“You want me to do … what?” // The Worst Writing Advice You’ve Ever Received

Yestervery-good-advice-1434724613day, I came across this post: The Ten Worst Pieces of Writing Advice You Will Ever Hear (And Probably Already Have). It breaks down some of the tired maxims thrown at every budding writing and explains why, while they might work sometimes, they don’t work all the time. It’s so true — While there may be tons of resources online for writers, not all of these tips, tricks, and tools bear the … ripest, tastiest of fruit. Meaning —

I’ve read some doozies out there. Advice that’s misguided at best, flat-out wrong at worst; tips that are outdated; suggestions for improvement that would actually make the piece about 1000 times worse. So, today I pose a question: What’s the worst writing advice you’ve ever received?

The worst advice I’ve ever seen on a blog post was about writing detailed sentences. The post said something like: “To write ‘She knocked on the door’ is boring and unimaginative. Instead, write: ‘She rapped her knuckles on the worn oaken door.'”

I … no. I don’t agree with this. Sometimes, if a character needs to open a door, just let them open the door. It moves the scene along quickly and avoids the pratfall of purple prose, which — if you’re rapping your knuckles against anything oaken, you’re already in severe danger. Violet Beauregard going violet danger.

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The other advice I received that I couldn’t help but shake my head at was given to me by my dad. He told me that I should include my character’s specific height, weight, hair color, and detailed physical characteristics in the first paragraph of the story. My reaction:

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I firmly believe such details should come organically, dropped into the story when they’re relevant. Sure, you want to give your readers an idea very early on of what a character looks like, but you rarely need to tell them the exact poundage this guy is carrying or that girl’s height down to the last inch!! It’s rare that omission will stop the story from progressing, and it’s absurd to think it needs to be in the very first paragraph. (tbh, no offense, father.)

Those are the worst I can think of, so now I turn it over to you: dear writers and book bloggers, what’s the most confusing, misguided, blatantly terrible advice you’ve come across??

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5 thoughts on ““You want me to do … what?” // The Worst Writing Advice You’ve Ever Received

  1. Your piece reminds me of this one from Writers In The Storm: http://writersinthestormblog.com/2015/04/the-best-worst-writing-advice/. I love the positive advice Heather Webb gives here, and I totally agree with her #3 under Bad Advice (“get on as many social media platforms as possible”). How is someone supposed to make time for Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, Instagram, Goodreads, blogging, and anything else I didn’t list? *pants like she finished a sprint*

    Especially if you’re not yet published, it’s really hard to find time for all of it when you still have a day job and without interfering with your writing. I’m only on a couple of social media sites, and that’s plenty for now. Maybe I’ll add one or two more once I’m published – but again, it all comes down to time.

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    1. That’s a very good point (and very bad advice!) You don’t want to spend so much time ~building your platform~ as an unpublished writer that you neglect your actual writing! And spreading yourself too thin on a bunch of social media platforms just isn’t a good idea. Use social media because you *want* to, because you like the platform and enjoy using it, not because you feel obligated to be everywhere, all the time!!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Cait @ Paper Fury

    Oh, oh, I totally agree with your example there! LESS IS MORE. Don’t spoon feed readers either, and sometimes and overload of details really bogs down the flow of the story. I edit my stories until they are soooo bare and then my readers have to tell me to ADD MORE IN. xD I’m still working on finding the balance!
    I hear terrible advice all the time. Like people saying “write what you know” (pfft, you don’t have to do that) and “don’t worry about word counts! write how long you like!” (nope. there are word count guides for a reason). heh. I’m going to snoop around that list you linked to!

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    1. I edit my stories until they are soooo bare and then my readers have to tell me to ADD MORE IN

      GAAH I totally did that with the manuscript I tried querying this spring. *chews fingernails guiltily* I was so worried about cutting the monstrous word count down that I stripped away too much, and the agent who took a chance on it came back to me saying the story lacked a lot of the depth and the kind of satisfactory ending she wanted to see — a lot of which was my fault for cutting away so many of the clues and details and scenes that built up the plot!! But I totally agree, you don’t want details to bog down the story–you just also don’t want the story to move so fast your reader blinks and misses it. *weeps* That balance, it’s a hard one to find!

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