So yesterday I offered up some writing advice about deleting your first draft when you’re done. You can read it here if you want. It generated a lot of passionate responses. A few people accused me of just being inflammatory for the clicks or said the post was straight-up clickbait. I do want to address that quickly.
When I blog, which hasn’t been often lately, I try to write posts that will generate discussion. However, I’m not writing for the clicks. My blog has never been a huge traffic generator. It’s a place for people interested about me or my books or what I might have to say to stop by. I don’t believe in writing inflammatory posts simply to generate clicks. Why? Because I don’t care if people read my blog. I’d rather they read my books. And if I write some blog post that pisses people off as a means to get them to my blog, chances are that’s definitely not going to turn them into a reader of my books. I don’t sell ads, I don’t make money off my blog. Purposely pissing people off isn’t a sound strategy. I do understand that people aren’t always going to agree with the things I write about, and that’s cool. I neither want nor need people to agree with me. That’s what makes the world fun. But I honestly only write about things I genuinely care about or about which I think might be useful. Clicks are meaningless. I’d rather write something I’m passionate about that only one person reads than something inflammatory that a hundred people read.
Now…a word about advice. Most advice is bullshit. Advice isn’t a rule. It’s not a decree. When a writer (or anyone really) offers you advice, what they’re really saying is “Here is how I do the thing. Doing the thing this way works for me. Doing the thing this way might also work for you. Give it a try if you want.” A kind Twitter user told me my advice yesterday was rubbish because it might give a new writer the impression that I was telling them how they ought to do the thing. That they might see my advice as a rule. My initial reaction was to think that no one could possibly see advice that way. But then I remembered how long I labored under the ridiculous notion that real writers weren’t supposed to use contractions in their prose. Yep. I’d read a piece of advice that said something to that effect, and for years I followed it religiously.
I still stand by my advice. Someone gave me that advice, I tried it, and it changed my writing process for the better. I offer that advice to writers who might find it useful. But it’s only advice. The majority of my writer friends think my process is ridiculous. Maybe they’re right. That’s the thing about writing advice. You take what’s useful to you and ignore the rest.
Anyone who tells you that there are hard and fast rules to writing is lying. I think all advice is useful. Some is more useful than others. Dialog tags, for instance. It’s pretty good and solid advice to rely mostly on “said” as a dialog tag. It’s still not a rule, though. You, as the writer, are free to ignore it. Some writing advice is only useful to some writers. I can’t count the number of writers who have written posts saying real writers should outline. I’m a real writer. I’ve published 4 books, with two more out in the next 13 months. Outlining before I’ve written anything absolutely kills my writing. That advice may be great for the majority of writers, but not for all. My advice about deleting your first draft may only be great for a handful of writers, but not for the majority. And that’s okay. Honestly, if it only helps 1 writer, then at least I’ve passed it on the way it was passed on to me.
But I want to make it clear, especially to those of you who are new to writing. Those who have just finished your first manuscript. You’re going to read a lot of writing advice. Some of it good. Some of it not good. Some of it will apply to you, some of it won’t. You may try some and realize it doesn’t work. Some of it may resonate with you in a way that sets off that lightbulb over your head the way tossing my first draft did the first time I did it. When you read all the different, often conflicting advice, don’t be afraid to try different things. Use what works, ignore what doesn’t. Because at the end of the day, how you write isn’t what makes you a writer. It’s simply that you write. Readers don’t care how we get those books into their hands, only that we get them there.
And if all the advice is making your head spin, shut off the internet and ignore the lot of it.
Oh, and I also want to add that another kind Twitter user pointed out my misuse of “insane” in my previous post. As someone who has suffered from depression and mental illness, I should have been more thoughtful when I wrote. I changed the wording of that post, but rather than deleting my usage of “insane” I simply crossed it out because I think it’s more useful to learn from my mistakes than to simply pretend I never made them.