On Advice

Writers are forever giving writing advice. This is because a) writers are a chatty bunch (we like to write stuff) and b) one thing that we all know is how to write. We like to talk about things we know. And new writers are forever looking for advice from the old hands.

First thing, before I get started: McIntyre’s First Law:

Under the right circumstances, anything I tell you could be wrong.
–Vonda N. McIntyre

That isn’t going to stop me from giving advice, just like all the other writers out there. If you happen to be a newbie, remember this when any writer tells you how to write: It isn’t actually ‘how to write,’ it’s how they write. Perhaps it’ll work for you; perhaps it won’t. Take what’s useful and leave the rest. Which leads me to my first (and only) actual rule of writing: If it works, it’s right.

Just below that, I have two Strong Guidelines:

  1. Don’t bore your readers.
  2. Don’t confuse your readers.

Everything else is Art.

I’ll leave you today with another couple of laws:

Watt-Evans’ Law of Literary Creation: There is no idea so stupid or hackneyed that a sufficiently-talented writer can’t get a good story out of it.
–Lawrence Watt-Evans


Feist’s Corollary: There is no idea so brilliant or original that a sufficiently-untalented writer can’t screw it up.
-Raymond Feist

and …

Sturgeon’s Revelation: 90% of everything is crud.
–Theodore Sturgeon

That includes 90% of advice about writing.

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