There are a million (if not more) rule books out there for writers. They tell you to do something a certain way to really maximize your writing potential and to boost your career. While I’m certain that many of these guides have a completely honest purpose, many of them do not. Instead, they are made to feed on the wallets of those who don’t know much about writing, but who really want to do it. In fact, I think that you should take any rules you’ve heard about writing and throw them out the window with a quick “farewell”. Some of the most popular include:
Meet a Daily/Weekly/Monthly Word Count
If you enjoy doing this, wonderful. If you don’t, avoid forcing yourself. Writing is an art and it should not be squeezed out of you just to meet a word count. When you push yourself too hard, your writing becomes about the numbers and not about your talent. It becomes a job instead of a pleasure. Write at your own pace, when you want to write. If the story comes easy you’ll have plenty of words on the page. If it doesn’t, writing things that you’ll only erase later won’t do you any good.
Don’t Use This or That
You’ll often hear things like “adverbs are your enemy”, and “the passive voice is the worst voice”, but there are exceptions to everything. If you want to use an adverb, use a bloody adverb. If you don’t, don’t! Your writing is your own, completely different from what works for someone else. Own it! Find your own style and your own preferences and don’t worry about what you’re “supposed” to do. Thinking outside of the box will get you ahead much faster than trotting along with the sheep.
Don’t Do This or That
In researching for this post, I came across one rule that said “don’t go into great detail describing places and things”, and another that said “avoid detailed descriptions of characters”. I know I refer to LOTR often, but this is the perfect place to do it. Tolkien is known for description, both positively and negatively. Would you really want to go back and tell Tolkien that he didn’t know what he was doing? What works for your setting or character may not work for someone else’s, but don’t let that make you think that your work is any less than theirs. There’s no “right” way to write a character or describe a world. Do what feels right and listen to your editor.
Some people like to write down story ideas, moments, thoughts, etc. Some don’t. If you don’t, it doesn’t make you a bad writer. It doesn’t make you less dedicated. I don’t write things down, it’s just not my style. I need a story or an idea to grow in my head for awhile before I put it on paper (or screen). Others like to keep journals, files, and notes. What works for one doesn’t always work for all, and that’s completely OK.
Deadlines are Necessary
If you’re self-publishing, they are not. They are nice, but don’t beat yourself up if you can’t meet one. Books take time. More time than most people think. I have had more than one client push a deadline and feel bad about it because they just didn’t realize what it would take to write a whole book. You might have an idea, but once your own soul gets caught up in it, it sometimes becomes harder to tell. Take time, let the story come as it will, and don’t worry about anyone else. You’ll have a better story in the end.
Successful Authors Know Best
No, they don’t. They got lucky. There are a ton of writers out there with absolutely brilliant manuscripts that just didn’t catch a break. There are many authors that we don’t hear of until years and years after their books have been published. On the other hand, there are many (many, many) terrible books out there. Of course, you need a good manuscript to get started, but they all started the same way as you—nervous and a little afraid, standing in front of a publisher with what they hoped was a good (and marketable) story in their hands.
Your writing is your own and no one else’s. Only you can decide what helps you to write a better story. Only you can figure out if writing is really in your bones. There are no rules to writing in reality, so don’t feel guilty for not abiding by any of the ones that have been created. Each author has their own set of rules, that works well for them. Create your own and write what you will.
What’s the worst writing advice that you have ever received? Do you have any self-made rules that you follow?