Taking Writing Advice From Other Writers

Law-Essays-Tips1Photo Credit: LawEssays

As you all know, there are SO many writers here on WordPress. Some have publishing deals, others have sellf-published, and yet more don’t know the first thing about grammar. The quality of the writer is impossible for you to know because no, writing a blog post is not and never will be the same as writing a new chapter in a story or any type of fiction at all. Yet all of these writers are constantly giving out advice like they’re some expert on the craft. Here’s what I think about all of the “advice” floating around the web, and specifically WordPress.

Ask for advice at your own risk. Have you read the work of the person giving you this seemingly magnificent advice? Or better, have they read your work? No to both, huh? Well then what the heck are you doing taking their advice? How can they tell you about plotting or your characters or anything at all that is specific to your writing if they’ve never read it? They can’t. All you’ll likely get is whatever happens to work for them. Even though the two of you aren’t the same person or writer. Weird.

Never take it. Okay, never is probably the incorrect word. How about very rarely. You should very rarely take their advice, unless it’s coming from some guy named Stephen King or something, then write it all down! But really, a lot of my writing blog posts ask for what other people do when this or that is happening in their writing. And I get plenty of comments and feedback, BUT ask me if I’ve ever actually incorporated something someone has told me into my own writing. The answer is honestly no. And the other aspect of this is that there are probably 5-10 bloggers who I’d actually listen to when it comes to writing advice. Can’t name them because now you can just assume that you’re one of them.

I think those two points cover what I have to say. Writing advice is all over, you shouldn’t just accept whatever is offered to you as fact. But I will still ask, have you ever taken advice from another blogger who wasn’t familiar with any of your work? Tell me why you’d do such a thing. I’ve received advice, but nothing has been incorporated as of yet. Some ideas will be used in the future, but these are a very few.

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101 thoughts on “Taking Writing Advice From Other Writers

  1. I agree to proceed with caution when taking advice. The only kind I’ll take seriously from writers who aren’t 100% familiar with my work or style is to write the kind of books I want to read. Any other advice I’ll take from my editor and trusted beta readers.

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  2. I agree with what you say, however, if you’re after some advice – whatever it may be – and a general consensus seem to reached by the WordPress community, then surely that holds some merit?
    I never fail to be shocked and amazed by many the of ‘writers’ out there, but some who do offer their wisdom on WP are genuinely helpful.
    Of course, I think the advice you are referring in this post to is more targeted, as opposed to generic. In that case, yes, do think before taking what somebody says at face value.
    Nice post, thanks.

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  3. Haha yeah I wouldn’t really recommend anyone take my advice seriously until I at least self publish something. Then maybe, MAYBE mull it over internally. Speaking of reading the advice giver/taker’s work, I’m hoping you started reading mine……….

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  4. I can’t think of an instance where I took a specific bit of advice on writing from WP. But I could just be forgetting. I think I just like to read opinions or preferences, even if I never take them into account when writing.

    I do have quite a few pages bookmarked with good general tips, but most of the advice I take is from the books on writing that I have. And from Writer’s Digest and interviews with agents/publishers, etc. I think the only way I’d take specific advice is if I let someone read my stuff, but I don’t want to put my writing online. So, I guess I’m stuck.

    Do I think people on WP have good advice? Yes, a few of them. But they’re in the vast minority.

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  5. I think taking advice and acknowledging something as truth are two totally different things. You’re right when you say that all writers are different. Just because a method works for me doesn’t mean it will work for you.

    But that doesn’t mean it won’t work either. If you’re seeking out advice in the first place, why not experiment with new methods and approaches?

    There’s always something to be learned, even if it’s just that a particular method doesn’t work for you after all.

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  6. If I was near you I’d hug you right now! I agree totally to what you are saying. There are so many people that give advice and don’t have a pot to piss in or a window to through it out of. People even come to me for writing advice, granted I do have an MFA in Creative writing, but I’m still no expert. Some things you just have to take with a grain of salt. I feel moderate about this topic, because learning is re-learning. My mentor has published over 20 books both traditional and self-published. She even used another pen names for the different genres of her work. I will value what she says, but other people, no way ! This is a great topic, John.

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  7. Advice. Must always be taken with a grain of salt. Damn Stephen King for his ‘kill the adverbs’, but I trust his opinion. I take everything in moderation and I have probably taken some advice about writing, mostly try and write a little something every day, but most often than not, I just like reading the advice. Not applying it. Sometimes I find how people focus can be helpful, but in my busy life, it’s not always possible. Possibly the best advice I’ve ever gotten, from a non writer actually, is from my friend who said to try and stop every day for about 10 minutes and write in my journal. It doesn’t have to be about life, but anything. When I can, that works best for getting me centered and focused on writing a lot of the times. Great topic. Oh look, agreeing again. This must be a record.

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  8. An interesting point. I try not to ‘advice’ posts on my blog, as I don’t think what works for me would work for others, instead I try to ask others how they do it and get a discussion going.
    It is hard to take advice form others, especially if they aren’t familiar with how you write or how you go about writing.
    Great post! Something to think on πŸ™‚

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    • I don’t think I’ve ever actually given anyone writing advice. I don’t think. Especially since I’m not familiar with anyone’s writing or process. I might mention what I do, but I’m never like…THIS IS WHAT YOU MUST DO. I’ll read what other people do. Just to see if there’s a good idea in there.

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  9. I think your advice to not take advice would fall under the category of writing advice. πŸ˜‰
    I can’t say I agree with you. Personally, I am of the opinion that writers should continually strive to better themselves. If the advice makes sense, regardless of source, why not give it a try? A good writer should be able to put their ego aside and acknowledge when someone else might know something they never considered before. It’s not like you can never go back if it doesn’t work for you…

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  10. I’ll start taking Stephen King’s advice on writing when he starts following it himself. Maybe. Some day, when I’m especially bored, I’ll pick up a Stephen King novel and make a list of each and every adverb he uses in a single 1000-word passage. Then I’ll post that list on my blog.
    The “advice” I usually give in my own blog consists of comments (or rants) about proofreading/editing issues. I do feel qualified to say these things because I am a professional proofreader and editor. Knowing the difference between “every day” and “everyday” isn’t dependent on a specific writer’s style or genre. Using “parsec” as a unit to measure time: unless it’s in Star Wars fan fiction, it’s wrong, no matter what the author’s personal writing style.
    I do agree with what you’re saying here about not taking every bit of writing advice found on the internet. I’ve seen some doozies: No one will read a novel longer than 80K words. Every novel needs a love-story subplot with lots of sex scenes. This would be better if you added some vampires. Young protagonists are always preferred. No one cares how well you can write as long as you have the most unique ideas. Don’t italicize the names of starships. Women don’t read sci-fi.
    If I had a dollar for every instance of nonsense “advice” I’ve seen online, I’d have enough money to pay off my clone’s student loans.

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  11. I like to get advice from various sources — but I don’t always take the advice. It’s really interesting to collect all sorts of advice from all sorts of people, because even if the advice they give isn’t very good, just the act of thinking about why it’s bad advice is sometimes enough to spark an idea!

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  12. As a former journalist, I would caution before taking anyone’s advice as gospel to vet the source. Do your homework. Visit the blogger’s about page. What are their credentials? Have they been published? Do they have a degree or work in a related industry, publishing, editing, journalism, screenwriting, etc.? Check out their Twitter account too. Do they have lots of followers? Are they socially active? What do they tweet about? If it’s something unrelated to what they’re writing about, is that cause for a red flag? Not necessarily, but it’s certainly something to be aware of. There are certainly plenty of bona fide resources out there offering advice. Are they reiterating what you’ve read elsewhere? Or does the advice seem off the wall? You have to weigh all of these factors. Keep the advice you trust, toss the rest. That’s my advice.

    Great conversation, John. Keep up the good work.

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  13. You said this in your post:

    Yet all of these writers are constantly giving out advice like they’re some expert on the craft.

    Come on, now! Not ALL WordPress writers give out advice! I am a new WP blogger. I have only a few followers on my blog and on Twitter. To my knowledge, I haven’t given out any advice. However, I have quoted other writers, including Stephen King. I am a published writer, but that doesn’t make me an expert.

    I’m curious. Do you feel that critiquing someone else’s work and offering feedback and suggestions is the same as “giving advice?” I have critiqued the work of fellow writers,and I’ve been on the receiving end as well. Sometimes I pay attention; sometimes I let their advice go in one ear and out the other. But if several people point out the same thing about my work, I pay attention. I figure there must be some validity to what they’re saying.

    I don’t usually ask for writing advice unless it’s from an editor or a writing instructor. If it’s someone I trust, I might take their advice if I’m reading their blog, their website, an article they’ve written, or whatever. I do read a lot of writing books and articles, and I’ve learned a lot about the craft of writing through self-study. I’ve learned through reading well-written books and stories, too. Even badly-written work has given me insight.

    I guess what it boils down to is that advice can be beneficial, but it can also be a waste of time to even read.

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    • Oh no, critiques aren’t what I’m talking about. I even said in the post that I was talking about people unfamiliar with your writing. I’m talking about the writers who post “10 Things you Must do…” They think they’re some expert when we have no idea they came to this conclusion.

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  14. Reblogged this on The Lightning Bug & the Lightning and commented:
    Taken in this context, the blogger makes some valid points. Feedback is essential, but never forfeit your dreams at the expense of another’s opinion…even Stephen King’s (have ya READ that ‘Dark Tower’ mess of his?) πŸ˜‰

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  15. Good advice and well taken. Having been a part of a local writing group for almost two years, I’ve had to adjust to the give-and-take of sharing sessions, as well as learning the value of a ‘focused sharing’ wherein upon finishing your piece, you ask pointed questions about specific aspects of the writing. Just asking for comments leaves you sifting through the bullshit for the gems…and there can be a lot of bullshit attitude or preconceptions that harm more than hurt…

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    • You’re absolutely right. At least in a writing group they’ve read your work. Their advice may still be terrible advice, but at least they’re basing their opinion in your work rather than claiming that they know a list of things that work for everyone.

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  16. My aunt often tells me there’s a reason I have two ears, one to hear all the bull crap out there and the other to shoot it all out from. Now she wasn’t banking on the abysmal amount of space I have between the ears that made it hard for me to retain any knowledge, but I guess this answers your question anyway. You know, because I am sure you aren’t inflicted with the dismal amount of mammoth air I am between the ears πŸ˜‰

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  17. Well….advice, whether it’s for a blog, a job or a relationship…is just advice. We all need it sometimes because bushwhacking our way through that jungle called ‘life’ can be made a bit easier if we are given some handy hints. Of course, advice is good to be listened to and if it feels right for you, try it, it may work…if not, don’t sweat over it…

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  18. Pingback: Writing Pet Peeves #10: Its/It’s | Write me a book, John!

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