I have, for years, scoured books and pages and internet articles for premium writing advice. Take a writing class! Don’t! Write what you know! Write from your imagination! Outline! Wing it! Follow the rules! Break the rules!
You get the idea…
As I was browsing the many writing pins on my Pinterest board, I came across an article titled “Ten Ways You Should Never Start Your Novel” and clicked right into it. Some of the insight I found:
Don’t start a novel by someone waking up to an alarm. Immediately I thought of the recent best seller and major motion picture Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. Worked for her!
Don’t start a novel with someone staring at their reflection in the mirror. Divergent by Veronica Roth came to mind. That seemed to work, too.
Don’t start a novel by describing weather. I thought of Snoopy, sitting on top of his doghouse, typewriter front and center, with the words “It was a dark and stormy night.” typed clearly on a single page. This was probably pretty good advice.
It was somewhere around this point that the writer used a comma where a semicolon would have been more appropriate and I could not take her seriously after that (yes, sometimes I can get overly distracted to the point of missing the point). It didn’t help that I had not bought into the first two story-starter no-no’s. As I ruminated on whether or not my reaction was appropriate, I found myself wondering: Just where does one get good writing advice from?There are blogs, books, fellow writers others who are all to willing to share the secrets of how to write a great novel.
The very best advice, in my opinion, comes from a variety of sources and basically it is this: Sit down and write and then keep doing it until you get better. Still, if you need more than that, by all means keep searching for those pearls of knowledge, but here are three people and places you might want to avoid:
1. Random writing blogs (including mine). Just because someone likes to write, does not mean they do it well or have much to offer in the way of good advice. I see too many articles on the “how to” aspect of writing by writers who only write “how to write” blogs and have a slew of writing projects that they have never actually finished.
2. Your mom. Or dad, aunt, sister, friend, co-worker or neighbor. Unless, of course that happens to be Ms. Rowling, Mr. King or Mr. Whedon. Everyone has a good idea for a book, but until they sit down and hash it out, they can’t possibly understand the writing process enough to pass along much usable advice. Besides, they aren’t going to tell you that your writing sucks. And even if they do, can they tell you why?
3. Anyone who professes to have the perfect plan, book, cheat sheet, seminar, webinar or other tool to sell. Writing, much like life, is a messy process. What works for one person may only frustrate another. As for most things in life, be wary of guidance from people who make a living off giving it to those in need of it.
Nora Roberts once said “Anyone who tells you there’s a ‘right’ way to write is a lying bitch.” Stories have a beginning, a middle and an end. It’s up to us to work out the details.