Re: What’s a piece of common writing advice that you really disagree with?

#1
For me, it’s “if a scene feels too boring or stagnant, just kill someone off!” It reminds me of the line in The Good Place where Jason is like “if you have a problem, just throw a molotov cocktail at it and you’ll immediately have a different problem.” Like, yeah, the previously boring scene will probably be less boring now, but now you have to deal with all of the repercussions that come with adding a major character death at a completely random point midway through the story. 

I also dislike “just write,” for a lot of different reasons. First, it’s really lame, obvious advice: every writer in the world knows that they have to actually write in order to finish their WIP. And second, I feel like it downplays the importance of planning—sure, you can just write, but it’s usually obvious in hindsight that you didn’t plot anything out first and are just kind of going in random directions. Sometimes that can work, but for a lot of stories (especially long fantasy epics and the like) I think a lot of planning is needed ahead of time.

Re: What’s a piece of common writing advice that you really disagree with?

#2
I don't necessarily disagree with it, but people shouldn't say "show, don't tell" unless they actually know what that piece of advice means. The vast majority of people I've seen throw it around either a) don't seem to know what 'showing' vs. 'telling' actually is in a writing context or b) treat it as a be-all, end-all rule that applies to all circumstances, instead of just a piece of generally good advice if your writing feels too 'dead'.

Re: What’s a piece of common writing advice that you really disagree with?

#3
I hear the advice very often that you should write everyday and I hate it. I understand where people are coming from with that advice but a lot of the time, people need to take breaks otherwise it can become overwhelming and can lead to burnout.

It's difficult to strike a healthy balance of writing and taking breaks, especially at first, but writing everyday isn't necessary for everyone. Life often gets in the way and, when you're in the mindset of having to write everyday, it can make you feel like a failure. I prefer to say "write as much as you can whilst also taking breaks and looking after your mental health."

Re: What’s a piece of common writing advice that you really disagree with?

#4
"Just write what you like, and if it's original and people will read it."

No, there's a significant amount of learning the craft that needs to happen if people are going to actually enjoy your stuff. Originality doesn't mean anything, I'd much rather read a well-written book full of tropes than a poorly-written book based on a unique concept.

Go read good books, copy their style, learn a bit, and then write your 100,000 page epic fantasy series. 

Re: What’s a piece of common writing advice that you really disagree with?

#7

MalevolenceMau Wrote: I generally hate the advice on writing female characters to be just "Think as if you're a woman"


The trick for writing like  woman -- or writing like a man -- is in the words you use. Women use certain words far more often than men, and of course, vice-versa. I have a spreadsheet with this info on it, but it's not with me at this time so I cannot post it.

There also is a website that will analyze a section of text and will tell you if it sounds like a man or a woman wrote it (or said it, if the text is dialogue.) 

It is very useful, and if you utilize it, you can write like a man or a woman, or make your a character sound like whichever. 😸

Re: What’s a piece of common writing advice that you really disagree with?

#9

ArDeeBurger Wrote:
MalevolenceMau Wrote: I generally hate the advice on writing female characters to be just "Think as if you're a woman"


The trick for writing like  woman -- or writing like a man -- is in the words you use. Women use certain words far more often than men, and of course, vice-versa. I have a spreadsheet with this info on it, but it's not with me at this time so I cannot post it.

There also is a website that will analyze a section of text and will tell you if it sounds like a man or a woman wrote it (or said it, if the text is dialogue.) 

It is very useful, and if you utilize it, you can write like a man or a woman, or make your a character sound like whichever. 😸

I wasn't writing that in the sense I am having those issues, but I have seen and been told it in the past. Now I have beta-readers of all genders who give me tips.


I'd be interested to see that website though, to see its authenticity and accuracy. 

Re: What’s a piece of common writing advice that you really disagree with?

#11

Bird Wrote:
Seersucker Wrote: "If you're ever stuck in a scene have someone enter the room with a gun"

I write fantasy, this isn't helpful at all.

If I took that advice, every scene I write would have someone entering a room with a gun lol

This would be a great idea for an action book. Just every chapter people trying to have a conversation, and then BOOM, gun. Pride, Prejudice, and Inconvenient Assailants With Guns Interrupting Conversations Between Well-Meaning but Plot-Impaired Individuals anyone?

Re: What’s a piece of common writing advice that you really disagree with?

#12

MalevolenceMau Wrote: I'd be interested to see that website though, to see its authenticity and accuracy.

Yes! I will try to find it once I get to the device I think it's on. It's a statistical analysis sort of thing, based on an academic paper some professors wrote. There is a list of a couple hundred words, with each word worth a certain number of points. You enter a sample of a thousand words or so and it adds up the points. Whichever gender gets the mosts points, it assumes the piece was written by one of them. 

With the list in hand, you can write like a man or a woman based simply on the words you choose. It has nothing to do with sentence structure or setting -- it's all about the words. 


Re: What’s a piece of common writing advice that you really disagree with?

#13
There is a whole class of writing advice that I strongly disagree with. Namely any advice that makes you try to fix symptoms.

There is really many bad advice of this out there. Often it is well meant and sometimes it might even describe something that an experiences author might do successfully to improve something (though even experienced authors do stupid things and only make up for it by other qualities), while those that would need an advice can only make it worse with it.

Every advice that tells you to do something based on form is bad advice. I'll allow that there are less bad and more bad advice of this form, but must insist that they are all bad.

"Use (more) adverbs." is bad advice. "Avoid (or reduce) adverbs" is bad advice. Adverbs are an integral part of language, so learning about them might be  good advice to improve your writing.  Knowing how they work and what effect they have might lead you do use more or less of them than you currently do.

There are many things like that about almost every part of language there are (Use of passive was for example named multiple time in this thread). A whole family of those that cause some authors to practically butcher their stories are those about variation.

There is so many advice about increasing variation in your text out there. And all of it is bad advice.

Be it avoiding repetition of words (or even names, an especially insidious advice), adding variation to sentence length, or other stuff. All of those are symptoms. If you have a text where the author wrote as best as they could, you can use many of those to measure quality:

If you as author are too limited in what ways you can write, your text will be harder to read and less enjoyable. While people will to some extend agree that a text is bad, it's hard to see why exactly it is bad. Missing variation will naturally happen in worse texts, but it will hardly be the only or even an important factor for making it bad. But it is easy to spot. And it correlates in naturally written texts with badness, so it can be useful as metric if you need improvements.

The bad part about those forms of bad advice and why it is so gruel a mistake to follow them, is that such advice tells you to not write as good as you can, but instead limit yourself to writing text without those markers, even sometimes suggesting way to avoid them. So it will not improve your writing but instead make you produce something even worse than the best you can produce with your current capabilities. (Limiting yourself in some ways can be a nice challenge. As every form of challenge, it is nice for training. But don't expect to produce something better by limiting yourself).

Another problem with following advice with avoiding any markers like word repetition or any technique meant to reduce such a marker, is that if you follow it, the marker loses its meaning:

They are nice to determine which parts of the story might profit from a try to rewrite them, as long as they are correlated to quality. Once you make affords to avoid them, you still have writing of differing quality but no longer any marker to check to find it.

If you as inexperiences author have access to an editor at all, changes are they are not extremely good and have time are willing to invest much time in your work. So your editor will likely not be able to get a good feel of your writing but also just look for those markers. If you willingly write worse text by working around the markers instead of improving your writing, they might not be able to give you a proper feedback. You might get a "looks good, I see no obvious problems" but it might be so bad hardly anyone can enjoy it.

Even when only listening to reader feedback, you cause yourself problems by it (well, in addition of the problem of writing less than the best of what you can), because many readers are trained to be constructive and tell you reasons. Even though it is true, they will hardly ever tell you: "It was not good enough, so I could not enjoy it.". But they might tell you "there were so many word repetitions, Too hard to read.", even though in a better text they would have never even realized there were word repetitions. So making the mistake of following that bad advice just steals readers some chance to point something out. Instead they will either fall back to silently rate you down or deciding they just did not like your story because of their personal taste and go away without giving any feedback at all. And you end up with feedback from the few fans telling you how nice your story is and how no one understands why so few people people follow it.

Re: What’s a piece of common writing advice that you really disagree with?

#16

MalevolenceMau Wrote: I generally hate the advice on writing female characters to be just "Think as if you're a woman" if I could do that I wouldn't have the issues. I could very well imagine what it's like to be female, but I know I'd be very far from the truth with the combination of never experiencing it as well as the fact that everyone is different.



Ugh, yeah. A lot of the writing advice I see about female characters is either super crappy or outright sexist. Sometimes I see people's suggestions and immediately think "have any of you weirdos ever spoken to a woman in your life?" 

Re: What’s a piece of common writing advice that you really disagree with?

#17

Wren Wrote:
MalevolenceMau Wrote: I generally hate the advice on writing female characters to be just "Think as if you're a woman" if I could do that I wouldn't have the issues. I could very well imagine what it's like to be female, but I know I'd be very far from the truth with the combination of never experiencing it as well as the fact that everyone is different.



Ugh, yeah. A lot of the writing advice I see about female characters is either super crappy or outright sexist. Sometimes I see people's suggestions and immediately think "have any of you weirdos ever spoken to a woman in your life?"


No. None of them have.  DrakanSigh

Re: What’s a piece of common writing advice that you really disagree with?

#18
Unpopular opinion time: Reading a lot of books doesn't make you a better writer. It makes you a worse one. Stay with us for a moment.

NOTE: This is not me calling people who read bad writers. It's simply a case of this piece of advice directly causing the quality of our writing to absolutely plummet on two separate accounts because of this bit of advice.

Let's say you have an average writer who wants to improve.

One big aspect to refine would be their style. Now, it is our opinion that a person is writing at their best when they are writing in their own developed style. Yes, use another style you love as a template when starting off if you want, but ultimately making it your own should ideally be the goal to improve in this area.

Now, let's say you're reading a ton of other work in a similar style. Emphasis on similar, because it still won't fit your natural style perfectly.

Everything you read is going to impact your style. That means unless you're reading only stuff exactly like your style, then it's going to muddy it, and as a result will harm your work overall. This isn't even counting reading people that are not even close to your style

My overall take on reading is this: Reading doesn't actually improve your writing all that much. It might show you what other people do, yes, but what other people do generally doesn't, nor should it matter to your writing. You should write how is most natural for you, and make your style the absolute best you can make it. That is what will facilitate better writing. What's even worse about reading though? If you really do care about seeing what other people do, then you can find out by getting good feedback about specific parts. All of the benefits with none of the drawbacks.

That's not even going into the pride aspect of it. We realize not everyone falls into this, but I don't want to copy another persons style. I want my style to be my own, and I'm proud of that.

But yeah, that's our piece of advice we absolutely hate being spread around.

Re: What’s a piece of common writing advice that you really disagree with?

#20
I strongly disagree with dismissing any writing advice out of hand without doing your own personal research into why that writing advice exists.  A lot of people hate certain advice because it makes writing very difficult or they just don't understand it in the first place.  But difficult for one person may not be for others.  

If I could naturally write every sentence in active voice, I would in a heartbeat, but it's hard and sometimes I feel like I mangle a sentence when I incorrectly implement active voice.  That doesn't mean you shouldn't try, that just means you need practice and maybe a better understanding of the english language.