WD Fyfe

A Sideways Glare at Contemporary Society

Bad Advice To Writers

writing

Everyone knows how to write.  We learn it in school.  However, to be a writer takes a singular commitment that nobody can teach you.  Unfortunately, there are tons of people out there who think they can — and they’re spreading a lot of misinformation around.  These literary hacks aren’t lies, as such; they’re just bad advice.  Here are a few of the most notorious ones.

Write for yourself.  This is just a crock!  No writer writes for themselves.  If they did, they wouldn’t WRITE IT DOWN!  The minute you commit words to paper, you are trying to communicate – full stop.

Take risks.  Here’s a newsflash.  You’re sitting in front of a computer, not dashing into a burning building.  The only risk you’re taking is that people won’t read your stuff, and once you get through that emotional firewall, the rest is easy.  Pouring your soul onto the page is what you’re supposed to do.  It isn’t a risk; it’s a necessity.

Write about what you know.  This is stupid advice.  Folks, it’s called fiction, and fiction, by definition, is a pack of lies.  Writers are liars.  That’s their job.  Billy Shakespeare didn’t know anything about Danish princes, but he wrote Hamlet … because, guess what? … he made it up.  Writers create their own universe; good writers make it believable.  If you’re going to limit yourself to your own experience, stick to those rambling End-Of-December emails that chronicle your family’s yearly adventures.

Paint a picture.  This is one of those sounds-profound bits of advice that doesn’t mean a thing.  Quite frankly, if you want to paint a picture, ya might wanna get a brush and some paint.  Apparently, that’s worth 1,000 words.  Here’s the deal. Your audience has seen a tree.  They all know what it looks like.  Describing it in great detail is not going to enhance their experience.  What you want to do is write the mood.  For example:

The tree was dancing green in the brilliant afternoon sun.
The tree was moldy green against the grey evening sky.

This is the same tree, but with six words you’ve changed the time of day, the season, probably the temperature and, most importantly, the mood.  The reader paints the tree themselves.  That’s the beauty of words on a page: the details (the real details) of any tale are already in the reader’s mind.  The writer’s mission is to jumpstart that imagination so each reader can see their own tree.

And finally:

Join a writer’s group.  This is actually good advice, but remember the more time you spend talking about writing, the less time you have to actually write.  And the only way to become a writer is to write.  Everything else is just playing at it.

3 comments on “Bad Advice To Writers

  1. Christi
    October 24, 2019

    Great advice!
    I once read about a famous writer — wish I could remember who it was — he won a contest early in his career but rather than take the prize (a writer’s course), he just wrote.
    Oh hey, that wasn’t you was it? 😉

    • wdfyfe
      October 24, 2019

      When I was 18 (and foolish) I was accepted into a Creative Writing program. After one semester I smartened up and bailed.

  2. Claudette
    October 26, 2019

    If I was a writer I would think all those things you just wrote very sensible.

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This entry was posted on October 22, 2019 by in Writing & Books and tagged , , , .
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