IWSG: Writing insecurity due to amateur writing advice.

InsecureWritersSupportGroup2This is a post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group blog hop.

Why are today’s writers so insecure? Well, why wouldn’t we be? We have an almost infinite supply of how-to-write advice available on the internet— and much of it is self-published material from amateur writers.

Now, just because a work is self-published doesn’t mean that it is bad. Lawrence Block has self-published both fiction and how-to-write nonfiction. James Scott Bell has self-published some how-to-write books, but also has professional publication through Writer’s Digest books and his fiction publisher. Both of these men, I would say, can prove that they can write well enough to get traditionally published and to be noted authors. They also have both served as a fiction writing columnist for Writer’s Digest magazine.

But the writing world has undergone big changes due to the availability of FREE self-publishing. The amateur writing stage is one we all go through— but the temptation today is to self-publish one’s youthful attempts and then begin promoting it as if it were more mature work. I’ve read a book review by a reader who thought a certain book was so amateurish it could have been written by a thirteen year old. Then the reader discovered it WAS written by a thirteen year old.

A writer still at the amateur/beginner stage may not know how unready his work is. So he plugs away at self-promoting with minimal success— perhaps joining blog hops like IWSG in order to get his writing blog noticed. For the audience of blog-hopping writers, one popular topic is how-to-write tips. And so the amateur-writer-blogger writes about how-to-write. He may even publish a book on how-to-write and it may outsell his amateur fiction by a good margin.

Now, advice from an established writer can make you insecure enough. I’ve read writing advice books by Stephen King, Jerry B. Jenkins, Holly Lisle and other writers I actually knew from their fiction. There advice may be good but it isn’t always the right advice for ME, or for the work I am currently attempting.

Much worse is advice from a writer who isn’t-there-yet as a writer. There are worlds of second-rate writing advice floating around there and many amateur writers can repeat it all as if it were Gospel. Some of the things that bad writing advice has you worrying about are things that skilled professional novelists don’t think about or plan, things that ‘just happen’.  Some will have you planning your novel for years, others will have you dashing ahead with a half-formed idea. For every type of young writer, there is a piece of bad advice out there that will convince you that the way YOU write naturally is wrong, wrong, wrong.

So— maybe it’s time to swear off running after writing advice. Read more books instead. Experience life a little. Learn a new language. Improve your knowledge of your native language. And remember that the only real key in becoming a confident writer is to write, and write, and write. Until you get good at it.



8 thoughts on “IWSG: Writing insecurity due to amateur writing advice.

  1. Yes, I agree wholeheartedly. I attended a Sci Fi convention last year and was saddened by “experts” speaking authoritatively on how to succeed in writing when I had never heard of them before. I offer thinking that has worked for me in my own struggle to be recognized. I am not famous nor am I ever likely to be. I just offer what little I have learned in my journey.

    I think reading posts like ISWG is like panning for gold, you have to sift through a lot of water before getting a nugget. I think the value of ISWG is to help us feel not quite so alone — but then again, each writer is alone No one can swim this course for us.

    Another fine post. Thanks, Roland

  2. I’m much more careful about giving advice now that I’m published, but will provide some when asked, along with the disclaimer that “this is what works for me.” Happy New Year, Nissa! 🙂

  3. You nailed it. Read your genre. Read and study the best sellers to see what their novels hold that makes them so popular. Even then it doesn’t mean the book’s good. But let your instincts direct you. Good words, Nissa. Happy New Year.

  4. Some really great insights here.
    “Read more books instead.” I agree. A good writer reads widely, all sorts of subject matter, contemporary and classic. It sharpens your ear for dialogue and patterns. You learn to discern what sounds right, what flows. This in turn helps shape your writing style/voice.
    Thanks for sharing, Nissa.
    Happy IWSG Day!

    Michelle@Writer In Transit
    January Co-host.

  5. I think you’re right on with that you need to find the process that works for you and decide for yourself what works and doesn’t work in fiction. Also, you’re dead on with the need to read critically and evaluate whether an author who’s presenting themselves as an expert actually has the expertise the claim to.

  6. To be honest, I don’t think I’ve ever read a complete “writing advice” book. A couple paragraphs here and there, but never a full text. I believe the best way to grow as a writer is to read and write. You’ve got to submerge yourself in the art and practice, practice, practice.

    Good luck to you this year!

  7. I agree with several of your points. I also think there are too many writers more interested in being published than in learning to write, too many average or amateurish writers saying they’re editors and getting clients, and even if you find a great experienced writer with a how-to book or podcasts, their advice may not be right for you. So no more how-to for me. Great post!

  8. Hello! Stopping by from the IWSG hop. Sorry it’s taken me almost a week to get by! I love this post. I’ve fallen prey to writing advice gluttony. You’re so right! The best writing advice we can take in is to read good writing and see what really works. Some of the best advice I got in college was to read the great works of fiction, you know, those old, weighty tomes that have stood the test of time. You may not like the content (heaven knows I didn’t like all of them) but there’s a reason they are classics. But you also have to choose what works for YOUR writing. It’s a very personal art, this writing. Sometimes it seems we are inundated by “good” advice. What we really need to do is enjoy life, have experiences that will one day perhaps translate into stories, and read good books and really speak to us.

    Thanks and happy new year!

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