1. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    Terrible Writing Advice You've Been Given

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by madhoca, Feb 11, 2009.

    Don't get me wrong, I've come across and been given some really invaluable advice on this forum by the wise maia, cogito et al, but I've got quite an amusing critique dossier that's built up over the past few years. Today I was talking with a colleague, who, like me, is a wannabe novelist of several years standing.

    We pooled ideas on terrifically terrible advice that hasn't worked. His was:

    'Keep writing, you can edit later.' (120 words of **** later?)

    Mine was:

    'You've already got a great literary style. Just build on that, don't worry about getting into kitchen-sink English.' (Yeah, just keep on writing like I live a century ago).

    Anyone else been given advice that was no good FOR THEM (maybe it works for others, but...)
     
  2. Spook
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    Spook Member

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    Personally, I don't think either of those are bad pieces of advice....The "write now, edit later" advice is something I happen to follow.

    But like you said, some advice can be bad for you, but work for someone else.

    An example of that for me, is "use more adverbs." I HATE adverbs. I don't know why, really. I just think they sound and look terrible and so I try never use them at all in my writing - or, at least not use them often. That seems to bother some people, but I think you can never go wrong with deleting an adverb. What do others think about that?
     
  3. Penny Dreadful
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    Penny Dreadful Senior Member

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    Really? It seems like I get ten verbal lashings for each adverb found in one of my stories/chapters. I was under the impression one of writing's #1 credos was that adverbs be the Devil. :(

    That might be my least favorite advice. I miss adverbs, and I'm still a fan of adding them in sparingly.
     
  4. Kas
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    Kas Contributing Member

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    Remove all dialogue tags... Always use 'said'. Worst advice I have been given (though not on this site). This has been discussed in the annoying words/phrases thread, so no need to start another discussion. But lets just say I'm on the side of balance in all things.

    Good advice is where and when. Going to any extreme only inhibits the writing, IMO. Unless you are making stupid SPaG errors, the word 'never' should not apply.
     
  5. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm with spook on "write now, edit later."

    Someone once told me that it was a bad idea to change pov within a story (any story), and couldn't give me concrete reasons why it was bad for my story, after having read only twenty of what ended up being over 100 pages.
     
  6. sophie.
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    sophie. Contributing Member

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    'Don't describe too much. Think Stephen King.'

    - Well that's great. I don't want to write like Stephen King! When I posted parts of a memoir I was writing I got the above advice...but in a memoir, you can't avoid description, and not everyone aspires to be Stephen King :p
     
  7. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    Though many would aspire to be as rich as him.
     
  8. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yes, I've been warned off adverbs. I can see why 'he ran quickly' type sentences are rubbish, but I do crave them sometimes.
     
  9. vyleside
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    vyleside Member

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    I can't really think of any BAD writing advice as such, other than when my friends have tried to help with a story saying "Put him saying XY and Z here" and I'm thinking "who would say such a random thing in that situation?"

    All advice I've received is useful in some way, because even if I don't agree with it, it's given me things to think about.
     
  10. Mercurial
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    Mercurial Contributing Member Contributor

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    I actually very much like that piece of advice; I tend to write without stopping to edit because I get into a very passionate mode when I write, and I dont want to hinder the feeling. I'll go back after I'm finished with a scene and edit --a better word here, a quote revision here... But the point still gets across, and that's why I very much like that piece of advice. I dunno; it's like you said. It works for some but not for others.

    The worst piece of advice... Hmm. I dont know if I'm ever had a simply awful piece of advice handed to me. I suppose the 'worst' (and I'm really nit-picking here, because I had to fish around for a truly horrid piece of advice!) advice I ever got was intended as a compliment. Something along the lines of "Dont revise anything; it's perfect just the way it is."

    Like I said. Nit-picking. :p But my goal is to make my tenth draft read like an effortless first.
     
  11. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    The weirdest thing advice I know of is 'Write what you know!'

    Erm... what!?! What about J.R.R. Tolken, Poe, Lovecraft or Stephen King?
    Writers must live very weird lives for someone to say that.
     
  12. Kas
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    Kas Contributing Member

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    Oh, I just thought of something else... Possibly the worst advice ever, from my best friend.

    Friend: "It's GREAT!".
    Me: "Well thanks! But was there anything that seemed a little 'off?' Anything not working?
    Friend: "Nope! You're doing awesome, don't worry about it!"

    "Don't worry about it."

    Right.... Just write the worst 800 page novel in history and completely rewrite the entire thing later. My first pages would have made your eyes bleed. Sometimes a pat on the back is the worst thing ever - when the aspiring author takes it to heart. Fortunately, I'm a born cynic, and I knew my friend was lying his ass off:p.
     
  13. tehuti88
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    tehuti88 Contributing Member

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    This won't win me any friends, but almost ALL writing advice I've ever seen (aside from "Practice, practice, practice") can be terrible, when it's taken as God's own truth, utterly infallible in all situations, as writing "advice" is unfortunately often taken to be. The adverb example has already been brought up. Another one I see all the time is "All first drafts are s**t." Um, really? Don't think so. There are exceptions to almost every rule. Writing advice is good when it applies to the given situation but some people will think that if it works for them, and if it works for the famous person who advised it, then it must work for everybody all the time, no exceptions allowed, and if you happen to disagree with it, well, you're obviously an idiot who doesn't know how to write.

    I've learned lots of things from writing advice--it is useful when it applies to one's own situation--but one learns best when they realize they have to take everything with a grain of salt--don't take it as absolute truth when they hear it, but test it, see if it works for them, and don't be too upset if they find out that it doesn't. And I do wish more people who give or advocate certain types of advice would realize the same thing, that just because someone else decides the advice is not for them doesn't mean they must be a lousy writer. Everyone works differently.

    Some of us, for example, really CAN'T let ourselves write lousy first drafts. I'm one of them. And there are so many other pieces of "absolute advice" I've seen or been given over the years that didn't apply to me, I hope lots of other writers who find such things don't apply to them don't go through all the second-guessing I have.
     
  14. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    Write what you know is way more than personal experience. We'd all be like Hemmingway if that were true, only not nearly as interesting. These guys were writing what they knew because they made it up and they knew the myths and legends that inspired them. They can also extrapolate or use metephores and symbolism.
     
  15. Etan Isar
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    Etan Isar Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don;t know about Stephen King, but Tolkein was writing what he knew. He was a philologist and had extensive knowledge of european myths and legends, which is what he based his story on.
     
  16. Spook
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    Spook Member

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    Also, the main character in many of Stephen King books is a writer (i.e. - The Shining, Misery, etc). Stephen King is, in essence, writing what he knows.

    I think it's important to not take that advice too literally. It isn't "write only what you know." If that were true, there would be no fiction. Everyone would only write memoirs.

    Here is a article I found about how to interpret the "write what you know" advice:

    http://cba-ramblings.blogspot.com/2008/07/write-what-you-know.html
     
  17. littlebluelie
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    Not to mention war played a big role in LOTR, something he became fascinated with after his experiences in WWI.
     
  18. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    I wrote that late last night thinking "Yeah, that's right" but I woke up this morning and - literally - my first thought was "What in hell was I thinking?"

    I suppose it was a rare moment of both madness and stupidity that made me write that passage.

    Thank god this isn't on the internet or anything; then I would have looked really stupid. :D
     
  19. Chad Sanderson
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    Chad Sanderson Member

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    A few bad writing advice examples for me, over the years. These are all from high school, and my utterly terrible creative writing college club. Ugh. (A lot of these I've heard other people say.)

    "Maybe you should add a dragon."
    "Well, I know you said it's flash fiction, but why don't you try making it into a novel?"
    "I don't really like it that much. Maybe try re-writing it?"
    "I don't really like that character. Don't put him in the story."
    "Why does he die in the end? Don't let him die. I liked him."
    "Just write from your heart." (Only because of the way he said it.It looked like a segment from Captain Planet or something.)
    "You should try getting this made into a movie."
    "This would be a lot better if it had a twist."
     
  20. Kas
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    lol

    It may have been better advice than you realise, though. I wonder how many mediocre authors have made it big just for having a dragon on the cover.

    As much as I have come to dislike tired old themes... they still sell more copies than the bible.
     
  21. Slippery
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    Slippery Contributing Member

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    This isn't exactly advice, but in one creative writing class, when it became her turn to critique my work, one girl simply circled all of the instances in which my characters said the word "I," and said that it was too many...

    The conclusion I got from this was that when I'm caught up in the moment, small segments of my tale will become soaked in a singular thought or idea. In this case, the introduction of a character with thrice his share of pride.

    The point is that her advice was unhelpful to the point of hardly being advice at all, but something good came from it anyway. I think.
     
  22. Anđeo.čuvar
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    That's a good one. It would add to my story about polar bears who take over the world using SD cards.
     
  23. Atari
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    Atari Active Member

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    I'm toying with the idea of having chapters dedicated to each (or some of the) character(s) of my story. They will all be in third person, even though the main narration is in first person.

    And the 'write now, edit later' deal.
    Hm.

    I wrote a (rounding off) one-hundred page story of sub-par work.
    The LAST thing I wanted to do was go through ALL OF THAT and edit the whole thing.
    Especially since there was so much that needed revising, rewriting, deleting and changing.

    I eventually dismissed the entire thing and will begin from scratch.

    Despite this, I am still undecided on the issue. Editing every chapter seems like a good idea, but when you're in the zone, you have to be left alone.
    Just keep writing or you may lose it.

    I dunno.
     

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