Unpublishable: Writing the Void in 25 Simple Steps

Jeff Jackson



Everybody hates writing advice, but people can’t seem to stop giving it. Clearly, I’m no better. When Flannery O’Connor was asked if she worried that writing programs were stifling writers, she responded, “They don’t stifle enough of them. There’s many a best-seller that could have been prevented by a good teacher.” In that grand spirit, I hope these prove useful.

– Jeff Jackson



1. Try not to start.

2. The best idea is no idea.

3. Misunderstand yourself.

4. Every sentence is a new doubt.

5. Follow the breadcrumb trail of false memories.

6. Avoid telling.
Avoid showing.
Now you’re getting somewhere.

7. Cultivate characters who will lie to you.
And better yet, lie to themselves.

8. The best narrator is one who is almost inaudible.
Transcribe the murmurs that you can’t quite hear.

9. Study structure by falling asleep in the middle of movies.

10. Wall yourself inside the story.
Each word a new brick.
Oxygen running low.

11. The last sentence of your story should echo back to the first sentence of the very first thing you ever wrote.

12. Epiphany is the last refuge of the scoundrel.

13. Become bored by your own dreams.

14. More inauthenticity.

15. When you finally reach the truth, then you know you’ve been heading in the wrong direction.

16. Treat your reader like a beloved relative on life support.
Prepare to pull the plug.

17. Ghostwrite yourself.

18. Disappear into your work.
Then make your work disappear.

19. Avoiding adjectives is good.
Avoiding adverbs is better.
Avoiding words is best.

20. The destination doesn’t count.
And the journey doesn’t exist.

21. Feel empty so your reader doesn’t have to.

22. Is there enough absence?

23. Delete the first and last sentence of the story.
Then delete everything in between.
Don’t worry, you’re almost done.

24. Put no words where there are no words.

25. Publish only as a last resort.