I give quite the amount of advice on this blog, but there are a few you will never see here, because I don’t follow them, and mostly, because I don’t think they work for everyone. I’m not saying they never work, just that if you feel deep down that it doesn’t fit with your needs/your writing, it’s useless to keep following them.
You shouldn’t gull every bit of advice you read! It works for everything, not just the points below, but those are the ones I see way too often presented on the web as “if you don’t do this, you’ll never succeed as a writer”.
So let’s take a look at those 5 writer advices that I don’t follow (and I’m fine)!
1 – PLANNING THE OUTLINE OF YOUR NOVEL
I have to confess that I wouldn’t personally see any point in writing a story if I know how it’s going to unfold. Sometimes, I don’t even know the end!
I never plan my novels, or the development steps – that usually remain as grippy for me as it is for my readers, or my characters’ personality – that I discover as I write, as if they had a life of their own long before I decided to write about them, and sometimes, not even the end, that can surprise me as well.
If you need a frame, by all means, do it, but on no account planning everything in advance is a synonym to succeeding to write your novel! It’s up to you to see if you have an innate sense of how to conduct a story, or if you need to put it all to paper as a map.
2 – ONLY WRITING WHAT YOU KNOW
Writing only about topics you know will quickly have you going round in circles. It’s not about picking an unknown subject and writing anything, though! But nothing stops you from choosing a theme you are attracted to, that you know nothing about, and to do your research! Don’t make up things, verify everything and ask questions. You will learn a lot, you might even get passionate about a brand new topic!
Don’t ever think that you’re not legitimate to talk about something you know nothing about: if you have the required motivation to master the subject, then go for it!
3 – WRITING A FIRST DRAFT WITH EVERYTHING THAT COMES TO YOUR MIND
I’ll be a lot more categorical on that one: a first draft should NEVER be a bunch of everything that goes through your head for your story, with the intention of correcting and editing afterwards. By doing that, all you’ll get is a tasteless text, filled with parts that should go straight to the trash, that you will have no motivation working on.
Ideas are to be noted as they come, aside, and you’ll only use the most relevant ones: your first draft is not a suggestion box, it’s already modeling and development work. If you feel that something is wrong with your text during that first step, ignoring the problem might block you further in the story, or worse, you’ll have to rewrite full chapters because you went in the wrong direction.
Always write your first draft as if it was the last, always tend to the best you can produce, at every step.
4 – READING A LOT
The adage that it’s not about quantity but quality sums it up pretty well: if you binge on 50 Harlequin volumes a month, I fear it’s not going to help you…
Don’t just read everything available with no distinction just because you think you’re improving your writer-ness. Read different things in different styles and categories, that’s the only thing, I believe, that will help you for real. See that as a general literature knowledge.
5 – WRITING ONLY ONE THING AT A TIME
Once again, if you function better that way, keep doing it! But don’t see that as an obligation to reach your goals. There is obviously a difference between working on several stories at a time, and losing focus. If you tend to abandon a text to start another one and so on, of course, it can’t work, but it’s very much possible to write several things simultaneously: you can progress on your novel, start another one in the meantime, write punctual articles… your productivity is not necessarily at its peak when you keep your attention on only one project.
Trust yourself, your instinct is usually a good indicator, and if something looks counter productive, don’t hesitate to flush it! The most important is to find what works for you, not to follow precepts set in stone thinking you can only succeed if you apply them by the book.