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My top 5 WORST pieces of writing advice and why I hate them so much

Writing advice.

Every writer has heard it. Every writer has probably given it themselves at one point or another.

But there is good writing advice, and bad writing advice. And the problem with bad writing advice is that it can discourage writers (especially new writers.)

So here are my top five most hated pieces of writing advice.

 

You MUST read every day

You can’t be a good writer, they say, unless you read everyday. Unless you read everything, good and bad. Unless you hole yourself up in your bedroom with 2500 books and read them all in five days. (That last one was an exaggeration.)

I don’t read every day. Heck, I haven’t read a book in almost six months.* But I’m not a bad writer. Reading is important, yes. But not every day. Not everything. And it certainly doesn’t mean you’re a bad writer if you don’t.

 

You MUST write every day

Making a daily habit of writing can be a good thing. But sometimes, people just physically can’t write every single day. Especially if they’re a parent, or work full time or have a ton of other commitments as well as writing their novel. It doesn’t mean you can’t be a writer if you don’t spend 24/7 writing words down.

 

Said is DEAD

Said is boring. You need to use words that describe how the dialogue is being projected. Use ejactulated, and perplexed and vaccilated.

No. Said is perfectly fine. People skip over the word said. It helps the flow of dialogue, and encourages showing us how the character is feeling, instead of telling us. Don’t use just said, but don’t go over the top.

 

Adverbs are BAD, NEVER use them

People say this to me all the time. And truth be told, I can never remember what an adverb is, only that words ending in ‘ly,’ should not be used. **

So, I can’t run quickly or eat noisily or speak incredibly slowly.

Honestly? Adverbs are a bit like said. Don’t overuse them. Don’t put them into every sentence or every description or every action tag. There are certain places adverbs can be helpful, especially if you don’t want to painstakingly describe someone running quickly without saying so.

 

Show, DON’T tell. EVER.

Look. I’m all for showing the reader that someone is upset, or angry, or happy. It adds so much to the emotional journey for not only the character, but the reader as well. But to ONLY show? Your novel will be about 10,000 words too long and no one will have the patience to read three paragraphs about the fact your protagonist is tired. Especially if they’ve already read two paragraphs on how they hated breakfast.

Sometimes, you can tell. It’s fine. It’s normal. It’s okay. The important parts? The ones that play an integral role in your character’s arcs? Show those.

 

*I need to read more. Maybe next year

**Bear in mind, not all adverbs end in ‘ly,’ and not all words ending in ‘ly’ are adverbs.

 

What’s your most hated piece of writing advice?

Good thoughts, and happy writing.

 

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4 thoughts on “My top 5 WORST pieces of writing advice and why I hate them so much”

  1. “Only use ‘said’, you should never use any other dialogue tags ever.”
    I see this way more often than I see ‘said is dead’ advice, often in the same list or article as “don’t use adverbs, use strong verbs”. As far as I’m concerned, dialogue tags like ‘mumbled’ and ‘shrieked’ and ‘demanded’ (I may overuse that one. My characters demand things of each other a lot) count as strong verbs.
    “Of course…” She paused for a moment and thought, staring at the ceiling, before continuing. “…half the time I don’t use dialogue tags at all.”

    Like

  2. Completely agree with all of these, especially showing and not telling. It would be exhausting to write and exhausting to read every little thing a character does or feels with showy, descriptive writing. The plot would take forever to move forward! Great advice

    Like

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