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  • Terrible Writing Advice: 15 Tips to Avoid

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    Self-publishing

    New writers, just like anyone starting a new activity or career path, are often subjected to well-meaning but potentially terrible writing advice from those who want them to do well. Not all advice is worth following, but figuring out what to keep and which ideas to ditch can be confusing for a new author who is working hard to find their writing groove. Let’s take a look at 15 pieces of terrible writing advice that we’ve heard that you can avoid.

    1. Act Like Your Favorite Writer

    For some types of jobs or activities, acting just like someone who is successful is the key to building your own path to success. But for a creative endeavor like writing, patterning your writing habits, style, or voice after your favorite writer can really backfire. Writers who have already found success are really just the visible part of an iceberg.

    Hidden under the water – and behind sometimes years of hard work – are the countless hours that an author has spent honing their own writing craft. While some of their tricks, routines, or writing styles may be ones to test out as you develop as a writer, your own abilities and interests should drive the way that you write and create so that they are sustainable over time.

    2. Always Use the Same Tone

    One well-meaning bit of writing advice directs authors to maintain the same tone in all of their writing projects so readers will recognize their writing. And while being instantly recognizable as a writer is every author’s dream, a better suggestion is to ensure that whatever tone you are attempting in a given piece is consistent throughout the work.

    But not ever swapping out your writing tone to match the content of the piece you are writing is a recipe for disaster for a writer of any experience level.

    3. Avoid Social Media

    Some advice-givers will tell you not to worry about social media and its influences because real writers are concerned about the content that they themselves create. But this is bad writing advice, because the reality is that social media is not going anywhere, and new writers especially can harness the power and reach of social media to reach the right readers and grow their audiences.

    Avoiding social media altogether can mean missing out on a basically cost-free marketing tool that is used by all kinds of creatives like writers, artists, and musicians who love their craft but want to reach a wider audience. Don’t spend all of your time worrying about likes and follows but do develop a strong social media presence to connect with potential readers, other authors, and those interested in the topics you write about or your genre.

    4. Don’t Worry About Distractions

    You might hear that as a writer, the perfect way to get your creative juices flowing is to set up shop in a noisy café where you can take in the humanity around you and use them as your inspiration to write the Next Big Novel.

    But more practical writing advice is that highly creative work like writing often should be done with as few distractions as possible. You may not want total silence when you work and you may not even be able to put away your phone completely if you have other responsibilities that may need to reach you, but writing in a situation that minimizes disruptions is the best way to focus on your craft.

    5. Forget about Marketing Your Work

    Some terrible writing advice you might hear is to ignore how you will market your work when you are writing. The idea behind it is solid – write what you are drawn to and focus on creating the best possible book that you can. But when you forget about who will read your book and how you will get the final product into their hands, you miss out on the chance to create a character or storyline that readers of your genre will love or to craft a cover that will appeal to potential readers.

    More practical writing advice is that your passion and interest in writing should be the driving force for your writing, and not the way that you can potentially market your work, but intentionally ignoring how your book will appeal to potential readers could lead to disappointing book sales.

    6. Get a Writing Degree First

    In order to be the best possible writer, you might hear writing advice about making sure that you have been trained formally as a writer before you attempt any serious writing projects. But while earning a writing degree can be beneficial, you don’t have to have one to be an excellent writer.

    In fact, former nurse Sue Monk Kidd, author of The Secret Life of Bees, used her personal experiences as a mother and a nurse to fuel her passion for writing and Ray Bradbury (Fahrenheit 451), was never formally educated past high school. But both of these famous authors do have one thing in common: a passion for writing, an important piece of writing advice.

    7. Keep Your Work to Yourself Until It Is Perfect

    Sometimes authors want to hold on to their writing until it is polished and in its best possible form before presenting it to readers. But waiting until your work is perfect is bad writing advice for writers to fall into because as a craft, writing can always be changed or improved upon.

    Many authors feel insecure that others will see these deficiencies in their writing as well, so listening to writing advice that whispers you could make this better will keep writers from ever feeling content with their work and keep readers from experiencing what could be a fantastic piece.

    8. Leave Pop Culture Out of Your Work

    Many authors are encouraged to leave out any references to the current culture in their writing to make sure that it stands the test of time. And for some fiction, this can be good advice. But pop culture references can add a relevant time stamp to a story, a helpful marker that can work in your favor as a writer.

    Authors creating nonfiction works, on the other hand, may want to leave contemporary references out so that the information presented remains evergreen to keep their content fresh over time.

    9. Never Quit Writing

    A terrible piece of writing advice that can really backfire is to tell an author that they should never take time off from writing or slow down their pace. The fast-paced hustling so prevalent in today’s culture doesn’t always work well with a creative endeavor like writing.

    Shifting your writing schedule can help refresh your energy and passion for writing as well as help you avoid the burnout that can come from pushing yourself too hard for too long.

    10. Separate Your Life from Your Writing

    Don’t let anyone tell you that as a writer, stress and feeling overwhelmed won’t impact your craft. We have this romantic notion of writers closing off from the world to write the Next Big Novel but for most authors, separating real life from your writing life is just not practical writing advice.

    11. Start with a Novel

    The goal of many writers is to publish their first novel but the reality for many published novelists is that many of them did not begin with a novel. More practical writing advice is to start smaller with short stories or even novellas is a great way to develop your writing voice and hone your craft so that your first novel will be something truly representative of your writing skills.

    12. Stay Away from Genre Fiction

    You may have heard the terrible writing advice that real writers don’t write genre fiction. But the truth is that you should write what you love, what you know, and what you are good at writing. Readers will respond to quality writing, interesting characters, and compelling plots in every type of writing.

    13. Write Only When You Can (And Don’t Make Time for Writing)

    You probably have been subjected to contradictory writing advice about when and how to make time for writing. If you have been told to only squeeze writing time into your already-packed schedule, then you are missing out on the joy of prioritizing something that you love. Putting aside time specifically for writing can motivate you to be more productive, even if it is just a few minutes a day.

    14. You Are Either a Talented Writer or You Aren’t

    Don’t listen to the terrible writing advice that being a writer can only happen for those who are innately skilled at writing. Writing is a craft that you can improve over time. Even the most successful writers will agree that they are more proud of their later works after having time to hone their writing chops.

    15. You Should Never Put Down a Project Permanently

    If you have given a writing project everything you have, don’t be afraid to put it aside to work on other, more productive work. While you may never decide to pick it back up again, continuing to pour time into a writing project that you feel can’t be fixed wastes your time and keeps you from dedicating your efforts to more potentially successful projects.

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