Though some can make it seem like they can sit down and in one afternoon POOF, they’ve written a novel, the actual act of writing is a challenging task. When you first start out it’s natural to look to people who’ve been writing a while for advice, but sometimes the “helpful” advice you get is the thing that’s holding you back. If you’re just getting into writing you might hear one or two of these little pearls of so called wisdom, please take them with a grain of salt!
Bad Advice 1: Eliminate ALL clichés
Look unless your characters are beat poets from outer space, chances are they are going to say at least a few adages, sayings and other forms of cliché the thing is not to have so many of them in the dialogue that the character sounds fake. A few well-placed clichés gives the audience a bit of something familiar to relate to. They could read it and think ‘I know a lot of people who talk like that all the time’ which gives the characters an added dimension of reality. That is not to say your characters can’t say random words or have a few catchphrases which are outside of the world of the clichéd. For example Scarlett O’Hara’s “fiddle-dee-dee” was not a common phrase during the civil war but Mitchell made it work because it sounded like something which was natural for the character to say. That’s the key, when you want to explore with dialogue the words have to fit the characters.
Bad Advice 2: Put ALL protagonist’s thoughts in italics
I actually heard this a few times from some established writers when I first started out but I’ve found out that it really depends on the publisher. Unless the publisher says that the protagonist’s thoughts should be in italics don’t worry about it. For me I place any bits of “inner monologue” from my protagonist in single quotation marks like this: ‘I never thought something like this could happen’. It is NOT a cardinal rule of writing that your main characters thoughts HAVE to be in italics, that is a formatting issue and is really something you’d need to talk over with the publisher.
Bad Advice 3: Use as much detail and descriptive language as possible
Details are sort of like cats. Having a few of them is nice, but having 50 of them is kind of crazy. That isn’t to say your work can’t be detailed, but the trick is to not have so many details that your reader feels smothered by them. Descriptions work the same way, if you have tons of overly descriptive language the reader can easily get bored. A lot of writers get lost in this when the first start out. They remember that writers are supposed to “show not tell” their stories and they go overboard and start giving even things which are not really important to their stories long and overly detailed descriptions. The key is to describe what you need to, but leave some room for the reader’s imaginations to fill in the blanks.
In general, if you find writing advice that says the words ALWAYS or NEVER, take it with a grain of salt. The real trick is just to write and find your own system. You won’t find a handbook with the 101 laws for how NOT to write so just relax, find the story you want to tell and find the system works best for you. What is some of the worst writing advice you’ve ever gotten? Comment below!!! Thanks for reading!
Exercise of the Day: The Life and Times of a Dollar Bill
For today I want you to write something from the perspective of a dollar bill as it gets passed from person to person. Tell the story of the bill fromt he day it leaves the press at the mint until the present. What does it think about the world? What does it think about the people who have had it? Have fun with this and I’ll talk to you later!!