On Advice

One of the panels I was on at Confusion was about bad writing advice.

Since I already talked about my least favorite bit of writing “advice”–If you can quit, then quit–I’m not going over that one again.

All the usual suspects came up in the panel: show don’t tell, kill your darlings, and so on.

But here’s the thing about writing advice: any bit of it can be good or bad, for a particular person, at a particular time. The important thing is to take what works for you and discard the rest. Which can take a lot of trial and error.

For example: Some things have to be told. Learning when, and how, to dramatize something and when to summarize it is a skill.

Another example: Kill your darlings. Good advice for a reasonably confident writer who falls in love with one particular sentence/scene/character/etc. that just isn’t working for that story. Not so great advice for an insecure writer who assumes that if he likes something he wrote, it’s a darling that must be killed. (Sounds extreme, but I once knew someone who went through that.)

Same with you must write every day, you must revise, you must not revise, you must do anything. Hint: Anytime someone tells you that you must always or never do something, they’re probably wrong.

(But I still say you don’t have to quit if you don’t want to. Unless you find it motivating to be told that. Then I’m all for it.)

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  1. Pingback: Podcast sale! And writing post roundup | Elizabeth Shack

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