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

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

  1. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin Contributing Member

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    Just accept it, homes. A genre romance in 2017 has a happy ending. That's how they are marketed. That is the only way it will end up on the shelf under romance. Forget everything you know about the word "romantic" as an adjective. Nobody gives a shit about what words mean when they devise marketing strategies or business models. It is industry standard. It is a requirement for those seeking to publish anything under the umbrella of romance. It is how the business works. None of this is about truth. It is about marketing. That's it. It doesn't have to make sense.

    (and forget about Shakespeare and 19th century novels... those predate the industry and have little bearing on how books are marketed today)
     
  2. KaTrian

    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Maybe there's a sub-genre akin to "depressing romance". Sid & Nancy stories on repeat. :superthink:
     
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  3. BayView

    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    One or both of the characters dies at the end of Love Story, right? So... I'd call it a love story, not a romance.
     
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  4. BayView

    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Originally, "romance" meant any story written in the vernacular. Then it meant stories written in keeping with the principles of Romanticism (emotional, melodramatic stories, regardless of whether "love" was a central theme). And then, of course, we have the Romance languages (those with Latin roots).

    It's a pretty overused word, and I can see where confusion sometimes arises. But not when it's combined with "genre". Once we know we're talking about a modern genre of fiction, the meaning is crystal clear.
     
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  5. Wreybies

    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Funnily enough, and as a complete aside to this train of thought, but in the vain of syntax shift of words, in Russian any novel of any ilk is referred to as a роман (román).
     
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  6. BayView

    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Same in French - roman = novel

    ETA: Weird that there's a French-Russian connection, but it makes sense that Italian is romanzo. I dunno what the problem is with Spanish... betraying its Romance language roots!
     
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  7. EstherMayRose

    EstherMayRose Active Member

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    It's the same in German. I think languages have always just borrowed from each other.
     
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  8. Wreybies

    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    It was that torrid love affair we had with that swarthy Moorish prince. Almond eyes of obsidian and a silver tongue to make the Devil himself seem a bumbling fool. On sleek chestnut horses we streaked into the desert, wild as the wind!
     
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  9. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll Shh. The safeword is Swiss Fish Salad. :D Contributor

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    Now I know what I should write once my sequel is done.
    A Romance where the guy meets a fate akin to being fed
    into a wood chipper. :D

    #GrimRomance/Horror :supergrin:

    Go back to the roots of tragedy. Bill Shakespeare style. :supercool:
     
  10. BayView

    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Of course, it's pretty rare for anyone knowledgeable about Shakespeare to classify his work as a romance... Romeo & Juliet is a tragedy, Midsummer Night's Dream would probably hit the romance criteria but is classified as a comedy, etc.
     
  11. Laurin Kelly

    Laurin Kelly Contributing Member Contributor

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    Pish posh, Bay! What in the world would the national industry association for Romance writers know about romance?

    I wish I had a quarter for every time we have to explain this. I could definitely quit my day job and write full time if that were the case.
     
  12. Catrin Lewis

    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

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    Here, Spot! Here, boy! *whistles*

    [​IMG]
     
  13. Catrin Lewis

    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

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    I was old enough when I started writing seriously that I've been able to take writing diktats with a huge grain of salt. Like, "Eliminate all adverbs" is totally ridiculous. On the other hand, if I find I have two or three -ly words in proximity to one another, I edit all but one of them out. Not because Adverbs Are Bad, but because I like to vary the sound of my words.

    You might say the actual worst piece of advice I got was never put into words. It was the perception I got, from childhood on, that being a writer was a High Calling and only the Chosen Few were worthy to do it. The chosen few clearly didn't include me, so all (well, most) of the stories I wrote in my head stayed there. Who was I to claim a distinction like that?

    I think they call that impostor syndrome. I'm fighting it hard now that I'm close to indie publishing my first novel. It's possible I'm using the book production process (cover design, interior formatting, website design, etc.) as an excuse not to get the book out there. Because, you know, officially claiming to be An Author would be yonderish and acting above my station, you know?
     
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2017
  14. Catrin Lewis

    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

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    I remember reading Harry Golden's Only in America tucked behind my textbook in HS Chemistry class. My teacher caught me at it one day and barked, "Stop reading romances in class!" Well, yeah, that book could kind of qualify as that . . .
     
  15. jannert

    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I want that cat. Gorgeous.
     
  16. jannert

    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Going back to the OP, I can't remember any bad piece of advice I was actually given by another person. I've seen a few since then, though.

    One that bothers me is the advice that says 'you must write every day'—for a specific time period, or till you achieve a certain word count. I get where that advice is coming from, in that it means 'don't procrastinate.' Work on your story every day. In that sense, it's good advice, not bad. But sometimes actually producing written work every day isn't really what's needed. If you're mentally stuck on an issue, just trying to write through it doesn't always work. If you're on the wrong track, you're apt to just go further down that wrong track and get more and more frustrated because you're making the situation worse, not better. You won't necessarily reach a breakthrough—a 'eureka' moment—by continuing to grimly churn out prose.

    I know I've reached that point if I find myself deleting everything I wrote the previous day and starting again, only to repeat the process over the next couple of days as well. Or I'm just tinkering with word choice, hoping THAT will solve the problem. Woops. Okay, I'm 'producing' but I'm not getting anywhere. Time for a break.

    What I would say instead is 'think about your story every day.' Research, play around with ideas, etc. Put on music or go for a walk and think about the story. Imagine different ways it could go if there's a problem. Thinking time is just as important to writing, in my view, as the act of writing itself. I don't consider thinking time to be wasted time. As long as it doesn't go on for too long and I'm not kidding myself. :)
     
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2017
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  17. izzybot

    izzybot Human Disaster Contributor

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    Now there's something for the good advice thread.
     
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  18. EstherMayRose

    EstherMayRose Active Member

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    Try making friends with your MC. I just want to give them both hugs! (Even though one of them would probably smack me one for doing so...)
     
  19. Trish

    Trish ......Lost Contributor

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    The worst writing advice I ever received was - "You need to make your story more generic so it can appeal to more readers."

    How's about .... um... no?
     
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  20. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I've read two pieces of advice (one from that Eat Pray Love Lady, probably in Big Magic, and one somewhere in the essay collection Writers on Writing) that if you let a story--a specific story--sit idle, it will start to die. I should really be putting this in the good advice (or good-advice-if-it-applies-to-you) thread, but your post reminded me of it.

    EPLL personified the story, arguing that if you don't tend it, it's going to get up and find a writer that will.

    The Writers on Writing argument was, as I recall, that if you allow yourself to emerge from the story and look backward at it, it will look...stupid. All the excitement will be gone, all the glitter will fall off, you'll realize what an inarticulate uncreative pretentious idiot you are, and it will die. This one appears to be true for me, but slightly stricter--it appears that I do have to write.

    As I determinedly feed and pet the Highly Flavored Novel, I'm finding that roughly two days of not writing new material for it results in a severe lapse in flavor. Thinking about it doesn't cut it for me. Editing doesn't quite cut it. I need to write a new scene at least every two days. I'm making that a rule. If the scene lands in the scrap pile, no problem.
     
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  21. jannert

    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Yeah, I would agree, do whatever works for you.

    To be honest, when I was writing the first draft of my novel, I did write every day that I was allowed to write, and I didn't experience any problems at all. No writer's block at all. I wanted to be writing, and hated being taken away from it by other life committments. I was always into the chapter and leading eagerly to the next one.

    When I found I needed to stop writing and start thinking was during my structural edits.

    Unless I knew exactly what was wrong with what I was trying to fix, I just wasted time and energy. I gained nothing by writing and rewriting and rewriting and discarding and rewriting and rewriting. I wanted to keep working on the story, and for me, that was what 'working' on it meant. Tinkering tinkering tinkering. Deleting. Tinkering some more.

    After a couple of months of making very little actual progress, I was forced to take a break (I 'had' to go away on holiday.) And while I was away, my brain kicked into gear. Thank goodness I had a notebook with me to scribble down all the Eurekas. I solved SO many of the problems I'd been struggling with, just by taking time away. When I got home I couldn't wait to get to the computer and get them all sorted ...and the rewriting worked.

    After that I learned to back off and take my time whenever I hit a snag. What I needed wasn't more writing, but a new perspective.
     
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  22. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll Shh. The safeword is Swiss Fish Salad. :D Contributor

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    Pretty every much how to write book I have read.
    They all pretty much said write like me, and
    you will be just fine.

    Well if I write like you, then how can I write like
    me?
     
  23. Lew

    Lew Contributing Member Contributor

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    @Catrin Lewis, time spent preparing your indie pub for the world is not wasted effort or procrastination, it is the part that many indies omit, who are later distressed when they find they can't climb out of the Amazon basement rankings below 3M. Keep up the good work.

    Advice that I have gotten that was bad: you must outline your story meticulous before you start to write, you have to have a flowchart, complete character resumes, and a timeline, otherwise your work will meander all over the place and you will get lost in details. David Poyer writes that way, talked about that process at a writers' conference, and nothing succeeds for him like success (40 top sellers). Me, I have done technical writing for a large part of the past fifty years (among many other things): test plans, test reports, technical manuals, personnel qualification systems, standard operating procedures, system architectures, specifications, etc. I outline those meticulously, and I pretty much know what I am going to write before I write it. But if I wrote fiction that way, it would sound like one of my technical manuals. So I dive in and go with the flow, often not knowing what is happening next until I have written it... and it works, for me. Not for David, not for many others. The technique of writing is highly personal, so find your own way
     
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  24. EstherMayRose

    EstherMayRose Active Member

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    Oh, boy. I will forever associate those things with school. I'm usually several chapters in before I actually start planning.
     
  25. Moon

    Moon Member

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    "When suffering from writers block...keep writing"

    I'm not too sure on this one as it hasn't worked for me. Sitting down in the local park or going for a long walk has helped. But if I keep writing I start to type like this,
    [​IMG]
     
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