You’ve shown how!)

  7. Sam Reeves says:

    A lot of good points made here. There is a difference in knowing something and understanding it. The latter is a tool that develops only after living with the former, and you sound as if you have lived every point up there.

    I think there can be a nobility in writing to someone other than yourself so long as that person is an individual. I need some sort of audience or else it becomes as pointless as telling myself jokes. The process is for me; the story is for them. And I agree with you about “Imitate your faves.” Everyone is an amalgam of his or her experiences, but as Harlan Ellison said, “Don’t tell dead men’s tales unless you can beat them at it.” I cringe when I see a book cover branded with a marketing disservice like “The next Stephen King.” Nobody is going to write like King better than King. The writer must eventually break away from his influences.

  8. First, Good morning and great post!
    As for the 80’s I’m a big fan, but I noticed a lot of the singers
    changed their styles trying to keep up with the fads and it just didn’t work for them either.
    And I definitely agree with you on #2 Well kind of 🙂
    I love the Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings movies! I can watch them over and over, BUT, I have never read the books. I tried reading the first Harry Potter book once, but couldn’t even get through the first chapter. On the other hand I can read Stephen King books all day and yet don’t care for the movies.
    And a “sorry” to Rob, I still love my adverbs!

    • rsguthrie says:

      Thanks for the response, Karen! And you don’t need to apologize to me for loving your adverbs—you need to apologize to your READERS! No, seriously, they’re only suggestions. I happen to believe that just because I like something, though, doesn’t make it a patently good choice for my writing. But every writer is going to choose what they agree with, what they don’t agree with, and then they will change their minds yet again on half of it. In the end, if the readers are buying your books, then I say advice be damned! 😀

  9. Carl Plumer says:

    File under “stuff they don’t teach you in writer school.” Great post, made me laugh AND think. Both at the same time. (Multitasking!) Heading over to read the companion post right now….

  10. Jambalian says:

    I am SOOOOO glad I read this! Having read a wonderful review of Rob’s LOST by Scott Bury on Amazon, I spent the last two days in depression, knowing I would never be able to write with the same style. However, point 1 really rang true. The vast majority of 5 star reviews for Gray Justice came from non-writers who simply loved the story the way it was written. Depression over, it’s time to get back to writing the sequel.. the way I do it!

  11. Scott Morgan says:

    You have NO idea how gratifying it is to hear that 🙂

  12. Lesann says:


    I wrote a nifty little response and the internet ate it. Damn.

    Great post, you guys rock. Love the bit about whipping out a romance novel…good luck with that, squirmy little buggers. The days of Barbara Cartland are long gone – there’s some steamy tough competition out there.

    • rsguthrie says:

      Gack. Great term of imagery (and also EXACTLY how I feel when the Internet consumes one of my own pithy masterpieces). And how did you know Scott was so squirmy?? 😀

  13. LK Watts says:


    As you know I’m already a big fan of yours but the last point you make is SPOT on.

    ‘Unless you know the genre, unless you understand its nuances, and unless you really have a certain understanding of drama and the human condition, you can’t write it! And even if you like it, if it isn’t you, the story won’t work.’

    That’s why you need to read as many books as possible in the genre you would like to write in. Great post! 🙂

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