Favorite writing advice…
At this point in the game I’ve definitely gone out seeking any writing advice I can get.
It starts out with your closest friends, “I am thinking about writing a book but my ability to spell is embarrassing. Like, my-fly-has-been-open-all-day-and-no-one-said-anything embarrassing.” Here is where you get that advice to go for it, don’t worry about your weaknesses. It’s a process. You’ll figure it out. And on some level, you do.
Then it’s time to branch out a bit. You start to visit a mix of blogs, professional sites, look up articles, subscribe to one or two. Maybe pick up a book or a few. It’s about this point I learned about writers groups and saw in more than one source that writers groups are helpful. So you join a writers group.
First meeting, you sit down, someone comments on your shirt and INSTANT FRIENDS! In addition to making friends, you are making friends who can give you more, specific writing advice. What books to read for help, how the industry works depending on your goals, options you might not have know about to try, websites to check out, publishers to avoid, and the advice here goes on and on. But that’s just the people, we also have guest speakers to cover specific topics of interest.
Then there are the writers conferences. A full day of just people telling you what to do and how to do it. ADVICE OVERLOAD!
Here is the thing: It takes all of the above to find good advice. It’s a combination of these things and your skill level to figure out what piece of advice has real value to you.
“Show, don’t tell.” – That piece of advice I ran into a million times and it probably took me a year or more to actually understand what it meant. I had to see a passage with a scene being “told” before it clicked. It’s popular advice that’s not really advice. It’s like saying “Don’t write shit.”
“Watch what tense you are writing in, you jump back and forth from past to present.” – I’m terrible at this and the first time I got this piece of advice was from a person on a forum. A complete stranger gave me this critique before my friends did, but I also want to give me friends credit. Two of them DID tell me I have a bad writing habit eventually which is exactly the kind of friends I want to have. This is the type of the feed back that will make me a better writer and that’s the best kind of advice. Most importantly, it’s advice I had to seek out, I wasn’t going to find it in a book.
“Write every day.” “Push yourself.” “Practice.” “Make goals, set challenges.” “Write now, edit later.”- Burn yourself out. Stress yourself about goals. Write crap for the sake of a word count and pull out your hair during the editing process because you’re trying to polish something that looks like the literary depiction of what your cat threw up under your bed a week ago. This advice makes writing sound easy. The story will tell itself if you just put words on a page. Well, the truth is somewhere in that mess of advice. If you want to write, you need to write. How you do it is up to you. It’s not all bad advice, it just depends how you use it and if it works for you.
I wish I could say I had a favorite or one thing I found useful, I don’t. I have note books full of notes, copies of presentations, highlighted books, bookmarked articles and websites, and simple stored to memory advice from conversations with friends. All of these things are helping me to become a better writer.
What then would be my advice to others?
Never stop looking for advice.
My compliments to the following advice givers and their awesome shirts:
Jessica Jarman (Side note: I’ve been made aware there was some Jessica email confusion involving coloring pages. While the guilty party won’t be mentioned, here is a special coloring page so you don’t feel left out.)