Call me a hippy, or an optimist, or whatever you like, but I have a personal rule about any kind of advice: if it makes you feel good, take it; if it makes you feel like shit, it’s probably wrong. At least, it’s probably wrong for you.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been surfing around the internet looking for advice on a particular aspect of the writing process or the publishing process, only to have a brick dropped on me that makes me sick to my stomach, makes me question all 20+ years of my experience, and honestly believe that this king or queen of the blogosphere knows what he or she is talking about better than I know what’s right for me. Countless times. And it still happens, even though I make a concerted effort these days NOT to look for advice from anyone but trusted friends. I know it happens to a lot of us out there, innocent creative types searching for wisdom an guidance, and instead we have our dreams and ideas crushed beneath the jackboots of the All Knowing Bloggers.
This is not to say that the internet is useless, or that you can’t trust anyone out there/here. But I strongly, strongly encourage you to take all of what you read and experience in your pursuit of writerly knowledge with a large grain of salt, including this blog and this post.
Which brings me to this:
5 Reasons why aspiring authors should not trust the internet
1.) Opinions are formed from personal experience. I once read a blog post about how dream sequences ruin books and should never be written by aspiring authors, and it crushed me. What does it say about me as a writer that I love a good dream sequence, both writing them and reading them? Ultimately I got over it (I know you were worried), but it seemed irresponsible to make a statement like that when you have hundreds of readers out there who trust you to give them at least thought-provoking, if not good, advice. But almost all blog posts that give us “rules” or ”10 Reasons why” are based on personal experience and opinion, and therefore are never actual hard and fast laws. Maybe the author admits to that, and maybe they don’t, but it’s usually easy to overlook the admission because…
2.) These posts are written by writers, the best liars of the creative world. A good writer knows, consciously or not, how to get their audience on board with them–make them believe in magic, and true love, and that good can occasionally triumph over evil. A good writer also knows how to write a blog post and make it sound like they are an authority on the matter. I’m doing it right now. Don’t I sound official? It’s because I’m just telling you things, and I’m stating these things so matter-of-factly that you’re beginning to see the truth of them, whether it’s there or not. The other reason is because you want to believe people are doling out free professional advice. You saw a list of ten things to avoid or ten reasons to do or not do something, and that made it sound simple and easy to follow. These are all tricks, which brings me to the fact that…
3) The thing the internet wants to do most of all is trick you. It wants to trick you into clicking one more link, or into believing you need one more social networking site, that if you don’t re-post that status about fighting cancer then you’re not as good of a person as that person’s 10% of friends who actually care. Worst of all, it wants to trick you into wasting time, and believing you are working. “Oh, but I was reading an article on world-building,” you think. “It’s okay, I want to be a writer, so spending X more minutes learning about my craft is excusable.” No, actually, it’s not, because unless that blog post was written by Frank Herbert (greatest world-builder of all time, thank you very much!) himself, you’re not even getting professional advice. Have you ever noticed that, for the most part, the busiest writers aren’t writing blog posts about craft? That’s because they’re writing.
That’s probably the worst way the internet deceives us: it tricks us into giving up time for writing, in exchange for well-crafted amateur advice.
4) Haters gonna hate. Really, I don’t want to hear about how the gate-keepers are keeping us down, and so any self-respecting author should self-publish. And I don’t want to hear about how self-publishing authors need to keep their filthy DIY hands off of the term “independent publishing,” unless you’re that excited about being a hipster that you have to shout it from the rooftops. I’m not interested in any blog that paints a negative picture of any group of people, because that kind of advice can only reinforce narrow-mindedness or make you feel bad about the path you’re already considering. Really, when was the last time you Googled “advantages to self publishing” when you weren’t interested in what it had to offer?
The same thing goes for the old, salty veterans, weather-worn and wearing their badge of “experience” like a shroud. They’ve been through the system, they’ll tell you again and again, and the system is cruel. Well, we covered that in my last post, and you can’t take one author’s experience as gospel.
5) Bitter people are always more than happy to give you their opinion. That is certainly not to say everyone giving their opinion is bitter (ahem). But if you’ve ever given up your writing for a critique and gotten back the kind of feedback I’m talking about, you know it: hyper-critical, personally biased, and ultimately nothing but destructive (unless they’re clever at hiding their bitterness, in which case they do a compliment sandwich: “I liked this… hate hate hate hate hate… and this part was pretty interesting too.”). Offering up your writing to strangers can be, on the one hand, an amazing experience worth putting your faith in humanity to the test. But you have to be wary–the internet is full of trouble-makers. I’m probably one of them.
Now for the actual, constructive advice part of this post:
If you’re anything like me, or if you hated this post and will probably just ignore everything above, you’re still going to read advice about writing on blogs. So here are some tips I think we can call benefit from.
When reading a blog about writing, ask yourself:
- How does this post make me feel?
- Is this narrowing or broadening my perspective?
- Am I inspired by this post, or do I want to smash my monitor/swallow my smart phone and all the shame it holds on its shiny little screen?
I’m sure you can see where I’m going with that, so I’ll just leave that alone for now.
There are a few blogs that I almost always enjoy:
Nova Ren Suma‘s blog has a guest post series on Turning Points for writers that offers a rainbow of different experiences from all kinds of different authors.
Intern Spills, by… the former intern of a publisher, or agency, I can’t remember. I read all of her blog in two days at work one week, and loved it to death. You will see, however, that this is the site of the entry regarding the dream sequence hate. I got over it, but I do read everything after with an eyebrow ready to be raised.
Terrible Minds, a blog by Chuck Wendig, the King of the “[NUMBER] Things About [SUBJECT]” posts. The reason I love his lists is because he is full of wit and snark, and actually gives solid advice about the craft of writing. How do I know it’s solid? He is constantly admitting that the rules are bullshit if you know what you’re doing.
So what about you? What do you love or hate about finding writing advice on the internet? Do you have any writing blogs or sites you’ve found valuable? Writer by Night wants to know!