I’ve been a writer for a while now, ever since I was a young teen penning Digimon fanfiction. (Yeah, you read that right. Remember Renamon? She was freaking amazing.) I’ve been in numerous writing classes, conferences, groups, and forums, and I’ve gotten some amazing writing advice over the years.
But I’ve also heard some terrible advice.
Here are my top three favorites:
Don’t use contractions.
Yup, I heard that one in a writing group I tried out in college (and soon discovered it wasn’t the best fit). I don’t remember the “why” behind the advice, but I probably just burned it from my mind because OF COURSE YOU SHOULD USE CONTRACTIONS IN YOUR WORK. Characters speak differently, and if all of your characters spoke without contractions they would sound similar and also very effing formal. It’s okay to use that kind of language for a certain character or maybe even a certain race…but it’s also okay to use contractions. People use them all the time, so your characters should, too.
Don’t use “said.” OR Use more exciting dialogue tags.
On one hand, yeah, I kind of get where this advice was coming from. Using tags can get cumbersome, especially if you’re able to write the character actions following the dialogue.
Example: “I know, okay?” Mary said, angrily. VS “I know, okay?” Mary stormed off and slammed the door behind her.
But on the other, “said” is pretty much invisible to the reader, so if you must use dialogue tags, it’s better to use “said” rather than “growled.”
(Note: I am actually kind of terrible at following my own advice, as my copyediting of Sunkissed Feathers & Severed Ties showed me. My publisher constantly axed dialogue tags in favor of the actions that I had already written into the scene. We can’t all be perfect, you know?)
Don’t describe the setting too much.
This one always makes me laugh. Again, on one hand, okay, yeah there is the case that being overly descriptive can drag the story down…but on the other, the readers need to know the setting! And the setting doesn’t have to be static, either. (And shouldn’t be.) Good writers use the setting to add another dimension to the story and in order to do that the readers have to “see” that setting, too.
One of my other favorites that tends to get tucked into this one is don’t start with the weather. What if the character is trapped in a snowstorm? You start with the snowstorm, of course! Weather can set the mood faster than even characters can, so use it to your advantage!
So there you go, my top three favorite pieces of terrible writing advice. What are some of yours?
P.S. – If you liked this, check out my website, Facebook Author page, and Twitter accounts! And if you’d like to read about a spaceship captain who’s being hunted by a band of murderers and has to make a choice between herself and her crew, check out Finding Hekate! (You can also find it at B&N, Amazon, and Smashwords.)