#Writerlife101 Day 7: Worst writing advice #amwriting

Writing advice is good because beginning authors need to learn the craft, and simple sayings are easy to remember. They encourage us to write lean, descriptive prose and craft engaging conversations. The craft of writing involves learning the rules of grammar, developing a wider vocabulary, learning how to develop characters, build worlds, etc., etc. Authors spend a lifetime learning their craft and never learn all there is to know about the subject.

Writing advice is bad because it is so frequently taken to extremes by novice authors armed with a little dangerous knowledge.

  • Remove all adverbs.
    This advice is complete crap. Use common sense and don’t use unnecessary adverbs.
  • Don’t use speech tags.
    What? Who said that and why are there no speech tags in this drivel?
  • Show, Don’t Tell. Don’t Ever Don’t do it!

Quote from Susan Defreitas for Lit Reactor: Sure, hot tears, a pounding pulse, and clenched fists can stand in for sadness, fear, and anger. But that type of showing can not only become cartoony, it doesn’t actually show what this specific character is specifically feeling. In order to do that, you either have to relay the thought process giving rise to those emotions or you should have already set up some key bits of exposition.

  • Write what you know.

Well, that takes all the adventure out of writing. Did Tolkien actually go to Middle Earth and visit a volcano? No, but he did serve in WWI, and lived and worked in Oxford, which is not notable for abounding in elves, hobbits, or orcs. Your life experiences and interests shape your writing, but your imagination is the fuel and the source of the story.

  • If you’re bored with your story, your reader will be too.

Quote from Helen Scheuerer for Writer’s Edit: Your reader hasn’t spent the last year or more combing through your novel like you have, so that’s just silly. I’ve seen this advice everywhere in the last year, and it bothers me – it just doesn’t take into consideration how hard writing is. Yes, we love it, yes, we don’t want to do anything else, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a challenge at times, it doesn’t mean that it’s not work.

Bad writing advice goes on and on.

Kill your darlings. It’s true we shouldn’t be married to our favorite prose. Sometimes we must cut a paragraph or chapter we love because it no longer fits the story. But just because you like something you wrote doesn’t mean you should cut it. Maybe it does belong there—maybe it was the best part of that paragraph.

Cut all exposition. So, why we are in this handbasket, and where we are going? Some background is essential. How you deploy the exposition is what makes a great story.

Bad advice is good advice taken to an extreme. It has become a part of our writing culture because all writing advice has roots in truth.

  • Overuse of adverbs ruins the taste of an author’s work.
  • Too many speech tags can stop the eye, especially if the characters are snorting, hissing, and ejaculating their dialogue.
  • Too much telling takes the adventure out of the reading experience.
  • Too much showing is boring and can be disgusting. Find that happy medium!
  • Know your subject . Do the research and if necessary, interview people in that profession. Readers often know more than you do about certain things.

New authors rely on handy, commonly debated mantras because they must educate themselves. Unless they are fortunate enough to be able to get a formal education in the subject, beginning authors must rely on the internet and handy self-help guides to learn the many nuances of writing craft. These guides are great, useful books, but they are written by people who assume you will use common sense as you develop your voice and style.

Hack writers bludgeon their work to death, desperately trying to fit their square work into round holes. In the process, every bit of creativity is shaved off the corners, and a great story with immense possibilities becomes boring and difficult to read. As an avid reader and reviewer, I see this all too often.

Great authors learn the craft of writing and apply the advice of the gurus gently, producing work that stays with the reader long after the last line has been read.

Credits and Attributions:

The Ten Worst Pieces of Writing Advice You Will Ever Hear (and Probably Already Have), by Susan Defreitas April 11, 2014, https://litreactor.com/columns/the-ten-worst-pieces-of-writing-advice-you-will-ever-hear-and-probably-already-have,  © 2016 LitReactor, LLC (Accessed 05 February 2018.)

The Worst Writing Advice, by Helen Scheuerer, https://writersedit.com/fiction-writing/worst-writing-advice/, Writer’s Edit Copyright © 2018. (Accessed 05 February 2018.)


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46 responses to “#Writerlife101 Day 7: Worst writing advice #amwriting

  1. Most of my favourite books break the ‘rules’. A little common sense goes a long way…

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Stephen Swartz

    I hardly believe that judiciously used adverbs could seldom make or break a carefully wrought piece of writing; yet who am I, barely a dabbler in words myself, to say rightly or not what is or is not bad or, moreover, good advice stated unequivocally!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. THANK YOU! All the ‘nevers’ and don’ts’ make me wonder how any books get written at all. Good judgment and moderation is key. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Reblogged this on Nesie's Place and commented:
    When is writing advice ‘bad’ writing advice? Three guesses and the first two don’t count! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi Connie,
    Thanks for making me feel more comfortable when I chose to leave in something marked to delete (e.g. adverb). I’m sure it the novice in me, by it’s my inconsistency that bothers me. Sometimes I follow the rules and then I have days were I ignore some. I’m sure the consistency will come with experience.

    Liked by 1 person

    • the time to worry about rules is in the finishing stages–get the story down and then worry about how you shape it up. There is a happy medium in these rules, a place where you find your own voice, and that will be what your readers will love.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Reblogged this on TheKingsKidChronicles and commented:
    Great advice from authors who know what they are talking and writing about. Reblogged from https://conniejajasperson.com

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Thank you for some great advice. As a fairly new writer with his first book just published, I understand what you’re saying perfectly. I’m the first to admit I’m not a very good writer- yet. I may get there someday with a lot of hard work. My book is in the humor category. It is simple, and easy to read. I wrote about what I know best- storytelling, involving everyday life. It’s far from a masterpiece, but it’s engaging and funny. It’s a good start. Now comes the hard work of becoming a better writer. Thanks again, and take care.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Reblogged this on Plaisted Publishing House and commented:
    I love this….So true. My pet hate is still the lack of Contractions which make a story flow better….Unless overused ..


  9. Pingback: #Writerlife101 Day 7: Worst writing advice #amwriting | Campbells World

  10. MicheleMariePoetry

    I followed this from Militant Negro’s blog- Thanks for the great writing advice!


  11. Ha, ha, ha! ” . . . people . . . assume you will use common sense as you develop your voice and style.” Now, Connie — I’m sure I’ve mentioned at least once the prevailing belief that common sense is dead! Excellent article — you nailed it again!


  12. I think I learned more about how to write by reading fiction — all kinds — than from “how to write” advice. Both have a place, but it might be you have to put in 10K hours of reading and then 10K of writing.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Great advice. I’ve started qualifying my writing advice by exclaiming that writers must trust their instincts and make exceptions! The thing about making exceptions to the “rules” is you have to know the rules first! 😀

    Liked by 2 people

    • So true. It seems so simple when you are only a reader, but when you begin trying to write things others will want to read, you realize just how much there is to learn. The little mantras we take so seriously do help–if we use moderation and common sense. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Tom Gould

    I feel as though ideas for a series that I have been writing for four years have gone stale. How do I start something afresh and be able to leave it behind?


    • @Tom – it can be difficult to walk away from something you’ve put your heart into, but just set it aside for a while. Letting a little fresh air into your creative mind helps immensely, so switch gears and begin something you are passionate about. When you come back to the original piece, you’ll have a different perspective and may be able to regain that passion you originally had for it. Good luck!


  15. So meta – advice about advice. But entirely appropriate and necessary. I appreciate you taking these pearls and exploring the limits of their facility for new writers.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. “Too many speech tags can stop the eye, especially if the characters are snorting, hissing, and ejaculating their dialogue.” Haha!
    “I just snorted my wine,” I said.


    • Lol! You totally get it. People do snort and hiss, but if you observe how they do it in real life, their gasp might hiss, or they may snort, but they will speak either before or after the hiss or snort. “Ejaculate” has fallen out of the common usage as a dialogue tag for a variety of reasons and now when you see it used, it’s like a needle to the eye.


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  18. Hello! I think I fell in love with you a little while reading this. 😀 I’ve gagged mentally countless of times when reading advice like this, so it’s an enormous pleasure to see someone as clever as you lacerate it. Thanks!

    Also, based on this, what would be the one piece of advice you’d give to a budding writer? Just one? If I may ask. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for stopping by, and I’m glad my rambling rings a bell for you. If I have one piece of advice it is this – write what you want to read. When you write a story you are passionate about, your emotion comes across and will make that connection with the reader.

      Liked by 1 person

  19. E.B. Brown

    Reblogged this on E.B. Brown.