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A Better Interpretation of “Write What You Know”

In the previous post, I wrote about the problem of taking “write what you know” literally and what you can do instead.

There is another interpretation that can help writing feel more visceral and realistic. “Write what you know” is practically useless when it comes to cold hard facts, but can be a useful tool if applied to our emotional experiences. Bear with me; I’ll try to stop this from becoming too wishy-washy. Remember that feeling of disappointment when you were passed over for an award or a promotion or a raise? How about when you discovered someone you liked already had a partner? How exactly did that feel? Was it a feeling of free fall or a weight in your stomach or a tightness in your throat or a heaviness in your limbs? Physical cues for emotions can be incredibly useful in fiction.

Let’s see an example of this in action. I will give you two (probably mediocre but hopefully you get the idea) pieces of text describing the same emotion:

He felt sad.

Next one:

His legs collapsed, sending him sprawling to the floor. A half-swallowed gasp squeezed its way out of his painfully tight throat.

The first one tells us very little. The second one, within the context of a story, tells us much more about the character himself, how he physically reacts to sadness. There are also different levels of sadness, which the first example doesn’t capture. The second one, however, tells us this is an extremely potent form. The first guy could just be sad there were no apples left at the supermarket, while the second guy could have just lost a loved one. Paying attention to our reactions to emotions is the best possible interpretation of “write what you know”. Watching other people can also help, but I’d advise you not to do this in, shall we say, socially unacceptable scenarios.

Bad novels (although readers have different interpretations of what is a bad novel) are often perceived to be so because they feel false to the reader. Something is off. The author doesn’t appear to have a clear grasp on human behaviour or emotion. This can happen if the characters don’t quite react realistically to what is being thrown at them, and is often a result of the author not paying enough attention to the nuances of how mind and matter interact to create emotion. We all run into this problem at some time or another with our own writing. It can be hard to perfectly capture how a character is feeling in a given moment. I suck at it myself.

Interpreting “write what you know” as an invitation to incorporate our own emotional experiences into our writing is far more helpful than taking the advice to mean knowledge of facts which, while important, generally aren’t that difficult to find. Emotional experience, however, when incorporated into a story, can make even the most outlandish tale feel real to the reader.

The Myth of “Write What You Know”

This post is primarily for less experienced writers who feel restricted by advice such as “write what you know”. This is one of the most common pieces of advice given to new writers. On the surface, it seems like a fairly logical and innocuous suggestion, but at the same time it can be restrictive. The problem doesn’t quite lie with the advice, but in the way many writers interpret it. A writer just starting out might have some grand ideas (mine were so ridiculously grand that I’m still trying to make them work four years later), but be put off by their lack of knowledge on a particular subject.

To use me as an example, my baby project, Coldfire, is a mess of former drug addicts, bureaucracy, possibly overused weapons and various random places to which I have never been. I don’t know much of anything on these subjects. If I had taken the “write what you know” advice literally, I would have just dumped the idea a long time ago and moved onto writing about white middle-class teenage girls in Australian suburbia. Yawn.

Here’s a better idea: instead of constraining yourself to a limited spectrum of experience, research what you don’t know. Hell, if you’re a speculative fiction (supernatural/horror/science fiction/fantasy/dystopian/etc.) writer, you can make some of it up. As many writers before me have said, advice should not be restrictive. If you feel limited by a specific piece of advice, toss it and find something better to put in its place.

In the next post, I will cover another interpretation of “write what you know”.

Writing and Negativity Don’t Mix

It’s easy to look at another writer’s success and resent them for it. This happens a lot when it comes to writing superstars such as J.K. Rowling, Stephenie Meyer or Stephen King. There is often a culture of anti-fans who can be as insufferable as the worst fan of the book. I don’t understand why it has become cool to dis an author’s hard work. Even if you don’t like the book, it must have some  merit because other people do.

Active anti-fans drag themselves to movie versions of the books they already hate and spend hours of time online establishing just how terrible they think the book is. Sometimes they end up devoting more time to hating the book than fans do to loving it, sometimes without bothering to read the book they’ve decided they hate in the first place. It is a perplexing phenomenon. While it’s okay to have an unfavourable opinion of a book, why do people think it’s okay to openly lambaste the book over and over again, rehashing the same points that have already been made a hundred times before?

A perfect example of this phenomenon is the Twilight saga. The fans of the series have become fair game for ridicule and the books themselves possibly have a larger base of anti-fans than real fans. There are the typically moronic “Edward is gay” arguments that are a dime a dozen, and open misinterpretations of the book, such as it supposedly glorifying sex when the only sex even hinted at is between a married couple in the last book of the entire series. I’ll admit I’m a fan of the books and find it insulting when my reading tastes are questioned.

Apparently, as a fan, I think I’m Bella, am utterly obsessed with either Jacob or Edward and am incapable of eloquently defending my tastes. Oh, and I am also an inadvertent misogynist, which doesn’t make sense as a consider myself a feminist and openly protest sexism in the media. Liking a particular book doesn’t necessarily say anything about a someone’s personality. I like the books because I like the story. That doesn’t mean I believe sex is only good if I’m bruised afterwards or that I should give up my autonomy to my boyfriend. And, for the record, neither does the Twilight saga’s protagonist, Bella.

Anti-fans are incapable of accepting that sometimes a story is just that: a story. I have a feeling there is a measure of bitterness behind the hate, of people questioning why this particular author is famous when clearly the hater can write better. Maybe that’s the case, maybe not. The fact of the matter is you should not concern yourself with other writers’ successes, only your own. Did a book you utterly despise make it onto the New York Times bestseller list? Channel that energy into making your own book better. Simple.

Don’t waste time complaining about things such as this that are completely out of your control. Use the time and energy you save to do something productive, rather than sitting online and, excuse my language, bitching about the success of a book you hate. In a nutshell, get off the internet and get the hell over it. Work on improving the things that are under your control instead.

I was going to say I’m sorry for offending anyone but, really, I’m not sorry at all. I’m sick of seeing this idiocy every day.

What’s Acceptable in YA?

I keep coming across this question lately, particularly on the NaNoWriMo forums. I’ve covered this topic with regard to sex and violence already, but the topic bears repeating. Besides, those two posts are more like rants than guides. God, my writing was terrible when I wrote them last year. Anyway, moving on to the actual post.

The first mistake people writing or answering these questions often make is the assumption that YA is very clearly split into “upper” and “lower”. While some YA is closer to “adult” than “young”, it’s difficult to distinguish between the two. Think about it. The Twilight Saga by Stephenie Meyer includes sex, violence, nudity, “risk-taking” behaviour, and a very bloody and difficult birth. Despite the subject matter, young teenage girls read it. I’d rather not have comments ranting about how inappropriate Twilight is for teenage girls, because I’ve heard all the arguments before. The fact of the matter is this book is YA, and the audience tends towards the younger side than older side of teenagers. If this doesn’t demonstrate how hard it is to split YA into further age categories, I have no idea what will.

Another mistake the people asking the question make is they’re thinking too hard about their audience before even writing a first draft. While I know people have different writing techniques, at this stage if you’re too worried about your audience, it’s going to make writing the first draft a chore. Write the story as it needs to be told and think about your audience later.

If you’re honestly unsure of what is appropriate for YA fiction and having people telling you “anything goes” is not enough, go to the library or bookstore and read some YA for yourself. Reading in the category you wish to write in is the best way of learning. Read widely within YA. Read paranormal romance, fantasy, contemporary, “issue” books, steampunk, sci-fi, Christian, anything. This will give you a good feel for where your book sits and how much sex, violence, profanity or other contentious topics you can include.

However, I’m going to share my own views as both a teenage reader and writer of YA. I am your target audience. Maybe slightly older than most, but I’m still a teenager and I still read YA. The secret to writing the right balance of difficult topics boils down to your story. Is it important to the plot or character development that your characters have sex, throw a few punches, swear, do drugs? If yes, write it in. If not, you’re probably better off leaving it out because consciously throwing these kinds of things in just for the hell of it can backfire. I believe I may said this before, and excuse my language, but teenagers have finely-tuned bullshit detectors. We know when we’re being talked down to and we know when a writer is trying too hard to get in our good graces by including “edgy” subject matter.

Another thing to keep in mind is moderation. If you’ve chosen to include the topics you were concerned about, make sure you’re not too heavy-handed. A few well-placed curses can have more impact than one curse word per page for the whole of the story. One emotionally-charged sex scene can mean more than seven of them. As a general rule, the more often something happens in your story, the more readers will become desensitized to it. Including more mature subject matter in your story is a balancing act between too little and too much. The balance will be different for every story. In fact, the “everything in moderation” rule can apply to adult fiction, too.

Ultimately, the answer to “What’s acceptable in YA” boils down to whatever the story calls for. Handle the topic tactfully and you’ll be fine.

How to Get Followers

I originally wrote this as a guide to getting more people to follow/friend/circle you back. While this isn’t completely foolproof, just what I’ve picked up from interacting with others on social networking sites, doing these things will make it less likely you’re going to be dismissed as a spammer or someone who follows (circles/friends/etc.) everyone you see in the hopes of a small percentage following back. This guide can also be handy in obtaining followers in general.

Fill out your biography

Most social networking sites have a place for you to write about yourselves. Please fill this out. Be clear what your interests are, which should dictate who you follow and who is more likely to follow back. Google+ has a little tagline beneath your name you can use to list what you do. For example, my tagline is just “Writer, blogger, student”. That’s it. Yet it describes my interests.

Also, use the biography area allowed to describe yourself further, making your interests clear. Google+ also has a section allowing you to link to other profiles/websites of yours. Use it. Here’s my Google+ profile:

Google+ Profile

I clearly describe my interests in greater detail and give a little information about me. I also have included links to other profiles to help people find me in other places. I have a list of recommended links, but you don’t need to do that if you don’t want to. You can add more personal information if you want to, as long as it’s still clear why people should want to interact with you.

Here’s my Twitter profile information, which you have to write in 160 characters or less. Doable? Yes.

Blogger and aspiring writer, loves YA fantasy and paranormal romance, just finished high school. Chocolate addict.

This still covers my main interest, writing, and I also put a link to this website beneath it. The point of the profile is to prove you’re a real person and can offer something of interest to the people looking to follow you.

I don’t have a profile on Facebook open to people I don’t know personally, but you can fill out your “about me” section in a similar manner to Google+ if you want to network using the site.

Use a real photo of you

While people might follow you back if you have your pet as your profile picture, it can be slightly disconcerting. It’s best if you have a close-up so people can see your face well and make sure the image isn’t of poor quality. If you’re looking to network online, you’re better off showing your real face. Some people do make it work with a cartoon image or the like, but I’m definitely more wary of following them.

Also, don’t leave the default image given to you by the website. The Twitter “egg” image is an immediate red flag in particular, as the website is riddled with spammers.

Share publicly and regularly

If you want to network online, people need to be able to see what you’re sharing before they decide you’re worth following back. If your profile and timeline or stream are hidden, your chances of getting people following you back are low, unless you have already met your potential followers. You don’t have to share everything publicly, but you have to give some indication of what you’re all about.

Also, you want to share something on a regular basis so it doesn’t look like you’ve abandoned your account. If you’re busy, even a weekly check-in is better than nothing at all. I’ve been guilty of abandoning my accounts for sometimes months at a time, and it has not done me any favours, I assure you.

Share well

If you’re funny, be funny. If you’re not, don’t try to be. Use what you’re good at. Sharing interesting links or observations about something you find interesting will get you followers. I try to link to relevant blog posts every so often and retweet often. I also create my own content, either directly on the website or through this blog.

Be open-minded

It’s okay to be opinionated (I certainly am) but if you slam another person’s beliefs, you are going to lose a lot of potential followers. I touched on this in my previous post in the section about anti-traditional publishing rants. Social networking can be a great place for intelligent debate, as I’ve found on Google+ in particular. Sometimes you might need to tone down your views a little bit so you don’t alienate people you might otherwise get along well with.

For example, while I’m strongly for the continuation of traditional publishing and read primarily traditionally published authors, I’m willing to give self-published authors a chance and follow a lot of them on Google+ and Twitter. They might not share all my beliefs, but they can be a valuable source of information about writing. Most of them are also very friendly, save for the handful of kooks proclaiming the death of traditional publishing. Then again, you get some kooks on the traditionally published side as well.

I’ve also had a few problems with, shall we say, rude people. I tend to rant a lot about the portrayal of Young Adult fiction in the eyes of those who neither write nor read it. Someone tweeted me that YA was just a “marketing excuse” to sell mature themes to “children”. As both a reader of YA and a teenager who just got called a child (for the love of God, do not call teenagers children if you want to get out alive), I found this quite insulting. If you know someone holds a particular view, you’re better off not attempting to make them see “the error of their ways”. While I’m happy to engage in debate with another open-minded individual, I do not take kindly to people slamming my beliefs, and nor does anyone else.

I suppose the message to take away from this section is “play nice with others”.

Interact with other users

Whether it’s through the @ tweeting or through comments on Facebook or Google+, don’t be afraid to jump into conversations you feel you can contribute to. If you uphold the previous point, you may win yourself some new followers or, at least, the respect of those around you. However, you shouldn’t do this just to get followers. It should be something you do willingly. If you don’t feel comfortable doing this, you can observe conversations between the people you follow at first until you get the hang of things. I used to be extremely shy on the internet, but not so much anymore. I observed and dipped my toe in before plunging headfirst into conversation. It’s amazing the people you can meet online if you take the time to say hello.

When it comes to social networking, it’s important to be kind, courteous and open-minded but still retain your sense of self. You need to give fellow users a reason to follow back, something unique and interesting. Give them you.

Why I Didn’t Buy Your Book

The prevalence of social networking sites has made it easier than ever for writers to reach readers, regardless of whether they are traditionally published or self-published. However, it’s also extremely easy to go overboard with marketing or to just look like an idiot in front of people from all over the world.

While I’m not a published author, unless you count a couple of tiny anthologies published by a company that has since folded, I am a huge consumer of books. I have over a hundred books on my shelves at home and a never-ceasing “to be read” pile. I know what I like, and what I don’t. A lot of these following problems may only apply to self-published authors or only to those traditionally published, but it’s a good idea to keep all of them in mind. Some of these might not turn everyone off, but I can only speak from personal experience here.

Extreme Anti-Traditional Publishing Views

The majority of the books I read are traditionally published. That is, published by a publishing house. My favourite books are traditionally published and, while I’m not opposed to giving self-publishing books a chance, I will generally give preference to a traditionally published one because it has already gone through a vetting process of sorts.

If you are a self-published author and have an interesting novel concept I might read, the biggest turn-off for me is finding rant after rant against traditional publishing when I visit your blog. Seriously, if you’re trying to convince people who primarily read traditionally published books, rants about traditional publishing essentially insult the readers’ tastes, and, may I add, the decisions made by readers who are thinking of traditionally publishing their own works, like myself.

It’s okay to dislike traditional publishing, but ranting and raving about how they’re not in it for the authors, are liars, money-grubbers, etc. will only make you look like a conspiracy theorist. And very few readers take those kinds of people seriously. I certainly don’t. If the author is incapable of being reasonable and accepting there are both positive and negative sides to all publishing methods, I’m not going to think their work will be very good. While it might not be fair to judge someone’s fiction from their blog, if I see an extremely one-sided view of publishing, often descending into common insults flung at publishers that have ceased to have any real meaning, I’m going to assume your work is just as one-sided and lacking in complexity.

Poorly-formatted or poorly-spelled blog or website

I rant a lot about hating white text on black backgrounds, but that’s not the only thing that can go wrong with a blog or website. I often find potential authors following me on Twitter and the first thing I do while deciding whether or not to follow back is to look at their website. If it is messy, impossible to navigate or glaring spelling errors pop out at me, I am going to be much less inclined to read your book. If your website is this unprofessional, will your book be the same?

A clean format with easy to find links on the sidebar and across the top of the page beneath the heading are your best bet. Anything important should be listed there. I recently went on to an author’s website because the title of their book interested me, only to have a hell of a time finding a page about their books. I eventually found a picture of one of the books halfway down the page in the sidebar. It’s fine to do that, but maybe a little messy, as long as you also have an easy to find page where you have information about all your books. Readers don’t want to embark on a treasure hunt to find your books.

Also, proofread your damn blog posts and website content. If you aren’t a very good speller, get someone else to help you. PLEASE. And, while you’re at it, you better have found someone to proofread your book.

A Terrible Book Cover

Traditionally published authors often have no control over their covers, but self-published authors do. If you want your book to be bought, you had better shell out for a decent designer if you are not one yourself. The cover is your book’s clothing, if you will, and while some people wouldn’t be opposed to a cover equated to someone dressed in dirty rags, I assure you many people will. The old “never judge a book by its cover” adage may work with people, but the literal sense of book covers is incorrect. If your cover is absolutely hideous or boring, people will be turned off.

A Terrible Blurb

Oh, these exist. Sometimes it’s possible to get past clichéd descriptions of a plot if the plot itself actually sounds okay, but it’s not going to do you any favours. If you write something like Jane Doe was an ordinary girl living an ordinary life before the sexy John Smith arrived at her school, I will probably run away. The number of hackneyed plot elements described in that sentence has reached toxic levels. Yes, the plot elements can work in a novel if reworked well enough, but the “ordinary girl” cliché in particular is so overdone you will lose potential readers if you don’t put an interesting spin on it in your blurb. Some traditionally published authors, again, don’t have control over this, but some do and so do all self-published authors.

Sales Spam

The number of people on Twitter who do this is astounding. Let’s just say you follow someone because their blog looks interesting or they have a handful of interesting tweets. However, once you follow them you receive a direct message reading something along the lines of: “Hello, thanks for following. Here’s a link to my book.” Ugh. Maybe some people buy, but plenty don’t.

Repetitious tweets about your book are also a turn-off. It’s okay to link to, say, a review of your book every so often and make it clear in your profile description you do have a book out, but it’s not okay to beat your readers over the head with sales pitches. This sort of marketing is so intrusive and transparent that you will lose Twitter followers and possible sales.

You’re better off providing interesting tweets about things that may relate to your book. For example, if your book involves faeries, you might link to articles or other people’s books about faeries that you like. Most people on Twitter also share minor details about their lives on occasion and create content that will interest their followers. This is a much better alternative to over-marketing, and will make readers feel like they know you. If they like what they see, they might purchase your book.

More Information

Blog posts like this come around every so often, although generally from more experienced members of the writing community than me.

Rachelle Gardner recently posted What NOT to Blog About, which has a slightly broader focus than just turning off potential buyers.

A Writer On Writing posted last year Social networking (or what NOT to say to an editor), which is focused on networking in person and contains a real-world example of rude behaviour, which she experienced.

Nathan Bransford’s Ten Commandments for the Happy Writer is less about finding readers and more about not going insane from the publishing process, but some of the commandments are relevant to what’s been discussed in this post.

I hope I left you with something to think about. I also hope I haven’t offended anyone. I do try to temper my opinions on the internet so I don’t look like a raving lunatic. Here’s a smiley face to make things better :)

Female Characters, Mary Sues and Sexism

Let me make something clear from the outset: I am very sensitive to sexism. Possibly too sensitive. I am often told to “lighten up” when I get offended by those asinine sexist jokes some people just love to tell.

**Warning: there be Divergent spoilers ahead**

It seems to have become common practice for readers to refer to female characters they dislike as Mary Sues. The Mary Sue was originally referred to as an idealised insert of the author, found especially in fanfiction, where the original character was usually young, highly skilled for her age, gender, class or race, possessing an unusual eye or hair colour and loved by all but the most evil of other characters. These days Mary Sue is used to describe a number of characters from author inserts to overly perfect characters to characters a reader just doesn’t like. While there is a male variant, Gary Stu of Marty Stu, the phenomenon of Mary Sue is primarily a problem with female characters.

While some characters can be legitimately called Mary Sues – such as characters possessing only physical flaws which are not in fact character flaws (such as paraplegia or blindness) to generally evoke sympathy in the reader, or characters possessing 21st-century attitudes in a time when such attitudes were unacceptable – often readers will slap this label on female characters they just don’t like. I’ve seen this myself.

In a Goodreads discussion about whether or not people liked the novel Divergent, one person said they didn’t like it because Tris, the main character, was a Mary Sue. She is not. Tris, while brave and often selfless also has a bad temper and is too small to fight effectively in the competition she must enter for the chance to join the Dauntless faction. Yes, she has an unusual quality most of the other characters do not possess, but she is not the only character with this quality and she is not universally liked or universally hated. I also highly doubt she is an author self-insert. Therefore, by all possible definitions, she is not a Mary Sue.

It is the attitude that belies such statements that irks me, however. Why is a competent female character automatically called a Mary Sue? Why is this the standard insult for a female character one does not like? It is perfectly appropriate for male characters to be skilled, to swoop in and save the day, and they are rarely accused of Sue-ish behaviour. I see the accusations of Sue-ish behaviour from both male and female readers, but how did this become the norm in the first place?

I write strong male and female characters, yet it’s only the female characters I am worried about being accused of Sue-ish behaviour. In my NaNo novel my main character is not universally liked or hated, becomes disillusioned with her appearance but does display unusual magical and physical fighting ability. However, she also gets to butt kicked by other characters and has a hell of a temper. By all definitions, she is not a Sue, despite her unusual abilities. Chances are, however, that if the book were to be published, the first insult towards my character would be an accusation of her being a Mary Sue.

We as both writers and readers need to stop this ridiculous pattern. Rather than falling back on an old and overused insult, how about we give legitimate reasons why we don’t like a book or character? Accusing a character of Sue-ish behaviour is about as intelligent and thought out as calling an entire novel “stupid” or “boring”. Give reasons for your opinions, people! Either that, or get out of my internet :)

What Do You Get Out of NaNoWriMo?

A lot of writers on the NaNoWriMo forums seem to have people in their lives who don’t understand the draw of NaNoWriMo. These people seem to think that just because you don’t get some massive, tangible reward, it’s not worth it. So I thought I’d compile a list of what exactly writers can get out of NaNoWriMo:

  • The certificate if you win. Sure, this isn’t a massive thing, but it still gives one a sense of achievement.
  • A massive writing community
  • New friends
  • A completed manuscript, or a massive head start on one
  • Accountability. So many writers (myself included) tend to procrastinate if they’re not held to their goals. NaNoWriMo imposes a deadline and, with the aid of the community, gives you a kick in the pants to finish what you started.
  • Increased literacy, which is particularly potent for students
  • Greater appreciation for writers, novels and the written word in general
  • Possible publication. NaNoWriMo has its success stories, such as Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen, which started off as a NaNovel and now has a movie based on it.

All of that seems a pretty good incentive to do NaNoWriMo, and I’m sure there are other advantages I haven’t touched on yet.

Blogging Pet Peeves

I know I’m a small fry in the writing and blogging communities, but I’ve been around long enough to learn a thing or two. These days I find it easier to spot marks of amateurism in someone’s space online, particularly since I often commit such faux pas myself. Because I tend to make my own mistakes, I generally try to be forgiving when other people do. However, I have a set of habits, design features, etc. that really bother me.

  • White text on a black background. I hate this. I don’t know about you guys, but reading a blog with this colour scheme makes me see stripes.
  • Massive paragraphs. It’s so easy to get lost and makes skimming impossible. This is something I used to do all the time and I have to make an effort to break up my paragraphs to prevent it from happening again.
  • Not proofreading. Often the little, annoying mistakes will be picked up by the inbuilt spellcheck most blogging sites and some web browsers provide. It’s one thing to make a typo every so often, but most of the time error-ridden posts simply haven’t been proofread, resulting in a number of errors beyond what could possibly be acceptable.
  • Internet-speak. While I occasionally use “lol” and emoticons in my blogs and comments, I try to do this sparingly. What is really the problem here is replacing words with numbers or omitting letters, such as “you” becoming “u”. Unless you’re texting your friends or absolutely have to use this to cut down on Twitter characters, just don’t do it. It looks tacky.
  • Not researching articles. For your average blog post, this normally isn’t an issue, but I’ve been seeing this happen more and more often in places such as professional news websites, particularly editorials and opinion pieces. Yes, you can have an opinion, but that does not mean you don’t do legitimate research to back up your arguments. That’s the biggest thing that irritates me about anti-YA articles.
I think that covers the main issues. Most of it really is just common sense. We all make mistakes sometimes (I do more than most), but we owe it to ourselves to make our blogs, articles and the like the best they can be. After all, this is how we communicate online. Our writing represents who we are.

Rules? What Rules?

Hunting for advice on the internet is like going clothes shopping. Sure, something might look good on the rack, but sometimes when tried on it doesn’t fit, or is just plain ugly.

While I don’t remember much of my early days among the online writing community, I do recall seeing certain pieces of advice over and over again, especially “show, don’t tell”. The problem with having people set rules in place for writing is they simply don’t work for everyone.

In relation to “show, don’t tell”, there are places where telling, generally defined as narrative summary (saying something happened rather than giving a blow-by-blow account), is more effective than showing certain events through action. Transition scenes often fall under the category of “telling”, especially when the author needs to get characters somewhere quickly without wasting time on a fully fleshed-out scene that ultimately serves no real purpose. That’s one case when “telling” is more effective than “showing”.

Word count goals also fall under the umbrella of subjectivity. While one writer may write 1,000 words a day, another may struggle to get 200. That doesn’t mean either writer is doing something wrong. They’re simply using their own method. The idea that writers need to write every day is another. Sometimes it’s just not practical.

Many people say you shouldn’t edit while still writing the first draft of a story, while others successfully edit as they go. Some people advocate social media, while others say it sucks too much time away from writing. We live in a world of contradictions.

There’s only one way to deal with conflicting advice: choose what works for you. My own methods are chaotic, and certainly aren’t recommended by professionals, but they work for me. Some writers are plotters, others are pantsers. It takes time and experimentation to discover your ideal technique. It’s important not to let someone else’s idea on how writing should be force you into working in a way you find ineffective or don’t enjoy.

You should take any writing advice or rules with a healthy dose of skepticism. It okay to try new things, but don’t be afraid to ditch anything that is detrimental to you or your writing, even if it’s something I said… especially if it’s something I said.