Monday, June 19, 2017

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.


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? 


  1. Great points! What I love about being a write is breaking the rules too:)

  2. Really gotta be careful with the writing rules. Sometimes they bend and you get away with it; mostly they break and youre left holding the pieces.

    1. I see it as a balancing act. And honestly, if the story doesn't work because of a rule I broke, I just rewrite the story to be better. :-)

  3. So basically, the best way of breaking rules is to break them consciously. That's probably a tip worth remembering. You have to go with whatever works for each story.

    1. Yeah that's what I believe. Don't be limited be rules, but don't be irresponsible about it either. :-)

  4. Great tips! I think it is important to trust your own judgement too. :)

  5. =) The only time those rules fully apply is when you're querying for a LARGE agent or publisher who is so picky they look for every reason to say "no."

  6. The writing rule I disregard is to write every day. I'd love to write every day, but my jobs prevent me from doing so, unfortunately. I think I'd be happier if I could write very day, though.

    1. Yeah I try to write every day, but sometimes, it's just not possible. And the thing is, sticking to this rule if life is going mad could actually just end up burning you out.

  7. HI Misha,

    I totally agree. I truly is all about balance. I am a very descriptive writer and FOR ME it works. Most rules say DON'T BOG DOWN THE STORY WITH DESCRIPTION... And for most writers they NEED this rule because they DOON'T KNOW HOW TO BALANCE... Thankfully I have mastered this and it's my trademark in my writing. Atmosphere, mode, setting is VERY important in a story, but the writer must weave action with the description or it WILL BOG down the story.

    As you say, you have the EXPERIENCE to back up your hints.

    1. Yeah this is a typical example of people quoting rules without understanding them. When the rule says "don't bog down with description," it doesn't mean "never use description." It just means that one should use description in such a way that it doesn't slow down the pacing too much, but also in such a way that the reader does have a sense of place and understanding of what's going on.

  8. I often scream, "Just let me tell my story!" And then I do. Great post.

    1. LOL yeah I know that feeling.

      Glad you enjoyed it. :-)

  9. I still use adverbs. I try not to use them too often, but mostly I just write and then clean them up a bit later.
    Awesome post on following or not following writing rules!
    I'm with C.Lee. :)

    1. Yeah I adverb all over the place when I rough draft. I try not to get into my own head too much when I'm writing, and stopping to figure out which strong verb to use instead of an adverb often does the opposite. :-)


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