I’m always looking for information and advice on writing. I find many tips and suggestions helpful and at times educational. Many of these tidbits I find posted on Pinterest. I try to read as many as I can, and of course pin the ones I feel are the most helpful.
Unfortunately, I find some to be misleading…maybe that’s the wrong word. Instead, maybe I should describe them as just bad advice—the ones that are more like a “do or die” attitude, ‘if you don’t do this, you will fail. Heed my words’, kind of posts. Of course this is my opinion. It’s subjective just as the tastes of the books we read, the movies we see, and the food we eat. But I still feel if a person is new to writing, or has been writing a while and is feeling stuck and bewildered in their solitude, (sometimes a good, sometimes bad circumstance of writing) it may frighten them off a little.
Yes, some writers will say ‘if you’re a true writer, nothing will frighten you off’. That’s not necessarily true. We all have our insecurities. It may startle them enough to have them back off a while, or it may do enough damage where they listen to the advice too literally. If they take some of the guidance I’ve read to heart, it may stifle their own unique voice.
I love the ones where clichés are mentioned. Yes, I agree—some clichés can be annoying. Generally, though, especially in romance novels, and their sub-genres, many of us like clichés. Believe it or not, even though we may have all heard of them, it doesn’t necessarily mean we get to live them. So, we experience them through the books we read. I wrote a proposal scene in one of my books, and a critic from Kirkus, supposedly one of the best American book review magazines, slammed it as being cliché. I thought that comment was interesting considering I not only wasn’t proposed to that way, but I don’t know anyone else who was. I never saw the scene in a movie, either. I’m not saying there hasn’t been one, but there wasn’t to my knowledge. Now, the exact same scene was read by two of my beta readers and they not only loved it, they said it was their favorite part. I couldn’t stop laughing. When I wrote it, I wrote it from the heart and from the perspective of my characters, what they would do…how they would handle it. That’s why it worked. The Kirkus review person couldn’t see past their own nose…what “they” knew to be right and wrong based on what “they” were taught about writing. It appears it’s impossible for them to consider what the average person would enjoy.
Then there are the other suggestions about what music you should listen to while you write, or if you should be in complete silence. I listen to music sometimes, and it does give me incentive; it’s like my muse. It makes me dig deeper into my heart, my emotions. At other times, I enjoy the silence. It helps me to dig deeper into my mind.
Some tell you how to write sex scenes, the words you should or shouldn’t use, or the type of sex that would fit in the scene. Hysterical! Others say you should have an outline or a storyboard and plot out each step. I write from the edge, or as it’s called, Pantser. This works best for me, but I’ve read articles that insist you turn into a plotter, and tell you how. Now, I’m not saying I don’t keep notes. I want to make sure my brown hair brown eyes beauty in Chapter One is still a brown hair, brown eyes beauty in Chapter 15 and her name didn’t change from Wilma Ann to Selma Ann. They will tell you what good writing is and what bad writing is. This is just plain crazy. We all know there are plenty of books that are considered to be poorly written, and they have made millions and are popular with the masses. There is a difference between what critics, literary agents, and English majors consider bad, and what the average public thinks is bad. Yes, as an English major, there are many wrongs, but still, it obviously didn’t matter to the millions of fans across the world who read those books. They enjoyed the story. They loved the characters. The loved the beginning, middle, and end enough to keep reading. The improper grammar, punctuation, or over-use of certain words, didn’t deter them enough to throw the book into the trash heap. The list of so-called rights and wrongs in how to write a book is endless. I’m not saying you can’t heed some of the advice. Certainly try it if you like it and agree. Just don’t let it sway you from writing from your soul. Don’t let it turn you into something you are not. If you feel you need help, take a class or two. Talk to other writers, and get multiple opinions. Don’t read one article and think it’s the end all and be all of how to write your novel.
There are many wonderful and helpful hints: the ones that make suggestions on better ways to use verbs and adjectives, etc. The ones that recommend making sure you do enough research on a topic if you’re writing about it. For example, you can’t write a fight scene if you’re not familiar with fighting techniques, (unless you’re writing a comedy); ones that suggest you don’t say the character is wearing a jacket, and you happened to be in the month of August, or in a climate that’s known for its’ hot weather. Then there are others that help to inspire and motivate. These are all good, and encouraging.
The hardest advice to ignore and to follow is the “show instead of tell” philosophy. You’ll hear this one over and over again. Some people are obsessed with this. Clearly, we want to show more than tell, but if you don’t have it written this way entirely, don’t let ‘not showing’ make you think your entire book is garbage. There are moments when, personally, I believe it’s okay to “tell”. Now, I’d get slammed by certain writers and critics and agents if they saw this statement, but hear me out. You can only “show” someone’s expressions in a certain way so many times. You can only show a particular location, or scene, or character flaw for so long. After a while, it’s better to just say it. If you also need to limit your word count, telling can cut it more than showing. Believe it or not, most readers, especially if they’re into your story, and deeply involved, won’t even notice. I’ve read many books where I didn’t realize until I reread a part of the book, that they “told” instead of “showed.” These are books that are written by renowned authors, and are both critical and public successes and are published by the big publishing houses. I intentionally go back over these books and others I’ve read looking for just this kind of thing. Reading it for the first time, if I’m involved in it, I don’t take note of the telling. I guarantee you if a writer doesn’t notice it, no one else will. Even if while I’m reading it I notice it, it doesn’t bother me to the extent that I’ll stop reading.
In the end, try to remember why you want to write in the first place. I love J.K. Rowling’s comment: “I just write what I wanted to write. I write what amuses me. It’s totally for myself.”
My suggestion is, ‘don’t be afraid. Write from your heart. Go with your gut. If you like it, there will be many others who will as well.’ That’s what I do, and yes, what you’ve written may not be for everybody, but it will be for many. It will be for those who are like you, those who think like you, and believe me, there are more than you realize.