Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Guest Post: Writing Advice

by Rachel Starr Thomson

Don’t Take My Advice!

As a writer and editor, I get a lot of aspiring writers asking me for advice. I also spend a lot of time looking for advice—trying to find out how other writers solve problems and move forward in their careers. I’ve been doing this for about fifteen years now, so I’ve heard a lot of tips and given nearly as many. Show, don’t tell. Avoid info dumps. Don’t overuse exclamation points. Stay away from said bookisms (look that one up if you don’t know what it is). Write every day. Always outline. Never outline.

But my number-one piece of advice? Don’t take my advice!

That is, not without trying it and discovering whether it works for you.

The truth is, every writer is different. Every book, every story is different. Inspiration comes in different ways; words get on paper in different ways. And if we all wrote by the exact same rules, our stories would all be exactly the same, and we’d get so bored we’d quit writing.

It may sound counterintuitive, but in writing, there are no rules. There is only collected wisdom and experience, tips and tricks that may or may not apply in your situation. Your job as a writer is to find out what works for you and use that. (And if it changes down the road—if you’re an outliner one day and the next day find outlines are sucking the life out of your writing and you need to pants it for a while—then your job is to go with the flow and make whatever changes are necessary.)

If you’ve been struggling to apply everything you’ve learned about writing and are finding that some of it just isn’t working, this post is permission: Stop struggling. Throw out any advice that isn’t working for you. Do what does work. The goal is a finished story or book. This isn’t a math test, and you don’t have to show your work.

And have fun.

(Unless, of course, having fun doesn’t work for you.)


  1. Finally someone who actually says you don't have to write like me! I wasn't sure anyone thought that except me. Great post, by the way. :)

  2. Thanks, Rebekah! I'm glad you enjoyed the post and hope it was a helpful shot in the arm for you. I've often heard "learn the rules so you can break them" in the context of writing, but it seems not too many people really believe you can (and should) do that.

  3. Haha! Love it! Great post ;)