Advice on writing advice

Writer friend and teacher of writing, Susan Heroy (a wonderful poet), told me she referred her students to my site for writing advice. Oh my God! was my first reaction. I always hesitate to pass out advice fearing it will be taken as authoritative. Even the best writing teachers are best at teaching you to write like them. I know folks who teach writing who never hesitate to be prescriptive: always use an outline, write in the present tense, avoid using dialogue, science fiction cannot be serious literature, etc., etc. I’ve heard all these from various authorities of my acquaintance. Their opposites as well. So what’s a writer to do? Seek out lots of teachers, lots of advice. My advice for today is the next time you find yourself stuck because you’ve run afoul of some influential mentor’s dictum, break the rule and see what happens. (Sorry, Susan, if this mucks things up too much!)

As a character in my as-yet-unpublished novel, The Donut Man, laments, “I’ve read so many books on [writing fiction], they all make a stew in my brain. It’s like the Bible. I can always find somebody to endorse what I’m doing in my fiction, just as many shaking their heads sadly at the mistakes I’m making. Write what you know. Write what you don’t know. Trust the process. Always outline. Find your own voice. Pretend to be other people. Write down the bones bird by fucking bird. All of the above. Thanks a lot.”

My all time favorite advice, however, comes from Lee Smith: “Stick with it.”

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