How to Take Make Sense of Confusing Writing Advice


James’s Notes: I sometimes think there are more people out there giving advice on writing than there are writers. As such, it can get terribly confusing. Especially when half the advice out there contradicts the other half. Here are a few thoughts to hopefully help you make sense of it.


There is a ton of writing advice being thrown at new writers constantly and it can get confusing. 

Luckily, there are a couple easy ways to look at al this advice to make it useful rather than overwhelming.

  1. These are not rules. These are tools.

There is no such thing as a rule of writing. Even the rules of grammar and spelling are just tools.

That said, they are very important tools. It is really hard to build a house without nails and just because it might be possible, doesn’t mean you should do it.

“Rules”, like show versus tell, different methods to tag dialog and things like deep perspective are just tools.

There is a time to use them, and a time not to use them. 

That said, you should never be afraid to learn about these new techniques and use them. Acquiring new tools can allow you to build new and awesome things.

  1. If what you are doing is working, don’t change it.

You’ll always hear people tell you how to write a book. Things like, don’t edit until you finish the first draft, always make an outline, or that your plot should be in a certain structure.

Here’s the thing. Each one of those pieces of advice can be right for some people writing some books. For some, it’s going to be wrong.

If you’re writing a book, and whatever you’re doing is working, keep doing that.

If, however, you are writing a book, and it’s not working, that’s when you want to consider some of this advice.

If you’re trying to write a novel and keep hitting writer’s block, then consider doing an outline. Proper planning prevents writer’s block.

If you find yourself never finishing your project, then consider completing your first draft before you even think about editing.

If you find the pacing in your novel is off, and parts of it are boring, then maybe learn about three act structure, hero’s journey, and other ways to structure a plot.

  1. Never wait to learn the rules, start writing now.

There are tons of writing advice that will absolutely make you a better writer.

However, you need to start writing right now. Don’t wait to learn the rules, you’ll learn those as you go.

Besides, you’ll understand that much better after you have some finished works under your belt.

Just remember, as a new writer, your job is to write lots of terrible things.

Don’t worry. Future You, who will have more experience, and actually understand all this confusing writing advice, will fix it for you.

Trust Future You and get started right now.

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