I’ve now destroyed three Kindles by flinging them at the wall. Number of paperbacks taken to recycling – three bags full. I am so tired and weary of reading half-baked bollocks, I want to give up my treasured pleasure of literature and watch Blackadder repeats.

No, you beard-strokers and bespectacled nodders, this is not the ‘Great Unwashed Tsunami’ of self-publishing. It’s far too many shite books by authors whose gaze rests otherwhere than on their readers. It’s self-indulgent crap and it comes from every kind of publishing arsehole.

This week I hurled a Booker Prize nominee out the window. Gave up on a small press manuscript. Spent three hours trying to refine a critique which should simply read: Don’t.

book job

From a reviewer’s perspective, here are the Golden Bloody Rules.

  1. Stand in your readers’ shoes. We don’t know your characters or storyworld as well as you do. Tread that fine line between hinting at what happened before/shitloads of backstory which makes us need a fucking diagram.
  2. Sure, go off on masturbatory indulgences into whatever you studied, experienced, heard about from some bloke in the pub… but why should anyone join you? Who cares?
  3. Understand POV. Whose story is this? Exceptional authors can head hop and do – eg, Kate Atkinson – but first, learn how to orient your reader. Most people need to be good before they achieve exceptional. Cop yourself on.
  4. Will you ever call someone the same buggering name? Gramps/Mr Hootenbacker/Albert/Crusty/Rooter are five different people to me. Signposts should include us, not confuse us.
  5. Do not bloody tell! If you ever need to use the word ‘felt’ you are frankly fucked. Make it happen, do not tell us how it happened or I swear, bad things with felt wings will swoop down and smother you in adverbs.
  6. Learn how to differentiate voice. If your characters all sound the same or have exaggerated speech/accent tics, you are officially a lazy git author. Put the work in – make individuals distinctive or just piss off home.
  7. Do the basics. What kind of arsehole allows their opus out there with typos, homonyms, names misspelt and factual errors? Get a proof reader and do the sodding legwork. No matter who publishes you. Twat.
  8. Go to the theatre. Learn the three-act structure and stop with that soggy middle bullshit. Pace, people, pace! Flabby mid-sections are so boring I’d rather watch videos of cats falling off shit.
  9. Never tell an unpaid reviewer how lucky they are to review your book. Two to three days reading someone’s manuscript is a shitload of my time when I have better things to do. Like clipping my toenails. You’re the lucky one, Cocky Wanker.
  10. The most important person in your story is your reader. Treat us right. Do not patronise, overload, embarrass, cheat, deceive or shill us. Or we will hunt you down and cull you. Seriously.

lit crit

And now your mission, should you wish to accept it, is to hunt down every example of the above in my work and go ner-ner-ner-ner-ner. Bring it on.

Images courtesy of Creative Commons.


    35 replies to "Massive Book Rant (contains swearing)"

    • Linda Gillard

      Bravo, Jill. Just bravo.

      • jilljmarsh

        Thanks, Linda. You are a beacon – how to write right.

    • siobhandaiko

      Reblogged this on Siobhan Daiko and commented:
      Oh, yes. This really hits home…

      • jilljmarsh

        Much appreciated, Siobhan. I tend to get sweary when cross. A Celtic feature?

    • siobhandaiko

      Excellent advice.

    • JB Johnston

      I swear to god I have just snorted tea down my nose! Love this!!!! Fab post!

      • jilljmarsh

        Sorry about the tea. Thanks for the support, JB!

    • Catherine Hokin (@cathokin)


      • jilljmarsh

        Thank you Catherine – so pleased others agree with my testy rant.

    • annewilliams13

      Quite magnificent Jill – really loved it…

      • jilljmarsh

        Thanks Anne – coughed it out like a furball, but better out than in…

    • prue batten

      Crikey! Never inflame jj marsh! 😉

      PS: Well said!

    • Cynthia Reyes

      Great bloody Golden Bloody Rules.

    • Michelle

      Jill, thank you. I’ve read through my current manuscript, found a ‘felt’ and smacked myself. Twice. Best rant ever!

    • rosrendle

      Absolutely agree. Spot on but I’m still trying my darnedest to get all those points correct. I’m trying so hard to learn and do! It doesn’t always come off.

    • jlmandrill

      Wonderful. Thank you.

    • jlmandrill

      Reblogged this on jlynchblogdotcom and commented:
      JJ Marsh is a great writer (see the Beatrice Stubbs books) and a hell of a critic.

    • jlmandrill

      Reblogged on jlynchblog

    • Jane Dougherty

      How very timely! I just smashed a kindle to pieces last night (metaphorically) for exactly the same reasons. Bloody timewasting pile of shite. An author who asked me to download his book then repeatedly asked me for a review. The impertinent little f**ker just might get it! Reblogging.

    • Jane Dougherty

      Reblogged this on Jane Dougherty Writes and commented:
      Please read, take note, act upon.

    • Seumas Gallacher

      …as an Auffar and a Reader …., Bluudy LUV IT! … great post :!

    • Ali Isaac

      Gosh you suddenly made me feel very paranoid lol! I hope I’m not one of ‘them’! But I feel your pain, and I’m sorry to say, your tantrum (although fully justified) really made me laugh! Hope you find some better books soon!

    • Bairdy1985

      Totally agree. Brilliant post

    • thewriteroute

      Brilliant and true (and just a tad scary – promise you’ll never read my stuff!)

    • jilljmarsh

      Thanks for all the positive reponses – I am usually a ray of sunshine.
      And just to swallow a big fat slice of humble pie, in the first line of my current manuscript, I done a ‘felt’.
      ‘A controversial decision, placing a forty-five quid bottle of German Syrah at the top of the tree, but Adrian felt it was justified.’

    • poppypeacockpens

      hahahaha … sometimes it just has to be said! Better out than in… love it!

    • Jan Ruth

      Totally loved this.

    • janeturley

      Top quality rant. Awesome.

    • April Munday

      I’ve broken a few of those rules. But not any that involve being rude to reviewers. I want to be quite clear about that, as I’m more than a little afraid at the moment.

      The rules are going to be printed, possibly framed or laminated and obeyed.

    • Andrene Low

      Great blog and yes to all of this. Point of view changing in a scene is a particular peeve of mine. Leads to lots of swearing.

    • jilljmarsh

      Thanks for all the comments – anyone who grafts at the craft cares about getting it right. To be fair, those who ask for feedback BEFORE publication deserve a round of applause. And coming soon, a mini-series of video clips on the Golden Bloody Rules of Bloody Writing. I shall try not to swear. Much.

    • juleswake

      Brilliant … and I went through WIP searching for ‘felt’ in current first draft. A few had sneaked in. Eradicated every last one and well, hell, doesn’t that prose work so much harder now! Thanks for the reminder.

    • Bert Wright

      There have been many great writers “whose gaze rests otherwhere than on their readers”; in fact, some would say that writing with one eye on the reader destroys creativity. (“Otherwhere” isn’t a word by the way.) The confusion here is perfectly simple. This is a formula for writing by-the-numbers commercial potboilers but NOT for writing novels, thanks all the same. James Joyce broke almost every rule. “Do the basics?” Do me a favour! And such Geordie Shore vulgarity with it.

      • jilljmarsh

        Thanks for your comment, Bert. I strenuously contend this is anything but advice for ‘writing by numbers’. Many recent ‘commercial potboilers’ have also failed to achieve some of these basic golden rules. It is instead reminding writers of their job – to communicate ideas to their readers. Certain authors did indeed break every rule, but I’ll bet they knew them first. As for destroying creativity, I’m afraid I have to be vulgar (what’s Geordie Shore, by the way?) and say bollocks. I’m not advocating crowd-pleasing but exhorting writers to have enough grasp of the craft to convey a message in the most effective way. For some reviews of historical, lit-fic, YA, biographies, horror, chick-lit and even the odd pot-boiler, have a look at

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