4 Tips to Make Sense of Writing Tips

Hey all! Before I get into today’s post, I just wanted to remind you guys of my new Before and After feature. It could be a way for you to get your hands on a really inexpensive custom design, so if you haven’t yet, go check out my announcement.

Okay! Time to get into the post. This is last week’s vlog that went live a bit too late, which is why it’s only being put on my blog today. As always, the script follows the video, but if you choose that, you’re missing an awesome Vader impersonation…

Show don’t tell. Never stop writing. Only write when you’re feeling inspired. Never start with a dream sequence. Never use a narrator. Never use prologues. Always plan ahead of writing. Never plan ahead. Edit as you write. NEVER edit as you write.

That’s only a small sample of the writing rules that one can get out there. And as you can see, a lot of it is contradictory. So what’s a writer to do?

In my sixteen or so years of writing stories, I’ve managed to develop a way to approach writing rules that makes it all… well… make a bit more sense. And since I’m awesome, I thought I’d share the tips with you.

Yes, I’m aware that this is a tip vlog about understanding tips, but there you go.

Let’s just get into it.

Tip #1: Before you even start researching writing, it’s a good idea to develop your own set of best practices first. 

The truth is that it’s a mad, senseless writing world out there. It seems like every writer has “advice” out there, and as someone who’s been around the block, a lot of advice out there is patently bad.

Terrible. Terrible advice.

And if you go into your research armed with your own personalized knowledge of what already works for you, you’re not going to be confused into the dark side all that easily. *Insert Vader Breath Here.*

Seriously though. If you know what works and someone’s acting like you’re doing it wrong, you know to roll your eyes and disregard at will.

Which brings me to my next tip.


Tip #2: If someone’s trying to convince you that theirs is the only, best way… they’re giving you bad advice. 

I don’t care what they’re saying. If they start off from the point of view that there is no other way to succeed at writing, you can’t trust the rest of what they’re saying. The guys that seem a bit hesitant, usually prefacing with a disclaimer of “I know other people do things differently and it works for them, but I find that…” usually are the ones that are worth listening to.

In particular, and this is a sad thing, there are some big names out there that try to sell themselves and their writing by making themselves seem like these literary geniuses that have the soul true knowledge to writing success.

 
DON’T LISTEN TO THEM.

Another bonus rule of thumb: If someone sounds like they’re talking out their arse, they probably are.

Tip #3: Understand why something is considered to be a rule.

Despite everything, some writers have a real, legitimate desire to help others, but because they’re not that experienced yet, they don’t quite understand what they’re saying. So their response is to come across as being dead certain about absolutes.

Never use adverbs. 

Never start with dream sequences. 

Never open with prologues.

Always do this. 

Never do that. 

The problem with subscribing yourself to these absolutes is that you’re actually limiting your own writing. But at the same time, those “rules” are there for a reason. So if you know those reasons, you’ll also know when and how you can bend the rules.

And that neatly brings me to my final tip.

Tip #4: Treat writing rules not as the x number writing commandments, but rather as guidelines. 

As I said before, a lot of the “rules” out there are considered to be such for some really good reasons.

That does not mean you’re doomed to always follow them slavishly. You’re the writer. You’re literally the master of your own story.

And if you say that rule doesn’t apply to you, that rule doesn’t apply to you.

Just remember, though, that if veering off from the rules results in bad writing, your readers will kick your ass for it. So don’t be irresponsible either.



And that’s basically it for me. Next week, I’ll share my own list of off-the-beaten-path writing rules that you might find useful. In the comments, let everyone know, which writing rules do you often disregard? 

The Importance of Stepping Back

Hey lovely people! My vlog post ended up coming a week late, because I caught the flu. Sigh. Really complicated everything. It’s finally done, though, so I hope you enjoy it. 🙂

Going off of the comments I got last time, I decided to keep posting my script below the video for those of you who prefer to read.

I want to talk about a really understated bit of advice that can be vital to your survival as a writer. Namely: That sometimes, you just need to step back, take your foot off the gas pedal.

As you might know from my more recent vlog updates, things haven’t been going well with me lately. Basically, nothing has been quite going my way since 2014, but that was okay, because I was taught that old truism that we all get fed with mother’s milk:

If you work hard, everything will work out. 

Eh…

Turns out not so much.

See, in the years since 2014, I’d worked 16 hour days, often more in order to do more, and I’d do that until I was on the edge of breaking emotionally. I never stopped writing. Never stopped building at businesses and marketing and literally anything that I *knew* would get me ahead.

And it just kept feeling like everything was turning to dust under my feet.

The worst part? None of the hours I’d spent, of the health I’d risked, of the life I’d postponed… none of it actually meant anything.

Because there are always assholes out to get you. And they will steal your life and your hours of work and your very soul if they can, just to benefit themselves.

So yeah. After relentlessly pushing myself for almost four years, there came a point where I just…couldn’t. Not going to go into detail, but I came to the point where I was so exhausted that I couldn’t fight anymore.

I couldn’t keep acting like everything was okay and that it was business as usual, because it wasn’t.

And so, I pulled back. From as much as I could. Obviously there are some commitments you can’t avoid without incurring long-term damage, but if there was something I could leave with a cost I could tolerate, I did it.

This sadly included my writing, because the stresses of my life had basically drained my creativity. So instead of forcing myself to write, I forced myself not to. Instead, I spent my writing hours doing needlepoint or crocheting. Anything with an almost mindless, repetitive motion.

What this did was it allowed me to grieve. It allowed me to feel. It let me process my pain and frustration instead of allowing me to suppress them like I’d been doing for years. It put me in a place where I could regain some perspective. Where I could look at the problems and at least get to the point where I could see the value in the things I was doing again.

And that’s probably the most important thing about stepping back. When we’re writers, we basically take on an extra job, and when we’re published, marketing that book becomes another job. Which means that it’s go go go go all the time with no stopping, and when things aren’t going as well as they should, it’s so easy to be overwhelmed. It’s too easy to lose the meaning of what we’re doing in the mad rush to get it all done.

So it becomes imperative that we step back and breathe at least for a few days, just to regain a sense of balance before taking everything on again.

What do you do to recharge when you’re pulling back? 

Insecure Writer’s Support Group: It’s Never as Good as You Remember

It’s the first Wednesday of the month, which means it’s time for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. The brainchild of Alex J. Cavanaugh, IWSG is a monthly bloghop where writers can share their doubts, fears and insecurities. In supporting each other, we can then see that we’re really not alone.
You’re welcome to join. All you have to do is click here for more info and to sign up.

As I’ve been mentioning lately, I’m busy updating (and in a lot of ways, upgrading) my first two books in The War of Six Crowns. Since I’m a bit of a perfectionist, I couldn’t leave things at changing the covers and fonts. Oh no, I decided to give the books another proofreading pass.
After all, it’s a well-known fact that mistakes slip through the finest of nets. So it couldn’t hurt, right?
Well.
I finished reading through The Vanished Knight yesterday with a growing sense of insecurity. Not because it was bad, but because it was good. The characters’ voices sing in this story. There’s a sort of poetry to the way it’s written.
It’s just… amazing.
Almost to the point where it’s shocking to think that I wrote it.
And Book 3… just isn’t on that level.
And that got me down.
 
But then I gave myself a mental slap. 
 
See, I first published The Vanished Knight in 2013. And before that, I spent two years struggling to get through writing it and the sequel. In fact, it was such a pain in my ass that I almost quit writing altogether. Gasp! I know it’s hard to think that I’d seriously contemplate quitting.
But The Vanished Knight and The Heir’s Choice were so hard to write that it damn near convinced me I couldn’t write for shit.
Fortunately, I had a lot of awesome blogging buddies (including you guys in the IWSG) who could talk me down, and I didn’t give up.
After that, The Vanished Knight alone when through over 30 (count them. THIRTY) revision and editing rounds to get it into the shape it’s in now.
And I guess I forgot about all that because one doesn’t remember pain.
But the history is there.
The struggle was there.
And expecting myself to draft out the sequel to the books that almost made me quit while expecting it to look like The Vanished Knight looks now is lunacy.
So this is a reminder.
 
Don’t ever compare your drafts to books that have been published. (Be they your own or someone else’s.)
Those books look so good because of a huge amount of work that went into polishing them. Work that you still need to do, but that you can’t do if you’re crippled by the idea that you’re a bad writer.
So.
Stop moping because a book is soooooo much better than yours, and just write yours. Who knows? The book you’re working on right now might just be good enough to send someone else moping later.
Do you get down when comparing the quality of your writing to published works? 
 Before you go, the Mni Wiconi Bloghop in support of Standing Rock has been extended to 7 January, if you’d still like to sign up. There are prizes to be won too, so check it out. 🙂