Friday, November 17, 2017

Why You Shouldn't Listen to Writing Tips Blogs

I see you're already not taking this post's advice. It says don't listen to writing tips blogs and, yet, here you are, reading this post. On a writing tips blog. What are you doing?

Fine. If you're not going to take this title at face value, I'm going to have to explain things to you in a little more detail: 

You shouldn't be listening to writing tips blogs. They have caused some alarming issues within the writing world that include (but are not limited to): Lack of originality, brainwashing, fear mongering, and all stories sounding the same. 

Yep. 

They're terrible. 

And I know me writing this post is the equivalent of Yoda saying that the Jedi high council is stupid and needs to disband. Errr. No. That's overestimating my importance. It's more like Obi-Wan Kenobi saying that. Actually, I'm probably more similar to Jocasta Nu, that one member that only really smart, dedicated fans know about. 

Anyway. I recognize that I'm about to degrade my own platform, but that's okay. Friends don't lie, so I'm not going to lie to you about this: Writing tips blogs aren't all that great. Here's why:
Why You Shouldn't Listen to Writing Tips Blogs
People rely on them to much. Don't know how to write dialogue? Read a blog post. Don't know how to write multiple POVs? Blog post. Trying to avoid teen character cliches? Post. Do you see where I'm going with this? People have become so reliant on reading writing tips blogs that it's taking away your need to think and read critically. Rather than choosing to think outside of the box with your dialogue, you get your information from somebody else (who probably got their information from somebody else). Rather than putting your own unique spin on POV writing or teen characters by pulling from your own brain or books that you've read, you're going to a secondary source. Ever wonder why so many books sound the same nowadays? This is one of the contributing factors. 

They're run by people with biases. We bloggers sure do come across as nice and smart and kind, but you know what? It's a lie. You have no idea who you are dealing with. You want to know what we're doing? We're persuading you. Persuading you to like us so that you will trust us so that we can somehow get money out of you. This persuading invariably leads to changing the way you approach writing. You didn't know this was happening, but it is. Good luck trying to work your way out of what ideas are yours and what ideas have been fed to you over the years by that favorite blogger of yours that you thought you could trust....Unless that blogger is me, in which case: You can totally trust me.

Or can you?

They preach rules that don't always need to be followed. Let's see how many of these sound familiar to you: "Said is dead." "Don't use prologues." "Don't use fragmented sentences." "The word 'was' is of the Devil." "Show, don't tell." "Don't go a long time without dialogue." "Write what you know." You know what? All of those rules are crap. Sure, sometimes they're good to follow. Sometimes they aren't. It depends on who you are, what you're writing, and why you're writing it. But a lot of writing tips blogs don't tell you that, do they? Nope. They just tell you what you can and can't do. Who are they to give you orders? They aren't the boss of you. 

They lead to lack of diversity. Because the above three points, they lead to writers all writing in the same ways. Nice little soldiers following the rules, relying on orders, and marching to the beat of somebody else's bias. Congratulations. Join the club of authors whose books all look and read the same. 

They are secondary sources of information. Why are you bothering to read these, anyway? You know the information us writing tip bloggers are giving you? It's just trickle down knowledge from books we've read. Novels we've studied. Human traits we've observed. Some of it gets lost in translation. Writing tips blogs are the equivalent of using Google Translate to translate something instead of going and talking to your bilingual friend. Read some books. Study them. That's where all of the information really lies.

And there you have it. You can go ahead and unsubscribe from all of the writing tips blogs you follow. Go on.

Wait, wait! What are you doing? Are you unsubscribing from my blog? No! Wait. I'm not finished yet. *quickly thinks of way to salvage the situation* Ah. Got it.
Writing tips blogs are not evil. But they're not the end-all of writing knowledge, either. It's alright to follow them, but it's not alright to follow them blindly.

And it's certainly not alright to use them as a way to avoid critical thinking. The truth is out there. Find it by reading some novels on your own. All of the information you'll mine from them is the same info you'll find on a writing blog...you just have to look a bit harder. But it'll build brain muscle, which you can then use for writing.

So go. Read your writing blogs if you want to (especially if it's mine. Mine is good). But use your own brain, too.

If you want, of course. We've already established that you probably shouldn't be listening to writing blogs, anyway, which also probably applies to this post. UNLESS that means that you shouldn't listen to this post about not listening to writing blogs, which means that you technically should listen to writing blogs.

Well. I have inexplicably developed a headache, so I'm going to leave you now. But, before I go, riddle me this:

What do you think? Is this post correct or isn't it? What does it mean? Is it ironic or true? Or both? Can something be both ironic and true? You tell me.

Have writing or reading questions? Use the hashtag #ChatWithHannah in the comment section below or on social media to have them answered on my Youtube channel!

Related articles:
9 Ways to Use Reading to Improve Your Writing
12 Writing Myths You Need to Stop Believing

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21 comments:

  1. I think your post is definitely both Ironic, and True.

    This is a good post, in that you're promoting people who are looking for tips and advice to not simply accept all of the tips and tricks without also thinking for themselves, and the way it is that they want to (or already do) write needs to come first and foremost from themselves!

    That's my two cents worth anyway ;)

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    1. Bingo! You nailed it. =D Thanks for the great interpretation!

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  2. Great post, Hannah. The thing I appreciate most about your blog is honesty, lack of airs. It's nice. I agree with your point about writing tips and blogs, and feel blindly taking all advice is definitely a pitfall, especially for new writers. I remember long ago when I joined a critique group of four--all the writers were published, except me. I took every comment they made as Gospel truth, made every suggested change, and when I went back to read my work it sounded like five different people had written my book...my voice had come through, but only in a whisper. Taught me a good lesson, though. Thanks, again, for your straightforward advice and support for writers. Much appreciated!

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    1. Thank you so much, Kelly! Honest and down-to-earth is what I'm going for, so I'm pleased to hear that you appreciate that. =)

      I've heard that many writers go through that experience of losing their writing voice in the process of writing feedback. I'm sorry that happened to you, but I'm glad you're moving forward with some good lessons! Thank you so much for sharing!

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  3. Ugh, thinking for myself? So much work. Can't I be a mindless zombie churning out write-by-the-numbers books? I'm DEFINITELY not listening to this writing tips blog post.

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  4. I've been thinking about this a lot lately! Thanks for putting it into words. I think what it comes down to is there a huge different between saying something is a "best practice" vs a "rule."

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  5. Well, fortunately for me ignoring advice is one of my talents. :P
    At one point I definitely paid too much attention to writing-tips blogs, until I discovered all the many contradictions. Now I generally use them as a starting point for developing my own thoughts on something. They're also really useful if they mention something I never thought of/forgot about.
    Thanks for the post! (I think: that paradox is messing with my mind)

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  6. Writing tips blogs are the equivalent of using Google Translate to translate something instead of going and talking to your bilingual friend. Read some books. Study them.

    Haha. I'm a Spanish teacher in my day job, so this analogy really hit home for me. Thanks for your straight talking 'tips'.

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  7. YEESSSS! I love this! I've lately been forcing myself to branch off from writing blogs because of how dependent I was becoming...we're slowly losing the art of creativity...we're coloring instead of drawing. I think it's pretty cool that you noticed AND that you shared the knowledge to everyone else despite how it might harm your popularity. I think this is a really important point, though...it's so sad when you read a cookie-cutter Christian romance (I have long sworn off that entire genre), or even Christian (or secular) fantasy that sounds exactly the same as the book beside it. We've worried so much about POV trends and dialogue styles that we've forgotten how unique our own creativity can be. Keep up the wonderfully informative posts!

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  8. To be honest, I think the lack of diversity in the industry is mostly due to publishers and authors obsessing over what will sell rather than what is innovative and trendsetting, mimicking what's out there instead of coming up with their own ideas. Trading the same tips over and over could be part of it, though!

    Your bias point is definitely a good one; additionally, every author works/"ticks" in a slightly different way. What works for me may not work for you, and vice versa! Trying to force your creativity to operate a certain way can end up stifling you.

    Interesting post!

    Ellie | On the Other Side of Reality

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  9. I very much agree. In fact, I think one of the reasons I started a (semi) writing blog (I include other stuff too), was that I would read those "follow these rules", "you must do this", "you must never do this" blogs and I just couldn't relate to them. Sometimes I could pull out an idea or suggestion to guide me in working a problem, or trying something new, but mostly I read them and walk away. Like you, I want to offer suggestions on how to fix things, but not a rigid set of rules. If you look at those who are considered "the greatest writers of our day", they don't all do things in the same way or follow all the same rules in their writing. (And, FYI, take a look at how many times J. K. Rowling uses 'said' in the HP series!) This is an excellent reminder for writers to not take these blogs as "gospel" but rather as guidelines. If it just doesn't work for you, write what does.

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  10. Ironic truth is my favorite type of truth

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  11. I LOVE THIS POST. THANK YOU. I feel just the same way, and that goes for books on writing, and hard-and-fast "rules" about writing. I think people should write what they want. (I wrote a post on a similar topic to this, once: https://deborahocarroll.wordpress.com/2017/02/06/if-you-want-to-write/) And I agree that so many books sound the same these days and it's likely because of following the "rules", as well as publishers only wanting "safe" things they know will sell, instead of new, original things. :) Anyways, great post! Thank you for sharing!

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  12. I love to learn from others and find a lot of encouragement in writers sharing about their journey or creative process, but I'm always weighing the advice vs. what works for me and my story. I think you're dead on about needing to exercise our own critical thinking skills, especially since the questions we have are often the roots of our story ideas.

    Thanks for keeping it real, Hannah!

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  13. Oh man, I feel so ashamed. :O Nah, just kidding! Thankfully I have no intention on using my blog as a way to get money, and I won't be always talking about tips. Instead I decided to go with more analysis on certain topics to make it stand out from other blogs. This post makes great points though! :D

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  14. I couldn't agree more. It's really easy to tell yourself that reading writing blogs counts as "research" or "improving your writing," when really, the only way to improve your writing is just to do it. And by writing, you learn what works for you and what doesn't. The only way I could think that writing tips would be helpful, is in the editing / revising stage.

    I read a book recently - "The Right to Write" by the most excellent Julia Cameron - that changed my entire perspective on writing. One of the things that stuck with me from her book is the emphasis she puts on writing honestly. Honest stories are good stories. Honesty isn't always pretty or popular, but it matters. If we focus on writing honestly (instead of what "x-and-x-blogger-said"), we'd be a lot better off.

    k.

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  15. I totally agree that writing blogs should definitely NOT be relied on as infallible mines of truth and knowledge. I mean, would Cormac McCarthy books be so AMAZING if he followed the rules? The first book of his that I read was The Road. I completely thought he just wrote it with next to zero punctuation because it fit the story he was telling. Apparently, he does that in all of his books. And I love him for it. He just threw all the rules out the window and tells a great story anyway.

    Isn't writing supposed to be art? So why not leave the execution to the artists (the brave writers that are US)?

    Not to say that I don't get great tips from this and a few other blogs from time to time. But then I decide when I will and won't use said great tips in my own writing. As usual, thank you Hannah for another great blog post! :)

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  16. Thank YOU.

    But I'm obviously going to keep reading this blog! xD

    I do listen to writing blogs here and there but whenever I write, my writing often deviates from some rules on its own.

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  17. I have writing blog too, but this post is 100% true, and I love the irony of it! XD

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  18. Grab a couple books you have been meaning to read for a long time. Read critically, thinking about how you could have written them better. Then write the story you have had in your head for last couple years. Put words together so that they flow almost like poetry. Be sure it is interesting, and that it allows the reader to feel something important. That's it. The rest is BS.

    Thank you Ms. Heath for a thought provoking blog post. -- TEC

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  19. This whole article is hilariously brilliant. I love it.

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