Monday, September 16, 2019

3 Pieces of Writing Advice to Ignore (and one to never forget!)

With: Mia Carter

When I was a kid, one of the books we used to have on our shelf was a story about a mom making soup for her hungry family. I’m sure this fable has been around for a while, but the taller version of it is that, one by one, the family members come in and enthuse about how good her soup is, but please, can she leave out whatever ingredient it is they don’t like. Onions, tomatoes, corn, each one has something they don’t care for.

In the end, she serves them hot water.

(Which, sidebar, wouldn’t THAT make meal-planning easier during the school year? But I digress.)

I think about this book a lot when it comes to parsing writing advice. Because there’s just SO MUCH out there! And a lot of it, honestly, conflicts with itself. So, in the spirit of hot water for dinner, here are five things I have chosen to ignore and one thing that I find absolutely essential!

  1.     Extremely prescriptive grammar rules. Yes, there is a ‘right’ way to write. And I thank my lucky stars for a copyeditor to make things come together! But if things like ‘never use adverbs’ or ‘never start a sentence with And’ get in the way of actually putting words on paper, ignore them and just write. (You can fix it in your second round!)
  2.     Structural must-haves that hold you back. Look, I love a good word count spreadsheet as much as the next Virgo moon, and the Hero’s Journey is my jam, but the tension you hold in thinking ‘have I got my heroes to the Dark Night of the Refusal of the Call to the Shadow Soul yet??’ just isn’t worth it. Your story will emerge as you write it, not stress over it.
  3.     That little bit of self-critique that maybe romance isn’t ‘good enough’ or ‘real writing’ or whatever it is people say these days. Forget that. Stories have a heart, and what’s more compelling than two people who overcome the odds, internal and external, to reaffirm that yes, love is worth fighting for??

And the one bit of advice that has stuck with me? Only writing is actually writing. Planning is great. Research is amazing! Networking and strategizing and organizing your cards on your floor (or in Scrivner!) is great, too! But at some point, you just gotta write. So get to it! Your story is waiting for you.


I never in a million years thought that finding a lost pair of keys would lead to adventure.
All my life, I’ve been perfectly average. Compared to the rest of my high-achieving, type-A family, it feels impossible to stand out. While I’d love to make my big artistic dreams happen, I’m kind of stuck, thanks to a bunch of lame things like “affordable rent” and “keeping the internet on.” Dreaming doesn’t pay the bills. Freelance design work and part-time rideshare driving does. And it’s nice, for the most part. Finding a passenger’s thumb drive usually means reporting, returning, yay-hurrah-good-job-me. Except this time.
This time, I put the thumb drive in my computer. Hey, I’m just trying to be helpful! Suddenly a chat window pops up and the owner of the drive is bribing me to fly halfway across the world. Today. Turns out he's the super hot fare I haven't been able to stop thinking about...who just so happens to be Logan Weiss—the crazy-hot 29-year-old billionaire known as "the most eligible bachelor in tech”. What the hell am I even doing?

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