The Publishing Life

Writing Advice We Wish Would Go Away

I mentioned in last week’s blog that I asked some of my writing and publishing friends to tell me what one “writing rule” they’d like to see go away…forever. Many cited the timeworn, “Write what you know” (see here).

Others, however, gave different but similarly helpful answers.

Author, speaker, and writers conference director Lin Johnson said, “I heard this often in my early freelance days and still hear it from writing teachers: ‘You must write every day, even if it’s for only fifteen minutes.’ Not everyone, including me, works well with short periods of writing time. Better advice: Write regularly.”

Author, musician, and writing instructor Terry White cited the following as writing wisdom he’d like to see go away—forever: “You can save money by having a friend who teaches English edit your book for you.”

Novelist and writers conference director DiAnn Mills wants to bury this piece of advice: “There are two kinds of novels: character-driven and plot-driven.” “Wrong!” she says. “All quality stories are character-driven. It’s all about the character who struggles to achieve a goal while growing into a better person.”

Agent and publisher Dan Balow cited the line, “Anyone can write a book!” as advice that needs to go away, permanently, adding, “The truth is just the opposite; few people can write books well.”

Author, writers conference director, and Word Weavers International president Eva Marie Everson, said, “Write without a plan” is advice that needs to go away. “I think you need a plan. You need an outline. You need to know where the story is going and what you’re going to do with it. It makes writing so much easier, plus, when folks say, ‘Why did your character do that?,’ you’ve got an answer.”

Author, speaker, and TV host Rhonda Rhea loves to hate the advice, “Write like no one is going to read it.” She said, “Wha…? If no one is reading it, why am I writing it? Even when I write a prayer, I have a triune Audience. Doesn’t the whole ‘write just for me-me-me’ thing produce self-ety-self-self-self-centered writing? Or maybe it’s just me. Me. Me. Me.”

Self-styled “Author/Speaker/Threat-to-society” James N. Watkins recalled the frequent advice, “Discover the tone of a periodical and then write in that style.” In his typically subdued way, he said, “WRONG! You need be true to your own voice. Send out rejection slips to publishers: ‘I’m sorry but you don’t suit my editorial needs at this time.’”

Agent and publisher Steve Laube (full disclosure: he has to approve this blog post) answered with a list:

“Do things my way. It is the best way.” (There is more than one way to craft a book.)

“You must master all forms of social media.” (Including Tinder? See this list of all currently available social networking sites.)

“Write for the crossover market.” (As if there is such a thing. Please point out the “crossover section” on for me.)

“Stay away from traditional publishers, they are all crooks.” or “If you sign a traditional contract you are an idiot.” (As if it is an all or nothing proposition.)

And, finally, Jerry Jenkins, New York Times #1 bestselling author, said that he’d like to do away with “any piece of advice that comes across as an absolute. ‘Never do this,’ ‘Always do this,’ ‘No one is publishing this,’ ‘It’s too long,’ ‘It’s too short.’ The only absolute you should embrace? Great writing trumps all the rules.”


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