How to Frustrate Readers


Try one or more of the following and see if you can achieve status as an “advanced frustrater.”

1. Signal your intent to frustrate early on with ​liberal use of typos. Put one in the title to show you are REALLY serious.

2. Speaking of titles, try to make sure yours has little or nothing to do with the content of your story.

3. Don’t just let your typos “happen,” make them happen. Engineer some corkers yourself — just start deleting letters or switching them for the one next-door on the keyboard. Readers will just have to puzzle them out, even when it’s neigh impossible. Stwllar trock!

4. Use run-on sentences, sentence fragments, and non-sensical run-on sentence fragments to spice things up.

5. Make up your own grammar rules and stick to them — until you don’t — and readers will be dazzled.

6. Fail to introduce your lead character until you’re past the midpoint of the story.

7. Write set-up after set-up with no payoffs.

8. Build up and put a spotlight on something in your story and then let it turn out to be nothing, like a noise you hear at night that you never are able to discern.

9. Forget writing the climax. Fill your pages with a glacial opening instead.

10. Repeat yourself, over and over and over…

11. Include plenty of holes in your story, so the plot reads like Swiss cheese.

12. Put in so many characters that your readers feel they are in Tokyo subway station.

13. Make your writing as dry as possible — aim for the arid language of a shirt label.

14. Avoid conflict, the extraordinary, and the rare.

15. Never evoke emotion.

16. If you do need to turn up the dial up on emotion, express yourself in an emotionally tone-deaf manner.

17. Make the shape of your story a flat line.

18. Avoid all change. If it was good enough for page one, still good on page 753!

19. Use tons of jargon, slang, and dialect words that no one will understand. If you don’t know any, just be inventive, and never offer context clues or explanations.

20. Give one character an unusual (made-up!) accent and write it out fon-et-ick’ly.

21. Head-hop so readers are constantly trying to figure out who is saying what. You can jump from one point-of-view to the next sentence-by-sentence if you get on a roll.

22. Give all your characters similar names — or better the same name! “Hi! I’m John! Hi! I’m John too! This is Jon, my brother! We all go by the nickname ‘J!’”

23. Make your characters one-dimensional — or perfect — or both. Everyone loves a Pollyanna, the perfect, irrepressibly optimistic, cardboard-cutout character.

24. Use the worst possible tropes — unforgivingly — and in unworkable combinations.

25. Make sure readers can guess the ending on page one.

26. Better yet, make sure there is no ending, just a lot of handwaving for the last quarter of the book.

27. Copy another book — imitation is the best compliment.

28. Label the book as one genre but write it as another. If the back-flap suggests that your book, All The Girls Love Daniel, is a classic romance, why not make Daniel a stallion and deliver a Western? Readers love a good bait-and-switch. Get creative, this trick works with any combination of genres.

29. Ignore narrative structure and the three-act story structure — who needs ALL the literary elements? Boring!

30. Go to the dictionary of dead words and pick a nosegay of vernacularisms that no one will know and use them willy-nilly and without definition.

31. Forget any semblance of continuity. If they drive on the left-side of the road in the beginning of the book, have them drive on the right by the end — you’re just shaking it up!

32. Have your characters do out-of-character things all the time — but always in a new way.

33. Patterns create depth and beauty in stories — choose randomness!

34. Write often about things that you fail to understand, have never done, and wish to know nothing about. The authenticity of the inauthenticity of the subsequent writing will provoke readers to frown so hard their faces will turn upside down.

35. Add no sensory details. Readers will feel like they are in a sensory-deprivation tank and that can be very relaxing.

36. Add monologues, but not from the hero or the villain and certainly not broaching any topic of heart-rending substance.

37. Make sure your dialogue is wooden and your exposition is as dense as the Black Forest. In contrast, your descriptions should be bloated and imprecise.

38. Never stoop to adding a cliff-hanger or any kind of hook that might pique curiosity and fill a reader’s head with questions that keep the pages turning.

39. Don’t stop here. Always be on the look-out for new ways to frustrate readers. Practice makes perfect.

Do you have special ways to frustrate readers or techniques that will make any sensible person put a book down? Share them in the comments section!


Alberta Sequeira
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A Free Workshop Online


If you’re looking for inspiration in odd places, I suggest you polish off your writing pad, sharpen your pencils and join us for The Manuscript Academy’s Write-In THIS MONDAY, June 24th, from 8-9 PM (NYC Time).

This is a guided writing activity, built to push you into unexpected places in your writing. It’s open-ended, FREE, and a super way to meet other writers. Can’t make the time? That’s okay–our system has an instant replay to enjoy at your leisure (or appropriate time zone!).

This is an inclusive event. Feel free to invite your friends and writing groups. The more the merrier in our writing community.

As always, we’ll have plenty of surprises at the event. And prizes, too!

Hope to see you there!

Join Us!

This week, #MSWL Academy Co-Founder Julie Kingsley, who’s taught writing for more than 20 years, brings you a pep talk on how to keep going–and get unstuck. This episode includes encouragement, exercises–and a special surprise for you if you keep listening.

We also have a FREE write-in workshop coming up THIS MONDAY, June 24, 8pm EDT–join and chat NOW with other writers at

And a LIVE query event with agent Katharine Sands, agent and creator of Pitch To Page (one of our most popular classes) July 1 at 8:30pm EDT. See:

To use the consultation coupon in this episode, go to


All the best,
Jessica and Julie
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June meetings are now up! You’ll note that there’s a new meeting type this month–you can now buy your live meeting + a ticket to our live event at the same time. Scroll down to learn more.

Hope this finds you well and enjoying some sun!
Meet With An Agent (Or Editor!)
Book A Written Critique
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Monday, July 1, 8:30pm EDT

Literary agents are always on a treasure hunt. But few writers know what it takes to make agents yell at first glance: “Eureka, I’ve struck gold!” And a first glance is all that most writers will get before the agent moves on without ever reading further.

We’ll discuss the mystery of getting an agent to want YOU, to read YOU, and to say YES to YOU. Ask live questions, and get answers to your burning query questions.

Katharine Sands is an agent at The Sarah Jane Freymann Literary Agency, and her recorded, edited class, From Pitch To Page (optional add-on purchase–the Q&A stands alone), is one of the most popular in our library of classes.

To learn more about this live event, click here:

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How do you know you’re done with your manuscript?


At some point, every author has grappled with the question of how to know when you’re done writing your work-in-progress. From obsessing over the last few lines to getting lost in endless revisions, it’s hard to know when you’ve crossed the finish line from manuscript to the ​final book. We asked Penguin Random House authors and editors to share how they know a book is truly done.

Trust Your Subconscious
“I find that I’m done with a book when my subconscious mind is no longer working on it. When I stop thinking about it when I’m running. Or if I’m in the grocery store staring at avocados and a great idea about the book doesn’t just spring into my head. Or if I’m no longer waking up in the middle of the night with an urgent need to write down some dialogue. When those little moments stop happening, I know I’m done.” (Author)

Achieve a Book’s Best Expression
“Quite honestly, I don’t know if a book is ever done. When you’ve lived with something for multiple drafts and months of your life, you can always see things that can be made better. Time and time again, I’ll have authors send me reprint corrections that are just about fine-tuning words, and none of them is wrong, but most of the time they’re unnecessary. For me, it’s time to let go of a book when those tweaks and changes are not adding anything significantly meaningful to a work. A book is done when it’s the best expression of what it can be.” (Editor)

Room for Improvement
“The deadline arrives. Ask my editor; I never, never, never turn in anything early. This may well mean I’m still working on it, but it may also mean I want to give the masterpiece just one more look. And I can guarantee that ‘just one more look’ will reveal something that needs improving. Ideally, I like to finish a book a month early, let the manuscript sit for that month without ever looking at a word of it, then give it another run-through. I always get a surprise. It may be the plot, the characters, the setting, or just an awkward sentence. But everything can stand another look. When I can’t find anything else to improve, it’s done. If that time ever arrives.” (Author)

Follow Your Instincts
“This may sound like a cop-out, but a lot of knowing when a book is ready is instinct. On the most basic level: the editor reads so many passes of an author’s work, and the bottom line is that the book is not ready until one of the passes comes in and I don’t have a single note to make. Another question that is often indicative is what happens when the publisher or publicity director or someone in sales asks if they can read the book. If I feel good about sharing it, it’s ready—or close to ready. If I immediately feel panic, it is clear that it still needs work.” (Editor)

Quit While You’re Ahead
“As a guy who spent ten years writing one book, I’m a bit of an expert on the revision process. My advice: stop at year nine—that’s usually enough time to hit the main points. Seeking more practical guidance? Stop writing when you notice your most recent changes have made matters worse, not better.” (Author)

It’s All in the Delivery
“When editing nonfiction, I feel the book is done when it delivers on its promise: it communicates its information in the most pleasing and effective way, and has answered the readers’ anticipated questions. With fiction, you also want to deliver what the reader wants, but that’s often the opposite: to be surprised and taken to unexpected places! In both cases, I’m there to push the author to go a little deeper, sometimes over and over again. When you get back diminishing returns, you know it’s finished.” (Editor)

Read, Edit, Repeat
“While writing the book, I edit along the way. When I get to the end of the story, then the real work begins. I start at the beginning and analyze each scene and chapter for continuity of time, place, emotion, or anything else that might be out of whack. After those changes, I do one more read-through to make sure it’s all working. Usuall,​y at this point, the book is done . . . until I get back the edits. Then I repeat, making sure to analyze and read until all the edits are accepted.” (Author)

The Tipping Point
“How do I know when we’re done with a book? When the writer and I simply can’t bring ourselves to look at it one more time. But really, there always comes a point at which the whole thing tips, and you suddenly start wondering if instead of making a piece of writing better, you are actually making it worse. You mess with it and mess with it and mess with it, and it gets better and stronger . . . and then it starts to lose something. That’s when I know we’re done.” (Editor)

Completed To-do List
“I knew I was done when I read straight through a draft of my manuscript and realized I had fixed all the things on my ongoing mental ‘to-fix’ list. Nothing had given me enough pause to stop my read-through. That was a good day!” (Author)

Only the Author Knows
”The most important thing to keep in mind is that ultimately it’s the author’s book, with their name on the cover, not the editor’s. While I will always ask for the revisions and edits that I think will make a manuscript the best book it can be, at the end of the day only the author can know when they are done.” (Editor)

Learn to Let Go
“There is only one way I know I am done writing: when I am holding the finished hardcover in my hands for the first time and it is finally crystal clear that begging for a comma to be removed on page 134 will eventually, ultimately, mercifully do me no good.” (Author)

Milena Schmidt is part of the Consumer Marketing Development and Operations Group.

Need a Speaker?


”The Effect of Alcoholism on the Whole Family

* The devastating toll of alcoholism on the family
* The self-destruction of the addict
* For those looking for strength from their own alcoholic-driven problems
* The enabling
* Blackouts/physical and emotional abuse
* Denial
* Protecting the children
* Breakdowns
* Feelings of hopelessness
* Communication in the marriage
* Professional help
* Separation or divorce
* Ignoring the signs of teenage drinking
* Hidden emotional problems with the children
* Taking time to listen and communicate with your teen
* Giving complete support
* Being involved in their counseling, doctor’s appointments and recovery program

“My Spiritual Changes Within”

* Focus on relationships with our loved ones
* Strengthening your belief in your faith
* Tours to Medjugorje/spiritual renewals
* Alberta’s spiritual experience in Medjugorje
* The secrets Our Lady is giving the visionaries
* Description of the apparitions
* The importance of Confession
* Miracles all around us
* Awareness of God in our lives
* Alberta encourages us to examine our life
* Recognize the value of thankfulness
* Saying goodbye to our loved ones
* Renew the joy in life

”Where am I Heading?”

(School Program)
* The introduction to alcohol and drugs
* Signs of alcohol abuse
* Following the crowd
* Binge drinking
* Hereditary or a disease
* Habit, action, location, and friends
* Facing your family and school problems
* Recovery programs
* Breaking from the drinking and drug friends
* Getting on with life
* The reality of Cirrhosis of the Liver

**Alberta is willing to talk on any topic you may want for your event. She would love to discuss what would be the best fit. Please feel free to send questions to

Visit her website at
References from the Bristol Correction Office at Faunce Corner Road in North Dartmouth, MA:
1. Rui M. Lima, MA, MSW, LICSW, Director of Substance Abuse & Social Servies Programs & Treatment: Telephone: 508-995-6400 ext. 2821
2. Matthew Robitaille, Director of Classification and Programs;​ Telephone: 508-995-6400 ext. 2504

Alberta Sequeira


other writer’s site:

Author’s Experiences

Taken from:

For someone who had no desire to write, my table has no space. Since this picture, I have more published and enjoyed writing them all.
Alberta Sequeira

Purchase Alberta’s books at

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