Earlier this month, three separate bloggers posted about the abundance of writing advice on the internet. The first one I stumbled upon referenced the other two, and though they each took a unique approach, they all discussed something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately, namely the wealth of writing advice available and how a writer should best process it all. I found it interesting that these posts should all come at the same time, just when I myself had been thinking about this issue. For me, this issue is important because it speaks to the very nature of this blog. So I decided to join the dialogue. I hope, after reading this post, you might add your own thoughts in the comments.
The first post on this topic that I noticed was Writing on the Ether: Pattern Recognition and Writerly Advice, by Porter Anderson, which was published on September 5. Noting a pattern of like-minded posts, Anderson shared links to two others—Is Advice a Vice? published by Jael McHenry on September 2, and Have it Your Way, published on August 30 by Rachelle Gardner.
Anderson’s post made some witty observations about the seemingly endless stream of writing advice available on the internet and elsewhere, such as:
But how many of us really know how to use all this advice? Particularly when much of it is written by writers for other writers, how much of it is a case of the sight-impaired leading the hard-of-hearing?
Does anyone ever worry (you may remember that I like this analogy) that all these how-to books for writers by other writers start to come across like John Updike’s ladies of the church who fund-raise by selling cupcakes to each other?
These questions caused me to take a hard look at the advice I give out. When I write a post for PubCrawl, I tend to write about a topic I myself need to work on. I always hope my posts are helpful, but I must admit I can never be certain that any advice I give will help any writer other than… well…me. Hopefully, it helps a few other people as well. (Thank you to all the readers of this blog who have commented or written to me to say my advice did actually help you with your writing.) I thought about church ladies selling each other cupcakes and I wondered, is that what we’re doing, and if so, is that a bad thing?
Ultimately, I decided that it’s not a bad thing at all. Writers giving other writers advice may, in fact, be a case of the sight-impaired leading the hard-of-hearing, or of church ladies selling each other cupcakes, but I decided that as long as the sight-impaired are only leading the hard-of-hearing and not others who are also sight-impaired, and as long as I’m selling coconut crème cupcakes and buying someone else’s red velvet cupcakes, there’s still a beneficial exchange taking place.
Okay, enough with analogies. My point is, I am confident that there are other writers sharing advice, here on Pub(lishing) Crawl and elsewhere on the web, that can be of help to me. I am always learning. There is always something new that I can discover. Hopefully, I am sharing something helpful and beneficial in return.
Rachelle Gardner’s piece on this issue discussed the fact that there isn’t “one right way” of writing books.
Jael McHenry pointed out that all this writing advice does have a purpose, but it’s important to remember, “It’s just advice.”
I agree. With so many techniques and methods out there, it would be impossible to use all of them and have them work for you. Learn what you can. Try the things that seem interesting, the ideas that seem to fit with the type of writer you know yourself to be. Then use what works.
That’s my advice.
Please join the discussion by sharing your thoughts in the comments!