Ever gotten bad writing advice? We have. Honestly, we've had way more GOOD advice than bad, but we thought it would be fun - and enlightening - to look back at the clunkers. Here is the worst advice we've ever gotten. We were lucky enough not to take it. Read it and shudder! - Anne and Ellen
1. Really, this one isn’t bad writing advice; it’s just plain bad advice, period. One of my college creative writing teachers advised us to walk in dangerous neighborhoods at night. She said that, “One can only feel genuine emotions when one is out of one’s comfort zone.”
That may be true, but I would also argue that being robbed and beaten to a pulp may interfere with one’s writing schedule.
Okay, okay. I’ll admit she does have a point about comfort zones. When you’re in them, your senses don’t have to operate on high alert. When you’re out of them, you tend to notice more, hear more, feel more, which can help you to produce good writing.
Personally, though, I’d rather get out of my comfort zone by pony trekking on the Yorkshire moors than getting mugged in a 7-Eleven parking lot.
2. And then there was this little gem, from that same professor: “If you can manage it, have a lousy childhood.”
Apparently, feuding parents, severe corporal punishment, and frequent public humiliation are a surefire recipe for literary greatness. Actually, I understand her point. Early trauma can certainly help you understand peoples’ complicated, and often ugly, emotional and psychological layers; but if a writer is perceptive and sensitive, I believe they can achieve the same results, and still have a Thanksgiving dinner that doesn’t end with a food fight and triple restraining orders.
3. A while back, the rule of thumb for picture book writers was, “No one wants to read books with talking animals anymore.”
Olivia the (talking) pig, Mo Willems’ (talking) elephant and (talking) pigeon, and Martha (the talking dog) have two words for that little piece of advice: “Um, Really?”
Although I’ve received a lot of great writing advice over the years, here’s some really bad advice that I’m glad I didn’t listen to. It’s always good for a writer to have a streak of stubborn rebelliousness.
1. “You can’t write that.” I was shocked when a well-respected professional told me not to write a story I was committed to. I don’t remember her reasons, except that she disliked my idea, but I wrote the story anyway and published it.
Conclusion: Even the best of writers can steer you wrong sometimes. Evaluate the advice you receive and make sure it serves you well.
2. “It’s been done before.” I made the mistake of telling my idea to someone who didn’t know much about writing or creativity. After he dismissed my idea, I went ahead and wrote my book, which was eventually published.
Conclusion: Be careful whom you share your ideas with. Some people don’t understand the writing process. That doesn’t make them bad people; it means you shouldn’t confide your ideas in them.
3. “It’s just a dream.” A well-intentioned friend, on hearing that I planned to become a writer, tried to talk me out of it. He thought that I lived in my head and didn’t have a good grip on reality. Fifty books later, I now have a (slightly) better grip on reality, and all that living in my head proved to be good for something, after all.
Conclusion: Only you get to decide whether to pursue a dream or not. No one can predict what you can or can’t do. You have to find out for yourself.
Okay, we've told you our writing horror stories. What about yours?