When it comes to something as personal as writing, it pays to remember that the best advice is no advice. No matter how much we may wish it, there is no book you can read that’ll teach you how to write an award-winning novel and no Netflix show to watch that’ll demonstrate how to overcome writer’s block. All you can do is pick up a pen and start writing.
In the spirit of ‘the best advice is no advice’, we’ve selected our favourite ‘words of wisdom’ that you’re probably better off ignoring.
Listen to any famous writer and you’ll eventually end up hearing this one. Everyone from Ernest Hemingway to Stephen King insists that if you don’t write every day then you are negatively impacting your chance of success. It’s easy for them to say this, because writing is their job. For most people starting out, it’s impossible to write every day due to other commitments. Whether it’s a full-time job or childcare, sometimes writing for eight (or even three) hours just isn’t going to happen!
Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t write every day. After all, you’re only human. After a hard day at the office, sometimes you just want to sit around and watch TV, which is totally fine! What matters most is establishing a routine that works for you and your writing. If you can only commit to writing for one hour every week, then commit to your writing for that one hour every week! Eventually it’ll become a habit, and you’ll find your writing better off for it. Trying to force creativity just won’t work.
Yeah, no. The likelihood is that if you’re writing a book, you’d like someone to read it at some point. Not only will writing like no one’ll read it make the focus of your novel go all over the place, but it also takes accountability off of you as a writer.
‘Who cares that this conclusion makes no sense, it’s not like anyone is ever gonna read this.’ See how that sounds? Instead, try to have some accountability. Feel free to write as if no one will read it, because then you’ll feel more comfortable asking ‘what if?’ and trying some crazy things, as long as you promise to edit like everyone is going to read it. This brings back accountability and keeps you in line, whilst giving you the freedom to at least workshop out-there ideas. After all, you’re less likely to go off-topic if you know you have to edit it later.
This one sounds good on paper, but in practice it falls flat. Obviously, a benefit of writing like you speak would be that your writing voice, and especially your dialogue, will sound natural. But have you ever listened to people speak? Natural speech is filled with noises like ‘hmm’ and ‘um,’ and when you couple that with the constant repetition and little quirks in everyone’s speech patterns, it’ll be an absolute nightmare to read, let alone write.
If you want your dialogue to sound natural, then read it out loud as you write. If it sounds off actually coming out of your mouth, then it won’t read convincingly either. Injecting your personality into your writing adds colour and flavour to your book, but actually trying to replicate speech will drive you – and your readers – insane.
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