Are you thinking about
hand at a short story or a novel? Have you written a few, or started
few, and aren’t sure where to go next? Here are some
to help you move to the next step.
ON WRITING ADVICE
MY ADVICE IS THE BEST
ADVICE YOU WILL EVER RECEIVE.
(Read: sarcasm.) And everyone else who gives you advice—be it from their mouth
a book or the internet—thinks the same. They might not say
but they do. Everybody else gives advice that you can’t
trust, except for theirs.
Except for mine. Mine you can trust because I'm going to tell you not to trust it.
DO YOU NEED ADVICE? Do
you need to read books about writing or get
people to critique your work? No. After all, approximately 1 in 1000 of
all professional writers today have become successful without seeking
advice. (Read: more sarcasm.) Who am I to say it can't be done? The statistics
make me a liar.
Okay, so you’d rather not have a measly 1 in 1000 chance of
succeeding. Then whose advice should you take, and how much of it?
Here’s a breakdown of how successful would-be writers are at
various levels of advice-taking. And by
mean everything from rules like
critiques from other people to suggestions from books. All of it.
WRITERS WHO FOLLOW LESS
THAN HALF OF THE WRITING ADVICE THEY RECEIVE: These people
don’t usually write for long, and don’t write very
much. And what they do write is unfocused, unoriginal crap. They run
out of steam because in a world with no rules, there’s no
challenge, no guidance, and no motivation to produce a story that at
least one other person in the world will want to read.
They’re unoriginal because they aren’t aware of the
mistakes and overused ideas that thousands of other writers have made.
These are often the people who say that they “write for
themselves.” Go ahead, write for yourself. There’s
nothing I can do for you.
WRITERS WHO FOLLOW THE VAST MAJORITY OF THE WRITING ADVICE THEY RECEIVE:
I pity these
people. They are always frustrated and never happy. How could you be
happy when everything you write is grievously flawed? Nothing can ever
follow all of the rules. If your characterization is superb and your
plot zings, then your setting isn’t as detailed as it could
be. And if your characters, plot, and setting are all great, your novel
is just too long. You can’t win. These people sometimes
publish, but more often they burn out, or at best produce lackluster,
derivative work. Following all the rules stifles originality and hides
the unique strengths that every writer has. Sometimes it seems like the
people in this category enjoy critiquing other peoples’ stuff
more than they enjoy writing themselves. In any case, it’s no
fun being them.
WRITERS HUMBLE ENOUGH TO FOLLOW A FAIR AMOUNT OF WRITING ADVICE BUT CONCEITED AND WISE ENOUGH TO REJECT SOME OF IT: A happy
balance, but it still ain’t a cake-walk. You have to know
when to flout the rules and when to obey them. You have to be willing
to experiment and do something crazy, but you also have to put aside
the juvenile desire to write an entire story in second person present
tense just to prove it can be done. You have to recognize which
“wild and original” rule-busting ideas are not wild
and original at all, but instead have been done a thousand times (and
you’ve never seen them in print because no one wants to read
it, or because it worked fifty years ago and editors roll their eyes at
Don’t go to either extreme with writing advice. Most of it is
decent, but all of it is suspect. Pick and choose carefully what advice
to follow, and know why you make the choices you do.
To give you some help separating the sheep from the goats, my next
lesson will cover some gems of writing advice, and the real deal on
each of them. Remember, of all the advice you will ever receive, only
mine is 100% trustworthy.