I wrote in my first post that I have no credentials for giving writing advice other than having read lots of other writing advice, and I want to continue to make that clear. I haven’t posted very much, but I have a few in the works that make it sound like I know what I’m talking about. I don’t. But I like to pretend that I do, so I want to clarify an important point about writing advice in general.
The truest and greatest rule of writing is that there are no rules. There are suggestions based on opinions, such as the advice that ending your story with ‘it was all a dream’ is cliche nonsense–but it has been done and can continue to be done well. For every piece of writing advice out there, there is at least one story that defies it and is still successful or entertaining or beloved. One writer says writing should be a constant struggle or you’re not really writing; another says writing should be easy and dreamlike or you’re doing something wrong; and so on. All of them are right for themselves, but none of them are necessarily right for you.
The best piece of advice I can give you is to take every piece of writing advice with a grain of salt, whether it’s from an amateur yokel like me or your author idol. Never let anyone make you feel like you’re not a ‘real’ writer or a good writer because you happen not to follow the advice they’re giving, or don’t want to follow it. I read so many writing books and articles and interviews at such a young age that I feel I really damaged my natural creativity, crushing it with the weight of trying to be perfect and a ‘real writer’ and forgetting that writing is personal. It is you, and only you know how to write the stories you want to write.
Probably the best way to look at writing advice is to consider it only during revision, and write the first draft completely free of any thoughts about quality or professionalism or anyone else’s opinion. Then go back and follow advice on plotting and characters and style in order to clean up your natural first draft, though of course your own opinion is the only one that ultimately matters. This is easier said than done when you’re dying to be published and want your first draft to be as good as it can possibly be, and especially when you’ve built up your inner editor with the strength of a thousand advice columns to criticize your every move, but if you can do it, do it. If you can’t do it, then at least try to hold as much of the advice at bay until you’ve finished your first draft.
I love reading about writing. It gives me ideas, helps me shape the ones I get, and makes me feel closer to this profession that I love. I will always seek out good writing advice and books on writing, and I’m posting this journal to try and share a few of my own thoughts on the craft. But I have learned the hard way that giving writing advice too much credit can kill your muse, and I would never want anyone else to feel that way after reading what I write.
So I make this disclaimer: I hope someone out there will read this journal someday, and I hope maybe it will help them think about their writing in new ways, or give them a tip that helps them with a problem. But if you ever disagree with what I say, or feel less of a writer because of something I say, then don’t listen to me. I don’t know what I’m talking about. And when it comes to writing, no one does. Writing is not like math or science or some other craft where there’s only one right way to do things–there is no right way to do things, or there is an infinity of ways to do things, and your way is just as good as mine. Probably better. 🙂