Writing advice every writer should throw out the window
Writers are by nature not the most confident of people. They wonder if their work is interesting, gripping, colorful, helpful, funny, or just plain good enough. Knowing that their family and friends are often not the best critics, they seek advice and guidance in books, at webinars, or from their peers. My advice, stop! Stop wondering, stop asking. When you deliver quality work, you’ll know it. In the meantime, throw the following writing advice out the window.
Listen to critics
Whether it’s a book, a story, or a poem, there will always be readers who will love and who will hate you work. Are you the only one who gets praised or hammered? Of course not, even James Patterson and Stephen King have to accept the good with the bad.
While it’s important not being discouraged by negative feedback, occasionally you might find a pearl of wisdom in someone’s criticism. For instance, should someone say that your article was inaccurate – next time do more research; should someone say that your characters were too one dimensional, next time put more meat on their bones.
Don’t rely too much on feedback though. Just read the comments on published books. One reader might give a book a five star review and describe it as gripping and exhilarating, while another might give it a one star review and think it boring and lame. Which one is to be believed?
Don’t worry about your work
Even though you shouldn’t put too much stock into what others say, keep listening to yourself. If you think something is crap, it probably is. That doesn’t mean you have to throw your work away. Put in on ice for a while and revisit later. The idea might be good but the wording might need a little tweaking. Whether you’re angry, sad, nostalgic, funny, or have something valuable to share, you have to feel something. Words alone don’t cut it, there has to be emotion in your work.
You have to read a lot
It’s not because you read a lot that you’re going to be a good writer. Reading, or shall I say, studying books, might help you in plot development, scene and character description, and even help you develop a larger vocabulary, but it won’t necessarily make you a good writer. It’s not because you study Ernest Hemingway, Tom Clancy or Joy Fielding that you’ll write like any of these writers. You have your own voice, your own style, and the best you can do is to perfect that voice and style.
Trust an editor
If that editor is a real editor, I would say yes, absolutely, trust him or her. The problem is, these days everyone with a spellchecker calls himself an editor. It’s not because someone offers to edit your work, for free or for a fee, that they actually have the qualifications to do so. Before you let anyone touch your work, or agree on a fee, ask to see their diploma. Asking for references is not always helpful as they might give you names of family or friends. What you need is the name of a university or college.
Know your genre
Baloney! Far better to experiment and step out of your comfort zone. You might think that you’re a pretty good romance writer, but one day you might sit down, get an idea for a mystery novel, a fantasy story, or a children’s book. When inspiration hits, grab a pen or open your laptop and start scribbling. It’s when you step out of your comfort zone that you might deliver your best work.
If books aren’t your thing but articles are, try different topics. Even if you like writing ‘how to’ articles, try a biography, if so far you’re written about health issue, try writing about the antics of your pets.
You need to write every day
More baloney. If you can write every day, good for you, but if you don’t feel like writing, don’t. If the well of inspiration has dried up, take a break. If you’d rather paint, play with a pet, or go for a walk, feel free to do so. Writing should never become a chore. Once your mind has rested, you’ll be surprised at the number of topics that bubble up.
Nobody will read your first draft
A statement like this shouldn’t be generalized. While it’s true that a first draft might need work, some people have the ability to write something brilliant first time. Some writers will pick at their first draft, adding to it, taking away from it, only to come to the conclusion that what they originally had was their best work. This is why nothing, whether on paper or electronically, should never be tossed in the wastepaper basket or deleted until you’re 100% happy with the end product.
Pick a time of day to write
This only works for a select group of people. Early risers may get up at the crack of dawn, while night owls might feel at their most productive after everyone else has gone to sleep. The majority of people have jobs and writing is a hobby. They drag themselves out of bed at 6:00 a.m., commute to their workplace, and come home tired, where the are expected to cook, clean, do laundry, etc. Where do these people find time to write? Most do it during their downtime. They might write on the train or bus, while they don’t have much to do at work, write during their lunchtime, at night in bed, or over the weekend. In other words, whenever the opportunity presents itself.
When all is said and done, you know yourself best. You know what works for you and what doesn’t. Write and have fun with it. If it goes smoothly and feels right, you’re on the right track, if it’s labored and you think you can do better, you probably can.