Nathan Bransford, Author


Wednesday, October 8, 2008

What's the Worst Writing Advice You've Ever Received?

Advice! It abounds. It proliferates. It exfoliates.

But advice? Not always helpful. In fact it can be downright unhelpful. Often comically so.

So you tell me on this Wednesday: what's the worst advice you've ever received?






194 comments:

shilohwalker said...

worst advice ever...

"You'll never be able to sell to New York unless you can write a complete, comprehensive synopsis."

Anonymous said...

Be sure to take your work directly to the agent's office?

Scott said...

Big heh, anon.

Not advice about the "craft" per se, but I was once advised to send an MS to an L.A. TV producer.

Don't. Just please don't.

TALON said...

I think the worst advice about writing comes from those who don't write...

To me, writing is a two-part process. There's the creative process and the business process...and those who aren't creative, really don't get the creative part of writing.

Jeanie W said...

Beta-readers advised me to submit my MS before it was ready.

I'm leary of any advice that includes the words ALWAYS or NEVER: ALWAYS show and NEVER tell; NEVER use adverbs; NEVER use more than "So-and-so said" in your dialog tags; NEVER use the passive voice. Perhaps a writer should be extra aware of the frequency with which she uses these things and pay close attention to their suitability in context, but each work dictates its own balance.

Anonymous said...

You MUST join a critique group.

---
Critique groups are time consuming.

If you have a limited amount of writing time, they might not be a good bet. Especially if you are a good self-critiquer.

Also, not all critique groups are HELPFUL. Joining a group just to be in a group is a HORRIBLE idea.

Jen Turner said...

Worst advice I've received:

"Remove all your commas. Editors don't like commas and they pull the reader out of the story."

I never knew the comma had such power...

Julie said...

"Writing doesn't have to have dragons and vampires in it to be interesting."

Let me say that I write Fantasy, which apparently is a terrible thing according to my creative writing teacher at the time. I dropped the class, didn't write for three months then said screw her, she doesn't know what she's talking about.

Margaret Yang said...

Participate in NaNoWriMo.

Works for some. Not for me.

Terra Chandler said...

Plan out your entire book. Makes things easier.

WRONG!!! VERY VERY WRONG!!!! *sigh* So much clean up to do.

Deaf Brown Trash Punk said...

i HATE it when people try to CHANGE my story by suggesting new characters, new plots, or putting in new dialogue.

NO NO NO! that's NOT whatI want to hear!

The Crystal Faerie said...

Hm...the worst advice I've ever recieved as far as writing goes is probably "If it's not coming easily, put it down. You aren't meant to write if you have to try"

From the Creative Writing Teacher!! lol

-Laurana Adams

Angelica said...

Not sure if it was advice, a critique, or a comment, but this was definitely useless: "Fails the fictional dream." (Part of the notes from another member of my critique group) What am I supposed to do with that? What does it even mean?

Dan said...

The worst advice I ever received was "keep writing" - because that's what I did.

Melanie Avila said...

I second Jeanie W. The always and never rules can really mess with you when the story is flowing. Overuse is bad, I understand that, but no one wants to read something full of "he did this, and then he did this."

Anonymous said...

Not necessarily the worst, but the most useless I can recall is the old chestnut of "Write what you know," which is rarely (if ever) explained in such a way that you could ever write a non-contemporary fiction story.

For example, if you're writing a fantasy novel, how does that work again? I mean, not many people I know have had experience using magic in a great battle leading an army of dwarves and cat-people into a massive battle with dragons and elves to save the kingdom.

Sprizouse said...

"Write what you know."

Heard that from a creative writing professor about my manuscript centered around a family of women (I'm a dude).

Oh yeah, thought I? Well where the heck does Harry Potter come from then? Since when is Rowling a wizard and a boy wizard at that???

Loren Eaton said...

When my associate editor told me I couldn't do it. ("Writing is a problem for you ...")

Elissa M said...

Worst writing advice I ever got:
This is great, send it off now. Second worse:
Agents just rip you off, don't bother with them.

Kerry Blaisdell said...

Worst advice: Way too much to repeat here.

Best advice: Trust yourself, and trust your own work.

Which pretty much countermands *any* bad advice out there. *:?)

Anonymous said...

worst adive? When I was getting ready to query agents, I had a few people tell me to stick to NY...that getting an agent outside of the city was not a good idea. Well, my top of the list agent is in San Diego...I stuck to my guns...got an offer from an agent in New York, and my topper from San Diego...I signed with San Diego and she sold my first book last month.

so, I'm glad I didn't listen.

Annalee said...

From a creative writing teacher at my first college: "I get one like you in every class. You're a promising writer, but you're wasting your time on genre fiction that'll never be worth anything."

His only novel, unpublished, happened to be about a creative writing teacher's struggles with life and love.

Kat Harris said...

Saying I'm "telling" too much instead of "showing," when the person critiqueing didn't know the difference himself.

Bob Day said...

people told me to go to school to be a writer. im a high school drop out, and a jr. high flunkie. now im 25, and im going for it, why waste time with school? i already know what i wanna do. i swallow books whole, and write daily. i thinks that's well good. plus, i have a cat. besides, when i tell people im a writer they kinda look at me funny, usually it's not even worth metioning.

Vieva said...

The only comment one person gave me on a FINISHED MS - "Change it to third person."

No explanation why, no comments about the rest of the story - just "change it to third". Irritated the snot out of me.

EVEN IF it had been the right move for the novel (it wasn't - it would have been a completely different story had I done that. It was in first for a reason) it still was impossible to understand without context!

Jay Montville said...

"Go to law school."

I'm kidding...that's the worst life advice I got, not the worst writing advice. :)

I don't really think it's possible to give the worst writing advice, because it all depends on the circumstances. Sometimes "no adverbs" is the right advice for the story at hand. (Although "remove all commas" seems Super Dumb.) And sometimes what I think is bad advice is actually good advice that I can't see because of my pride and ego.

No, I take it back...the comma thing that Jen Turner mentioned...that's the worst.

Lehcarjt said...

Worst advice...

A critiquer once took a chapter of mine and rewrote it almost to the word. I ended up feeling like the 'advice' was more about them showing off their skills and knowledge rather than helping me.

I've noticed this a lot since this first experience and not just in critiquing. A lot of people give advice / help out of desire to feed their own ego.

Anonymous said...

I once sent a ms to an agency which asked authors to respect its 'no simultaneous submissions' policy.
I waited- for almost a year- without hearing...then sent out my ms to other agencies.
SIX YEARS LATER I recieved notice from the post office to come pick up a package. It was that ms, only the SASE I'd put on it six years prior did not cover the new postage changes.
I actually had to pay the postage difference to get back a form rejection.
Hmmmmmm.

NP said...

"Oh, that's good enough."

K.S. Clay said...

"You should write about (insert person's life story here)"

People often feel the need when they find out I write to tell me what to write, and what they think deserves to be written is always some event from their life that had a big effect on them. My thought is always: If you think it deserves to be written, why don't you write it?

Julie said...

Worst writing advice ever:

"War and Peace - now that's a good book. Why don't you write a book like that?"

(must give credit - that's actually the caption to a New Yorker cartoon my writing prof had hanging on her office door.)

nightsmusic said...

Jen, I have a friend who, on her tag line on our board writes, "I never met a comma I couldn't misuse." She'd have had a field day with that 'take out all the commas' comment! lol

Worst advice I ever got:

You MUST follow the rules!

Heck with that. Yes, I understand passive vs active, I understand what the overuse of adverbs does, and I try to make my story as active as possible still; It's MY voice, not some rule-writer's who's probably never sold a book in their life.

Anonymous said...

As an editor who is constantly inserting missing commas, the comma advice tops my list as Bad Advice. STRUNK AND WHITE, people!

As a writer, most lately for me, it's applying novel-writing advice to my short stories. I don't actually have ten pages to build the world and nail down backstory.

Brian F. said...

"The first page of your novel MUST include the protagonist's sex, age, physical description, and location. Preferably, this is all revealed in the first paragraph."

And I won't say who told me that.

Any bit of writing advice that acts as an absolute is hooey.

Alexandra said...

"Beginners shouldn't start out writing novels."

...so when do I start? 20 years down the road when I am an established short story author?

Also, from the professor of my current fiction writing class:
"You shouldn't give constructive criticism because only telling the good things lets the author automatically know what needs work. If it wasn't praised, then it obviously needs work."

...umm, no, it just wasn't mentioned. I learn more from constructive criticism than from knowing what works.

Tom Geller said...

"You can't make a living as a writer. Nobody makes a living as a writer."

From my father, a high-school English teacher. Bitter much?

Annette Lyon said...

Two gems:

#1: The flip on one above: Don't bother with a critique group.

They may not be for everyone, but I wouldn't be published without mine.

#2: Don't bother. The odds are against you. Chances are, no one in this class will ever be published.

This from a university creative writing professor. I so wanted to mail him a copy of my first book with "neener, neener" on the inscription. I settled for a postcard with the cover on it and wrote a pleasant note "from a former student."

ehadams23 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
zhadi said...

I was once advised to call an agent I'd never met nor been introduced to formally or informally. I didn't do it.

ehadams23 said...

One person in a writing class told me I should change my story from a paranormal spy thriller to a story about paranormal high school kids because the spy genre was dumb and overrated.

Furious D said...

"Try to get a Canadian agent."

No offence, but the Canadian agents I've dealt with... well, the one that actually bothered to respond to my query, are only interested in you if you already have a publishing deal, or are signed to another agent they can poach you from. So unless you're already Margaret Atwood, you can forget it.

jo said...

"Genre fiction is on it's way out, and stories with twist endings won't sell."
I'm no expert, not even published...but that definately doesn't seem to be the case...

Brian Davidson said...

Worst advice:

Don't use short or run-on sentences, or one-sentence, one-word paragraphs.

Never use "said."

"Don't make stuff up." Had a professor tell me that one.

Kathleen said...

I third the always and never rules. They had me tied in knots when I first started writing!

Like the "Never use an adverb because they're telling instead of showing" rule. I, knowing the many forms that adverbs can take, thereby drove myself distracted trying to figure out how to eliminate "always" from a character's thoughts, without giving ten pages of backstory, listing every time over the person's life that they'd "always" done the thing! And then there are the adverbs that describe adjectives...

The "rule" should have been, "Never use an adverb unless you've already considered every other option and you have a darn good reason as to why the adverb is the best way to portray what's happening."

As for the "Write what you know" rule, I'm a big proponent of that, but you can't take it quite so literally. To me, it means to base your story on what you know. So... you're writing fantasy. Much of fantasy gets its roots in reality, or in a version of reality that someone wishes was real. You may have never lead dwarves on a march against a wizard, but have you ever found yourself up against something bigger and stronger than you? The emotions that you felt then is what's real, and they can be translated to the fantasy realm.

And then, research can supplement what you know...

acpaul said...

From my critique group:
3 of 6 said I had too much detail.
The other 3 said I didn't have enough detail.
How is this supposed to help?

Brad D. Green said...

From my critique group:
3 of 6 said I had too much detail.
The other 3 said I didn't have enough detail.
How is this supposed to help?


That puts you squarely in the middle. A good spot, no?

I'm currently getting this advice: suppress your style. It's too unique.

Marilyn Peake said...

I agree with Jeanie W. Quite a few ALWAYS and NEVER rules circulate around Internet writers’ groups, often taking on the power of urban myths. Some that I’ve found least helpful are: NEVER write in first person, ALWAYS show/don’t tell (I love writing that "shows" and have taught how to accomplish that in writers’ classes, but not with the suggestion to ALWAYS write that way), ALWAYS write what’s selling right now on the best-seller lists, you should ALWAYS have a critique group...and vampires can be found in cities. (Oh wait, different kind of urban myth...)

I’ve also seen this advice a few times in writers’ groups: grammar and spelling don’t matter. (Hello?? What??)

Worst advice, by far, though, is the many times I was told I absolutely needed to promote my books a certain way and dump huge sums of money and lots of time into it. Ouch!

Michael said...

"Said" and "asked" are boring. Use more imaginative dialog tags like "whispered," "intoned," or the physically impossible "grinned."

calendula-witch said...

From non-writers: "Hey, you should write about _____" (whatever they're interested in). Or, "Hey, have you heard of Lulu?"

From writers: "Do it this way, it works for me." (my personal example is the Snowflake Method, which is clearly wonderful for the guy who invented it and many others who've used it, but it sucked all the creativity and fun out of my writing process. I hate that novel now and don't even feel like revising it, even though it was a totally cool idea!)

AC said...

One of my creative writing profs told us to always begin a story by stating exactly where the character is, i.e.,

"Sally was standing in the middle of a swamp in BFE State Park approximately 61 miles southeast of Dubuque when she noticed a man with a gun standing nearby."

I mean, I guess this could work sometimes, but...always? Really?

Marilynn Byerly said...

Angelica, a "fictional dream" is a term used by John Gardner in THE ART OF FICTION. He said that the writer creates a dream for the reader, and the writer must do nothing which wakes the reader up. Some writer mistakes which wake up the reader are poor grammar, bad word choices, viewpoint errors, authorial intrusion, character inconsistency, and the author's failure to follow his own rules in worldbuilding.

I can't think of any poor advice I've received on writing. Even inaccurate information has its value because it makes me figure out why the information is wrong.

I've had plenty of poor advice on the business of writing, however. Several trusted writing friends inadvertently suggested publishers who turned out to be crooked or incompetent. I no longer trust their wisdom on the subject.

Stacey said...

I would have to go with the write what you know advice. I think if an author is willing to put enough creativity and/or research into a subject, then writing something you don't know is even more thrilling than writing what you do. Isn't the point of a novel escape from the every day?

Luc2 said...

I can't think of any poor advice I've received on writing. Even inaccurate information has its value because it makes me figure out why the information is wrong. I so agree with this comment.
In general, i think advice can only be as good as how the recipient receives, analyzes and applies that advice (or not).
Of course, some of these examples here above prove me wrong...

Anonymous said...

No advice! I recently mailed my full manuscript (all 300 pages of it) and received an email with a standard rejection. Tell me it sucks! Tell me you got a paper cut! Just tell me something after I waste all that paper!!

Vieva said...

Oh, my favorite on the "so useless it hurts" advice -

Upon telling someone I'm not published yet because I don't have an agent, I was asked, "Well, why don't you get one?"

Ahem. Thank you. That one piece of incisive logic just reshaped my whole world. Yeah. Right. (end sarcasm)

Sempiternal said...

Worse advice: Get rid of all run-on and incomplete sentences should only be used in dialogue between characters because it reflects how people speak, but not in the narrative.

um...ok. Not happening I like my writing style.

Polenth said...

The people trying to 'correct' my British spelling are way up there (they knew I was British). The big problem was they focused on telling me about my terrible spelling, rather than telling me anything else about the writing.

Chatty Kelly said...

"You should write about...."

Several folks have read my stuff and said "you sould write something about...." It needs to be my idea for me to be able to make it grow.

Gwen said...

I think it varies from person to person, doesn't it? The same advice might be completely wrong for one person, but might hit the mark for another...

Personally, the advice that I received that just didn't work for me would be to "write every day". That is, write some of my story everyday, not just write anything at all. I find that writing that one particular story daily does more harm than good. I need to be in the proper mindset to write it, and sitting down just after I've dashed in from class with 40 minutes until I have to leave for my next class equals chaotic, incomprehensible writing.

Meg Wiviott said...

Worst advice - "You should have your son (who was 6 at the time) illustrate your picture book. Wouldn't that be cute!"

Yeah, right!

Deirdre Mundy said...

Re: research and 'write what you know'

I guess it all comes down to the definitiion of "know" since you can KNOW something (like the works of Sophocles) without having LIVED it.

So -- writing about a small town in Iowa when all you know about Iowa is "they have corn and caucuses there" --not great.

researching Iowa in depth, looking at pictures, reading letters and diaries of Iowans, etc. etc.

Well, now you know a fair bit about Iowa, you can imagine the rest.

Writing a fantasy set in a world that has some elves and maybe a dragon or magic... meh.

Spending time thinking through the logic of your world, the backstories of your characters, etc... well, now you know them!

Tish Cohen said...

My worst advice was publishing advice rather than writing advice.

The week before Town House sold to film, then as a book, two separate people told me they were worried about me. "You've been having such a hard time," they said. "It shouldn't take this long to be published." Both said they'd be happy to help me out. Connect me with their publisher -- Publish America.

I tried to explain I was going the traditional route with an agent sending to a real publisher and even though I knew they didn't understand the difference, I still hated the way they pitied me. It was an ugly week. But the next week - that was a good one!

Steph said...

I wonder if "write what you know" is more about writing characters and situations that people can relate to than about writing personal reality. Too often I've read stories that don't have anything I can relate to. They lack a human element or are too contrived when it comes to setting or emotion or dialogue. They lack depth.

Naturally Rowling and Tolkien hadn't experienced first-hand the stuff they wrote about, but their books are so loved (except by Nathan as far as Tolkien goes - for shame!!) because they are injected with very human, understandable elements. They carry details we all recognize.

I don't know if I'm making myself clear enough here. I'm trying to say don't take "write what you know" so literally.

It's really not bad advice.

Worst advice given me was to give up being a copyeditor because copyeditors are unnecessary and people won't hire them. If I can help give more power to you and your ms, if I can be a guide, why would I be useless?

As for following the never and always rules, yeah, it's bunk. Once you know all the rules well, you can certainly break them. Look at Cormac McCarthy.

Sorry if I've hijacked the blog here!

abc said...

I can't remember any advice, much less bad advice. What does that say about me?

Gottawrite Girl said...

To self publish. COME on, now!

Lady Glamis said...

Worst advice ever? Two pieces of it:

First, from my mother:
"There's too much detail."


Second, from a good friend:
"There's not enough sex."


Neither of them write.

Suzan Harden said...

"There's no such thing as constables in the United States."

Seriously, this was from RWA contest judge in California. The story's still making the circles (and getting laughs) among the Texas RWA chapters. The constable I based my hero on thought it was pretty funny too (right before he gave me another speeding ticket).

Angie said...

"More sex is always good! More, more, more! The readers want the good stuff!!"

Yuck.

Other than that, anyone who says that their method of doing X is the only way to do something. Unless they're an editor or agent saying how they want a submission formatted or something like that, there is no One True Way.

Angie

Lorelei Armstrong said...

"This is too different. Try to write something more conventional. Nobody will publish this."

Yep. The buy button on Amazon came on last night.

Waaaay too much champagne. But that's another story.

Scott said...

Anyone else find themselves arguing with Word about usage? Grrr.

Chris said...

Any advice that has the words NEVER or ALWAYS in it. I hate extremes. I'm all about the gray areas...

Stacey said...

Steph,

I wish there were more copyeditors out there who did their job! I cannot tell you how many new books I have read that have HORRIBLE and VERY noticeable typo problems. That is something I pick up on a lot when reading. If this is a published work, it should not be so bad!

Ulysses said...

Worst writing advice?

- Give up.
- Write in Swahili. It's a big market.
- Use a Dvorak keyboard. Chicks dig it.
- Never use always.
- Write something funny.
- Write something serious.
- Marry money (actually, that's good advice, just awfully difficult to manage).
- Get a life (again, good advice, but too hard).
- Put some pants on that monkey before the neighbors see... er, sorry. This was supposed to be WRITING advice, wasn't it.

ashley said...

I don't have any worst advice to contribute, but I just had to say that I am loving today's blog!

The no commas thing cracked me up..

Kristin Laughtin said...

Anything along the lines of "Never do ____" or "Always do ____". Yes, rules exist for a reason, but a skilled enough writer will be able to play around, manipulate them, and break them effectively.

Sarah said...

About "write what you know"- I do think J.K. Rowling knew about loneliness and families and challenges- about English schools and games and teachers- about pain and loyalty and love and death, so yes, she did write what she knows. That's the core stuff- the rest is just fun stuff she made up...
The worst advice I ever got? Only be a writer if you can write like the "greats", and what are the odds of that, so why even try? Screw that. Save us all from English Lit teachers!

Anonymous said...

I agree whole-haertedly with Chatty Kelly's: "You should write about...."

This is even worse when your agent, who should know better, tells you this. The idea has to be my idea, or I have no motivation to work on it.

****

Write What You Know is the worst advice I've ever gotten. It's utter nonsense. If people only wrote what they "knew" every novel would be about an upublished novelist trying to get published.

Elyssa Papa said...

Worst piece of writing advice: You need to set everything up in your first chapter--goals, characters, dreams, etc.

Elyssa Papa said...

Another one: You know have you ever thought about cutting this many words and selling it direct to this publisher? A lot of people start their careers like that.

As if I'm not good enough to get an agent. Maybe I'm not. *shrugs*

dara said...

Hmmm...

Probably "Write what you know." I don't really "know" about Meiji era Japan or the yakuza, but I'm writing about it anyway. True, a certain amount of research is needed there, but I wouldn't be a writer if I limited myself to contemporary fiction :P

Oh and also was told that if I'm unpublished, it's nearly impossible to land an agent and that I need to have something like a short story or other piece of fiction self-published first...o_O

From what I've seen, that doesn't really "count" as publishing credits. And I've seen and heard of plenty of writers who get agents without being published first.

Kristine Overbrook said...

Why are you writing romance? You should write a real novel.

and (not really advice, more of a comment)

There are too many writers out there, don't expect to be published.

(then I win a contest and this person says, "Oh, I guess you are a good writer."

Anonymous said...

Worst advice: Publisher guidelines? Those are for people who "are not in the know." You know who I mean--the outsiders, the newbies.

So if a magazine says they do not want simultaneous submissions, you can ignore that. Secretly, they don't mind.

After I received that advice, I emailed a bunch of editors checking with them. Every one of them said it was bad, bogus advice, but was the advice-giver convinced? Nope. It was exactly what she *expected* them to say.

Harry Connolly

Kim said...

"You might as well give up because no one is going to like what you write anyways"

Thanks, Mom.

Battlemaiden said...

Worst advise I received after a writer whom I admire read a piece of my writing...

"Dont try to copy me"

Ouch

Anonymous said...

"Conflict on every page." I once ruined a perfectly good first draft that way.

Also, any variant on "If you don't/can't do X, you're not cut out to be a writer."

mpe

Just_Me said...

"You can't write that! (Fill in the blank) doesn't exist!"

From various people who read my fiction writing. I roll my eyes and wonder if they think Harry Potter is real. You can write fiction. You can even write genre fiction. It's not *that* bad.

Marilyn Peake said...

Steph –

I love how Cormac McCarthy breaks so many really big no-no always/never rules. He takes a minimalist approach to commas. He leaves out apostrophes in words like "don’t", spelling that one "dont". I came across this in The Road, one of my favorite novels, thought he did it to symbolically reflect the breakdown of civilization and language in the novel; then read in one of his essays that he just finds it too difficult to type apostrophes except in words like "I’m" where "Im" would be pronounced all wrong. He also mentions in the essay that he thought about the book for a year, but wrote it in about three weeks. He then goes on to win a boatload of awards for The Road, including the Pulitzer Prize. Cormac McCarthy is my hero.

Nick said...

"Get a job."

Kristi said...

Don't use compound sentences. Or clauses. Make every sentence short.

While effective for sarcasm, that would turn some of my prose into:

This is the hero. This is the heroine. They meet. They fall in love. There is a conflict. You could sell this manuscript to a first grader it's so "Dick and Jane."

I'm all for concise, but concise doesn't have to mean choppy prose.

Anonymous said...

"Never mind getting an agent. It's a good contract; go ahead and sign it."

jjdebenedictis said...

An online critiquer once told me to remove the apostrophe from "Catherine's hand". This person honestly thought "Catherines hand" was correct.

I politely thanked them for their critique, then leaned away from the keyboard and laaaaaughed.

Lupina said...

It's a tie.

From a writer friend listening to my complaint that my then-WIP felt emotionally flat to me,
"Put in a sex scene."

From a well-known author during a critique for which I had traveled nine hours and paid hundreds of dollars - and said author forgot to bring my submitted pages and obviously had not read them - "You should always make characters' names simple. And only use one character's voice throughout a book." Sum total of advice.

For real.

Anonymous said...

I agree with anon (above) -- Conflict on every page.

In YA they tell you conflict on page one. This makes the first chapter unredable, imo. Not knowing if the MC is a boy or girl, thirteen or seventeen, polular or alone, but being thrust into a big damn battle scene makes for a jarring opening.

Linda said...

Received in a critique:
"Narrative is what makes a good story. Get rid of all the dialogue."

From a self-published writer: "Why are you trying to find an agent? Self-publish. It's the better way to go."

And several well-meaning people told me to start small, with short stories, and work my way up to novels. I'm still trying to unlearn all the short story writing techniques and learn how to write a longer work of fiction.

superwench83 said...

My shelf novel is titled Amethyst, and while I was still working on it and seeking crits, I had someone google the word "amethyst" for symbolic and historical meanings. She said I should incorporate these symbolisms into the story. She also quoted some white-witch or whatever about the use of amethysts for crystal healing or something, and said I should put that into my story as well.

?????

Scott said...

"Replace those boring 'saids' with more interesting verbs, like exclaimed or suggested."

Scott said...

Oh, and a college prof once suggested that I fix the grammar errors in a poem I wrote in the voice of an 11-year-old boy.

Miriam S.Forster said...

I had a well-meaning friend tell me once that I might want to write a novel set in the real world before I "attempted fantasy". (He had not read any of my writing) He seemed to think that present day novels are easier to write....

I'm sure Sue Monk Kidd and Jodi Picoult would agree. (grin)

Candy Gourlay said...

Don't show your manuscript to anyone.

Lauri Shaw said...

"What are you waiting for? Stop editing it and just get it out there into the world already!"

P.S. - he stopped speaking to me when I didn't land a deal after about nine months went by. I was tarnishing his reputation by being a "nobody."

JES said...

"In a mystery, you NEVER reveal early on who the killer is."

This advice (from Agent X, actually hired after I'd sold the book on my own), plus the consequent major revision, predated by a year many reviews which said things like, "Despite the author's efforts to the contrary, it's pretty obvious up-front who the killer is." And it never occurred to me to bring up Columbo.

Lauri Shaw said...

Oh, and from the agent I walked away from shortly thereafter:

"Just sign the contract. We can work out the fine print later."

This contract would have cost me more money than I made and kept me in indentured servitude indefinitely. The agent wasn't representing me in this arrangement - instead, she tried to pressure me into being a ghost writer for a client who was paying her independently.

And she got really snotty when I questioned it.

FYI, though I obviously would never say her name, she wasn't a new or unknown agent. She's placed mega names with mega companies, written books about the business, and she seems to have a pretty solid reputation. She knew the rules, but she obviously didn't feel they applied in this case.

Bethanne said...

Ouch Lauri S. That sucks.

Worst advice...
You can't start a Romance with a dead husband...whom the wife loved.

Sheesh, like the heroine had to hate the dead husband in order to love the hero. :P Remarriage is the sincerest form of flattery... so I've been told. ;) LOL

Anonymous said...

It was in a writing contest on my feedback from a pubbed author. To stop writing because I couldn't construct a sentence or put an emotion on a page. And then they said they sincerely hoped I had a day job. This was on the heals of some tremendous personalized feedback from an agent that almost signed me and thought the book would sell. Um, I trashed that comment sheet.

Danielle Gibbons said...

I was told to send out my query letter before my book was finished and if an agent wanted to see more, I would have months to respond. Thanks for passing on my query Nathan, I'm not ready!

Ken Lord said...

The worst writing advice I received from a script consultant: Purchase and read FROM WHERE YOU DREAM, by Robert Olen Butler. A waste of money; a waste of time; and proof positive that if you manage to get a Pulitzer Prize for a book ("collection") of short stories you can write anything -- even capturing your egghead lectures in book form -- and sell it.

thecardboardwritings said...

the worst advice? "just give up." actually, maybe that was the BEST advice. I get those two confused sometimes.

A Paperback Writer said...

The worst advice I've gotten (and ignored) came from an agent who said my 1st person 9th grader narrator didn't sound "like a teenager" and I should change it.
Uh, I teach junior high. 9th grade. have done for 20 frickin' years. ms. was checked by actual students (numerous) to remove any adultisms. every other agent who has taken time to write a comment had loved the voice.
Yeah, right. Suuuure it needs to be fixed.

Orange Slushie said...

"Never begin a novel with the weather." This was from my rule-loving tutor in a creative writing class. Immediately following this advice, we were asked turn to our reading exercise for the day, the first page of the Booker-Prize winning Vernon God Little. The (damn fine) first sentence? 'It's hot as hell in Martirio but the papers on the porch are icy with the news.' HA!

Chris Redding said...

From a man just this weekend who looked at the title of the book I was selling (Corpse Whisperer) and told me to write a cheerier book.
Gee, she solves the murder and gets the guy. Sounds cheery to me.
cmr

A Paperback Writer said...

Bobday,
I'm laughing. You've definitely proved your point about why you should go to school!
Very amusing. :)

LiteraryMouse said...

Worst advice...

1. When an agent requested a full ms, I was told, "Send it immediately! Send it now!" Luckily, I didn't do that, doublechecked the ms, caught a big error, then sent it off in a couple of days.

2. "Nobody's going to want to read a story set in West Virginia." If the writing is good and the plot is exciting, sure people will.

Lisa Melts Her Penn said...

In college I student-taught 4th grade for a semester. They were excited to find out I was a writer because they had a "new writing program." Then I found out it consisted of students drawing a circle in the middle of the page with 5 lines radiating out. The main idea was to go in the center, and a detail on each line. Problem was, it was a standard 81/2" page, which left about 2 inches for some of the "ideas." Then they were supposed to copy it all into regular paragraph form. I almost died.

E. J. Ruek said...

Worst advice I received: Retire your keyboard.

Karen Duvall said...

I don't get the whole "write what you know" rule, either. Once you write it, you know it. So it becomes a moot point, right?

Okay, worst advice: Your character should only experience one emotion per scene. WTF?

Oh, and another one. Avoid terminal punctuation. I didn't know the period was dead, or sick for that matter. Not to mention its cousins the exclamation point and the question mark. Funeral to be held tomorrow.

K said...

To get an agent LOL

K said...

Get an agent LOL

GC2 said...

As a former newspaper writer ...

One sentence in the first paragraph of a story, even if the sentence was one or two words.

This pissed me off to no end.

Sometimes two sentences work for a story. But these editors were so into tradition that they didn't see outside the box.

That's just one of many.

--GCII

Linda said...

The posts here - priceless.

Worst advice? 1) Don't write first person; 2) Don't enter contests; and 3) get rid of ALL your adverbs.

Best advice: listen to your gut. Usually, your instincts on the first draft are the correct ones.

Peace, Linda

Marion said...

I have had all kinds of advice about my writing...none of it useful because everyone has their own chestnut of wisdom to rescue from the fire of indifference. Best advice is to listen to advice and have the good sense to trust your own instincts when it comes to who is the author of your work and who is not. There is so much contradictory advice out there on same subjects it is almost laughable that books get written on the subject of how to and what not to do...authors get roped into the pursuit without gaining an ounce of common sense when it comes to their own self-confidence.

Lynne said...

AC had the best comeback to 'everything in the first sentence.'
You are a saint. As for bad advice?
Skunk and White ties with Eats, Shoots and Leaves. No, I did not spell Skunk incorrectly.
Thanks for the laugh, AC!
Lynne Sears Williams

Madison said...

Write every single day. NO! Write when inspiration hits you. There, MUCH better!

K said...

Get an agent LOL

philologia said...

"Awww this is wonderful! You've got so much talent!"

Does that count as advice? That's ALL many my high-school creative writing teacher said when I handed her a decent but unremarkable short story. And the sweetheart actually meant it.

Needless to say, I smiled tightly and walked away, and didn't take another word about writing she said seriously.

acpaul said...

Write what you know?

If I did that, only medical personnel would be able to stomach it. The downside of cardiac ICU: I actually know what it feels like to have sternal wires give way during chest compressions. And that's just minor 'eww' in my field. I'll stick to fantasy.

Laurie Wood said...

Worst advice ever: took an online class from a pubbed author on writing query letters. Worked through the month till she told me it was "perfect". It got me an email rejection within 2 hrs of me sending it to the agent. Had another pubbed author read it over - she was shocked that anyone would say it was a good letter, never mind "perfect", and helped mre re-write it. I didn't care about the class money, but I did care that that agency gave me the old "hope you find success seeking other representation".
Thanks for the chance to vent! :)

Linda said...

Laurie- Were we in the same class? ;^D

My first 'writng' class was a query writing online course, where the teacher said start the query with an excerpt from the book, then start the actual pitch with a question.

I'd forgotten about that one, but it certainly ranks up there with worst advice. Peace, Linda

J.P. Kurzitza said...

"101 reasons to stop writing".

Jessica said...

I had to think about this but....

If you have to force and idea it is not an idea worth writing about.

womaninwhite said...

"you should make your main character more like me!"

leesmiley said...

A nice, Christian coworker of mine once said, "You shouldn't write books that aren't believable. I can't read anything where people turn sticks into snakes."

"Oh," said I, "you mean, like Moses does in the Bible?"

She never offered me another piece of advice.

Vancouver Dame said...

"Join a critique group or a group of writers" -- if you are lucky, you find a compatible group. If not, you can find yourself in a group of other writers who either confuse you, give vague appraisals with no helpful advice, or suggest alternatives which fit their style, not yours.

On the other hand, best advice - 'Feed your need.' (for writing) from C. Hope Clark, in an article, "I'm swamped!". (on her website) As she says, we can pick and choose what we do - as far as making time for writing. I think that also applies to advice -- each of us decides what to listen to and what to discard. It does seem that everyone who is currently published, has a writing book out now. That makes for a lot of advice.

Court said...

"You should write ____________ (insert genre in which I've expressed no interest)."

Telling me what I *should* write is like telling me I need to breathe carbon monoxide instead of oxygen.

Anonymous said...

"go with the flow."

yeah - to be individual, you must get out of the flow. don't be like everyone else.

duh.

Anonymous said...

Best:

Opinions are like... noses. Everybody has one.

Worst:

All other advice, especially from other 'writers'!

Remember, if someone can fling monkey-poop against a wall and call it 'art'...

Simon Haynes said...

"Write every day"

Laini Taylor said...

"Write what you know."

I tried to do that, and the result was years of very uninspired attempts at "mainstream" fiction. Once I found my voice as a fantasy writer, the fun began!

debtink said...

"Lie"

Other Lisa said...

Oh, wow. This thread is priceless. I see a book in the future...

Anonymous said...

I showed my work to an experienced (male) westerns/thriller writer and he insisted my MS was a romance because it had strong romantic elements. So I spent a lot of time trying to sell it to agents who specialized in romance. It wasn't until a pile of rejections later that I realized what the problem was - it was a mystery with a romance subplot. The writer I showed it to didn't write for women, and just didn't know the genre.

It felt wrong the entire time I was going with his advice, but I went with it because he was a published author. I'm back to going with my gut now.

Jenyfer Matthews said...

Use colorful verbs...

James K said...

"Don't write, it's a waste of time."

Yeah, I know...

Nathan, have you done a YTM yet with favorite quotes?

Maris Bosquet said...

"Sex up the YA and sell it as romance."

Mari Powell said...

Worst piece of advice:

"Stop talking about your work. No one wants to hear it." - from a bitter, jealous writer 'friend.'

Second worst piece of advice:

"Stop using all those different dialogue tags! You should be using 'said', and only 'said'! Everyone's using only 'said' now!"

*cringe*

Two Flights Down said...

Maybe it's not the worst advice I've ever received, but when I was in a creative writing class, one student was very upset that I wasn't titling my scenes. They were scenes--not stories. They were for exercises. Usually, if I don't know what the title is yet, I just don't give it a title.

As far as the "rules" go, though, I think it's good for a beginner's class to teach them. Some people have bad writing habits that they're unaware of. Once you learn the rules, then you can experiment with when to break them. I know it sounds crazy, but I do think there's some logic here.

However, I have to admit that when you've been experimenting for a long time, then someone who has had that one writing class says, "Never..." because, well, they've had that one class, and therefore, know it all...it can be a little nerve-wracking. After all, another person has mentioned, many people who are offering advice are actually just feeding their own egos.

E.M.Alexander said...

I'll play.

I once received a rejection from a major publisher which included advice on how to apply for one of the SCBWI grants.

The only problem with that advice was that the manuscript I submitted had already been honored with a Barbara Karlin grant...

cageyb said...

Not advice, but since others are stretching...I gave my MS to an aviator friend to read, since my protagonist was an aviator. He said, and I quote, "It's good. But I could'a wrote that."

peacey said...

Use "nondescriptive" verbs. I can only assume this came from a nondescript person.

Whirlochre said...

Use a quill and you'll write like Shakespeare.

Numbskull Bob said...

"If you get an offer from an up-and-coming agent, SIGN! You'll grow together and be loyal to one another for your whole writing career!"

Codswallop.

Up-and-coming-agents don't have more than two contacts at publishing houses. Go big or stay home.

Grand Fromage said...

Never use said. Always use a word like asked, cajoled, interjected, etc.

Anonymous said...

It took me a long time to break away from the always/never rules. Ya know what? I found I like adverbs here and there and sometimes a dialog tag other than said works very nicely. also use an occassional exclamation point when someone exclaims.

It is MY book, after all.

telynor said...

Don't read in your own genre; it'll muddy your originality and you'll turn out nothing but derivative crap.

(Seriously.)

RED STICK WRITER said...

I don't have any great pearls of wisdom as regards advise I've received about my writing. I will say that the most valuable general advice I receive comes from the Nathan Bransford - Literary Agent blog site, and it has the advantage of being entertaining to boot.

I do have sort of a parallel outside of writing and publishing. In an interview I once watched, Dick Clark was asked if he gave performers advice and how such advice worked out. He spoke of two instances. The first involved Danny and the Juniors. No, not the 1988 University of Kansas National Champion basketball team starring Danny Manning. I digress. Clark told the group that they should alter a song they were about to release. It was called Do the Bop. He told them that the bop was on its way out and that might limit the life of their release. The reworked the song, and the hit At the Hop was born. Dick was quick to point out that his was not always a Midas touch. Bobby Darin asked him to listen and render an opinion regarding a preliminary cut of Mack the Knife. Clark advised him against varying from the good thing going with formula rock and roll songs such as Splish Splash. The rest is history.

Anonymous said...

I know, totally off subject...

but from your post (here) about literary fiction:

"The book industry really needs an Oscars, because let's be honest, the best part of the Oscars is the horrendous fashion choices, and the publishing industry does horrendous fashion better than anyone. One spin around a publishing function and the fashion police would lock down the venue and declare martial law."

So right on.

I would love to see a "You Tell Me" about what people are wearing at the time they are reading the post.

Anonymous said...

Worst advice:

Being in a room where everyone writes ONE way
and then,
before they have heard a word of a new work or writer, they all reach for their big red pens.
or
before they have heard a word of a new work or writer, they all reach for their book of happy face stickers
or
when hearing a work of fiction, they decide that it is ALWAYS still secretly your own personal story.

(ripping hair from head)

Best Advice I have heard:
-go further, dare to let yourself show up as the writer you want to be with the original voice that you and you alone can contribute to the arena

and

Nathan Bransford's blog -wow -what a resource!
-Thanks!

Yaran said...

Both of these were directed to the whole class I was in, rather than me personally.

"Write what you know" - from a junior high English teacher who proceeded to tell us that we were only allowed to write pre-teen drama.

"Use a thesaurus to spice up your writing" - from more than one English teacher. (No. This makes writing sound forced and unnatural more often than not.)

RED STICK WRITER said...

Using the thesaurus only makes it sound forced if you make bad choices. Using the same word redundantly should generally be avoided. According to Murphy's Law, you never can think of an alternative word when you need one. That's why Anton J. Anti-Murphy invented the thesaurus. I write fiction.

Karen said...

"Happy endings are easy, unsatisfying, and unrealistic. Never end happy."

An English teacher wrote that at the end of a short story I wrote in high school. I'm guessing he was going through a rough patch?

Laura D said...

I was told to add "fluff" to my work so that it would be longer.

Karen Duvall said...

Any sentence that uses "was" is written in passive voice.

No words can describe how truly stupid this statement is. The people who believe this are obviously NOT writers, but the scary thing is they think they are.

Nadine said...

From a non-writer: Your story is okay, but listen, I've got a story for you.

From an agent recently rejecting my book: Your book needs to be more like Gone with the Wind.

BTW: My book is nothing like Gone with the Wind, not in location, era, or even story line. Perhaps they were looking for the next Gone with the Wind, but I'm not that type of writer.

Steppe said...

I tell people in my apartment building
I'm a CPA who works from home.

It's best that way. I never have to stare in the oncoming headlights wondering why the shiny black rock I am standing on has symmetrical yellow lines crossing it.

SEA said...

They told me to live first. I've been doing it for 39 years and I can't seem to kick the habit.

Nikki Riles said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nikki Riles said...

What crippling advice to a young writer. Because when you're a teenager (or younger) you automatically think "but I don't KNOW anything".

The advice should be "live and learn to incorporate it into your writing"

Also high up there are the people who tell me I have to fill out these character sheets with things like "favorite color" on them. How exactly is that suppose to help build characters? Questionnaires that have 6 pages of questions that give no real insight as to what MAKES the character are boring to fill out and annoying to navigate once a story gets going.

Best advice on character building: Pick two positive traits and one flaw - build from there.

Angie said...

Nikki -- Also high up there are the people who tell me I have to fill out these character sheets with things like "favorite color" on them.

Oh, gads, I hate those things! :P There was, like, a decade or so when they were incredibly popular and everywhere you turned there was someone waving The Perfect Character Questionnaire around and insisting that you couldn't possibly "really" know your characters unless you could say what they'd had for breakfast the previous morning and what color their favorite socks were. Good grief....

Angie

was said...

Two pieces of bad advice:

Look at the books of any really famous author and copy their writing style. Obviously since they were published, I needed to write like them. It led to much frustration until I realized the only style I could use was my own.

Draw pictures of my characters (in the same sense of the character sheets) so I can truly get to know them. I can't draw to save a life, so more frustration.

Mommy C said...

Furious D, Margaret Atwood has an English agent, I believe.

The worst (I don't know if you can call it advice) thing I have heard, was from my mother-in-law. I was approached by my dream publisher to write her story. After a few rounds of revisions (who doesn't have to deal with those), she told me that the publisher probably wanted her to write the story, herself, and didn't want to hurt my feelings. Sure, publishers love to spend money on editors just to save a writer's ego. I handed her the publishers number and told her to call him. She never bothered to call, and dropped it after that.

Oh, and I've heard a few people (and they were bloggers) say that blogging was a waste of time, when it comes to getting published. First, it is good writing practice. Second, it is a great way to network and connect with other writers. Third, you just might learn something. And finally, it worked for me! And, a good thing, because I was drowning in slush.

Alphabeter said...

PublishAmerica is the best place for your book because they're a "traditional publisher" that will "take care" with your book.

I'd like to break the three leaders of that cult with actual work!

freddie said...

About "write what you know"- I do think J.K. Rowling knew about loneliness and families and challenges- about English schools and games and teachers- about pain and loyalty and love and death, so yes, she did write what she knows. That's the core stuff- the rest is just fun stuff she made up...

Well, actually Rowling did study the classics in college (and I'm talking Greek and Roman myths, among many others) so she really does know her history as well as myth-making. So she really knew about the animals and creatures and herbs "witches" used and so forth in myths. It wasn't just stuff she made up out of nowhere. I'm only pointing this out because I don't think Rowling gets enough credit for that.

freddie said...

I really can't remember the worst writing advice I ever had. I don't think anyone's ever really taken the time (in my personal life) to advise me. But the best advice I've heard anyone give to writers in general is: Read a lot. Read widely.

Immi Howson said...

I love this comments thread!

Worst advice:
"Pretend to be your own agent so you can submit to publishers who don't take unagented authors."
I did *not* try this.

And the "nevers": never use forms of "to be" because it's all passive voice (it's not) never use adverbs because they weaken your writing (they don't), never use words ending in "ing" because they're gerunds (they're not) and gerunds are bad (they're not).

Marie said...

"Write crap, cuz that's what sells."

"Why don't you get published? You're such a good writer." I was told that when I was about thirteen, for heaven's sake.

"Study computer programming. No one ever makes money writing."

Anonymous said...

Advice that, to me, sounded bad:

Find a published book similar to the one I'm writing and use it as a template.

Here's another that made me shudder:

Young readers always read "up" so make your MG protagonist older.

Millennium Housewife said...

Don't split your infinitives. They're so much more fun if you split them, endless opportunities, just consider the atom. MH

Anonymous said...

I paid for this critique of my picture book: Take out the plot and characters and turn it into a concept board book. Could have worked, I suppose -- but that wasn't a book I had any interest in writing.

Anonymous said...

The worst advice I ever got, from someone critting my work on a critique site (not an editor or an agent or a CW prof, but another writer, someone who write SF horror):

"Your work is boring and depressing. You need to spice it up a little. People want to read about happy things and romance. Your work is about unhappy people with conflicts. I don't usually like to write bad things about other people's work but this really is boring. No one is like you MC, well I know people like her but I don't want to read about someone like her who is 'interesting' and thinks. You don't need the interludes where we find out what she is thinking about her mother's murder. Give up on this."

Thank you very much for your subjective opinion there. It's a good job I have skin as thick as an elephant :-)

I am finding critting websites puzzling. The score so far: love it 15 hate it 2.

Beth said...

That the only good writing is fast writing. If you can't write a novel in two months, you're doing something wrong. If you take your time, the writing will be bad. Stopping to revise anything is the kiss of death.

This gem was touted by a husband-wife team doing seminars at a writing conference.

Oddly enough, the writers I admire most--the ones who write with the most depth and beauty--tend to take at least a year, and often quite a bit longer, to finish a novel.

Anonymous said...

The worst advice I ever received was from one of my editors, who said to cut the 1st 80 pages of my book, and to change the last 100 pages of the book to be in only one of my characters' viewpoints. Then to top it off, the editor wanted me to put a pivotal scene in the book into a FLASHBACK. (By the way I didn't make any of those changes, and that particular book won an award that year.) So now I'm going to post anonymously :)

Heather B. Moore said...

As a newbie, I took a creative writing class from a college-extension program. As part of his introduction, the instructor said--I'm so tired of stay-at-home moms thinking they can make an extra buck writing novels. Well, I was a stay at home mom. 7 years later and my 5th book comes out next month.

I am said...

"Trouble writing? Well, obviously you're not meant to be a writer."

Worst advice ever. I know I'm not the best at writing, but you should at least try to explain to someone how you think they could improve!

Michelle Miles said...

I recently entered one of my YA ms. into a contest. The comments were varied - one judge LOVED it and told me it should be published; another hated it. So much so he/she told me to "take a writing class" and that my characters were "predictable." I think there's nothing worse than giving a writer the advice to take a class. It’s assuming that the writer just slapped some words on a page and shoved it at the contest coordinator without a thought. Very insulting.

And K.S. Clay - I can't tell you HOW MANY TIMES I get that. "You should write this-and-that" instead of what I'm currenty working on. Drives me nuts.

Anonymous said...

*"You should be a children's writer." When I didn't like being a child. Nor do I particularly like children.

* "You should write about..."
when I am happily humming along with the current project, thank you.

*2000 words of critique in which the other writer essentially rewrote my book to fit her shallow sensibilities. She changed the plot, the characters, the climax and the ending.

*OF course, "Why don't you self publish?" This one I can't comprehend. Do people not understand what it takes to market a book, and how lowly regarded self published ones are?

*"How about sending your book to________(insert successful author's name)?"

What is that supposed to do? Warn her she has competition, or make her laugh?

M.L. Bushman/Jigsaw Press said...

Worst advice I ever received regarding writing: Don't write what you know.

If you don't know something and want to write about it--research. Then you know it.

Second piece of bad advice: Don't read and write daily.

If you don't set aside a time each day to write your muse will be fickle. Then you have to wait for inspiration to "strike." However, if you set aside a certain time each day and are faithful to it, your muse will be as reliable as you are at showing up. That's what newbie writers don't know. It's a discipline, the same sort of discipline that requires you to finish what you start. Even if it sucks.

Third worst piece of advice: All the nevers and musts by all the well-meaning writers swimming in the same shallow pond who are afraid to strike out upstream alone.

There's only one rule in writing (with one caveat): There are no rules. Everything in moderation.

Even though I am now reporter/editor of a newspaper, I still give up the same hour or two of sleep each day, including holidays, to meet my muse and write my novels. I am presently at work on my sixteenth. I read every night before bed.

Anonymous said...

Not going into particulars, but just general, cutting comments from crit partners and others offering "advice". There's a lot of nastiness out there. I'm all for constructive criticism, but it seems sometimes that unpubbed writers are worse with the cutting comments than those published, or at least represented by agents. Certainly much more cutting that industry professionals, in my experience.

Some crit groups are toxic. Sometimes I think it would be better simply not to be in one. *sigh*

Anonymous said...

The worst advice I ever read was in an issue of some or other writing magazine. The author of this article advocated replacing every single adverb with a metaphor. For "carefully," she suggested something like: "like a bloodhound sniffing another dog's butt." I kid you not. She had another one about a rainbow hummingbird. Honestly, when given the choice between an adverb an a dog butt? I'll happily, readily, gladly, enthusiastically choose the adverb!

Victoria said...

I have to say, I'm appalled at the number of writers commenting that they've paid someone to help them with their work and received dreadful advice in return. I realize there are a lot of charlatans in any industry, but it's heartbreaking to see it happen in this one.

I'm a professional writer and editor of thirty years. I work with fiction writers not because it's lucrative--it's not--but because it's my favorite form of editing. I would never take on a client without giving them a sample edit to show them I actually know what I'm doing.

In fact, I've recently begun posting free advice on fiction writing on my new blog at: http://www.victoriamixon.com Please feel free to visit!

Jan Markley said...

I'm a little late to this post because I was waiting to sign a contract. The worst advice I received was from a writer in residence at a local library who told me that no children's publisher would publish a book with the word 'dead' in the title in which a frog dies in the opening scene. Well ... I will be publishing my debut novel for young readers Dead Frog on the Porch in the fall of 2009 with Gumboot Books out of Vancouver. So, there you have it.

Jen said...

My grandmother-"Why don't you just go on Oprah? Everything she touches turns to money."

"Right Grandy and how do you propose I do that?"

"Call her."

"Okay, I'll get right on that..."

Ps-my grandmother is from another country and sincerely believes I can just call the Oprah show because i am a "smart girl" and Oprah helps people like me...

Bhalachandra said...

Worst advice ever -

"Take drugs to get in the creative mood."

Jan Priddy said...

A very smart poet once told me:

The first person narrator must be wise.

Jan Priddy said...

It was bad advice and I didn't believe her—Huck Finn may be wise, but a lot of the humor relies on the reader knowing more than he does.

Colman Facer said...

This came from a substitute teacher in my creative writing class in High School. He was looking over my shoulder at a story I was revising.

He said, "That's good, only, I would have the character say this:___"

It sounded really good, but I later found out that that was a quote, word for word, from a movie.

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