(More) No Good Advice - Debbie Bennett

A couple of years back I wrote an agony aunt page here on Authors Electric, so this month I thought I’d continue on a similar theme, but more in the spirit of receiving, rather than giving advice out like blue smarties. I mean there’s just so much advice out there, isn’t there? Everywhere you look are helpful people telling you how to do things you never even knew you should be doing!

Write what you know! But I’m not an axe-murderer and there are no fairies at the bottom of my garden…. You should always start a novel with action. Well I’m sure we can all think of a hundred books that start with something other than action. Write every day. Plot everything/don’t plot everything. Write a synopsis before you start/synopses are a waste of time. There are whole books about plot and character development, what exactly a 3rd person deep POV means and how and when to use it. You can drown in it all.

The point is that you can take advice until you’re blue in the face. You can read how-to articles and books, go to classes every evening that will tell you how to write, how to plot, how to structure, how to make the tea and run your life. But none of that is actually writing, is it?

The internet is awash with people telling you what to do. How to be better, smarter, faster, richer. Write a best-seller in ten days! There are probably several dozen ebooks you can download for a few pounds that claim to teach you how to do that – and they may well have great advice. But it’s just advice – it won’t do it for you.

To be a writer, you have to write. It sounds obvious, but it isn’t to many people. You don’t have to submit your work anywhere or even show it to anybody, but you do actually have to do it. Work. And it is work – real bum on seat, get-on-with-it work. God knows, I’m the world’s biggest procrastinator, but even I know that to be a writer, you have to write. You figure out how it works as you go along, how to put it together and stitch your story out of words. There’ll be a lot of false starts, blind alleys and metaphorical screwing-up of paper – but it’s only by doing it that you learn what works for you.

There is no substitute for action. Just do it. Write.


JO said…
Yippee - someone saying this! I've stopped reading any of it - most of it is repetitive and may well be useful for anyone starting out, but it seems to have reached a point where everyone who has written anything thinks they can tell other people how to do it. (Just look at #writetip on twitter!)
I agree. When I was very young and just starting out, I wrote a fan letter to a published novelist whose book I admired. And of course I asked for advice. 'The only way to learn how to write is to write,' he said. And he was right.
Chris Longmuir said…
You're absolutely right Debbie, it's bum on the seat hard graft that makes a writer. All the advice in the world is useless if you don't get down to the graft.
Peter Coleborn said…
Good stuff, Debbie. I'd add one other thing: read. And read quality stuff to see how others do it and then their skills brush off on you. I have been amazed by the number of would-be writers who say they don't read books. Silly idea.
Mari Biella said…
Good post, Debbie. I'm sometimes amazed by the number of people who claim that they want to be writers, and yet rarely or never write or read. Advice can be helpful, sure; but in the end the only way to learn to write is to sit down and write.

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