#52WeekBlogChallenge Week Eight – Worst writing advice I’ve received
Despite the fact that I’ve been writing for about as long as I can remember, I really had to think about this one. To my memory, however spotty that might be, no one person has given me any really bad writing advice. Maybe I’m just lucky in that area, who knows. However, in the process of working on my current major project, I have come across something I would consider the “worst” advice I’ve encountered.
There is a plethora of writing advice on the web these days, covering everything from the basics that apply to every sort of writing to genre and niche specific, and that’s awesome. Having these resources at our fingertips is extremely beneficial. However, with this comes countless articles and posts with titles along the lines of “Do This Thing If You Want To Succeed!” or “Rules For Writing Fiction”, followed by well-meaning yet absolutist advice.
You’ve probably seen these.
Kill the adverbs. Show, don’t tell. Kill your darlings.
Here’s the thing – all of these, at their cores, are good advice. But when they are presented as absolute, hard and fast rules, they are more damaging than beneficial. I know a number of people who’ve fallen prey to this, myself included. Articles like these abound when you do a simple search for writing advice, burying the good stuff in more complex search terms.
I dearly wish the good advice didn’t take so much digging!
Kill the adverbs!
Thanks, Stephen King and Mark Twain. Too many articles advise ripping every single adverb from your writing. No no no. *bangs head on desk* Better advice is to use them sparingly, like a strong spice. A little sprinkle goes a long way!
I believe the advice in this article on adverbs in fiction is far better advice.
Show, don’t tell!
Yeah. Too much showing gets you into purple prose territory and usually results in a slow, exhausting read. It’s really more about knowing when to show and when to tell. But so many articles (and teachers) tout this as the most important, most definite rule of writing that it can be extremely difficult to escape.
Better advice on the subject, in my opinion.
Another great piece on why both are important.
Kill your darlings!
If you love that line, paragraph or scene that just doesn’t quite fit, why should you absolutely have to kill (remove) it? Sure, sometimes you might have to. But what this so-called “rule” doesn’t mention is that you have the option to make it work! It may take a bit of rewriting or rearranging (which can be tough if you’re on a strict deadline), but often a writer can make these pieces work and in many cases, it adds something to the story that would have been missing if that piece had simply been killed.
Really great advice on saving your darlings rather than killing them.
And if it just won’t work in your current piece or you absolutely don’t have the time to make it work? Copy that little beauty into another document and save it for later. It could be just what a future story needs.
All too often, majorly successful authors spout off these sorts of advice and new/aspiring/struggling authors take them as golden rules carved in stone. That’s got to be a nice ego boost for the big authors – but it isn’t helpful. Absolutist advice sucks. So, there you have it. What I consider to be the worst writing advice I’ve received.
Check out these other awesome #52WeekBlogChallenge posts from the fantastic peeps I’m doing this with!
Autumn McKayne (http://autumnmckayne.com /
Gisela Grey (http://giselagreywrites.wordpress.com /
Felicity Davenport (http://felicitydavenport.com /
Cass Michaels (http://writercassmichaels.com/blog /
Lisa Andrew (http://lisaandrewerotica.wordpress.com /
Charlie Knight (http://cknightwrites.com /
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Thank you for this. I’ve been doing a lot of reading – especially YA – and despite all the ‘show, don’t tell’ articles I’ve read, I’ve been seeing a lot of telling going on in traditionally published stories lately. It makes me scratch my head. Also, adverbs are not the enemy… lazy writing is the enemy. Sometimes you need an -ly word. Really. 🙂
I’m glad you enjoyed it! I hate the whole “kill the adverbs” mentality. 🙂