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Top Worst "Worst Writer Advice" - Outrageous and Mind Boggling Maxims

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Writing and editing a first novel of any kind is a long, hard slog even when armed with the right information and guidance. But if you're immersed in an atmosphere of foolish and erroneous advice, as most struggling novel writers are, the task becomes impossible.

- Michael Neff


It's like acid rain. 

It never ceases to scar, harm the environment, and ruin vacations. We're talking about bad writer advice, of course (btw, see our first article on this subject). 
While perusing several collections of "Worst Writer Advice" found sprouting like toxic tulips after a simple Google search (most of it authored by insufferable rank amateurs working for the ad-driven content industry, and who wisely appear between ages 12 and 17), I found the various fallacies and idiocies about novel writing contained therein to be worth pointing out. Much of it was reminiscent of childish Twitter rumor, and therefore, potentially harmful to aborning novelists. 

Should one even bother though to set this straight? It makes you feel a little like the baffled ex-astronaut prodded into revealing Earth really is a globe when addressing a convention of flat earth fanatics, i.e., "I can't believe I'm even talking about this."

And btw, I also visited the kingdom of Reedsy, one of the more popular writer advice hangouts. I was investigating their article on writing for NaNoWriMo, aka National Writing Month, but I found the surge of cheerleading blather concerning this competition to be a grand welcome mat for bad advice scuffery. No surprise there (not *everything* was bad advice, though most points required far more elaboration, and enough dark neoplasms did exist to cripple a writer's ability to succeed, e.g., "Follow whatever crazy character shows up and leads you down the rabbit hole, and let yourself be surprised!”). Yes, yes, leave the plot behind, just follow that crazy down the hole, and once you've reached the bottom, sitting with your crazy on a toilet in a squalid gas station bathroom just south of Pismo Beach, look up and squint to see that small crack of light high above you.

Overall, I felt as if I were being lectured by children who had just discovered how to type, and it made me think... Could I now toss aside decades of experience and acquired knowledge regarding the topic of novel writing, and quite simply, like them, sally forth and tap out a new "epic novel" in a month?

We are awash in wunderkind. Where do they come from? What do they want?

Not long ago, a Reedsy-like writer in a Zoom workshop enthusiastically erupted, "The best thing about writer groups is that no one is necessarily right. Writers are free to approach novel writing in any number of ways, even if they have to INVENT IT AS THEY GO." I informed her that was actually the worst thing about writer groups (btw, was the inverse "necessarily wrong" also true?), and the "invent it as they go" was itself an invention of ignorant narcissism on the "go" only to rejection. Next, I asked her if she knew the definition of a plot point, whereupon she evaporated into electronic memory. I never saw her again, but apparently, "no right way to write a novel" was an important standard for her, one she clung to tenaciously. 

And btw, she's not alone.

Such "writers" don't wish their "creativity" to be "controlled" or "diluted" with rules meant for "some." In all fairness, it's likely she'd absorbed such foolish and ruinous maxims after ingesting the literary advice equivalent of cyanide, the kind one inevitably discovers puddling around the web (see Google search above). Where else?... Oh right, I forgot. She could have learned it from her writer group?
Where is the nearest cliff?

Maybe this act of investigatory literary journalism will rescue your dream from ruination, or not. As one of the wise sages we'll review points out, "don't listen to experts if it makes you feel bad.. just follow your instincts." Again, I repeat, where is the nearest cliff?  

Regardless, more favorites below, from mind boggling to laughable. WE will not provide them with free publicity by naming or linking to them.

As follows:

att.jpg "Some people, however, will say that no book will ever succeed without an outline. This is terrible writing advice. If you don't want to use an outline and want to go straight to writing then go ahead - don't allow anyone to tell you otherwise."

(Some people? In two decades I've never heard anyone make this sweeping statement; however, I do belong to the non-pantsing school. I adamantly advocate for productive planning and/or outlining in advance, especially for aspiring genre-specific authors relatively new to the field. WE article on this issue here.)

att.jpg Some people are fortunate and they don’t have a lot of time commitments on their hands. These writers might get their book written, edited, and on their way to publishing in just a few weeks. This in no way means it’s not good! It just means they were able to spend a lot of consecutive time on it.

(Some writer people known to this writer person are able to conceive, write, edit, and publish their novel in a few weeks... Tell me who. Show me the novel. This reminds me of the ancient Jack Kerouac novel-typing-in-one-sitting stunt, but not quite as extreme. Nevertheless, preposterous no matter how you look at it.)

att.jpg Join a writing group either in person or virtually and give them extracts of your work.

(We've debunked that solution here.)

att.jpg Write in your own voice, with your natural grammar. Let copyeditors and proofreaders worry about your grammar later. 

(Your "natural grammar"? As both a line and developmental editor, this green light to ignore reasonable grammar can result in eye popping hybrids. Consistent and obvious bad grammar is a red flag to professionals. There are irritating nuances to grammar, yes, but advising writers to ignore grammar rules in general is wrong.)

att.jpg Most of the writing and publishing industry is shockingly elitist, and most of what they teach is bad advice that doesn’t work.

(The portion of the industry that might present itself to some as elitist is not that portion of the industry currently engaged in freelance editorial work, i.e., unless the editor in question happens to be a former publishing house editor or literary agent. In that case, they are feverishly searching for jobs and will not be inclined to act snotty. The broad brush allegation that "most of what they teach is bad advice" is plain ridiculous, if for no other reason than the allegation is too sweeping. Most? Really? No examples given here. No names. Who provides unproductive advice and who does not varies widely.)

(FYI, the statement above, and below, was made by an instructional-and-self-publication website)

att.jpg Nothing about reading books about writing—or subscribing to blogs about writing—is going to help you do that... But I have yet to find a book about writing that’s a better use of your time than actually writing.

(I'm still bandaging my jaw. Well said, I must say. The writer has yet "to find a book about writing" that's any good? Waste of time? For example, "Screenwriter's Problem Solver" by Syd Field teaches nothing worthwhile? "Art of Fiction" by John Gardner? And so forth? We addressed this issue quite well on WE. It's hard to believe this issue has to be debated. I've only ever heard one person say this in twenty years, and that was an MFA prof attempting to sell his program to a writer workshop. And I'll maintain that if you cannot communicate writing advice using the written word, then you cannot communicate it verbally either. )

att.jpg Read as much writing as you can in your genre (the kind of books you want to write)?... I actually tell people not to do this... Instead, read only the minimum amount necessary to know what the general consensus is in that field. 

(Huh? This fellow actually finds harm in immersing in one's chosen genre? Read the minimum amount? What does that mean? How does he define? We never find out. It's just overall ridiculous.)

Do you find it hard to believe that a portion of the above isn't just an invention? I'd prefer it that way actually. Far more disturbing to see fellow writers (or alleged writers) passing this pap around as if valid.

God bless Novel Writing on Edge.

[url={url}]View the full article[/url]

Michael Neff
Algonkian Producer
New York Pitch Director
Author, Development Exec, Editor

We are the makers of novels, and we are the dreamers of dreams.

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"King of Pantsers"?


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