History That Never Was

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Ignoring Bad Writing Advice

Who wrote these rules?

If you search for writing advice on the internet, you’ll find all sorts of suggestions. But many of them aren’t applicable across the board, though they’re treated like they are.

“You must write every day.” “You must not use ‘said’ too many times.” “You must only write what you know.”

When writing advice is treated like rules, it can really impact your ability to write. And while maybe there’s a kernel of truth in some of these pieces of advice for some authors, they are definitely not one size fits all.

For example, you see the “don’t use ‘said’ too many times” advice a lot. But maybe for you that doesn’t mean “replace ‘said’ with other words.” Maybe it means “see if there are places where you can indicate action instead of using ‘he/she/they said’ to attribute dialogue.”

This article gives some pieces of bad writing advice and why they aren’t a good idea. Most apply to fiction, though there are a couple for memoirs tossed in as well.

The simplest advice regarding bad advice is that you can certainly read writing advice that you come across, but you shouldn’t trust in it wholeheartedly. You should evaluate it critically, both in terms of why someone might give that advice, and how it might apply to your individual writing. And then, it might actually help you learn something new!


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