The Internet is filled with blogs, discussion forums, and clever tweets about writing from young blood and established names alike. Though my writing friends and I do our best to keep up with the latest news and advice, it feels like trying to drink from a fire hose! Thinking about this post peaked my curiosity, so I Googled “writing advice” and found nearly half a million results!
Clearly, there is no shortage of advice available to young writers. So, in this great and (mostly) well intentioned cacophony, how do you know who to listen to?
Though we want to learn from the successes and failures of others, it is essential to remember that we are not them. What worked for a New York Times best seller may not be effective for me, and that’s perfectly okay. I have found it helpful to listen to as many different voices as possible, but only take to heart those lessons that help me achieve my goals. Ultimately, any piece of advice should be judged based on its efficacy for the end user, not the prestige of the source.
Over the years, I have read thousands of pages of writing advice and have found that there is no one-size-fits-all answer. As an example, I once read that the “best” way to be a prolific writer while also working a day job is to get up three hours early each day and spend the time writing. Not only will there be no distractions in the early hours of the morning, but your mind is freshest right after waking up, right? Okay, I gave it a try… and failed miserably. While I do consider myself a morning person, I’m not a getting out of bed person. Once I’m vertical and have some inertia to my day, I’m good to go. However, getting out of bed three hours earlier than I needed to be just never happened. That piece of advice, though effective for others, wouldn’t work for me.
Furthermore, I have found that while most writers have a set of “rules” they use to govern their own craft, it is often a mistake to try to adopt another’s system wholesale. This is especially true when crossing genres or mediums. For example, I have read advice from romance writers that insist that all stories need a happy ending. That’s a great guideline if you are writing for a romance audience. However, other audiences aren’t so picky. Look at the success of the Game of Thrones books as an example.
The best advice comes from people with whom you resonate. Look for those who have had success in similar genres, the writers you liked to read growing up, and industry professionals who are involved with authors who write like you. Find those who have accomplished the goals you struggle with and figure out how they did it. Read as much material as you can get your hands on, but don’t feel bound to listen to any of it.Tags: Sequence 07: Living the Writer's Life