Dear Abby: Kiss My Butt

I’ve been debating whether or not to write this post for some time now. Most days the subject doesn’t bother me and I don’t even think about it. Other days it makes me want to bang my head against the wall just so I can avoid it with a concussion.

The topic is one of advice blogs for writers.

I love advice. I do, despite the title of this post and the first few sentences, I really do like/read/benefit from advice blogs. My problem with them is my own. I become addicted and then overwhelmed. It goes from catching an interesting title on Twitter and checking out what a fellow writer has to say to reading every single piece of advice out there and trying to shove it into my novel with every sentence. It’s not pretty.

I ran into this brick wall this past weekend. I was finally (FINALLY!) ready to put some words down on paper. The time came to give a voice to the characters that have been only talking to me for the past few weeks. I sat down in front of the computer and I froze. I couldn’t find the right words for the opening.

I kept hearing different voices in my head and they weren’t from my characters. It was the voices of “they.” (Cue the loud, shrilling scream here)

You know who “they” are; everyone talks about them. They say you should do this and they say you shouldn’t do that. Did you read what they posted today:

“The first page, no, the first paragraph, no, the first sentence is the most important in your book. You must get it right or no one will buy your book. Ever.”

“Don’t use a Prologue, no one reads them anyways.”

“You shouldn’t use flashback scenes to explain histories.”

“Only use adverbs when you’re writing on Tuesdays at 7:23pm and only then if your protagonist has blonde hair, green eyes and a slight hangover.” (Ok, I made this one up, but you get my point.)

It was as if all these advice posts were floating around in my head leaving no room for my characters. I needed to make a change.

I started noticing that a lot of the information from these posts would help me during the editing process, not necessarily the writing process. That’s where my problem came in.  I would read these posts, get excited about writing and want to use what I’ve learned right away.

Only when I would go to write I couldn’t find a way around the mistake so I would just stare at my screen waiting for inspiration to hit. However, my inspiration was hanging out with the adverbs in the flashback I was going to write. I would get frustrated making it ten times harder to write. I’d end up closing my computer to go read a book or watch tv.

Now, I just write. Sometimes when I write something that I know someone has advised against I note it so I can come back and check it out later. I feel that right now my job is to get the words down on paper. Editing while writing just isn’t for me; its too much pressure. I am, however, looking forward to using all the things I’ve learned when it does come time to editing.

I still read a lot of advice blogs, just not as much as I used to and it involves a lot of skimming. I usually tend to read the ones that really catch my attention. For instance, there was one on adverbs I read and bookmarked. Have you noticed that I use a lot of adverbs? Seriously, I need to watch that. 😉

Do you guys read a lot of advice blogs? What are some of your favorite blogs for advice? Does it help or hurt your actual writing? How do you handle incorporating advice into your writing?

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About Karen DeLabar

A writer who divides her time between her family and her computer while sparing some time to her other loves of theatre, books and scotch.
This entry was posted in Blog, Uncategorized, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

33 Responses to Dear Abby: Kiss My Butt

  1. Lisa says:

    If you’d like my advice . . . sorry, I couldn’t resists. Seriously, I value what I have learned from classes and reading, but ultimately I do find the rules can make me freeze. Sometimes you just have to write.

    • Kaye Peters says:

      Ha! I don’t blame you, I don’t think I could have resisted that one either!

      I’m grateful that there are a lot of people out there willing to share their experiences in hopes to help others. It’s awesome, but at the same time I need to remember they’re out there for when I’m ready for them. I need to just keep my head down and focus on the story at hand.

  2. 2blu2btru says:

    I’m not a fan of advice blogs for writing, on the whole. I follow more people’s writing journeys than actual advice. Beyond the mechanics of language, advice is merely suggestion. What works for some writers in some genres may not work for you in your genre. I think it’s important to know genre conventions and such, but mostly I learned them and then bend or break a few. I am more interested in telling the story than making it conform.

    I like suggestions, so I guess by extension I like advice. However, I don’t always take every suggestion I’m ever given. The only writing advice I try to follow aside from mechanics is to pick strong verbs rather than resting on adjectives and adverbs to describe something. I’ll give it a few tries, and if I can’t think of a better verb right then, I go with what I have; I can always correct it during the editing process. (I am guilty of editing while I write, though. It’s not a good practice, and makes my writing take forever, but my first drafts turn out exceptionally well).

    • Kaye Peters says:

      I get hung up on word choice, that is about the only “editing” I do while writing. Other than that I just try to get the words down, sometimes that is hard enough!

      I noticed that the blogs that I’m reading more of are the ones by people who are on the same path as I am. I usually get more out of learning from their mistakes and what helps them more than I do from authors who have been there and are looking back. However, like I said in my post, there are plenty of blogs that I bookmark, especially ones about finding an agent, writing a query letter and the like, that I can look at when I’m ready.

  3. Shay Fabbro says:

    To be honest, I rarely listen to the advice unless it “feels” right to me. For every person saying one thing, there is another ranting that the opposite is true. I am glad that I don’t have a degree in writing or literature or editing or any of that. It is liberating to be able to just sit in front of the computer and let the words flow, and the “rules” be damned! Of course, on the re-read, I am often horrified by the plot holes, missing commas, the smattering of “that” everywhere, the adverbs (I seriously love them too!!!), passive voice (if it wasn’t for Word telling me a section is passive voice I wouldn’t even know what this means), dialog issues, etc.

    BUT as I go through and edit, I tend to just do what sounds/feels right, along with using Autocrit to help me “see” some of the more glaring errors. And then I ship the manuscript to a good friend who DOES have a degree in English and knows all those pesky rules to help me polish even more.

    I have read a lot in my lifetime and I find glaring errors in even the most prestigious authors that get a ton of press time, that have the use of editors and big publishing houses behind them. Some of these errors make it difficult to even finish the damn book, but most I just pass right over and don’t really care. So rather then totally obsess about making my books utterly and completely perfect, I simply ask my beta readers to tell me what they think. If THEY sail along, don’t get confused, know the details and the big picture, then I am not going to worry that I may have a POV shift in the same scene, or that maybe a should have used a comma in the dialog, or maybe I should have gotten rid of 3 adverbs. ***shrug*** If the readers are happy, then I am happy 😀

    • Kaye Peters says:

      I like the way you think and I have a degree in English. (Never thought I ‘d actually use it, but there you go.)

      You’re right; when I’m writing I tend to go with the flow. I know when something doesn’t feel right and I’ll correct it. When I go back to edit I may think “Oh my God, I shouldn’t write while participating in #pubwrite on Twitter” but then that’s what editing is for. 🙂

      The advice blogs shouldn’t be louder than the voices of my characters and for awhile there they were. That’s how I knew that I needed to take a step back and just write. I’m not writing for them, I’m writing for me, when I remember that the whole process is a lot more enjoyable.

      (New definition – Editing: To catch mistakes made while writing during #pubwrite) 😉

    • Savana Quinn says:

      Shay, you have a great point – for every piece of advice out there, there seems to be someone saying the opposite. We need to keep this in mind as we read blogs, as what works well for one person may not be the best idea for us. 🙂

  4. Tombstone says:

    I do what I want. If not, I find myself unhappy. Sometimes I’m unhappy because I should have taken someone’s advice, but then I am grateful to learn from the mistake . . . and I go back to doing what I want.

    • Kaye Peters says:

      I need to adapt your way of thinking. I shouldn’t care what others say or think – they’re not writing my story, I am, or at least I’m trying to. I think learning from your own mistakes is better in the long run, anyways.

      Thanks for that. I’m going to start doing what I want. Starting with making pants-less Friday a real thing. 😀

  5. Savana Quinn says:

    I was struggling with trying to follow everyone’s advice, and it was making my head spin. I felt like I was getting nowhere and was ready to give up.
    I still read the advice blogs, but not as religiously. Like you, I also bookmark sites for later, when they may be more applicable. Right now, I am still at the point where getting the words down is the most important.
    Since I have stopped putting as much focus on following everyone’s advice, I find the word come much quicker without nearly the effort. Even better, it is fun again! 🙂

    • Kaye Peters says:

      Yeah, what were we thinking?

      I think Tombstone up there is right. Do what you want, if it works for you, then go with it. If not, fix it, learn from your mistake and move on.

    • Shay Fabbro says:

      And what the hell is the point of writing if we aren’t enjoying it, right?? 😀

      • Kaye Peters says:

        You are just on a roll today, aren’t you! You’re cracking me up!
        But you’re right, too, what is the point if we’re not having fun? And what is more fun than writing without pants? Come on people, join the revolution!

      • Savana Quinn says:

        I agree, Shay. There is no point if we can’t have fun while doing it! (I should point out that there was an advice blog that said just that–if you aren’t having fun, your reader won’t either. Maybe I should actually listen to that one!)

  6. Shay Fabbro says:

    Hmmmmmmmmm…more fun than writing without pants? Let’s see…

    Writing, without pants, with Gerard Butler in the room 🙂 That’s MY idea of heaven!!

  7. Kaye Peters says:

    Seriously, our blog turned into a slumber party. 😉 Pillow fight!

  8. Shay Fabbro says:

    I ♥ you girls for putting a smile on my face 😀

  9. Jamie DeBree says:

    Wait – is Gerard Butler wearing pants? Because that doesn’t quite seem fair…. 😉

    I’ve largely quite reading writing advice on blogs. When I’m editing, I may seek out a certain issue and read all the different views on it, so I can decide what to do, but ultimately, I trust my editor to point out any glaring grammatical errors, and my beta readers to tell me about plot holes and continuity errors I might have.

    That’s not to say I don’t still study craft…I’ll occasionally take an online course, or read through a book on writing, but dwelling on the subject does tend to suck all the fun right out of a draft – apt, I suppose, with as popular as vamps are these days…

    • Kaye Peters says:

      I think its fair to say that advice blogs have their place mostly in the editing process, at least for me. I focus too much on what I should be doing in regards to grammar and structure that I don’t give enough time to the actual story.

      I agree with you that studying the craft should be an ongoing thing, there is always room for improvement.

      Thanks for stopping by our slumber par…er, I mean blog. 🙂

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