I hate Writing Advice, and here's Why!
There are a lot of pieces of advice floating around the writing world. From magazines to writing manuals, you will find many things that tell you what not to do and what to do.
But I am here to tell you that all of it is a load of crap.
And I say this from my deepest experience. When I began my writer journey, or really just decided that I wanted to write a book, I had the age-old question that I believe pops into everyone’s mind when they decide to become an author. That is the simple question of, “How do I do it? How do I write a book?”
This is where I fell into the trap of what I call “advice overload.”
You will find many magazines, such as Publishers Weekly and Writer’s Digest, filled to the brim with headlines such as “Top 5 Things to Stop Doing in your Novel” and “10 Key Things to Write A Novel.” These, I believe are unhealthy for any beginning writer, mainly because it confuses and limits instead of providing clarity and freedom. In the words of Neil Gaiman: “When you start out, you won’t know what you’re doing. This is great!”
“You become what you
Art is freedom, and if you write yourself into a cage of do’s and do not’s, you will miss the point and beauty of storytelling altogether. Stories are not bound to algorithms, and the best of stories are the ones that dare to defy the rules. Stories are organic, living things, and it is up to you the writer to decide on how to give them breath.
So then, you may ask, “If I shouldn’t listen to advice, how will I find help with figuring this novel thing out?”
Well, there are only two things you must do to be a writer, and you must forgo all the rest. Simply put, a writer must do only two things: a writer must write (a writer who doesn’t write is no writer at all), and you must read.
Reading is the ultimate teacher. In reading a story as a writer, as an analytical mind, you will learn all of the things that the lists and rules fall short of. You will read an author and think, “Oh! They did this! I like that!” or “Oh! They did that! That doesn’t work for me!”
In reading you will see storytelling in action. You must read stories and take the time to understand them. The key to good storytelling is found in understanding how they work and how the pieces fit. Pay attention to each to plot device, each character, each arc, and it will reflect upon your writing. In the words of the Stoic philosopher, Epictetus: “You become what you give your attention to.”
Writing is practice; reading is study. One directly affects the other and they are not mutually exclusive. Write your heart; read the hearts of others. Iron sharpens iron, and one story sharpens another.
William F. Burk
Award-winning author of fantasy, flash fiction, and poetry. Author of "The Heart of Hearts," a debut fantasy novel. Always writing, forever and ever.