It’s not news to anyone in the know that I’m a writing blog/writing book junkie. My surfing list is long and stuffed with them, my kindle is loaded and my bedside table is groaning with magazines and books such as Orson Scott Card’s “Character and Development”.
Despite the fact that I read as much as I can, I can’t always read the actual BOOKS that these writing gurus put out. I’ve made an effort recently to add them to my reading list however and I’ve found something disturbing.
I really don’t enjoy a lot of these books.
Should I trust their advice? Have you ever run into this?
I won’t name names. I’m not writing this post to review any one book nor to shame anyone, especially an author who has managed to publish (something I haven’t yet done, so kudos to them!).
I also would like to note that there are quite a few books written by writing bloggers I follow that I DO enjoy, so there’s a bright lining on this cloud.
So readers: Do YOU trust writing advice from a writer whose books you don’t enjoy?
My own answer:
I like to separate the advice from the source. The old adage says “Even a broken clock is right twice a day.” Just because the book I’m reading wasn’t successful with me doesn’t necessarily mean the advice won’t work for me.
There’s also the reasons for my disliking a book that factor into this equation:
1) The subject matter isn’t my favorite.
I usually read science fiction, fantasy or mystery books. Lately I’ve been enjoying a lot of Noir short stories and the like. Of course if the author giving advice only writes Romance or YA, then it’s likely I won’t care for the subject.
In this case, this should have no effect on the advice because the quality of the books isn’t in question in my mind. Story is story and it can be well done and still not please everyone. If you try and write something that everyone will enjoy and no one will be disturbed by, you will end up with very bland stories.
2) The author isn’t following his/her own advice.
The perfect example her is an author who touted “Never ever have your character looking at a mirror to sneak in a description” then that same author goes on to do it in a few instances.
This bugs me. “Do as I say, not as I do” never really worked for me as a kid, it certainly won’ t work now.
The advice might be valid, but I’m less likely to devour it with gusto.
When it comes to writing advice, everyone has some to give and that’s ok. I have advice that I give on this blog and I’m not even published!
Take my advice (and all writing advice) with a grain of salt. Try it out, examine it, play with it. If it works for you and makes you a better writer, go for it! If it hinders your writing, ignore it.
Here are some things that will make me actively avoid someone’s writing advice:
A red flag means I’ll avoid the advice and the products of that author (novels, advice, seminars etc.)
– Anyone who says “Follow this advice and you’re GUARANTEED to be published!”
There are no guarantees in life, unless you buy a small appliance and even then. There’s no one way to make it in this business. You have to find your own way. Self-publish? Maybe. Submit to agents? Maybe. It all depends on what’s right for you and anyone who says they have the golden key is likely trying to sell you something. Don’t buy it.
It doesn’t help that anytime I see the word “guaranteed” it’s usually just before a hefty price tag.
– Anyone who says “These rules are written in stone. Do not every do this if you want to sell your work.”
Outside of the rules of the language and grammar, there are very few rules in writing that are like this. The one rule seems to be “If it works, it’s good.” It doesn’t matter how many “rules” you follow or break, if the finished product works and gets a good reception, it works. Anyone who says there’s only black or white should not be trusted. Use your own judgement.
A yellow flag is something that will make me cautious about writing advice I’m reading but won’t lead me to summarily reject it. It doesn’t necessarily mean it’s bad, just to make sure I use my own judgement and think about it too.
– Advice from an author who’s never written anything.
This includes ME. No one should take my advice without a grain of salt and I’ve never meant for my blog to be taken that way. I’m just writing about what’s going on in my head while I try to become a published author. My point is, if someone hasn’t succeeded yet, they might not know what it is to succeed right? I sure as hell don’t. We don’t have a proven track record of what works or what doesn’t so people follow our footsteps at their own peril…and I’m ok with that. Read my stuff, but don’t trust me yet.
– Advice from an author who’s only self publishing.
I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with self publishing. There isn’t. I may go that route someday and some authors are quite successful that way. Here’s the issue, just because you self publish a novel, or several, is not an indication of quality. Some self published stuff is amazing (and I’ve purchased a lot of it) most of it is trash. Even sales numbers aren’t a great indication (although hey, if my trash sells, more power to me right?) because you can be a great marketer but that doesn’t mean you have a quality product.
Now I know a lot of you might say “but the Big Publishing Houses publish crap/aren’t arbitrators of quality either” but that’s a WHOLE OTHER argument we can have another day.
Keeping these thoughts firmly in my head, I now go forth to browse the cornucopia that is the internet. Who knows? I might find something that will improve my writing!