Josh Lanyon – Top Ten Mistakes New M/M Writers Make

Top Ten Mistakes New M/M Writers Make


1 – Taking traits the author loathes in a female character — clinginess, helplessness, emotionalism — and convincing yourself that they’re acceptable in a male. Readers don’t hate stupidity because it’s a feminine trait; they hate it because nobody likes stupid people.


2 – Naming your character something that would get him beaten up on the school playground.


3 – Confusing “toughness” with muscles and swear words.


4 – Confusing “sexy” with the number of times the characters have sex.


5 – Mistaking a lot of random events happening to your main character for actually having a plot.


6 – Peopling your supporting cast with stereotypes and clichรฉs. In fiction as in real life, people are most interesting in the ways they surprise us.



7 – Confusing sapphire eyes and a cool job with character development.



8 – Writing stiff, corny, unrealistic dialog that would make the characters in a B-movie blush for you.



9 – Confusing bickering, bitchiness, and Big Misunderstandings for genuine conflict. Conflict = plot. Please tell me you don’t object to a plot in your m/m romance?



10 – Writing m/m fiction because you think it will sell well rather than writing m/m fiction because it’s what you love best.

30 thoughts on “Josh Lanyon – Top Ten Mistakes New M/M Writers Make

    Gloria Galasso

    (August 15, 2011 - 11:30 pm)

    Well said, Josh! I think your first point and your last one should be tattooed on some people’s foreheads.

      Josh Lanyon

      (August 16, 2011 - 6:17 pm)

      Thanks, Gloria. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Harper Fox

    (August 16, 2011 - 2:27 am)

    Excellent advice, Josh. Although – oh, whoa! I definitely did number seven…

      Josh Lanyon

      (August 16, 2011 - 6:19 pm)

      You never did! Your characters are always fully developed.

    Chris Quinton

    (August 16, 2011 - 5:00 am)

    What you said *g*. Mind you, that didn’t stop me going through the list and carefully checking my writing and reasons for writing against it. Thankfully, I scored a whopping big zero.

      Josh Lanyon

      (August 16, 2011 - 6:21 pm)

      Hey, Chris, it’s one thing to break the rules when you understand them. It’s another when you have no clue what the rules might be. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Taylor V Donovan

    (August 16, 2011 - 9:39 am)

    My favorite is number 10. This genre is severely lacking quality and I think that’s one of the reasons why. Writers need to tell the stories they love; not the ones they think will sell.

      Josh Lanyon

      (August 16, 2011 - 6:19 pm)

      You can usually tell when someone is writing from the heart or just trying to follow a formula they don’t understand.


    (August 16, 2011 - 9:49 am)

    Awesome Josh! I’ll be sending some of the authors of m/m stories I get for submissions here for your list ๐Ÿ™‚

      Josh Lanyon

      (August 16, 2011 - 6:22 pm)

      One thing for sure, Nikita, it won’t do anyone any *harm* to follow these. ๐Ÿ˜‰


    (August 16, 2011 - 4:51 pm)

    But, I LIKE muscles and swear words . . . . : )

      Josh Lanyon

      (August 16, 2011 - 6:22 pm)

      Oh, me too, Robin! You know it! But I like tough-minded guys too. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Nadja L Gassert

    (August 16, 2011 - 4:53 pm)

    Hmm. I rather like #2. It could be the catalyst for some awful crime spree (think revenge on playground bullies hidden under layers of seemingly unrelated random muggings and burglaries and such).

      Josh Lanyon

      (August 16, 2011 - 6:26 pm)

      Yes, absolutely, Nadja! The name should suit the character. It’s just that I don’t recall meeting many Damien St. Devereauxs in real life. ;-D


    (August 16, 2011 - 5:48 pm)

    Totally agree with all of these and I sincerely hope I don’t do any of them! I write m/m because I love the dynamic and I can always hear the conversation going in my head. I often read the words through like a play, out loud. A strong character is one with depth and personality, not necessarily one with muscles or stoicism.

      Josh Lanyon

      (August 16, 2011 - 6:38 pm)

      Reading aloud is a good technique for testing out how corny and over-the-top the dialog is, Jessie! I agree with you about strength in characters.

    Josh Lanyon

    (August 16, 2011 - 6:16 pm)

    Oops! I forgot to check for comments over here! ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Harper Fox

    (August 16, 2011 - 6:32 pm)

    LOL! Thank you. I think Last Line’s Anzhel might have erred a tiny bit on the side of sapphire eyes and pure two-dimensional villainy. I mean to rectify this in Books 2 and 3. xxx

      Josh Lanyon

      (August 16, 2011 - 6:39 pm)

      Well, the rules are slightly different for super villains, though only slightly. ๐Ÿ˜‰

        Harper Fox

        (August 16, 2011 - 6:47 pm)

        Oh, that’s all right, then. I don’t have to develop his character – just give him some funky tinted contacts, eh? ๐Ÿ˜€

    Blaine D. Arden

    (August 18, 2011 - 3:35 am)

    Readers donโ€™t hate stupidity because itโ€™s a feminine trait; they hate it because nobody likes stupid people.
    Amen to that!

    Love the list ๐Ÿ™‚

    Though, just when I thought I’d finally outgrown my naivety, I read number ten … and instantly feel naive again, because it never even entered my mind.

      Josh Lanyon

      (August 20, 2011 - 2:50 pm)

      I’m sorry to say I’ve actually heard writers bemoaning the need to write m/m because “that’s what sells now.”


        (August 20, 2011 - 3:52 pm)

        I’m sorry to say that I have read some of those books by some of those authors, if you don’t love it then you shouldn’t do it as it comes across in the books.

        P.S. love your books but don’t tell anyone** it’s our secret**.


    (November 8, 2011 - 10:03 pm)

    OMG I have named several characters names that would get them beaten up in a school yard. I’m going to print this list and post it on my desk. Thanks Josh!

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    Alex A. Akira

    (April 15, 2012 - 6:34 pm)

    Thank you Josh Lanyon for this list. I’m newly published and although I think I pass on number ten, I really might have failed on number five. Mmmm, food for thought and something to work on.
    I don’t suppose using the words “balls deep” to convey good masculine sex could fit on your list?
    Sorry, one of my pet peeves, every book I’ve read with those words, instantly turns me off.

    Allen Mack

    (March 2, 2013 - 9:50 am)

    The last comment here is almost a year old – is the site/column/information still correct?


    (March 18, 2013 - 10:44 am)

    Brilliant! Succinct, well said. You have hit so much weak writing, not only M/M but M/F romance right on the head. Thank you for your honesty. I hope some take the hint.

    Avril Ashton

    (March 18, 2013 - 10:53 am)

    My absolute fave is #10. Cannot stress that enough. Awesome list.

    Lori Oglesby Johnson

    (March 18, 2013 - 11:15 am)

    This is great, although I think much of it could be used for all writing! Even though Iโ€™m just starting out (only a short story in an anthology published so far), I do have one M/M in my WIP folder.

    I write very character-driven stories. Even though my M/M WIP is in the very early stages and wonโ€™t be the first book I publish, I absolutely adore my main character and his story that I hope to tell well.

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