Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing & Publishing ~

Tag Archives: Tips for Writers

Writing Advice Can Often Be Toxic to Writers . . .

I remember when “personal” computers were beginning to appear—when every kid on the block started to become an “expert”—when you could easily trash your shiny, new computer by listening to the wrong people… 

I also remember when publishing books became easier for an individual—when every creative-type started to become a book-guru—when you could easily ruin your tender, longing hopes by listening to the wrong people

Computers have become a bit more robust.

Writing gurus are breeding like rabbits.

I’ve written 57 previous posts that all have something to do with writing advice (if you take that link, you’ll also find this post since I used the same tags…).

Many of those posts caution against certain types of writing advice—some offer what I consider good advice.

I’ll give a few examples of the kind of advice you might want to avoid; then, share a couple links that could, in my opinion, help

There are many ways writing advice can be sincerely given yet still be potentially harmful.

The most common type to avoid (though, I’ve read many and still haven’t been corrupted) are the ones that have a number in the title (apparently, folks who don’t like to work hard to learn something are quite attracted to numbered lists and way too many bloggers share lists in hopes of generating more traffic… [I’ve committed this “sin” myself a few times]).

Here are three examples:

Janet Fitch’s 10 Rules for Writers

Kerouac’s 30 Rules for Writing

Improving Your Fiction: 246 Rules from 28 Modern Writers

If you actually read those articles, you may find many tips ( or, “rules” ) that indeed help you in your writing; however

Learning to write by learning lists of “rules” can easily lead to stilted, contrived, or unnatural writing.

You can make a list of things to buy at the grocery store and make the effort to go there and get all the ingredients; but, they need to be combined properly—you must have a “grand plan” for your cooking to produce a great meal

It’s laughingly ironic to me that my all-time favorite writer of novels, C. J. Cherryh, actually produced a list called Writerisms and other Sins.

Yet, the final tip in that list was NO RULE SHOULD BE FOLLOWED OFF A CLIFF.

Perhaps the best advice I could give to writers is, if you feel you must read lists of tips, please do yourself a huge favor and devour a story from an accomplished writer for every single tip you ingest

And, if you just have to read a whole book of writing advice (and, you intend to write a novel), check out this article—Ever Wondered How An Author Actually Writes A Novel?

One last bit of writing advice:

Go read this articleHow To Read Like A Writer.
Read Some Strange Fantasies
Grab A Free Novel…
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Just A Bit of Sane Writing Advice . . .

Some folks have absolutely no problem writing down their thoughts and feelings.

Some never have to struggle to organize their writing into flowing prose.

Most people, though, need a strong-minded Muse to unlock their creativity and encourage them as they perfect their expressiveness.

This post is the 42nd I’ve written about Writing Advice.

And, the post, The Very Best Way To Learn To Be A Writer?, helps you tap into all the writing advice on this blog.

Many of my posts have cautioned folks about the flood of data streaming on the ‘Net that’s actually poisonous and will absolutely block their efforts

But the specific challenge for this post is how to stick with one’s writing—staying fluent—resisting the urge to quit.

Andrew DeYoung, writer, editor, and multimedia project manager, has written a post called, 8 Steps to Start a Writing Habit That Sticks, that’s quite sane

He begins by saying:

“‘I wish I could find the time to write more.’

“I hear this all the time. Everyone I meet wishes they could write more, it seems: some would like to write a novel, while others just want to blog more consistently or keep a personal journal. But between jobs, friends, family, kids, and the constant distractions of everyday life, they just can’t find the time.”

He then goes on to reveal the steps he discovered that help him stick with it (I’ll only list the bare steps and encourage you to take the link to the post and read his sane approach):

1. Make writing a priority.

2. Really make writing a priority!

3. Figure out what motivates you to write.

4. Forget everything you’ve heard about what it really takes to be a writer.

5. Set a goal—but start small.

6. Think about writing throughout the day.

7. Build in feedback loops.

8. Take a break.

There are at least three steps there that the “Writing Advice Experts” would cringe at; yet, I’m a writer and find everything he says is practical and true
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Should Writers Blog? ~ If They Do, What Are The “Rules” . . .

There are many reasons for writers to blog

One was explored in my previous post, Blogging ~ Can It Really Fulfill The Writer’s Dictum: “Write Every Day!”?

As I pointed out in that post, the maverick in me had to punctuate that tile the way I did

As far as “rules” for writers, you’ll see why I had to put that word in quotes if you read these two posts:

Rules for Writers Are Slippery and Shifty . . .

More On The “Rules” of Writing . . .

I’m going to leave the many other reasons for writers to blog to readers who are brave enough to share what they know in the Comments—I love challenging folks to comment—once they learn it doesn’t hurt, they actually like it :-)

Thanks to Kristi Hines from and to her guest poster, Steve Aedy, I can share some “rules” for writers-in-general from some relatively well-known other writers.

The article Writing Tips of Famous Authors you can use now for Blogging has various “rules” for writers; then, Steve translates them into rules for bloggers.

I’m only going to put the “rules” from other writers here because so many writers don’t seem to have the time to blog

If you are or want to be a blogging writer, just take that article’s link to read the bloggy stuff :-)

Some “Rules”:

“Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip. Think of what you skip reading…thick paragraphs of prose you can see have too many words in them.” – Elmore Leonard

“Don’t wish ill on your colleagues.” – Richard Ford

“Try to be accurate about stuff.” – Anne Enright

“Never complain of being misunderstood. You can choose to be understood, or you can choose not to.” – Neil Gaiman

“Hold the reader’s attention. This is likely to work better if you can hold your own.” – Margaret Atwood

“You most likely need a thesaurus, a rudimentary grammar book, and a grip on reality. This latter means: there’s no free lunch. Writing is work. It’s also gambling. You don’t get a pension plan. Other people can help you a bit, but essentially you’re on your own. Nobody is making you do this; you choose it, so don’t whine.” – Margaret Atwood

“Remember you love writing. It wouldn’t be worth it if you didn’t. If the love fades, do what you need to and get it back.” – PD James

“Do it every day. Make a habit of putting your observations into words and gradually this will become instinct.” – Geoff Dyer

“Put one word after another. Find the right word, put it down.” – Neil Gaiman

“Don’t just plan to write – write. It is only by writing, not dreaming about it, that we develop our own style.” – PD James

“Don’t write in public places.” – Geoff Dyer

“Find your best time of the day for writing and write. Don’t let anything else interfere. Afterwards, it won’t matter to you that the kitchen is a mess.” – Ester Freud

“Work on a computer that is disconnected from the internet.” – Zadie Smith

“Protect the time and space in which you write. Keep everybody away from it, even the people who are most important to you.” – Zadie Smith


Even though I’m a writer and I blog 5 days a week, I don’t “write” every day—unless you count the larger Writing Process in my head as “writing”—which I do count—and, there are a few more of those “rules” that I can’t abide :-)

Sure hope some of you are brave enough to comment………
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