Bad Advice for Authors

If you are looking for guidance on becoming an author, let me tell you that there are plenty of people giving bad advice. Also, most “experts” say they know the publishing industry well enough, but leave you with cliché suggestions that really will not help.

Here are some random examples, so you know what to look for:

The A-B-C’s of Writing a Best Seller, by Michael Basden

A) Relationships – Before you can write a good book, your life must be in order. This means that everyone in your life, be it friends, co-workers, relatives, or lovers, must be a positive and supportive force in your life. Most writers never pursue their dreams because of all the negative and jealous people surrounding them.

Bad Advice: If you wait for your life to be perfect, then you will be waiting a long time. In fact, if your life is full of humble moments, it brings out every emotion in your writing. Negative and jealous people will always be surrounding you, but so will loving and caring people.

B) Attitude – Believe you are the best! If you think you are second rate, you will write second rate.

Bad Advice: You are not the best. If you really believe that, then you will not improve. I’ll help someone who says they are “motivated” before I help someone who says, “I should be on the bestsellers list.”

C) Motivation and Inspiration – Why do you want to write a book? Is it for fortune, fame? I’m a firm believer in a higher power. And this higher power blessed us with the gift of writing. The purpose of this gift is to inform and uplift our fellow man. So, before you set out on this long journey, ask yourself, will this book improve the lives of my readers. If you are truly inspired (in the spirit) you cannot fail.

Bad Advice: Yes, God gave you a gift to write books and put that dream in your heart. What He did not promise is that you cannot fail. In fact, in the publishing business, you will fail plenty of times. It takes more than inspiration to continue. A true author should learn to fight and continue to move forward when he/she are overwhelmed with the impossible.

Here is Larry Brooks of Storyfix, best advice for authors.

1. Design your writing like an engineer.

The most pervasive and destructive illusion floating around the writing universe is that you can write something good without order and structure.

Even if you just wing it, you’ll end up rewriting and revising until an ordered structure emerges and becomes the skeleton of a finished piece. Some writers – often the most experienced and successful, so pay attention – give significant creative mindshare to the structure of a story before they write it. They build on a structure, rather than digging one out from the chaos of a convoluted draft.

The worst thing that can happen is that you don’t even realize that it’s convoluted. But you see, a story engineer would. Without a narrative structure in place, even the most elegant and powerful prose plops to the ground in a heap of moist, quivering helplessness.

Order and structure is always – whether planned or retrofitted – a function of design. And design, by definition, is a practice based on certain physics, principles and those proven laws and models.

Bad Advice: Let me start by saying I have no idea what Larry is talking about. (Although, I think “convoluted” means “long-winded.”) The second thing is that he talks about structure and being an engineer, along with physics, principles, proven laws, and models. Dang it Larry, you are not teaching a college course on the configuration of a novel! Take it easy!

By the way, say “Powerful, Prose, Plops” five times fast. Ready, set go!!!

2. Polish your writing like an obsessive poet.

Writing is very much like singing, playing an instrument or excelling at athletics. The more you do it, the more evolved and polished your sensibilities become, until finally you can instinctively add subtlety and nuance to your performance.

Which, by the way, is what separates the published from the non-published.

The inherent risk in polishing your work is to overwrite, to imbue your narrative voice with a certain hue of purple. Polishing is as much the rendering of complex words into simpler terms as it is de-cluttering the space between your periods, while leaving just a little stylistic juice to spice things up.

Sooner or later your writing will settle into a voice that is uniquely yours. Once there, polishing your work becomes the literary equivalent of clearing your throat.

Sometimes the best writers are simply the best throat clearers.

Good Advice: Larry should take his own advice when saying, “Polishing is as much the rendering of complex words into simpler terms…”

Bad Advice: I’m not sure what Larry means by “writing like an obsessive poet,” but authors should understand that polishing your storytelling and mechanics is important, but he never told you how! (Unless you count when he said, “de-cluttering the space between your periods.”) Polishing your story is done through many avenues. The top two ways are to read books in your genre and have someone who knows what they are talking about review your work and give constructive feedback.

Here are some other tips from Larry Brooks:

3. Edit your writing like an anal retentive executioner with a hip edge.

4. Advocate for your work like someone possessed.

5. Love your work as if you are its mother.

And my favorite line of Larry’s “convoluted” advice blog was when he said, “This is the best writing advice you will ever hear.”

If I ever say to you, “This is the best advice you will ever hear,” never read my blog again. Sure, I could help you along your writing journey, but there are plenty of people in the publishing business that can give you fabulous advice.

When reading blogs about how to be an author, you can tell the good from the bad by asking this simple question, “How?”

If the “expert” says that you should find an agent and does not tell you how, then he/she is giving bad advice. If the “expert” claims that your work should be polished and does not tell you how to polish your work, then they are not an expert.

The most popular phrase I see and hear is this, “You need to write with passion.” I feel like screaming back, “Thank you Captain Obvious!” All authors have passion. And if someone needs to tell you to write with passion, then find another line of work. (My second favorite line is, “Write from your heart.” gag.)

I really could go on, but I see my word count is getting a bit, “convoluted.” My advice to you has always been to keep things simple:

1. Read

2. Write

3. Market

4. Publish

If you need to know “how,” then go back and read any of my blogs, or stayed tuned for more. I’m here because every author is my brother or sister…and I care.

Ron Knight

Ron Knight

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  1. Amen, Ron. The best advice I ever got was 1) write like you talk. Its the best way to get to the truth of your writing. 2) Don’t let your talent get in the way of your genius. Dare to be great. And it’s OK to fail. If you settle for good, it’s all you’ll ever be. (I know I stuck 4 things under #2, but they’re all related.)

    If I paid attention to all this ‘great advice’ the experts spout, I would have quit a long time ago.

    Thanks for this.


  2. Connie Wilson says:

    Hi Ron,

    I like what you said about asking ‘How’. I didn’t know how to do a lot of things when it came to writing so I took a home study course in Writing. It has helped me tremendously! My instructor was super.

    Thanks for all the good advice! I will visit your site again soon!
    Have a wonderful Christmas!