When to Ignore Writing Advice

Jul 27, 2010

There have been several posts today on writing advice-- both the good and the bad. This is still one of my own favorites I've ever received.

I've gotten a lot of "advice" over the years, in the forms of classes, critiques, conferences, and blogs. My head overflows with the shoulds and shouldn'ts, the dos and do nots. And much of it, I'd even say most of it, has been very good advice. If it isn't, it usually doesn't take too long to figure that out.

There's a problem though-- it's just too MUCH.

I had another panic moment with Devolutionaries the other day in which I was sure my first chapter sucked. It didn't do this, and it didn't do that, and therefore, it failed! Except, I really liked my first chapter... Again, it was my wonderful hubby who reminded me that I am the writer of this story. I'd become so entrenched in a few of those "rules" I forgot that this story is mine. It doesn't have to follow anyone's rules. If it works, it works.

I once heard someone say that writing classes are turning all writers into the SAME writer. Now, I don't necessarily think that's true either. But I think it's important to remember that, despite any advice you've ever received, you are the writer. It's your story. Listen to the advice, but listen to yourself.

Sometimes, you can come up with your own best advice.


sbjames said...

Now this is good advice! I wholeheartedly agree that while a good critique is invaluable, the writer must trust to their vision. My webook stats are the perfect example of this. For every "lousy" I get, I get a "heavenly." One critter says "great writing" another says "writing needs work." Three say "weak characters." 5 say "intriguing characters." Bottom line- you can't please everybody. So, please yourself. BTW, I came over from Riley's tweet. I'm @sbjames

Rachel said...

I think this is excellent advice. It seems very common sense, and yet, I know many pre-published writers--like myself--scramble for advice in times of self-doubt.

I think THIS may be the best advice :)

Rachel said...

What, Shallee, were you giving me writing advice? Sorry, I was ignoring you.

:) Just kidding. I appreciate your writing advice, and not just the stuff on here!

MTeacress said...

It's a good idea to listen to the advice we receive, but you are right. There comes a point when we've got to choose if we're going to apply it or not. Either way, we get closer to our goals and learn plenty while we're at it. :)

Shallee said...

@sbjames- Thanks for coming over! It's true that things can get subjective with your work. Crits are so helpful, but you're right-- you have to know when to trust yourself. Thanks for coming over! I just followed you on Twitter. :)

@Meadow- I'm glad you liked the post. :)

@Rachel- Yeah, I caught that little inconsistency myself. :) Silly me.

I'm glad my crits are helpful-- yours definitely fall into that category as well!

@MT- Definitely, good advice is always GOOD advice. Application of it is the key, like you said. And it's always good to learn enough that you can start learning to trust yourself!

M Pax said...

I know what you mean. In the end, you have to let your voice and style shine. Sometimes it doesn't follow the rules. But that's exactly what may make you stand above the pack.

I've tried advice that I felt diluted my words. I put it back my way and got the zip back. So, yeah, sometimes we know best.

Anonymous said...

Excellent advice. I think we shouldn't lose our styles or voices to please others or fit a formula.

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