As a writer I am always on the hunt for good writing advice — just like the rest of you. And there is no shortage of it – you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting at least 25 experts in the area. (I, by the way, am not an expert – just an everyday jamoke who likes to make stuff up.) And I have to admit, I believed a lot of the advice out there until I noticed a funny thing – contradiction.
Do not send work to an editor that is unedited, nor should you expect an editor to edit your article. Be a professional and send a well-edited polished piece or you will be rejected. Versus. No author should ever publish a book that they have edited themselves. Because you will miss errors, lack objectivity on your own work, and it will suck.
So, which is it?
I’m a freelancer; I make my living that way. I don’t have an in-house editor. I am everyone in my little business. And as any freelancer knows you have to learn to edit your own work, cut the flab, proofread, do the research and write fast if you want to feed yourself, much less succeed. So if I can do all that as a freelance writer, why can’t I do that as a self-published author? Does writing fiction suddenly turn me into an inept dope who doesn’t know the difference between a verb and a noun or how to spot a typo – or God forbid, cut out the flab?
Get your work out there. Versus. Do not be in a hurry to publish. This is another one that gets me. Out of one side of the mouth the expert says you have to write a lot, submit a lot, and get your work out there. But out of the other side of their mouth they say don’t be in a hurry to publish. Write the book. Let it rest. Do something else. Read it again. Let it sit. Do something else.
Again, which is it?
Most writers I know don’t have the luxury of spending several years writing a book. Not if they want to eat. And too you can’t really judge a book by how long it took to write it. I’ve read a lot books that took years to produce that sorry, sucked. And others that were written in a few months that were great. I don’t think you can determine quality based on how long it takes to produce a book.
Take as much time as you need to produce the best book you can — then give it away for free, so readers will buy your other books. Sorry but this strategy has never made sense to me. And while this strat may have worked in some bizarre g-tortional way in the past, it is now so over-used that I believed it’s backfired by producing a sector of readers who don’t believe they should ever have to pay for any book.
The thing is, writers need to eat. And often spend months or longer producing that book. Not to mention publishing costs. So shouldn’t they get paid a few cents a copy?
These are just a few examples of the contradictions I’ve encountered and have stymied me. But recently, I’ve realized that in a way I’ve created my own monster by assigning expert status to others who strictly speaking aren’t experts. In fact, many so-called master classes or programs in writing are produced by writers with little or not success under their belts. Some aren’t even writers.
My advice – if it doesn’t make sense reject it
I realize that we are all insecure to some degree about our work and having the reassurance of someone who knows to help us, is well, reassuring. However, if the advice is bad or makes no sense, or requires you to completely change everything you’re doing then maybe you should re-think it. Instead of reading every article under the sun about how to succeed as writer, or how to write:
- Forge your own path
- Actively seek out the information you need
- Reject what just doesn’t make sense
- Take advice if it works for you, not somebody else
- Never compromise your own common sense
Luckily, there are some very awesome, experienced, knowledgeable, and honest folks out there who do give great advice. Tops on my list is Anne R. Allen – you may have your own guy or gal whose advice you consider the bee’s knees. If so, fabulous. If not, check out Anne or find somebody who has a big dose of common sense and an even bigger dose of honesty. You can’t go wrong with that.
How about you? Do you see writing advice that makes you scratch your head, scream, or just want to crawl into a hole? Have you ever followed bad advice that made things worse? Feel free to talk it up in the comments.
2 thoughts on “Mixed Messages or Making Sense of Writing Advice”
I read a lot on the subject, and I write some blog posts based on my experience, which isn’t extensive, but it’s an experience. I agree that sometimes advice can be contradictory and one has to be sensible in discerning what makes sense and what doesn’t. Great article, Annie 🙂
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I think articles written from a person’s experience can definitely be valuable and I’m always willing to consider the person’s advice. But I guess my beef is with people who promote themselves as experts and then give bad or contradictory advice. The writing/publishing industry already has so many pitfalls and hurdles that it can make your head explode, sometimes. So when a person says do this and then the next day they say do this and they contradict each other, it’s confusing – especially to new writers trying to get a grip on the industry and launch their own careers.
Anyway, just me bitching and moaning I guess. 😀