Taking Advice, or the Difference Between Writers and Non-Writers

Just as there are blogs and posts and pictures and near anything else dedicated to “Tips for Writing” there are as many out there about doing it wrong, what not to do, and generally what to avoid. While nothing is wrong with these, it can be if the person has had no previous experience in what they’re talking about, instead just passing the word.

The best word comes from someone who knows what it means, both through experience and observance.

I was reminded recently of a former friend who, after I had finished November last year, took to badgering me about finishing my work. On several occasions, I got messages with the caps lock on telling me to get to it already. Pushed and bullied, I felt the stress of having to complete something under someone else’s watch, but I never let him force me to do things.

One of the biggest reasons I didn’t take his words to heart  was because he wasn’t a writer like I am. He wrote journals every so often, and mostly he wrote about science fact, but on very rare occasion, he would write about something that related to his situation. Depressing, rather awful tales, that he wouldn’t touch after getting them finished. Which, I won’t judge: if that’s what he felt most like writing, more power to him, that’s fine.

… But when it comes to policing someone on what they should be writing and when, it is a lot better if you know by some experience what they’re going through before you cast judgement or forcefulness. Not that either of those are acceptable to do, either, because everyone goes at their own pace, not yours.

Fiction writers know fiction writers. It’s going to take some time, whether a small amount or a large amount, and we’re all different. We have good days where we can write chapter upon chapter and revise several and then move on to the next and further into our story. Then we have stretches of days or weeks where we just can’t get into things where they’re at (which, if that’s the case, try changing things up with how you see them at that moment).

If anyone is going to pressure you, it should be yourself, but not to a breaking point, and certainly not making you feel like trash until you do it. To make progress, you need to have some kind of confidence in yourself, to feel like you’re making headway instead of just doing something you should have done. While pressure and negativity work to help motivate some, it is not always the case for others.

Really, too, if you’re writing something for yourself, it shouldn’t have a damn lick of pressure to it. It’s yours. This is your story. You write when and how you like.

Your ideas for publishing, too, are your own. Don’t let someone deter you from doing what you want because they “think” that they have a better idea of how to go about it. There have been plenty of singular books published as a first publication of a first time author, the same as there’s been the first in a series, or the first in a trilogy.

I guess part of this I’m writing for myself. After months of being pushed around and chewed on like I don’t know what I’m doing, I want to do my best to prevent it from happening to anyone else. Thankfully, this person no longer corrupts my daily life, but he left a lasting impression that I don’t care for. Not that I really took any of his “lessons” to heart (I have Friend for that, I trust him more), but I still listened to what he had to say.

What bothered me most about him was that he kept shoveling advice at me that I didn’t ask for. “Publish this first,” “work on this, I want to see it, I want to edit, let me edit for you,” “You do too much of this, you shouldn’t,” “don’t do this,” “why would you do that?” “Why don’t you take out the parts you worked on with this person and work on it with me instead?”

Not only did I not ask for it, but from someone who didn’t write like I did, who had no aspirations to do such or even to publish himself, he found himself qualified because he had heard from others who did. A non-writer telling me that I was taking too long was exactly the way to make me want to scream.

I have trust issues with people who dispense unsolicited advice. Even more so when they’re not qualified to give it.

Whatever it is that you decide to do, do it on your terms, do it because you want to. Writing the book is going to take time, series writers can sometimes take years to bring about another book, and getting published can range from fairly easy to ‘holy shit, is this ever going to happen?’ Read advice from people who write what you write. Who know the endless worlds that you get into, who have seen what you want to see. Learn from their experience, not someone who has a lack of it.

– The Novice Wordsmith

( I guess on that note I have some room to talk, but as a writer, I like to think I have some license to it. )

4 thoughts on “Taking Advice, or the Difference Between Writers and Non-Writers

  1. This is a great post and I agree with the advice you mention. I’ve had a range of different responses from non-writers and writers in the past few years. Sometimes even experience and self-proclaimed expertise doesn’t make up for a bad connection or dynamic between a tutor/advice-giver and their apprentice, it’s also a matter of whether those two artists are bringing the best out of each other. If they have entirely different aesthetics and disagree about important points, well.. they can be colleagues, but it will be tenuous to do something like a mentorship.

    I’m always shocked and amazed by how many agents and publishers spend time telling writers what to do and how to go about doing it. It just seems strange and is the unsolicited advice I usually skim, then move on from.

    Again, great post, maybe I’ll reblog it if I can figure out how that works…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! ❤

      I agree with you about the personalities and ideas clashing or coming together because of how either person is, absolutely. I was hedging on making a broad phrase about it, but you're right, it can tend to be very specific, sometimes people just need to find out what works for them.

      The thing about agents and publishers has been on my mind a lot lately, actually, now that you mention it. There was a writer I had heard about who many say his fame came from the editor that would take out and re-write huge swaths of his work at a time. Another writer I love(d? He's passed away) was very adamant about not having his work renamed, and then when he passed, they changed it.

      I do think that there are points where others might know best even if they don't write, case in point of certain elements where the audience is concerned, and what they'd be drawn to.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You’re welcome. I think editors that personally spend time and effort on a writer’s individual work is a mentorship type of relationship, than agents/publishers creating broad advice that is usually presented in an authoritative way (no pun, intended). I suppose I’m thinking of the types of blogs that made something like Chuck Wendig’s blog satire possible. …Though, Wendig is actually a writer, so he has a lot of great insight.

        There’s always something to be learned from everything; to the best student, all people and things are opportunities to learn. So, in that regard, there is a place for it. I benefit more from reading insights from other writers personally, but I’m still learning and sometimes, things change. There are a lot of business-orientated details, like about contractual rights and issues that aren’t directly writing-related, but are heavily immersed in the writing industry; that is when I look to agents and publishers and the like for advice.

        Liked by 1 person

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