Writerly Advice (NOT)


No, I’m NOT going to give writerly advice on my blog. I feel all but one example I know of advice about the craft of writing is useless; worse than useless actually because it can make you so self-conscious about your writing (millions of eyes are upon you) that it can paralyze you and make your writing stilted. Most writerly advice consists of statements like, “You must never (fill in your favorite advisor’s pet peeve)”, or, “You must always (fill in your favorite advisors favorite writing technique).”

While not giving you advice myself, I think it’s safe to say that forcing yourself to always adhere to any musts in your writing will make much of your writing seem forced into an uncomfortable mold. Wouldn’t you rather be free to let your writing flow as it wants? I don’t think it’s a very good idea, from my experience, to let your artistic inspirations be influenced by the advice of others. Why? Well, ask yourself, has this person consistently sold millions of copies of their work? I know of one advisor who has done so and has written a brilliant textbook of advice on writing. It’s called On Writing and the best-selling author’s name is Stephen King. I have it, love it more than any of his works of fiction, which I also love. But, I allow myself to ignore even Stephen’s good advice when it suits me because I don’t want my writing to become forced.

Forced is when you’re going back through your work-in-progress, rewriting sections, and you see a section your favorite advisor wouldn’t like so you fix it to suit them. When you reread the fix, you don’t like it as much as your first draft because now it seems a bit artificial but you leave it as is because at least it would please your advisor. Please! This is your baby, not his or hers!

For example, some worthy advisors (to use an oxymoron), say you should never write in the omniscient narrators point of view. This is when you personally pop out of the page to tell your reader something. It’s not one of your characters seeing or feeling something. It’s not one of your characters saying something in dialogue. It’s you, speaking directly to your reader as the omniscient narrator who sees all and tells all. The advisors will tell you the best writing sticks with a single point of view, the main character’s point of view. Sounds like good advice doesn’t it? NO. I used to believe it but it’s pure crap. Every good writer worth his or her salt will slip into the narrative POV when it’s important for the reader to know something but it would seem artificial and forced to try to tell the reader the same thing from a character’s POV.

Another piece of worthy writerly advice is that you must never bore the reader with narrative description. BAH! Think Tolkien. Think Stephen King’s Dark Tower descriptive passages. Yes, they sometimes make you impatient with the author. They make you want to yell at him to get on with the action already. The writerly advisors want you to write literary works where every sentence develops the character’s emotions further and deeper and when you write commercial works every sentence should have action in it. So I guess these great writerly advisors don’t want you to write like King or Tolkien. They want you to write like they tell you to write. Because they’re really concerned about your book sales. Because they themselves have sold millions of books, right?

In my experience, the absolute worst thing you can do as an aspiring writer, is to enroll in a writing workshop. In these workshops your work will be sharply criticized by a faculty of second class writers. Best selling authors don’t have the time or the inclination to use their time to teach such workshops. They’re busy writing. I took such a workshop once and it took me two years to unlearn all the bad advice I got there and the ego deflation the faculty made me feel. Don’t spend your money on such things unless you’re a masochist with no desire to be a successful writer.

So how should a person learn to write? That’s a really tough question and as I said in the opening, I’m NOT going to give writerly advice. I won’t even burden you with tales of what I do because I’m NOT an author who has sold millions of copies either. You will have to find your own way. Comment on this post, PLEASE. Check the box to follow me and we can have discussions about writing. I promise to reply to your posts. I simply hope this post encourages others to follow their muse and NOT their advisors. Famous artists of all types, writers, singers, painters, all follow their muse rather than copying their teacher’s techniques.


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