How to Dispose of Writing Advice

When you decide to write anything at all, fiction, non-fiction, reports at work, letters, whatever, and you decide that you are not skilled enough, you do what anybody in that position would do: you seek advice.

You consult friends, books and almighty Google. You will find, very quickly, that writing advice (much like writers) is abundant. You will also find that the advice can be contradictory, dogmatic and surprisingly inflexible.

How does the neophyte sift through all of this? Well, an easy method of evaluation is to check which advice works. That sounds easy, right? Well it isn’t because you have to define what you mean by “works”, and that isn’t as straightforward as it seems.

You could use publication as a measure, but that doesn’t work because a. A lot of rubbish gets published and b. Writing is only one of the factors that goes into publication. You would think the quality of writing would be the most important factor, but it isn’t.

You could use reader reaction as an outcome, but that doesn’t work either. Readers are fickle and petty. Readers who are writers are worse because they can pick out all of your technical faults.

You could use your own satisfaction in what you have written, and that’s cool, but it’s not objective. This  can only really work if you never wish to show anybody your writing. People say they only write for themselves, but I don’t believe it. My knowledge of the functioning of the subconscious makes it hard to swallow.

Here’s what I suggest: Take all writing advice as subjective. The person giving the advice is stating what worked for them. It MIGHT work for you, which is why you should listen to all of it.

If you see a heading that says RULES for writing, run like hell.

Ultimately, you’ll find what works for you, and that’s the key: what works for you.










Filed under writer, writing

2 responses to “How to Dispose of Writing Advice

  1. I think part of this is learning why certain things are considered ‘rules.’ For example, there is currently a big push against adverbs. The reason is people use adverbs in place of dynamic description. However, sometimes, we just need an adverb.
    By understanding the principle, then I am able to look at an adverb and scrutinize its place, rather than just eliminate it because someone told me to. (Although, when I did this the other night, the replacement of a single adverb added 1,000 words to my novel. Apparently, an adverb is worth 1,000 words too.)

    • I agree.
      Part of having what is called “control over your material” is knowing when to use whatever you want to use and to be deliberately transgressive.
      Adverbs have their place. The trick is knowing where that place is 🙂
      There are trends in writing which flow from the ebb and flow of life generally. The 21st Century reader has less patience than the 18th Century reader.

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