The 5 Worst Writing Tips I’ve Ever Received

The Z-Axis

As someone who tries to write very consciously and deliberately, I like to pay attention to writing tips from agents, publishers, and other authors. I also got a fair few back in English classes when I was a young’un in high school. I’ve seen some pretty awful writing tips in my day, and I wanted to point out how absurd some of those are. Here’s a quick summary of the five worst pieces of advice I’ve ever received, and why I think they’re so dumb.

5. Outline your stories before you write.

Okay, I get that it works for some people, maybe, but it sure doesn’t work for me. When I try to outline I end up boxing myself into corners without giving my characters room to live, breathe, and make their own choices. My characters come to life on the page, sometimes almost without my consent, and do things…

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5 comments on “The 5 Worst Writing Tips I’ve Ever Received

  1. conny1109 says:

    I don’t agree with this blog post Robin, and here is why …

    5. Outline … while there’s no need to outline the whole story, you have to know where your plot is going.
    4. Writing schedule … writers are notorious for procrastinating. With many people having a schedule helps.
    3. Show don’t tell … far too many writers “tell” their story and subsequently it gets boring. It’s an art to be able to “show”.
    1. Write about what you know … absolutely. I recently read part of a self-published novel that was set in Africa. Having lived in Africa for 15 years, I contacted the writer and asked in which part of Africa she had lived. She admitted that she’d never set foot outside Minnesota.

    If this is the worst advice the blogger ever received, I wonder what the good advice was ….


    • I think the point of the blogger here is that not all advice fits all writers. Some outline, some don’t; there is no one right way to do it. Some people can say, “I’m going to write every day at 6:00 a.m.,” some just wing it and write when the mood strikes.


    • conny1109 says:

      If the advice applies to blogger, then he/she should simply call it “Advice he received over the years” and conclude that what’s good for the goose is not necessarily good for the gander.


    • Well, the title IS “The Five Worst Writing Tips *I* Have Received.” She couldn’t be much clearer on that point, I don’t think.


    • conny1109 says:

      True, but then she shouldn’t include that “show don’t tell” and “write about what you know” is bad advice.


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