Writing Advice: Why None of it is Exactly Right

Writing advice on the internet is about as common as grass on the prairie, and it varies quite greatly. I’ve been reading most of it for years, and now that I’ve finished my third novel I’m prepared to make the statement that none of it is exactly right – or wrong for that matter.

Why do I think that? Let me explain.

The easy one to answer is why none of the advice is wrong. The only way that ANY writing advice could be wrong is if it tells you not to write at all. If it discourages you from even trying because it’s hard and there’s very little payback (although, most of the time it is correct about being hard with very little payback), it’s no longer writing advice if it says don’t do it.

Ok, that’s out of the way. Now on to the harder part.

Why is it not exactly right? Just go read a few sites and you’ll start to understand where I’m coming from. One swears by plotting out each chapter extensively while the next says go with your gut. One says that before you start, figure out your main characters so completely that you know what they’ve had for breakfast every day of their ‘life’, while another tells you that the characters will grow organically on their journey as you write. Another will tell you to work from the last chapter backwards, while another says work on whatever part you feel is the easiest, and then a third says you should only write in the order it will be read. You can see that there are so many methods and systems that the new writer can be a bit overwhelmed by it all.

So which one is right? The answer is individual to you because you are the writer. If you haven’t written much before, you won’t know which method works the best for you. All you can do is inform yourself about a bunch of techniques, and then you MUST try. Write something using whatever method you think might work for you. It will either feel like shoveling snow during a blizzard or shoveling snow after a blizzard. It’s still work, but try different techniques until one seems more natural for you. It may take a lot of trying, and your technique will evolve over time, but the key here is that you have to do the work.

There are a lot of paid courses out there. I myself advocate staying away from paying for any method that preaches you’ll be finished writing your epic novel in no time after taking their course. Like everything, there are a lot of crooks out there. If you’re going to pay for something, please take the time to find other reviews and don’t just go by the propaganda on the site in question.

Likewise, there are a lot of great courses out there too. There is absolutely nothing wrong with paying for a course to help you at any stage in your writing career, as long as you don’t expect to become Stephen King within a month. As Hemingway said, “We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.” Again, the key is that you have to try, and if you get anything at all out of a paid course – great!

Of course, this is just my opinion – and I’m just another one of the many voices out there speaking into the void. I think today I’ll follow the advice of Mr. King and either read a lot or write a lot. It seemed to work alright for him…

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