I try not to give advice about the actual practice of writing. I guess, to me, it’s a bit like explaining how to be a good Christian. I’ve got a long way to go myself, so who am I to teach?
However, I’m going to break that rule for a bit of writing advice: take all writing advance with a Pope-sized grain of salt.
By the time you’ve been doing this a few years, you’ll hear advice from every great writer who ever grace a keyboard. Even the ones that tell you to “figure out what works best for you” will often jump into a detailed explanation of what will work best for you. They’re like mothers with keyboards.
One of my childhood heros, Stephen King (I had a troubled childhood) published one of my favorite books on the craft. But even the King said a few things that I knew were only part of his unique style and probably not something other writers should be concerned with. Things like referring a thesaurus as “creepy.” What’s creepy is when my world-battered brain can’t recall a word I’ve used every day since the first grade.
Other authors tell us to finish a draft, lock it away for a month or even a year (a year??), then come back to it. Sorry guys, I like to edit while I still remember the character names. And, oh by the way, I’d rather earn my payback for my labor as soon as possible.
I’ve been told countless times (never exaggerate) that I should keep a real pen and paper journal. I have about twenty laying around now. All one-quarter full of the chicken scratch that I wouldn’t go back to read even if I could decipher it. Have iPad will travel. If I get an idea, I have an app for it. If I want to practice writing, I’ll practice with my next scene. I get two or three hours per day to write, max. Every word needs to count.
And, of course, feel free to ignore everything I’ve just said. Maybe you’ll do well to avoid the thesaurus and the temptation of words like “tenebrous.” Maybe you need to put your manuscript away for a while because you find yourself really annoyed whenever your protag speaks. But, by all means, get to work on the next project. And some people, I understand, do their best work in a paper journal. Hey, if you’re one of those and don’t mind writing twice, go for it.
The writing journey is like a giant circle. When someone asks me where they should start, I tell them “at the corner.” You just gotta dive in, write stuff that sucks, learn, and keep going. Trying to put into practice of every writer you meet is an easy path to vexation.*
What about you? What’s some writing advice that you’ve just had to toss in the trash bin?
* the state of being annoyed, frustrated, or worried