1. Masked Mole

    Masked Mole Contributing Member

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    What is the dumbest piece of writing advice you have ever heard?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Masked Mole, Apr 3, 2017.

    This can be your work or another's, and it can be general or specific.
    I think the dumbest I've ever heard on my own work was this guy's complaint about some short story characters. The characters in question are supposed to just shout stuff out as part of a crowd. However, this guy wanted me to create elaborate backstories for each cameo, and flesh out my short story to the length of a novel. Uh . . . sorry, man.
     
  2. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin Contributing Member

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    "Write what you know."

    That would be one boring ass book. White guy grows up in New England. Eats food. Gets drunk. Watches sports. The end.
     
  3. animagus_kitty

    animagus_kitty Member

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    To be fair, while it may make a boring book, you've got the plot of at least four different sitcoms in the last 20 years. :superthink:
     
  4. OJB

    OJB Contributing Member

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    I am not going to insult anyone by calling them dumb, but I disagree with the advice of "Your writing should be more vague."
     
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  5. Wreybies

    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Supporter Contributor

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    "A comma everywhere you pause in speech."

    (smh)
     
  6. Simpson17866

    Simpson17866 Contributing Member Contributor

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    One person told me that two of my characters being a lesbian couple was pandering to the LGBT community.

    Problem: That same story also featured a straight couple. Those two characters did not receive the same complaint.

    More recently, I was asking feedback on the backstory of one of my villain protagonists, and one of the first responses I got was that my villain's laundry list of violence and murder was unrealistic because violent revenge doesn't make people feel better and because nobody who's been hurt would ever want to do the same thing to anyone else (not even the person who did it to them first).

    Problem: One of the other characters had already made it clear that violent revenge makes normal people feel worse, not better, and this was explicitly made clear to be the way that my future serial killer came to terms with the fact that she wasn't like normal people.

    The worst part was, both of these people had given so much other feedback that had been incredibly helpful (a scene ran on for too long in the first; I had been under a misconception about military PTSD in the second).
     
  7. Apollypopping

    Apollypopping Contributing Member

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    You're pandering to the straight community.

    For shame.

    Shame.
     
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  8. Laurin Kelly

    Laurin Kelly Contributing Member Contributor

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    I wouldn't call it dumb, necessarily, but when it comes to advice I don't agree with I've never ascribed to the whole "you have to hook the reader in your first X sentences" thing. In my experience, as long as your summary and cover art are enticing, and the text isn't riddled with spelling/grammar errors, readers will give you way more than a few sentences to decide whether they're on board or not.
     
  9. minstrel

    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Quote borrowed from another thread - sorry.

    To me, this advice is nothing but encouragement for the writer to vomit all over the page. "But you can clean it up later! That's what editing is for," you'll say. I don't want to clean up a novel's worth of vomit. Cleaning up vomit is probably the reason most writers hate the editing process.

    Of course, my carefully-crafted first drafts require a lot of revision. That's because I'm a pantser (there's gotta be a better word, but you know what I mean), I guess. I take lots of wrong turns because of this. But that makes the revision process - the rewriting process (I try to avoid the word "editing" to describe what I do) a joy. I regard my first drafts as works of art. Imperfect works of art, but works of art nonetheless. I love revisiting them, reworking them, polishing them to a high shine. That's because they were never vomit in the first place, at least not in my opinion.
     
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  10. Dr.Meow

    Dr.Meow Contributing Member

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    I was told to "quite writing" when I sixteen because I would just be a "starving artist". Didn't figure out till later that said person was manipulating me...my own brother actually, so I'd come work for him for free trying to "stat a business"... Best part is I never made a dime doing his "get rich quick" schemes... go figure. Long story, but it kinda F'd up my life for the next eight plus years. He's a sociopath btw, didn't figure that out till later too. Now I go to therapy for it. True story.
     
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  11. Apollypopping

    Apollypopping Contributing Member

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    You can polish poop, but who'd want polished poop?
     
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  12. GingerCoffee

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    One of my pet peeves: "Everything's OK, it's up to the writer." Yeah but, that doesn't mean advice is not valid or useful. What's the point of critique when someone comes along and negates it all with that proclamation?
     
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  13. Skye Walker

    Skye Walker Active Member

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    "You have to follow all of these rules in order to succeed."

    But... isn't writing for breaking the rules? If everyone followed the rules, then reading would be a lot more boring and predictable...
     
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  14. KhalieLa

    KhalieLa It's not a lie, it's fiction. Contributor

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    I find bad advice starts with an unplublished author saying, "You'll never get published unless you . . . " and it dosen't matter how it ends.

    Make all your characters have Christian values.
    Cut all the sex scenes.
    Eliminate all the cliches.
    Put thoughts in itallics.
    Put "real" action on every page.
    Describe everything in painstaking detail.
    Stop using advebs.
    etcetra ad nauseaum
     
  15. animagus_kitty

    animagus_kitty Member

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    I saw some advice like this once. "Don't use adverbs. Nobody likes synonyms for 'said'. Never use semicolons."
    Course, about halfway down that same page was advice from another author: "Use a bunch of adverbs. Don't use 'said' more than once in a paragraph. Semicolons are your friend."
     
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  16. KaTrian

    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Any advice that contains should, must, or have to.

    Well, not any advice. I mean, if I was told I should use words instead of alien hieroglyphs, fair enough, but you guys know what I mean.
     
  17. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Any variation on, "Write for yourself, not readers." Great advice for people who don't want anybody else to read their work. Crap advice for the rest of us.

    Especially crap advice when it includes some sniffy reference to writing being art that can't be sullied by pandering to an audience. Bonus Dickhead Points for the phrases 'writing by numbers' or 'churning out' commercial fiction (edit: or 'cookie cutter' books).

    Writing what you want to, without consideration for what sells, is absolutely fine. But don't then expect someone else to pay to publish it, or whinge that readers don't appreciate your True Art(TM).
     
    Last edited: Apr 4, 2017
  18. KaTrian

    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Uh-oh, this is gonna be divisive.

    But I think the sentence in bold is key here.

    While sometimes the odd one out becomes a surprise hit, like I guess e.e. cummings is great and Precious' Push is wonderful but some readers couldn't stand the broken English, in the end, publishers have to consider the sellability (totally a word) of the product. Yeah, it'll piss off the Starving Artiste when 50 Shades, Twilight, and anything by King or Patterson become huge, but them's the breaks.

    This is not to say we should all start compromising the living shit out of our manuscripts to make sure it plays every note the biggest pool of readers (middle class white women, I think) holds dear, or just write something we think is idiotic or boring. Have self-confidence, believe in your vision, but try to be humble as well. I know full well the stuff I write about tend to be about as appealing as Marmite to a non-Brit, and the views that bleed through are not going to please everyone, probably not even most people, but I just have to accept it and not get salty if a publisher tells me to go be weird and offensive elsewhere or if another writer says I'm writing lowly genre crap that makes pulp fiction look like deserving of the Booker Prize (come to think of it, I might take that as a compliment...). I do still think writing by committee (like accepting every bit of critique as gospel truth) is ultimately a bad idea.
     
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  19. Orihalcon

    Orihalcon Contributing Member

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    Do you really think that this is the dumbest piece of writing advice you've heard? I think it's a bit of a golden nugget.

    Writing for yourself means you are taking on something that you personally want to explore; a story, a scenario, a character or an idea that you want to see developed. It allows you to engage more deeply and extensively in your own thoughts and emotions, making it a means to express yourself more freely and honestly. Often that leads to interesting realizations or powerful emotions sunk into the words written on the page. Writing for yourself could very well be what you need to do to produce something so good that it does sell. How does writing with consideration for what sells imply a more reasonable expectation of either publication or appreciation, anyway?

    I do agree with some other sentiments you express, well emphasized in the words "sullied" and "pandering". Most people write to communicate something to a reader and it is absolutely counterproductive to not take into consideration that reader if you want to convey something to them. It's almost narcissistic not to. If you want to communicate something to a set of people that share one or several characteristics then that should not be reduced to something as "pandering to an audience". An audience is just people who are likely and willing recipients of what you want to say. If someone doesn't want to hear what you have to say then they're not going to listen so why insist on trying to force anything on them?
     
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  20. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Yes.
     
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  21. BayView

    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't know about absolute dumbest advice--I think that's going to vary depending on the goals and needs of different writers. But I totally agree that "writing for yourself" makes no sense for a writer who wants to publish.

    If I were writing for myself my work would be unintelligible drivel. Oh, I know what I was trying to say there. Oh, that was close enough. Oh, whatever, this scene is hard to write, I'm going to skip it. etc.

    Maybe other writers, when they write for themselves, write something that's closer to market ideals. Fair enough. But for me, if I were to write for myself, I would absolutely have to give up on getting published.
     
  22. Lifeline

    Lifeline Out of the Night Supporter Contributor

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    I think I've been blessed with good critiquers. While they sometimes contradicted each other, each of them had valid reasons why they said what they said, I was left free to pick and choose among their advice. Still are.

    "writing for myself" wouldn't be a disaster, because I'm a perfectionist (there, I've said it) :D Write, polish a bit and move on to the next. Vomiting onto the page isn't for me—but no one told me I should do that ;)
     
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  23. Pinkymcfiddle

    Pinkymcfiddle Banned

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    I agree that writing for yourself is pointless if you intend to get published... But I do sometimes wonder how many cookie cutter crime novels, super hero movies, or bubblegum pop songs an audience can consume before they crave something new.

    Go for the teen demographic; they haven't seen it all before.
     
  24. big soft moose

    big soft moose Contributing Member Contributor Community Volunteer

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    I'm deeply offended that your couple aren't pandas :D
     
  25. big soft moose

    big soft moose Contributing Member Contributor Community Volunteer

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    That would be really dumb if you wanted to corner the fiction market on the planet zog
     

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