Saturday, 14 April 2012

Taking in writing advice will help you become a better writer

Everyone needs advice, especially when you are fairly new to something. It’s always good to know that there is support and experience available to you.

Those new to writing need lots of advice, support and encouragement, and there is plenty out there. The amount of resources now available to writers is nothing to what it was almost 30 years ago when I first started out. There was no such thing and instant access through the internet, since there was no internet. Everything I have learned has been through three decades of trial and error, reading countless novels, gaining the experience, dealing with editors and publishers and of course, dealing with that character-building thing called rejection.

Whether the advice you receive comes through writing magazines, through books, via teachers, or even through blog articles etc, it is worth taking note of that advice, integrating it and learning from it.

Of course, the strength of that advice is important, because not everyone who dispenses the advice knows what they’re talking about, and it’s vital that any advice is constructive and beneficial, rather than destructive or unhelpful.

Negative Impact

The one problem I noticed is that sometimes, writing advice is given by people who have no experience or technical knowledge to do so, therefore the advice given is actually inaccurate. This can lead to a negative impact on writing, because the writer will wrongly believe they are doing the right thing, so it becomes a falsehood.

Think about it – you wouldn’t listen to someone telling you how they would perform a heart bypass if they were not a qualified surgeon, would you? You want someone who has successful experience of doing so and has studied for it over many years.

So, when advised to tidy your narrative and cut down on adverbs, this nugget of advice is priceless. If you don’t, you will have awful, badly written and untidy narrative, however if you are told that’s all rubbish, and you should write what you want, however you want, then that’s fine – but it’s bad advice and you follow it at your own peril.

Do you think that adverbs aren’t that bad?
Do you think that agents and publishers aren’t bothered about lack of description?
Showing not telling is a load of rubbish, right?
Characterisation doesn’t matter, really.
Why do I need care whose point of view it is?
Who notices tenses anyway?

The reality of bad advice is that you might remain unpublished or unsuccessful for a very long time.

Bad advice breeds bad habits. It creates a falsehood.

Positive Impact

Advice is there because a generation of writers have been there and done it long before us, they have learned from their mistakes and they have passed on their wisdom to us. These are the kind of people who can help and support fellow writers in their journey, by imparting their vast wealth of knowledge and years of experience, particularly the technical side of writing, because the one thing that many writers don’t always understand is that writing is a constant learning process, which takes years (not minutes) of apprenticeship and hard work to understand and perfect the craft of writing.

Writers should learn to take constructive criticism and advice from experienced writers – people who have been there, done it and written about it. Their insight will help new writers avoid some of the pitfalls and mistakes that these experienced writers made when they first started out.

Positive impact for writing comes from the following:

  • Constructive critiques from editors or published writers can help pinpoint weak areas, improve your narrative output and help you master the technical aspects.
  • Writing groups help foster support and advice, as long as the advice is from experienced, published writers.
  • Writing magazines and books on writing are filled with lots of well sourced advice, written by fellow writers who know or have worked with the industry.
  • Writing courses help you learn the craft, taught by people who have an understanding of creative writing.

With the increasing popularity of self-publishing, there is a worrying trend of ‘instant’ writers pushing out the kind of work that would never pass an English exam, the kind of writers that unwittingly make a mockery of the craft of writing. Sadly, not all ‘writers’ can actually write.

There are also people that already think they know it all; they don’t actually think they need advice or support. I’ve come across plenty of new writers who dismiss advice, thinking they know better. That’s fine, but such arrogance will only hold them back. We all need advice and support, no matter how experienced we are.

Valuable guidance is such an integral part of any writer’s journey, because without it, we won’t grow or improve, and we certainly won’t understand how hard writing actually is.

Everybody can write – but how good you are depends on how much you are willing to learn, because it’s up to the individual to take advice on board, ignore it or dismiss it.

Ignore sound advice and it may just be the difference of you being accepted or rejected as a writer, but also whether you become a better writer.

If you are passionate about writing and want to write, then take the time to study it, gain experience from it and learn from those who’ve been there and done it. The right advice is invaluable.

Next week: Creating immediacy.

3 comments:

  1. Unqualified advice is merely an opinion. Some opinions are good and some ain't. How one decides is a matter of opinion. Perhaps that's the problem?

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    Replies
    1. Unqualified advice is just that. Unqualified, and best not given. For me, opinions are statements that are neither right or wrong, and simply reflect personal ideas.

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  2. 'Those that can't, teach' - I think writing is the exception that proves that rule. If you want to learn how to get your work published, listen to someone who has succeeded.

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