Writing Advice I Can't Stand Anymore

Writers read and hear a lot of advice. We seek it out in the beginning stages, unsure of what we're doing, hiving headlong into our imaginations--or outlining and being more methodical--and you come across a lot of advice.

Let me tell you, some of this stuff may apply to you. Maybe you still seek out writing advice a lot; I don't. For a while, creative writing advice actively irritated me.

Following are the top ten bits of writing platitudes I don't like:

1. Show, don't tell. 

Or as I put it, "Showy, don't telly." It's fine advice on the surface. Your characters and your scenes come alive more when the writer shows the reader things rather straight out telling them things. But you cannot write an entire book of just showing. The story's got to move and moving the story along is best done with some telling.

2. You must write every day!

Uh, chill, dude. Not everyone has time to write everyday. Or even every single weekend. I don't have a lot of time to write fiction now, but I took a half-hour a few days ago and added to my FrankenIdea. It felt good to do that, but seriously. Not everyday.

3. You must hit a certain word count while writing daily or else you're not a real writer. 

Oh, f@#k off!

4. You must draft in a torrent of wordsmithery or else you'll forget the idea or fall out of love with it and you won't write it. 

Okay, this has been true for me in the past, though it's usually because I hit a point where I grew bored with my own writing or the story just didn't work. But because I don't have a ton of time to write at the moment, I only have one idea--the FrankenIdea--and while it's morphed a bit, the basic idea has not changed much since I started writing notes for it in a notebook. I still like the idea. I'm excited by things to come in that idea.

I've always been a slow writer, so slowness is not new to me. In this instance, the slowness is not a deterrent.

And truly good ideas are not so easily forgotten, even with my scatter-brained memory.

5. "You must open a vein and let yourself bleed onto the page."

It ain't that serious.

6. You're writing fiction. Don't let current events/politics/social movements/political correctness influence your writing.

I suppose this depends on genre, but it's chronically impossible for me to completely block out the dumpster fire that is the world right now. I love historical fiction. This does not mean that I love some old timey fantasy of what certain people think the past was.

7. You must read the literary canon in order to be a Real Writer.

Do I think you should read a lot and like reading if you want to be a writer? Yes. Do I think that reading has to be 900-page doorstoppers by dead old white men who got paid by the word? No.

My knowledge of the "Classics" is scattered among the Books I Had To Read in School, Books I Was Supposed To Read in School, Wishbone episodes, SparkNotes, and Fuckbois of Literature episodes.

But if you ever want to know all about Jo Beverley's Company of Rogues series, I can tell you things.

8. Don't edit while drafting.

I can understand where this advice comes from--the fear of not finishing stories. I don't agree with it, though.

9. Plot out your stories! No, pants your stories!

I've tried plotting. Sometimes it works for me. Sometimes it does not. I'm better off writing down notes for myself on where the story will go but keep it vague enough that I write into the void without feeling too neurotic about an outline.

10. I'm a writing expert. I know it all. You must follow my absolutist advice.

No, you're not. And no, I don't.


  1. I get irritated when people say all first drafts are crap. I get it, but if my first draft is crap, I'm trashing it.

    I'm sure any kind of advice is useful for people who have never written a book before or never finished anything and don't know where to start or what to try. But at some point I think people need to cut the advice cord and fly on their own. I understand why people say to write everyday. Writers can get rusty and it's easy to fill that space up with other stuff, and it takes effort to carve out time for it again. Sacrifices have to be made. I'm still not going to write everyday, but I get it.

    1. I've tried to write everyday, but it's not going to happen--and nothing good happens when I force myself to do something I don't want to do right then.

  2. I'll just second all of this. Especially the every day word count stuff. Hahahahahano. Also, I'm with you on "show, don't tell". Sometimes you just need to get on to the good stuff! Plus, as a reader, I don't need a play-by-play description of, say, the character eating breakfast if it's not going to be relevant later on.

    1. Well, that's the thing, isn't it? There has to be a reason the showing is happening.

  3. There was a time (I'm going to say long ago to make myself feel better ;) ) when I listened to such rules. So silly. Showing is better than telling...usually. Thanks for the fun!


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