Best Piece of (Writing) Advice Ever Gotten

skillet

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Hi people! :D Don't know if anyone has done this kind of thread already but...
Just for fun, what is the best piece of writing advice you got that you actually benefited from? It doesn't even have to be advice given for the act of writing; it can be just advice in general that you applied to writing. For the sake of, like, motivation or something. Thought it would be inspiring :)

Personally, that super cliche one "the master has failed more times than the amateur has even tried" really got me going in several fields, though not necessarily for writing-- and there's also "show and don't tell," of course-- but I think the best piece of advice I'd gotten was from this mystery writer who came to my class one time. It was less advice and more anecdote, that the way she wrote was, she wouldn't try to write a number of words each day or force herself to sit down for 30 minutes a day, or what-have-you. She'd think of one event that should occur in her story and say "I'll write up until that event" and make that her goal. That would force her to really streamline the plot and have it be driven, and she would get writing done. I was really inspired by that, and now, I tend to plan out my stories with an overarching plot driven by smaller happenings, if that makes sense.

So. Care to share your best advice you've gotten? :D
 

Jemini

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The single #1 best piece of general writing advice (as in, applicable to every area of writing, not just story telling) was that "A great writer does not just sit down and produce a great piece of writing head-to-paper. In order for a writer's work to become great, they have to edit their work over and over and over again until they finally get it right."

I began applying this to my own writing and it didn't just improve my final product. It also made my first drafts become far better due to the fact that all the editing made me more aware of my typical errors and allowed me to reduce them from even showing up in the first place.

Along this same vein, there's a second piece of advice I saw in an advertisement for "master class" (a subscription funded online learning platform.) This one was, of course, advertising a writer who had a course on there. In the advertisement, he said "Your second draft is the way you trick the reader by making it look like you knew what you were doing the entire time." A short ear-worm of a phrase that essentially means that after you've written your ENTIRE STORY, you want to set it aside and then re-write THE ENTIRE THING from the beginning, and it is during this stage that you set up all the foreshadowing and give the proper clues and make the story's earlier portions consistent with the things that are gong to come up later near the end.

Seriously, I don't think I've ever heard anything better or more influential than this stuff on repeated editing. It's what turned me from a C Literature student barely struggling to get by into someone writing for this site and gaining crazy high praise in my reviews about how I measure up to some of the great professional writers out there. Editing really is that powerful and really does make that much of a difference.
 

Azrie

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Ma, for me it wasn't a specific thing. But I suppose one of the advice I like is — just turn it into a habit. That's how I basically live.

I don't particularly chase for advice, I am not someone that requires it per se. Perhaps I will or I feel stuck but not to be motivated or anything. I would normally force myself to do one chapter a day. And well; once you get used to it it's pretty easy.

I think more than one person has heard the phrase: "Humans are creatures of habit." And I think those are words to live by, even if it sounds quite unbelievable habits are really reliable.

Let's say you start to try to have proper punctuation and grammar from the first draft, after a bit you will start to do it without intending to; it will just happen. The more you do it the better it will get. That's just how it is. I believe knowing how to make habits is a powerful tool for any writer — any person in general rather.

Ma, this is just on a more personal note. But if you don't believe in yourself then make it happen because you want it to happen. If you don't think you can do it; do it anyways. If that's truly what you want then use all your will power to make it happen. How far you will go depends on your determination.

That's what I believe at least. To leave the darkness of the abyss; sometimes we just have to climb out of it instead of waiting for a helping hand to come.

But if there is anything I will tell anyone is that.

"There is always a next page," don't beat yourself down for the imperfections you see; the errors you see. Just don't make the same mistake on the next page — on the next novel. Just keep it in mind and improve from it. When you consciously try to improve is when magical things happen.
 

ddevans

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I'll echo Azrie, writing is a habit. Do it at the same (relative) time every day, for a fixed period of time. Have a separate period of time or phase set aside for editing, lest you get caught up in revisions when you should be producing new lines.

But the best advice I got is within the context of that advice: when you sit down to write, you don't necessarily having to be writing every moment, or even thinking about what to write next. It's okay not to write. It's fine to spin around in your chair, go to the bathroom and reflect on your throne, lay on the bed and stare at the ceiling. I do these things sometimes. Sometimes they'll be relaxing and allow me to think more clearly. Sometimes I'll get bored and writing will seem like more fun. Rarely, I'll have a flash of inspiration from nowhere. So it's not just a writing session, it's a 'writing or nothing' session.

I write in time-based sessions. I imagine it would drive word-count types nuts. They're already high strung, they don't need the help.
 
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i think the best piece of advice came from franz kafka, i really like this particular quote of his:

don't bend; don't water it down; don't try to make it logical; don't edit your soul according to fashion. rather, follow your most intense obsessions mercilessly.

it motivates me to only write something i could care the most, and only those. and i won't compromise for my own happiness while doing so, even if it means nobody will ever appreciate it.
 

Discount_Blade

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Personally, I find "Show, dont tell" to be utterly useless and worthless as writing advice. The very act of "showing" someone a scene in a story is by it's very essence still "telling". Its redundant and it conveys absolutely nothing to the person you're "advising".
 

AliceShiki

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Best one I ever got, was that you really should learn how to take in criticism, no matter how harsh it is.

Don't lash out at your readers, and don't let them show it clearly hurt you, otherwise you'll stop getting criticism and you'll stop improving.

Read the advice, cry a bit, give it a day, go back to it, cry a bit more if you need... And then calmly, thank the person for their advice. Respect their advice and let them know you appreciate it, otherwise you'll lose the chance of getting it again~
 

skillet

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i think the best piece of advice came from franz kafka, i really like this particular quote of his:

don't bend; don't water it down; don't try to make it logical; don't edit your soul according to fashion. rather, follow your most intense obsessions mercilessly.

yo I like this one so much!!! thanks for sharing :D
 

YuriDoggo

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Jemini's idea is okay if you're writing to publish separately, but honestly, this is a site for web serials. Almost no one, except him apparently, has the time or will to rewrite an entire story. There's better uses of time; too many ideas, not enough time.

Most people I know would prefer to take the things they learned in story #1 and apply it to their story #2, which I feel is an advice that is a lot more practical here.
 
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to me personally, the best time to write is when i'm in the mood.

forcing it only leads to mediocre result and i only settle for something worthwhile.

i know every author works differently, but this is how i roll.
 

PrincessFelicie

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Fun fact, and I'm not making this up: "show don't tell" was advice invented by the CIA for the purposes of anti-communist propaganda. the goal was to prevent people from writing any perspective that the average 50s white middle class american wouldn't be inherently familiar with, and that meant the marginalized, the poor, the gays, people of color and native americans, etc. https://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/29/books/review/workshops-of-empire-by-eric-bennett.html

Therefore, my advice is: there is room for both telling and showing, they are different tools at your disposal and you will be a better writer if you know how to master how and when to use them. Tolkien had no issue frontloading his story about a hobbit going on an adventure with pages upon pages of expositional worldbuilding, so why don't you knock yourself out too?
 

AliceShiki

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Oooooh, this was really nice! Thanks for sharing! *hugs*
Fun fact, and I'm not making this up: "show don't tell" was advice invented by the CIA for the purposes of anti-communist propaganda. the goal was to prevent people from writing any perspective that the average 50s white middle class american wouldn't be inherently familiar with, and that meant the marginalized, the poor, the gays, people of color and native americans, etc. https://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/29/books/review/workshops-of-empire-by-eric-bennett.html

Therefore, my advice is: there is room for both telling and showing, they are different tools at your disposal and you will be a better writer if you know how to master how and when to use them. Tolkien had no issue frontloading his story about a hobbit going on an adventure with pages upon pages of expositional worldbuilding, so why don't you knock yourself out too?
I agree that telling is a valid tool and that you should be willing to use it when necessary!

... That said, I think Tolkien writing is a boring slog that made me want to drop the book multiple times and I only persevered through because it was "a classic", as I'd have surely dropped it without a doubt if it was something by any other writer. And once I finished The Hobbit and LotR I made sure to never touch anything else made by Tolkien ever again.

So uhn... I think telling is a good tool, but it should be used with care. Tell too much and you'll bore your reader out of their mind, tell them nothing and they might get lost in the middle of your story without knowing why some things are happening.

So, IMO, you should be showing most of the time, but shouldn't be afraid of telling if you really need to~
 
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Discount_Blade

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Fun fact, and I'm not making this up: "show don't tell" was advice invented by the CIA for the purposes of anti-communist propaganda. the goal was to prevent people from writing any perspective that the average 50s white middle class american wouldn't be inherently familiar with, and that meant the marginalized, the poor, the gays, people of color and native americans, etc. https://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/29/books/review/workshops-of-empire-by-eric-bennett.html

Therefore, my advice is: there is room for both telling and showing, they are different tools at your disposal and you will be a better writer if you know how to master how and when to use them. Tolkien had no issue frontloading his story about a hobbit going on an adventure with pages upon pages of expositional worldbuilding, so why don't you knock yourself out too?

Personally, I'm a Wheel Of Time fanboy. Greatest single series in existence to me. Tolkien has his place in literary history and majesty, but in my all too humble and unimpressive opinion, Robert Jordan outdid him. But that's just me.
 
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PrincessFelicie

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Oh I mentioned Tolkien because he's the easy example. I couldn't finish the book either lol

I guess a more relevant example would be, like, wikis? Wikis are all about telling, and yet they can be genuinely enjoyable to read.
 

YuriDoggo

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Oh I mentioned Tolkien because he's the easy example. I couldn't finish the book either lol

I guess a more relevant example would be, like, wikis? Wikis are all about telling, and yet they can be genuinely enjoyable to read.
Different purposes though.
Wikis are made to inform and you visit one to learn, expecting tons of telling.
You usually dont read a fiction book expecting a textbook.
 
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