Writing Tips I Can’t Stand!

I’ve been writing for years, and have done so much research on how to write I’m rather surprised that my brain hasn’t exploded already. However, along with all the amazing advice I have found, there has also been the advice that either I thought instantly was horrible or now that I am older I realize actually inhibited my writing ability.

However, I want to give a quick disclaimer before I get into my list. This is my personal list of writing tips I found to be very unhelpful for me. But keep in mind that every writer is different, and some of this advice, while not helpful to me, might be amazing for you. Now that the disclaimer is out of the way, let’s get into the tips.

Write What You Know

I heard this advice so often, both from my teachers in college and various writing bloggers/books. I hate this advice, because it is extremely detrimental to creative writing. There is a great picture on Pinterest that rather examines the idea of what you know.

See the source image

So, my question is, if you actually write just what you know, how little will that knowledge be?

Let’s take me, for example. I love Asian history. Korea, China, I can’t get enough of researching it. However, in college I was frequently told I shouldn’t write a story set in Asia, because I have never been to Asia and I’m not Asian.

The same should apply then to historical novels. Because every author setting a book in Ancient Egypt cannot possible know that era. They have never been there. Yes, they can piece together research done by modern historians, but they did not know.

This is why I think this advice is so dangerous, because we are constantly realizing how little we know on any topic. But if we write about that topic, we are forced to learn more about it, broadening our knowledge.

So don’t write what you know; write what you want to and through that know more.

Don’t Use Adverbs

There is a lot of ridiculous grammar advice out there, like avoid the passive voice and don’t use ‘very’ (do both, it’s fine), but none bothers me more than adverbs. For those who don’t know, adverbs are words which modify verbs, adjectives, nouns, etc. Words like moderately, now, fast, always, terrible, suddenly…you get the point.

This is one of the worse advice I have ever heard. Adverbs are so important is giving relation to time, distance, and more. They are quick ways to give your readers a picture of what is happening when.

I understand that some writers can overuse adverbs, often to the detriment of the narrative, but using adverbs in general should be encouraged. The same argument of not using adverbs could be given about sentence variance (you know, the unwritten rule that you should vary sentence lengths and structure to give variety to the reading experience). To ban adverbs is completely ridiculous.

If you want to use adverbs, do it and don’t let anyone tell you you shouldn’t.

See the source image

Start at the End

This is common advice I hear when starting a story. The point of it, I believe, is to know where the story is going. In that case, I can understand the point of the advice. For example, if you know where you want to end the story, you will know what to work towards. However, if you literally start at the ending (meaning write the ending before the beginning), you set yourself up for failure.

When it comes to planning a story or novel, often times as you are writing you are problem-solving as you go. You may get to know your characters more and realize they are taking the story in another direction. Or you may realize the ending you wrote in the beginning is actually way too obvious and your foreshadowing lacks subtlety.

My point is that you can formulate the end in your head, but DO NOT think that you must follow the original course. You don’t know how many times I have ruined my stories by insisting that I must stay on the plot-line I planned in the beginning.

So, start wherever works for you. Start at the beginning or the middle or the end. But don’t assume that starting in one place will be the perfect formula for creating a perfect book.

You Have to Join a Writing Group

I have been in several writing groups, both online and in person. I can say now that sadly none helped me. If fact, most of them were highly harmful to my writing.

I’m currently going through Brandon Sanderson’s lecture series on Youtube (if you haven’t checked it out and you’re a writer, I highly recommend it) and he talked briefly about a discovery writer, which is exactly what I am. He talks of how a discovery writer should never share their story when writing the first draft, because they are still figuring out where they want their story to go. Unfortunately, that is exactly what I did, and though I liked most of the people in the groups I was in, we were all inexperienced writers who didn’t know how to give or take criticism (myself included).

See the source image

What I’m saying is that writing groups are not for everyone. Yes, they can encourage you to write more, but it might also influence your writing to move away from what you would naturally write and towards what the other writers expect or want you to write.

Saying that, I know of some writers who find writing groups to be very important. But they are not necessary for all writers to join.

Conclusion

I’ve already wrote an entire post of why Show, Don’t Tell is a Lie, and there are probably some terrible tips I’ve missed.

Do you agree or disagree with my list? Also, are there any horrible tips you would have added? Let me know your thoughts down in the comments, follow my blog for more musings and, as always,

Best wishes in your life full of adventure,

Madame Writer

16 thoughts on “Writing Tips I Can’t Stand!

    1. I agree! Rewriting with no plan on when you stop rewriting is horrible! I think it’s always important to learn from drafts to take them all to the next project, but not fixate on one writing story forever.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I agree with most of your points.

    Write what you know is terrible. True, at the time you will sit down and write, you should have decent knowledge of what you will be talking about. But that does not mean that you will only focus on things you do know. That’s where research comes in. Either we do the research ourselves – visit new places, experience new things, talk to new people… or we read about the things we do not know. In the end, at the time of writing, we should have at least some decent knowledge of the thing we previously did not know. If you encounter an unknown, learn about it. It makes things more fun.

    Start at the end, huh? There are some stories that are designed to keep going on and on, depending on how you take it. There may be an end to a story arc, but the entire big picture may not have an end in sight.

    I’m not sure about this writing group, because I haven’t joined one. However, I have found that being in an environment with writers will certainly promote or encourage you to write. Either you get inspiration from their works, or at least tips on how they do things. It’s at least better than being in a group of people who looks down on you being a writer! hahaha…

    Have a nice day.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you for sharing your thoughts! Write what you know is terrible, I agree. And you are right that many stories don’t have proper endings, simply because lives continue on always. As for the writing groups, I’m only going from my personal experience. I’ve been a member of four or more writing groups (plus many more group reviews in college) and I found them all to be at best unhelpful and at worst detrimental. But I also completely admit that it depends what kind writer you are. If you are not a discovery writer, you may find writing groups inspiring and encouraging. I hope you find a writing group someday that really encourages you to write!

      Have a nice day right back at you!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I agree with this post. When I first started writing, I was told that I should write what I know and show, don’t tell. I rebelled later on and I’m glad I did otherwise I wouldn’t have enjoyed writing today.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I agree with all the above, especially the ‘Show don’t tell’ post. I don’t have a rule per se to offer up. My pet peeve of writing advice would be the prejudice against what is popularly dismissed as ‘purple prose.’ The advice drains fiction of the lusciously lurid details my mind’s eye absolutely adores.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Interesting thought, and I agree. What sets most classic authors from modern authors is, as you say, ‘purple prose.’ Shakespeare would not have produced such beautiful plays if he did not create such detailed language. Most fiction published now is broken down to its most primitive syntax.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I agree on all of them, especially on number 1 – Write What You Know. Much of the passion for a story you are writing must come from the process of discovering something and learning as you write. Writing only about something you already know must be a boring task if it does not contain elements that you do not know yet, but will explore further.

    I am also surprised that people would tell you that you should not write a story set in Asia “because you have never been there”. Just because someone “has been somewhere” does not mean that that person grasped something remarkable about that country or even understood and appreciated what was in front of him or her at that time. There are many such “ticking the box” travellers out there, and it does not mean anything. A person can be knowledgeable about a country by researching and reading about it and they will certainly be more of an expert than a person who has simply once “been there”. Living somewhere for a long time is, of course, a different matter.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I could not agree with you more! Writing is about discovery and learning, both about yourself and other things, so it wouldn’t make sense to just write what you already know.

      I was surprised when I was told that too (both by a couple teachers and my other classmates in college). And I hadn’t thought of “ticking the box.” Just because a person visits a country doesn’t mean they know that much about it.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. That last one, totally. Criticism is a tricky art, where what you say very quickly becomes irrelevant in relation to how you say it – no matter how hard you appeal to reason. 😦 When they work well, writing groups are a marvel, but for some reason, horror stories are what I hear more often…

    Liked by 1 person

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