Thursday, January 23, 2014

Try on before buying

Things people told me about writing that turned out not to be right (for me):

You shouldn't write in front of a window because it's too distracting.
Avoid adverbs.
If you start writing your second book as soon as you finish your first book, you'll be ahead of the game.
You must write every day.
You can't use italics.
Just write fast. Quantity is more important than quality.
Nobody will buy a contemporary YA with a male main character.
Don't use semicolons.
You have to know what your character wants before you start writing.
Set up Google Alerts so you'll see everything that's said about you.
You'll sell more books if you _________________.
When you publish, everyone you've ever known will come out of the woodwork and friend you online.
Happy endings are considered old-fashioned; don't write them.

I'm sure these predictions and pieces of advice are right for someone ... else.
How does your experience differ from received wisdom?


  1. Oftentimes at conferences, writers are encouraged to pitch to agents and editors. Honestly, I'm not really the pitching type. But I'd hear people say, "This is your big chance!"

    At one of the earlier conference-type events I attended, I pitched to an agent who, at another event I'd attended, had strongly encouraged people to pitch to her because she really wanted to hear all about our wonderful stories. Something along those lines. So I found an opportunity to talk to her at this second event, and I pitched to her and it just felt awkward, and it was obvious from her cringing facial expression to my pitch that she didn't want to hear about my "wonderful work" after all.

    1. Pitching can be a great opportunity. But if you feel more comfortable with a written query, that works too--it's how I found my own agent!

  2. "Don't use semicolons."

    ...What?? Semicolons are the most useful punctuation in the English language; they help you connect related ideas. :D

    The rule against italics was also really arbitrary and random.

  3. I suspect the "rule" against italics was really someone's personal pet peeve, but I heard someone at a writer's conference repeat it earnestly.

    I first heard that Vonnegut recommended against semicolons, but I've since seen a couple others advise against them. They can be overused, but sometimes they are just right, I think.

  4. "Quantity is more important than quality" is what created the gigantic disaster that is my first manuscript. The second draft has been technically finished since 2011, but it's missing so many integral scenes and has so many holes in it that it likely needs an entire redo before I can get on with another draft. I listened to bad advice and kept writing when I should have stopped to solidify plot and characterization first. Now, it's sitting and gathering dust because the thought of working on it is overwhelming.

    When it came time to start something new, I blocked out nearly everyone's advice and just wrote. That manuscript turned out much better.