Author Month: The Dreaded Advice

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We all know about authors giving advice to other authors.  Some tips have been uttered by people so famous that you’d think they are unbreakable laws.  Others get tossed around so much that they’re simply empty or have multiple meanings.  The truth is that advice in the world of writing is really ‘take it or not’.  Yet, people grab onto an insight and run with it to the extreme.  It can get silly.

So, what am I getting at?

I’m wondering where the lesser heard advice is hiding.  Not the adages and things that we’ve heard ad nauseum.  The tips that authors have discovered on their own through experience.  For example, I don’t see many people saying:

‘What works for one author, won’t always work for another.  Follow your own path and do what feels right for your style and story.’

I say this a lot and it’s usually when I’m faced with someone telling me that I should do something that worked for them.  It could be changing my style to past tense or sending out a newsletter every 3 days.  Sometimes I try their suggestions and other times I don’t feel like they’re going to work for me.  Many times I’ve done something that worked great for one author and it does nothing for me.  So, the tools and styles we come up with have to be unique.

Anyway, what’s a piece of advice that you’ve come up with?

About Charles Yallowitz

Charles E. Yallowitz was born, raised, and educated in New York. Then he spent a few years in Florida, realized his fear of alligators, and moved back to the Empire State. When he isn't working hard on his epic fantasy stories, Charles can be found cooking or going on whatever adventure his son has planned for the day. 'Legends of Windemere' is his first series, but it certainly won't be his last.
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32 Responses to Author Month: The Dreaded Advice

  1. My advice is to keep writing and while you are doing it do not show your work to others until your first draft is done. I have seen so many people who want to be writers just give up because someone they respect didn’t like what they had written in the first two pages. Family members are potent writer career killers when they criticize the work.

    Liked by 5 people

  2. L. Marie says:

    I can’t take credit for this advice but I have discovered this to be true: you don’t have to be an expert in a subject to write about that subject. This is in response to “write what you know.” I’m not against “write what you know.” But I think that advice stops many writers cold sometimes. I have avoided numerous stories because of what I didn’t know. Watching the behind-the-scenes interviews of movie directors and casts has been eye-opening. In one interview, a writer-director of a recent film mentioned that he knew nothing of Mesoamerican history. Yet he had to write a script concerning this period. So he found an expert at a university who helped him. I also think of Matt Damon and Ben Affleck who had help writing Good Will Hunting (https://alum.mit.edu/slice/how-mit-professor-helped-good-will-hunting-get-math-right-and-landed-tiny-role-film ). Obviously, the average writer doesn’t have the money to hire an expert. But I couldn’t help thinking of how experts helped these writer/actor/directors.

    Liked by 2 people

    • ‘Write what you know’ is frustrating. Especially if you’re doing fiction. I don’t know magic and I’ve never met dragons. I’m still writing about them.

      Liked by 2 people

    • V.M.Sang says:

      Yes, yes! I’ve written about Roman Britain and Viking Britain. I’m not a historian, nor was I around in those times (contrary to popular belief), but I did a lot of research, and could now tell you how to build a Celtic roundhouse, and how the Vikings were not the dirty, unkempt people we often see, but we’re extremely clean.

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  3. I like your advice, Charles … what works for one doesn’t necessarily work for another. One I like is ‘to break the rules, you first have to know the rules’ … it makes a difference if we break a writing rule out of ignorance than if we break it deliberately as an artistic tool. 💕🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  4. C.E.Robinson says:

    Charles, go with your intuitions in writing. I use verbal phrases if it fits the style in the 1960s. Some words were popular then that people don’t use anymore. I’d say using action in dialogue breaks up the he said, she said tags. With two people taking, sometimes no tags work, especially if it’s rapid fire talk like an argument. Then, show the action & feelings in an internal monologue. To a limited extent I will take the writing style of favorite authors. Mostly how they start and end stories. You can’t really tell someone how to write. But, you can tell them to read favorite authors to get tips how they have done it successfully. 📚🎶 Christine

    Liked by 2 people

  5. This advice did not originate with me, but four decades of writing for no tangible reason has convinced me of its truth (for me!): If you plan on writing novels with the hope of that paying you way through life, don’t! Only dive into the writing of novels for the sheer joy of doing it.”

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Charles, this is such a great topic, and you’re right — whether to take advice or not is a perennial debate among us writers. I can think of two pieces of advice I’ve personally come up with that I try and pass on.

    1) “It’s your story.” Nobody can tell you how it’s meant to be told. You are the only one who knows.

    2) “Focus.” This refers more to imagery and theme. Once you have a finished draft and you know what your themes are, then go back and make sure all your imagery and such reinforce your theme. The total story will feel more focused and purposeful.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. You got a lot of action on this one. I would say to enjoy yourself. None of us are getting rich out of this deal. Do it because it entertains you and works a part of your brain the outside world tries to exterminate.

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  8. V.M.Sang says:

    The one that gets me is ‘show don’t tell’. Now, while I understand what it means, and generally agree, there are times when telling is the best way. Yet critiquers will pull me up on it every time.

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  9. noelleg44 says:

    Grow a thick skin so you can ignore useless criticism and an old one: Kill your darlings.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. The ‘rules’ can be good guidelines when you’re editing and you see something that isn’t working, but it’s a killer when they keep chattering in your head while you’re trying to storm your way through the first draft.

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  11. My advice is to write as simply and colorfully as possible. Have fun! If you dont enjoy the process, if it isn’t playful and inspiring to your inner child, you won’t have the inspiration to keep it up and finish it. Thats my 2 cents.

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