I try to be careful about giving advice on writing online. For one, though I’ve been writing since I was in elementary school and ‘serious’ writing since ohh…. ’02 I am by no means an expert. And the more I learn, the more I work on improving my own weak areas the more I’ve come to accept there is no way in hell I will EVER know it all. I get better, I work hard at trying to make the story I’m trying to tell clearer and crisper. But I still have a long way to go. I’m not where I want to be yet.
When I see people proclaiming they know the ‘right’ way to write, or the ‘best’ way to do [insert issue here] it frankly pisses me off. Why? Because if there is anything I have learned since joining online writing communities and discussions is that there in no magic pill. There’s no ONE way to do things. There are many methods of getting the story down.
I overheard/viewed a conversation on twitter by a person notorious for spouting know-it-all crap. This person told another writer that if you wanted to write a novel like a movie then study how to write out sccreenplays instead.
I had a hard time biting my tongue, I’ll admit. First of all writing a screenplay and writing a novel are two distinctly different animals. Second this know-it-all has never actually finished a short story, much less a novel. Now I don’t know about yall, but if I’ve never done something, lets say knitting (which I’ve tried but never gotten the hang of). How can I tell someone how to knit a scarf if I’ve never managed to get two straight rows without dropping a few stitches?
Bottom line, I can’t with any authority. Because I really have no fricken clue what ‘stitch two *purl three’ means (and I may have messed up THAT example, though probably proved my point right there :P)!
So how can this person, with little to no actual writing experience dare to give any kind of advice on writing fiction? This person has absolutely no credibility!
And that credibility thing is important to me.
‘Online’ gives people a platform to shout out their opinions and their thoughts on whatever subject they want. Whether or not they know what the hell they are talking about.
I am cautious about what advice I listen to. What opinions I take to heart. I have my own opinions sometimes heavily influenced by people and opinions I hold in high regard. I also try (I do fail at times, I’m far from perfect) to do my research and make sure that the person giving me advice on whatever subject they’re talking about, has the proof to back up their claims.
So I’ll give a bit of advice here, something to keep in mind when you observe and/or participate in online writer discussions, conversations & chats;
- If someone EVER spouts off theirs is the one true way of writing/pubbing/editing, know they’re wrong, and most likely power seeking cretins. Some people get a high telling other people what to do and how to do it. And they usually don’t have the background to back it up. There are many roads leading to Rome, not any of them is the ONLY one. If something doesn’t work for you, feel free to try something else.
- Do your research. Before you take their advice. If someone is giving out lessons/advising on any given subject make sure they know what the hell they’re talking about. As an example, I’m currently taking an online workshop called Before You Hit Send which is geared towards improving your self-editing skills. It’s been put together by Angela James who is executive editor of Carina Press, this is a gal who knows what she is talking about. She WORKS as an editor and has done it for years. I’ve heard a lot of very good things about this workshop by people who have taken the course. I did my research before I decided to invest in the workshop. Do your research, investigate whoever is giving you advice (myself included :P) before you take the advice. It could save you a lot of frustration in the long run.
- Take everything you hear with a grain of salt. People get emotional, when they get emotional they sometimes (ok a LOT of times) will spout off. Sometimes someone has an axe or three to grind. Keep that in mind when dealing with the interwebs. That person I mentioned earlier has a hair trigger response to what they perceive as criticism I made a comment in one twitter chat that had nothing to do with this person, and he/she jumped to conclusions that had nothing to do with ME, and everything to do with his/her own ego, and need to be right. And I’ve seen this person do it to others. Smile, nod, and chalk it up to big fish in a little pond syndrome.
- Follow your gut. Dudes, if you get that uneasy feeling, that maybe this person isn’t quite on the up and up, chances are you’re right. If something doesn’t feel right, if a piece of advice doesn’t work for you DON’T FOLLOW IT!
- Keep an open mind. The loudest talker isn’t always correct. Sometimes people talk to hear themselves talk. On the other hand, sometimes the person who is talking does have a background to back up what they are trying to say. Don’t just dismiss someone because of how loud, or quiet they are. I will refer back to doing your research before taking any advice. But do keep an open mind, sometimes you’ll find something that clicks in an otherwise sea of BS.
I’ve been involved in online writer communities in one form or another for over 10 years now. I’ve seen a lot of people giving out a lot of advice, some good, some bad, some I’m still scratching my head over. Be wise, be wary, and trust thyself. You know more than you realize you do, even if you are a new writer. Be willing to learn, to try new things. Look for your fav writers online, often times they will have links to writer helping sites, blogs or they may also have their own section geared towards helping writers. Read opposing opinions to get a broader view of any given issue. And have fun, enjoy your writing, your creativity. (ok, some people write and hate it, but I have a hard time relating to that).
And now I have put off dishes and laundry for too long. I’ll leave you with one of my favorite speeches of all time:
* purl not pearl my knitting expert friend informed me…see? SEE?? I proved my point XD