There is a lot of writing advice out there. A lot. Tons. Scads. There is probably more writing advice out there than there are geeks who watch the Walking Dead in their underwear while eating Cheetos. (Trust me, that’s a lot) Here’s the thing though…a lot of that writing advice is bull pucky…
I have been writing most of my life. When I say that I don’t mean from diapers of course, although who knows how creative I was in the womb, but I did sell my very first piece when I was 9 years old. I’m in the 48-55 category now so that’s a long time. Over those years I have heard, been given and had forced upon me a lot of advice. Some of it has been invaluable like use commas or make sure you have pants on when writing in cafes but some of it has been crap too.
We are, after all, humans and we are pretty ego driven so we often think we know it all. Something may work for a writer and suddenly they are an expert. Our egos don’t account for luck or right timing, instead it tells us that we got published and we did a certain set of things to do it and by-god we are now experts who have to share our secret…no matter how ridiculous our method may have been. I once met a first-time writer at a conference who had written a book and had it published on its first round out. She had it in her head that the reason she had been so blessed was because every night before she went to bed she went outside with a glass of wine and looked up at the stars and thanked Hemmingway for her skill. Hemmingway…a glass of wine….it’s as funny as it is ironic. Upon a bit of research into the company who had accepted her manuscript I discovered that they too were first-timers…the young woman had, in fact, been the benefactor of good timing. Let’s hope that by book 4 she isn’t an alcoholic or that she doesn’t start telling people that Hemmingway is a lost Greek God. And what happens when her next book doesn’t get published? Will she keep writing or think that she has fallen out of favor with the long dead author?
There is a lot of bad advice out there and a lot of crazy things that writers do as part of their ritual. Here are three pieces of advice I have heard over the years that you should steer clear of. (Trust me, these are some of the worst of the bad)
- Write what you know – I just saw an article this morning giving this stupid piece of advice. I’m a writer which makes me a student of life. If I wrote only about what I knew my world would be so limited. One of the best things about writing is that you get to learn and grow. Think of all the worlds that would have never come into being if we only wrote what we knew? Think of the Disney and Universal Studio rides that would have never existed because some writer somewhere had made up the Pirates of the Caribbean or Harry Potter?
- Set a specific time aside to write – This one irks me to no ends. I am a writer and, as far as I know, I wasn’t born with a timer. I write when the inspiration hits me and sometimes that is at 1 a.m. and sometimes it is right after lunch. I have never been able to pigeon-hole my writing into a 2 hour time block. If you set aside a time and stick to it and only it, you will never get anything done. Now I am all for setting aside I time block to work on your writing or editing bit don’t hold yourself to just that time block.
- Write locked away in a room alone only – This is a piece of advice that gets plastered everywhere on a regular basis. While I think it is a great idea to have a writing spot, and who doesn’t want their own writing room, I think it is ridiculous to tell yourself that you can only write if you have a “spot”. Writing is life and life cannot be confined to a room. As a writer, unless you decide to stay single, childless and/or disavow your family, life will happen around you a lot. You have to learn to write where the Universe allows you to. I have my own office space now but it is in our family room/den and of I couldn’t write with things going on around me I would never finish another book. Oddly, the other people in my family want to eat and the kitchen is right here so….. Also, if you section yourself off how are you supposed to breathe life into your characters? Alone time is good, being alone is not…create a space if you can but don’t not write because you don’t have one.
These are just three of the pieces of advice I have had flung at me over the years that suck…there is tons more out there. The best advice I have ever gotten…trust your gut. Writers are the most individual people on the planet. While the basics, grammar rules and such, work for every writer…not much else does. Find your own writing method and then use it but try and refrain from making it a rule that all writers have to follow because, chances are, it won’t work for everyone else.
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