Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing & Publishing ~

What *Not* To Do If You’re Looking For Writing Advice

I remember when the Internet was a baby–a brilliant, wide-eyed, baby with limitless potential for positive growth.

The Internet was born to Scientific and Military parents. It soon showed its independence and became the playground of creative, intelligent folks who took its potential and shaped a carnival of information amazement.

One of the most famous slogans back then was, “Information Wants to be Free …”, and this leads me to the first thing I feel you should not do when looking for writing advice.

Don’t pay anyone a penny until you’ve written the equivalent of a novel and even then you should probably wait much longer.

There’s a growing trend [in some fields, it’s a cancerous riot] of people with no credentials to speak of trying to woo unsuspecting novices into costly nets of stolen information–advice that could have been found for free.

If you’re the novice’s novice, you might start your explorations with our recent post, Resources for Writers ~ Readers Welcome :-)

My second suggestion for what not to do is:

Don’t listen to people who are willing to give you free information until you’ve read some of their creative writing. { blogs can actually count as creative writing :-)

When it comes to blogging-writers who give advice, you may find some who don’t have a ton of published work. Still, you have their blog as evidence of how they handle words. If they’re fiction writers and they don’t have examples of their fiction in the blog or available through a link, you could, if you appreciate the things they say, ask if you could review some of their work.

My third thing to not do is:

Don’t get caught up in reading writing advice until you’ve given yourself the chance to write what you feel is the best work you can produce.

This may be a small collection of poems or three novels. If you’re really listening to yourself and letting your resident spirits guide you, you should know when you’ve produced something good. Sure you may doubt it’s “good enough” but that kind of thinking is married to the need for approval. You need your own approval for your work before you consider changing it based on others’ opinions.

And, because the Internet has grown into a many-headed, commercial beast and we all seem to love looking for approval and there are so many wolves in sheep’s clothing out there, when you do have some work you feel good enough about to have other minds check it out and offer advice, put it aside, resist the temptation to get advice, let it sit a month or two, and work on a new piece. When you come back to it, you’ll probably find things that you feel need changing. Change them and then, maybe, offer it for critique.

I know at least six writers who regularly read this blog and I trust they’ll offer their advice in the comments :-)
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15 responses to “What *Not* To Do If You’re Looking For Writing Advice

  1. Gwen January 31, 2011 at 5:22 pm

    I have thought about writing my entire life but it wasn’t until recently that I decided to actually try. I did a search on the internet about starting a novel. Millions of pages of people offering advice. I decided to just put the words down on paper as they came from my head. :)


    • Alexander M Zoltai January 31, 2011 at 6:00 pm

      Oh, my, what a refreshing comment right after writing this post :-)

      I do hope you can continue to resist the siren call of all the folks who would love to have you do what they do.

      Do what you do!

      There’s always time to find honest, sincere folk to give valuable critiques–after you write what is your very own creative expression…


  2. Karla Telega January 31, 2011 at 6:11 pm

    Waiting is the hardest part. A lot of writers much wiser than me advocate taking breaks from your WIP, but I’m so anxious to get feedback. I suffer from the usual swings between “this sucks doody” and “this is absolutely brilliant.” Once I finish this second draft, I plan to read up a little about dialog and grammar, before doing the final edit. I’m also reading The Art of War for Writers by James Scott Bell. I’m getting a lot out of it.


    • Alexander M Zoltai January 31, 2011 at 6:56 pm

      Everything I’ve read about writing was accomplished years ago (except for the occasional blog article as I go through my social networking calisthenics) and the best I ever found were John Gardner’s On Becoming a Novelist & On Moral Fiction.

      With my current WIP, my absolute need to generate a platform or audience before my self-publishing the book forced me to hand the manuscript to my editor and not pay it much attention. Now that it’s back from the editor, I’m very happy that I still like it :-)


  3. Simone Benedict January 31, 2011 at 6:54 pm

    Great advice! I’m sorta glad I started writing long before the internet came along.

    “Wolves in sheep’s clothing…” I’ll say. There is a bit of that out there. Your gentle words of warning are well worth heeding.


  4. Daryl Sedore January 31, 2011 at 8:28 pm

    Great advice here.

    I really love the “Don’t get caught reading writing advice…” quote.

    Excellent work and thanks!

    Daryl Sedore


  5. cmmarcum January 31, 2011 at 11:19 pm

    How true. Keep your money in your pocket. There is plenty of free advice out there. Of course, you still have to study it.


  6. Val Erde February 16, 2011 at 3:03 pm

    I love that you say ‘blogs actually count as writing’!


  7. Pingback: Writing “Advice” ( Good for Readers, too :-) « Notes from An Alien

  8. Pingback: Writing “Advice” ( Good for Readers, too :-) | Notes from An Alien

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