I love reading blog posts by authors dispensing writing advice; I really do. Some of the best writing books are written by authors—many by authors you’ve never heard of (Sol Stein is one). While their books may not be bestsellers, many writers are better equipped to tell you how to write a bestselling novel because they’ve been in the trenches themselves (and would probably tell you, first off, to avoid cliches like “in the trenches”). But I digress.
I just read a blog post by a writer who admitted she didn’t often dispense writing advice, and I identified with her reasoning: “I’m not one to give advice on writing often because writing is such a struggle for me. I don’t necessarily feel qualified to speak as a mentor about what others should and shouldn’t do. I have done, mostly in private, when asked my opinion. I usually wait to be asked.”
“I’m not one to give advice on writing often because writing is such a struggle for me. I don’t necessarily feel qualified to speak as a mentor about what others should and shouldn’t do. I have done, mostly in private, when asked my opinion. I usually wait to be asked.”
Writing is still a struggle for me, and I’d never advise anyone to go about it the way I do. I can’t even describe my piecemeal efforts to string along a storyline out of a collection of scenes, my reliance on serendipity to spot a plot point, my total inability to comprehend GMC (and my tendency to tune out whenever anyone recommends GMC as a plotting device). But if asked, and if asked specifically whether your writing works or not, I can definitely offer an opinion. “I know it when I see it” is my method, both in my writing and in my critiquing. Sure, I can cite various reputable experts (Sol Stein again) on why this or that doesn’t work, but so far that hasn’t transferred into telling you how to write. I’ve led a few workshops, mainly for my writing groups, that offer examples of imagery, etc., but that’s about as far as I go in offering advice, and I always preface that by a “your mileage may vary” warning.
Writing is a very individual endeavor. Each writer has his or her own technique, their own methods for making sense of the madness that is the creative brain. And what works for me in one book doesn’t work in another; likewise a technique that successfully motivated me to finish the first book (getting up at 3 am) no longer works for the fourth.
So what would I advise a new writer? Read what you like to write, and read books on writing (not blog articles, though there’s some good advice to be found if you’re willing to slog through the millions of posts about writing out there). I recommend Stein On Writing, for a start, and here’s my list of writing books I recommend if you’d like more.
But the best advice I can give you is to write, and write again, and then rewrite and revise and edit and proofread and then start all over again with another book. Try to learn something along the way, from those writers who have indeed figured it out.