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When it comes to advice about writing fiction, just about the only thing you can guarantee is that if you ask 100 writers how to do something, you'll get at least 101 answers.

Most folks like to help other people, and when we try to point writers in (what we see as) the right direction, we mean well. The trouble is, some of our nuggets of wisdom are made of fool's gold. In fact, much of the advice you hear thrown about online and at writing groups is, at worst, complete piffle, and at best, completely wrong for you and your situation.

Here are some examples I've heard around the water-cooler at writing group meetings, conferences etc. or read online:


'Never use the passive tense.'

'Never use adverbs.'

'You should self-publish your book.'

'Don't self-publish your book.'

'Getting an agent or publisher is a crapshoot. Just keep sending out query letters. Sooner or later, you'll get one.'

'Post weekly chapters of your book online.'

'You don't need to bother with an agent these days.'

'Don't waste your time writing short stories. There's no money/future in them.'

'Avoid clichés like the plague.'

Okay, that last one's worth bearing in mind, but the others depend on your individual situation. 

As writers, we're always looking to improve, especially when we first start out, but when it comes to advice, take it all with a pinch of salt, and remember my old gran's wisdomous words: 'Advice and opinions are like spouses and children, they should be embraced or ignored at the individual's discretion.' 

How about you?

What was the worst writing advice you ever got?

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Oct. 19th, 2011 02:45 pm (UTC)
I've always wondered about
'Avoid clichés like the plague.'

Does that mean we should flock to clichés
like the zombie apocalypse?
You know, stick with the really popular now-trending clichés,
rather than the time-honoured shopworn clichés?

While I've probably received some bad advice,
I can't recal what it was,
nor do I recall following any advice to the point of disaster.

The two pieces of advice I feel doubtful of are
"Find a writing group" and "Ignore the rules"

So far as I can tell,
writing groups are AA meetings in which no one attempts to maintain sobriety.
And you have to know the rules really well
before you can discern which rule applies in which circumstance.
Like money, rules are sweet servants and bitter masters;
but you must be familiar with both to use them well.
Oct. 19th, 2011 03:28 pm (UTC)
'Find a writing group'

You know, that's got a catchy sound to it. Someone ought to use that as a name for a website or something ;)
Oct. 19th, 2011 04:49 pm (UTC)
Some writing groups are extremely beneficial. OWW is and I have heard good reports about Critters. Others are infested with undesireables and are to be avoided at all costs. (Any site promoting self-publishing through themselves falls into the second category.)
Oct. 19th, 2011 05:01 pm (UTC)
Yes; you've explained at least as well as I might have
why I say I'm doubtful of that advice.
I won't say it's necessarily bad advice,
but it's not something that should be acted upon incautiously.
Oct. 19th, 2011 05:13 pm (UTC)
Actually, belonging to a good group is extremely beneficial for any writer. Being close to a work is not being able to see the wood for the trees. This is where critting partners and circles come into play. A person can see if their story is working and where it needs an extra boost. A person can also learn a lot by critting others.

I would recommend a writer joins a group, but be carefull to join a good one. The good and the bad are very easy to tell apart. Just have a peak at past and present members to see who went on to be a success. The bad groups won't have this except in the category of unedited self-publishing of the sort that makes genuine Indy writers fume.
Oct. 19th, 2011 05:20 pm (UTC)
Yes, phrased that way,
it ~is~ good advice.
Oct. 19th, 2011 05:34 pm (UTC)
I like to tell people that writing groups are like potato chips ie: one is rarely enough :)
Oct. 19th, 2011 06:34 pm (UTC)
As a former Critter, I can vouch for them. I hope to return there some day, to, though for now, the OWW suits my needs and my level of inactivity. I've only got 352 review points, right now, with them. Never enough, is it?
Oct. 19th, 2011 06:36 pm (UTC)
Sobriety, in some few cases, is vastly overrated.
Oct. 19th, 2011 06:48 pm (UTC)
I'll drink to that...
Oct. 19th, 2011 06:54 pm (UTC)
*raises coffee in toast*
Oct. 19th, 2011 06:58 pm (UTC)
*dunks toast in coffee*
Oct. 19th, 2011 07:09 pm (UTC)
Soggy toast! Run for your lives! >=}
Oct. 20th, 2011 07:40 am (UTC)
I was in a writers' group that turned into divorce therapy group. However, I have been in more serious ones, as well.

Things What I Wrote and Other Stuff

No longer in print but there are still some copies floating around out there

No longer in print but there are still some copies floating around out there



Books by my writer friends - compressed

NJ Writing groups - compressed

NJ writing conference - compressed

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