The Ten Worst Pieces of Writing Advice You Will Ever Hear (and Probably Already Have)

bad-writing-adviceThere is perhaps more writing advice in the known universe than there is actual writing. Or at least it can feel that way when you’re flailing around for a life raft during the apprenticeship phase of writing fiction (which, by all accounts, lasts anywhere between ten years and the rest of your life).

But all writing advice is not created equal. I know this both because I’ve amassed a lot of it over the years and because I’ve worked as an editor long enough to see the sort of atrocities it can result in. Here are my top ten caveats.

1. Show don’t tell (part one)

If writing advice were classic rock, this would be “Stairway to Heaven.” It’s popular in part because intro-level creative writing classes are full of phrases like “he felt sad” and “Dilbert worked in an insurance office as an actuarial and hated it because he felt like his creativity was stifled.”

Read the rest of the post over at Litreactor, and join the discussion! What’s the worst piece of writing advice you’ve ever heard?

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4 thoughts on “The Ten Worst Pieces of Writing Advice You Will Ever Hear (and Probably Already Have)

  1. “Dilbert worked in an insurance office as an actuarial and hated it because he felt like his creativity was stifled.” <– LOL-worthy.

    …and this gem…

    "We’re like golden retrievers romping through Storyland, and pretty much every damn thing we see is a squirrel." <– This is proof that metaphors can be writerly GOLD when done correctly.

    • Jennie, my only regret is that I could not use examples of bad writing from actual story submissions I’ve had to read. So, so much more LOL-worthy than anything I could come up with for this article!

      • Then perhaps I won’t stick to what I originally thought, which was “I couldn’t possibly love this article any more.”

        I just shared your piece with several of the writers I work with at Duke – I have a feeling your advice is going to resonate with them and make them laugh (possibly at themselves).

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