Monday, June 2, 2014
4 Ways to Sift Through Writing Advice
Ask yourself where the advice is coming from. Advice from an industry professional may carry more weight than the advice given to you by your closest friend whose last written project was done in high school, or your dad who secretly prefers you to become a lawyer. Even the advice from industry professionals shouldn't be taken at face value. Not all editors are made equal. Not every agent has the same vision for your story. Not everyone who writes about writing has the same amount of experience.
Reading advice isn't enough. You might read or hear a great piece of advice and nod in agreement, but ultimately you have to put what you learn into practice. It's the only way to know if it works for you, the only way to truly learn.
Excuses will hold you back. Have you ever heard a piece of writing advice and dismissed it? I know I have. When writers raved about outlining, I switched off. Yeah, I'd think, that's great for them but not for me. I championed the cause for winging it. The story would let me know where it was going when I got there. It wasn't until much later that I tried outlining. I haven't looked back since and wish I'd made the change years earlier. Not every piece of advice will work for you, but you won't know until you try.
Don't take every piece of advice as law. Sure, adverbs can weaken prose, but that doesn't mean you can't ever use them. They aren't disease-ridden pests to be blotted from existence. The same goes for dialogue tags or any other writing 'rule' you might encounter. Writing is creativity and anything creative requires bending the rules. The trick is learning which rules to bend and when.
You want to make your writing the best it can be so that means putting the effort into learning the craft and listening to a wide range of advice and opinions. Don't cut yourself off from those opinions. Listen to them, consider them carefully, perhaps even put them into practice, and keep writing.
What writing advice have you heard and dismissed? What advice do you wish you followed sooner? How do you sift through all the advice?
Lynda R Young
Photo: a closeup of a mirrored heart which was part of the Vivid Light Festival in Sydney.