Advice on Advice: Don't Take Advice

Space background with the word 'experiment'

You’re going to come across a lot of writing advice as an author. Whether you seek it out or people who find out that you write offer their ‘nuggets of wisdom’. There’s some truly sage advice out there. There’s also tons of utter crap.

This post is geared towards the advice you would read in a writing book or on writing blogs (even this one!) or social media. It’s not geared towards advice or feedback you receive specifically about your work.

In my post titled “Do All the Don’ts” I indulge in a little ranting about some of the most common advice out there. This is going to be less angry and ranty. Probably.

I’m not familiar with the origin of all tidbits of advice but what I do know is such advice is based on the preferences of the advice giver. And if they’re simply repeating oft recurring ones they may not even know why that advice exists.

I don’t want writers getting discouraged because they are overwhelmed by all the advice and trying to implement ALL of it in hopes of creating a book that hits everyone in that sweet sweet readerly spot.

Keep in mind, there is no book that everybody likes. Not a single book. Harry Potter? Nope. The Bible? Nope. Catcher in the Rye? Nope. Any Stephen King novel? Nope.

Take such general writing advice as guidelines for experimenting. Do the do’s and do the don’ts. Mix it up. Do other things. Challenge your story telling capabilities. Not every experiment is going to work. That’s simply the nature of experimentation. If it doesn’t work move onto the next thing. Don’t throw anything away. You can always come back to and see how you’ve grown. Or you can evaluate what went wrong and how you can improve it. Or, maybe what you thought was an utter failure, upon future inspection, you find it wasn’t the mess you thought it was when you wrote it.

When you receive feedback on your writing and it contains the oft repeated advice, ask yourself if the person is simply relaying advice they believe is a standard truism of good writing or if they believe it actually applies to your writing. And the same when you provide feedback.

Now, I’m not saying that such advice never applies, I’m saying it doesn’t ALWAYS apply. My frustration lies in it being printed as though it’s the only way to be a good writer and writers--newbies especially-- internalizing that advice and getting discouraged from writing or getting stuck in writing that ends up boring them failing to realize how fun experimentation is. Or failing to realize experimentation is an option.

I encourage you to experiment and have fun with writing. There are as many ways to tell a story as there are people on the planet. Probably more.

Jeannette is the Lead Editor at Polar Bear Editing.

Her favorite things are being difficult, wearing make-up, talking to her children, and spending too much time hanging out on twitter.

Contact her to see how you can work with her

Follow on twitter: @Polar_Bear_edit

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