Wednesday, March 7

Horrible Advice Writers Hear All the Time - or - In which I May or May Not Rant

Advice: Once your work is on submission to agents/editors, work on your next book. That way, you won't obsess about your submission because you will be focused on your WIP.

Truth: This is a lie. NOTHING will EVER take your mind off your queries/submissions. Ever. Period. Just accept it. Yes, it can help to have distractions like other hobbies, or a new WIP. However, trying to dilute yourself into thinking you will somehow forget that there is someone out there who currently holds, not only your dreams, but potentially your entire future in their hands, and may or may not be deciding your fate right now at this very second, is not only impossible, it's ludicrous. Furthermore, the people who tell you that you should be able to 'distract' yourself are really doing nothing more than making your stress worse. It makes you think that something is wrong with you; as in , "Everyone else seems to be able to work on other things and not obsess, why can't I? Is something wrong with me? Maybe I'm not cut out for this." And that, my friends, is bullshit.

Querying/submitting will take over your mind. You will think about it countless times, every day. Embrace it. If you don't find yourself obsessing over the agents you query, and the publishers who have your work, going to their websites and looking up their stats, and 'about us' sections, and doing pointless searches on Google trying to find out how long it will take to hear back, even though you know that no matter what you find it won't make you feel any better, then YOU are the one who is not normal. The normal people spend most of their days wearing out the refresh button on their e-mail user face. In the world of the aspiring writer--that IS normal.

Advice: Show, Don't Tell

Truth: Now, before you point your fingers at me and screech blasphemer!, let me explain. Yes, 'show, don't tell' is excellent advice for many writers on many occasions. I have gotten many a comment bubble on my MS from my agent during revisions that said exactly that. However, too many writers lately have taken the phrase 'show, don't tell', and translated it to mean that 'telling' is this horrible, terrible thing that should never be done ever--which couldn't be less true. Tell is extremely important in writing. You can't possibly show every little thing that happens in a story, or your book would be the size of a cinder block. I recently read a story where there was a scene in which the main character was meeting her friend for coffee. The author described the MC's arrival at the coffee shop, getting in line, standing in line, looking at the menu, deciding what to order, arriving at the register, placing her order, taking the money out of her purse (I kid you not), paying for the order, walking over to pick up her drink, looking over the open tables, choosing a seat, and sitting down. THEN her friend arrived and the scene actually started. And no, there was no symbolism, or deeper meaning behind the process, and the book was filled with other pointless wordy descriptions that addend nothing to the story but word count. Instead of showing us everything, she could have said, "Mandy arrived at the corner coffee shop, ordered a caramel latte--her favorite--and took a seat by the window and waited for Sarah to arrive. There; in one sentence we've summed up what was literally three and a half pages of writing.

Some writers, like the above author, seem to believe that all you have to do is 'show' everything, and you will be good. What is rarely explained is that the idea of 'showing, not telling' usually applies more to emotional content, as in, 'don't tell me Sally loves Greg, show me', or 'don't tell me that brothers Matt and Bill have a tense relationship, show me.' Show me what should be seen, but it's okay to tell me the rest. A good book is about balance. Finding the right combination of showing AND telling that allowes your story to come to life.

Last, here is a little advice from me: Do what works for you.

If Nora Robbers, or JK Rowling, or Stephen King, or (insert wildly successful author here) gave you advice about writing, would you take it? Why? Because they are successful, or because it's good advice? What it it wasn't good advice, would you try to do it anyway? How many of you out there have tried to force yourselves to 'write everyday', because it's what everyone says you should do? What about social media, how many of you have joined sites you never would have simply because you 'should'?

Well I say to hell with that. I am taking a stand.

Twitter is one of the social media avenues I 'forced' myself to join, but now very much enjoy, and in the spirit of writers everywhere who are tired of being told what to do, I am starting the hashtag #DoWhatWorksForYou. I invite all of you and anyone else you would like to share it with to join me and stop taking crap from all the writing world's know-it-alls. I am sick of reading tweets where people do nothing but post their word count for the day (because come on, we all know you are just bragging, and want us all to say, 'wow, good job!' Well I say screw you!), or the people who say I need a 'special writing space', or that I should schedule my writing time and allow for to no interruptions (yeah, tell that to my kids' diapers!), or anything else that people 'in the know' say I need to do if I want to be 'successful'. I write on my couch, whenever I have time, sometimes not at all, can't write past 8 or 9 o'clock on most days because I am too tired, and that's what works for me. So there.

#DoWhatWorksForYou  Join the uprising.

*End Crabby Rant*


  1. Great post!!! That's one reason I love your blog--you're never afraid to say what a lot of us are thinking ;o) I agree with the "DON'T show everything" rule. There's nothing worse than a book where the author feels the need to describe every single room they walk into, or every single character they run into. I say, leave a little to the imagination!

  2. Thank you, thank you, thank you...

  3. This was great, you are so awesome! You made my day! Tell it sister! :o)

  4. Aww! Thanks Angela! I'm glad you liked it! I was worried I would just come across bitchy. ;) Glad you got something out of it.

    You are very welcome Anonymous!

    Adriana - Tellin' it hard, girlfriend! ;D (PS: How come your sexy avatar from Twitter doesn't show up when you comment?)

  5. I use Wordpress and don't have a Blogger account, so I can't sign in and have to put my name in manually. They say you can sign in with Twitter, but it has never worked for me. Glad you like my pic! It is actually a shot my sister-in-law took. :)

    Preach it and teach it sister!! I couldn't agree more--with all of your points. Especially the bit about distracting yourself so you won't dwell on the fact that an editor is reading your book--um, WHAT?! We've only been dreaming of this day for are we supposed to bury our heads in the sand and pretend it's not happening??!!

    I will vote for you if you run for president. That is all. :)

  7. This was wonderful! I'll be coming back often.

  8. Great post! I just discovered your blog and I'm following you on Twitter(@carmenschronicl). And yes, I created the Twitter account because that's what we're supposed to do. And you're right about all the advice we're given, most of them don't work for me either. Thanks for writing this; it made me feel better.

  9. Bethany - I already have some picket-signs made, I'll send you one. ;)

    Thanks Lesslie, nice to meet you!

    Carmen - I'm following you now too! ;) Thanks for stopping, and come back soon!