Struggling to navigate your way through all of the writing advice as we approach NaNoWriMo? Never fear, my crash course guide to advice is here.
I'm constantly stunned at how quickly October is speeding by, and I can't believe there is just a little over a week until November! Do you know what that means? NaNoWriMo is on the horizon!
It dawns on me every day that I’m nowhere near ready to begin writing. To help myself get in the right frame of mind, I've decided to start a series of NaNoWriMo and Preptober blog posts.
What are NaNoWriMo and Preptober?
For those of you who don't know what NaNoWriMo and Preptober are, allow me to briefly explain.
NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, (which has really become an international affair) in which writers aim to pen 50,000 words in 30 days.
Preptober refers to the unofficial month of planning or prepping for NaNoWriMo. I feel like Preptober is the time that a lot of writers begin looking for writing advice. I wanted to begin my advice series with some advice on taking advice, which is a bit of a strange topic.
Thoughts on Writing Advice
My mother always told me, 'Listen to all advice, but be careful what you take.' That piece of advice has stuck with me for a very long time, and it's a huge part of how I live my life.
Writing is very much an art, and everyone has a different process, which is why it can be so hit and miss. There's no hard and fast way to succeed, no one way that works for anyone.
I was trawling the internet the other day looking for writing advice to motivate me to write when I came across a few courses available for purchase.
I had to question whether these writers offering the courses would provide me with the kind of advice justifying the hefty price tag that their courses carried, so it prompted me to write this list of five things I ask myself when considering someone's writing advice.
1. Do I Like This Person's Work?
Something I've been trying to tell myself lately is: 'If you wouldn't want to live their life, don't take their advice.' I think this fits quite well into writing also.
I think it's extremely important to read an author's work before you take their advice.
I find that I pick and choose pieces of advice from particular authors, all of whom I enjoy reading. For example, if I love an author's worldbuilding, but can't relate to their characters, I'll usually ignore all advice on character but try anything they recommend on worldbuilding.
Having said that, you may come across an author you don't enjoy reading who gives some really sound advice. This could be a case of 'Do as I say, and not as I do.' I think this perfectly encapsulates how tricky navigating the world of writing advice can be.
Again, you have to be selective.
2. Is This Person Qualified/Experienced?
This is particularly important if you're looking to purchase a course or pay for instruction. For the same reason, you wouldn't enrol in an MFA program taught by an unreputable institution, why would you purchase advice from someone who can't prove that they know what they're talking about?
I'm not saying that only qualified people are capable of sharing wisdom, but I think this is definitely something to consider when you're seeking out help. Writing, being an art, is not only something deeply personal, but it's also something that's learned by experience as well as theory. It's important to know where the advice is coming from when you're receiving it.
I don't know about you, but I'm more likely to take writing advice from Brandon Sanderson than someone who started writing last year. I know that sounds harsh, and I'm by no means saying that you can't learn a lot about writing in your first year, I'm only meaning that people with more experience will likely have more advice to share.
3. Does This Fit Well With My Process?
If you are a pantser and you're past your 'experimenting with plotting' stage, investing hours of time listening to complex novel outlining advice might not be the best way to master how to be the Queen/King/Ruler of Pantsing.
It's important to find writing advice that suits you, rather than suiting your writing to someone's advice. This, again, comes back to writing being an art.
It's important for you to develop a writing process that works for you. If you're a night owl, I wouldn't recommend trying to force yourself to adhere to an early bird's writing routine. Unless you're Kate Cavanaugh, aka The Queen of Trying Writing Routines.
4. Does This Seem Like Common Sense?
I feel like these tips on taking advice err on the common sense side, so this one is only natural for me to mention.
If someone is telling you that the only way to stop writer's block is to mash a banana on your head and wear tinfoil socks, I think you're safe to assume they're either exceptionally eccentric or having you on.
This comes back to the idea (or false hope) that there is some magical method of writing the next bestselling book. Most, if not all, authors regularly comment on how difficult (albeit rewarding) writing a book is. I could be wrong, but I don't think this is some kind of conspiracy (so don't call Shane), I don't think there's some tried and true formula for success hidden in the brains of the best. So, my advice is, don't go looking for a magical solution. If writing advice seems a little counter-intuitive, it might not be worth your time.
5. Is This Coming From Multiple People?
Let's face it - if one piece of advice is coming from multiple people, it's more likely to work for you than something one obscure writer once said. Usually, these pieces of advice ar non-specific. Something like, to write a book you must put one word after the other on a page.
My general rule of thumb is that, if more than two people suggest a piece of writing advice, it's worth a try.
The only time you need to be careful taking writing advice is when you're paying for it. I don't mean paying in a metaphorical sense as though the advice cannot be undone, but in a financial sense.
There are a lot of people out there who will ask for payment in return for a course or instruction.
I'm by no means saying that these are not worth your investment, but keep your eyes wide open when researching them, and if they don't tick at least number one and two on this list, look elsewhere.
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