Too Much of A Good Thing? Best and Worst Advice for Writers

I was fumbling around on twitter and came across this blog post by Paul Bassett Davies, which made me laugh out loud. What I like about his post is the acknowledgment that the best thing for writers is often failure, that we learn more from talking with people who don't get our work than talking with those who do. I also agree with his tongue-in-cheek comments about self help for writers. It seems like more and more websites now claim to "help" writers, in addition to writing programs and conferences and critique groups. While some of this advice is a good thing, listening to too much of it can have its consequences, one of which is that we end up reading a lot about writing rather than reading in our genres or ahem, actually writing. Some of that's necessary for new writers, struggling to get a handle on the business of writing as well as the craft, but some of it can be unhelpful and misleading, possibly even damaging.

So in the spirit of Paul Bassett Davies (or against that spirit, depending on how you read his post), I'd like to ask you a couple of questions:

(1) What's the worst advice you've ever received about your writing or a particular piece of writing, and how did you handle it?

(2) Where do you go to get sound advice about the writing and publishing business? Whose views do you trust? What are your favorite blogs for writers?

(3) When do you find yourself most trolling writing/publishing blogs? When you're taking a break from writing, when you're warming up (maybe not such a good idea!), or when you're trying to avoid doing the work entirely?

Would love to get a conversation going here, especially since it's a Sunday and we're heading into the week--unless, of course, you're too busy writing. What do you think? Is all this advice too much of a good thing?

Comments

Suzan Harden said…
1) Worst advice? Tie between I need to do more legal research and self-publishing is a bad idea. (The latter was less than a month ago.)

2) Folks within my RWA chapters that I trust, especially Yoda. Lately I've been reading Bob Mayer, Joe Konrath and Dean Wesley Smith's blogs because I'm taking the indie publishing plunge.

3) Actually I do troll the blogs first thing in the morning because I can't concentrate on my writing, afraid I'll miss something.
Loved this, Kathryn! And laughed my head off at Paul's post (especially the pictures.)

1. Worst advice? "You have a historical voice. Don't try writing anything else"
2. Where do I go for sound advice? Friends I've met through Romance Writers of America, many of whom have boatloads of experience and are always willing to share. Oh, and Joni Rodgers, my personal go-to guru. :)
3. When do I read writing blogs? When somebody I know sends or posts a link with a recommendation and I'm in the mood for a little distraction. Usually in the morning before I get rolling with my work.
Ha ha, keep 'em coming. I love this! I thought I'd go ahead and put my answer to the first one:

As a veteran of far too many writing workshops, I've heard and witnessed so much bad advice over the years, it's hard to say. But the two that immediately pop to mind are "Don't try to write your novel like your short stories. Forget structure and go ahead and go on tangents." And my favorite, said right before I began my novel, "but Gothic horror really hasn't been in since the 90s. I can't imagine it making a comeback."
2)This blog (hugs!)
Nathan Bransford (such a crush)
The Rejectionist (witty, wry, love)
Query Shark (advice with a bite)
Murderati (the name alone is awesome)
several other agent blogs, unless I become too obsessive. ;)

3)I'm better about this than I used to be. I now limit my time on the web in general to AFTER I've written, which is helping me to get the writing done. I used to go on and read agent blogs first, and then I'd inevitably freak out and think "oh my God, she/he hates novels about x; my novel is about x; I must be doing something wrong."

Sigh.
Jeanna Thornton said…
My worst advice was from a private writing workshop here in Houston..He said to put action on every page...
WF is about relationships...

I canned my opening then realized I needed to put it back..good post, Kath! (miss you on FB)
Jeanna,
I'm sure I know which private workshop that was, and you were absolutely right. He told my critique partner the same thing, and we spent the next couple of weeks talking her into setting her women's fiction back right!

First rule of writing to sell: know your target market's expectations. And the only way to know it? Read, read, read.
Mylène said…
1) Once you publish, keep doing the same thing over and over (or as I call it, Slow Death).

2)This blog and the blogs it links to.

3)When I'm taking a break; when I've been writing so much I feel out of touch. But I don't troll too often. It can be overwhelming ("Look at all those books out there and mine isn't even finished yet"--"That sounds exactly like my book, only better"--etc., etc.).

Best advice I ever got: Just do the work. The job is to do the work. Create something, and when it's finished, create something else.
Joni Rodgers said…
Best Advice (from my first agent): "You can only be happy if you get what you need from the writing of the book. The rest is a crap shoot."

Worst Advice (I won't say from whom): "This whole ebook thing is a fad. Real readers will always want real books."

Blog Behavior: I selfishly designed the FeedMe bar on the side of this blog to offer a streamlined daily digest of stuff that interests me: publishing news, lit mags, and blogs from a variety of authors, editors, PR folk, agents, and others involved in bookmakery. The five most recent posts in each category show up with links to the post (click on post title) or the blog's main page (click on blog title.)
Joni Rodgers said…
PS ~ I just added Paul's blog "The Writer Type" to the Author section of our FeedMe bar.

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