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Reply with quote  #1 

I read a lot of blogs about writing.

Something I’ve grown really tired of is the “how to be a writer” blog – as if this is something that can be conveyed in a few paragraphs. It isn’t that I don’t think there are aspects of writing that can be taught. I’ve taken writing classes and found them beneficial. But a one-size-fits-all list of dos and don’ts that you stumble across on the internet is something to be skeptical of.

If there are rules, they apply to everyone differently, depending on your audience and your specific writing goals.

How many times have you been warned not to use adverbs?

Tell that to JK Rowling. Or better: don’t. Adverbs have their place as does every other bit of language. A better suggestion would be to use all your words consciously, to understand where the rule came from and break it with that knowledge.

But even that makes me uncomfortable. It ignores the fact that there are writers with natural talent who don’t need to know the why of it.

The reason I love hearing writers speak about their particular writing process is that they all have something different to say. Some of them plot it out on color coded note cards before they type a word while others have no idea where the story is going and swear their characters battle them for control. Some have MFAs and others no formal training. Some write several titles a year; others leave one perfect book as their life’s work.

There are many different ways to be a writer. If you’re seeking commercial success, there are certain formulas for certain genres. There are rules for spelling and grammar, but even some of the rules about commas are flexible. Tense and point of view should probably be consistent. (Real anti-rulers are calling me a hypocrite for adding that.) But learning to “drop these seven words” won’t make you a writer. It’s just not that easy.

If you think I’ve just written a blog on “how to be a writer,” you may have a point. That’s the problem with giving advice to ignore advice. But maybe that’s not what I’m saying.

Don’t ignore it; just don’t take it as gospel. Don’t let it subvert your own writer’s instinct.

I think you should be very critical of the writing advice you take, including mine.



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Posts: 18
Reply with quote  #2 
Agreed!  I get so tired of the blurbs giving "cookie cutter" advice about novel-writing, too. The stuff that says, "You must have this many climaxes, your main character must be likeable and virtuous (seriously? I've read so many interesting books in which the main character was a total creep). I just recently wrote in my blog about this very thing (I got annoyed at a series of tips and decided to take them on one by one):

I like reading advice from other writers - but like you, I take it with a grain of salt. I keep what feels right, and discard the rest. None of us are cookie cutter people. Our writing shouldn't be, either.
Rob Diaz

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Reply with quote  #3 

My son plays baseball and I have been coaching since he started playing (I played all through high school until an injury ended my career).  He's had lots of coaches throughout his 7 years of playing ball and each coach tells him some super-important, highly-specific "you've got to do this to succeed" tip.  He has expressed to me many times that it gets confusing because the advice is often contradictory.  What I've told him is that it is important to get as many pieces of advice and as many opinions as he can... but it is more important to take those opinions and pieces of advice and cobble them into something you can work with.

We all have our strengths and weaknesses in anything we do.  Advice tends to be related to a perfect-world scenario or to such a narrow area that it doesn't always work 100% of the time.  That said, a lot of advice can still be useful if you use it correctly.    So yes, take the advice for what it is:  advice.  Use it, ignore it, adapt it... but in the end, find something useful to you and go from there. 


My advice (see what I did there?) is:  Write.  A lot.  Then read what you write.  A lot.  Understand where you feel your strengths are and where you think your weaknesses are.  Seek out advice and/or "rules" for those weaker areas and see if you can make those areas stronger by adopting or adapting those rules.  Then repeat all of the above.  What's the worst that can happen?  You end up with a lot of writing getting done?  Personally, I would see that as a win.

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