A Little “Triggered” by Trigger Warning…

trigger warningBefore you ask the question, the answer is no. No, you don’t actually need a trigger warning to read this book. To be brutally honest, I’m the kind of person that’s easily unnerved and a well-timed “boo!” on a Ghost Train can send me into full-scale panic. Yet, sadly while reading this, I didn’t find myself leaving the warm comfort of my living room and wasn’t transported to some upsetting place like I was promised.

The thing is I wanted to like this so much more, because I did appreciate Gaiman’s introduction (my only complaint is that he could have gone further). Still for all his talk at the start of these being unsettling, I found a lot of his tales less-than-scary. Don’t get me wrong, they were, in typical Gaiman fashion, wonderfully weird, amusing and mildly unsettlingly. They were somewhere on Gaiman’s usual scale, between handsomely unique to strikingly strange.  “Triggering” though? Not so much. I think the first line of his intro works as a better title for the whole book- these are “Little Triggers”.

Now, this may realllly sound like I didn’t like this book. Dare to take a sneak peek at my rating and you’ll see that’s not the case at all 😉 In fact, I thoroughly enjoyed a lot of these, respected the way he told each story differently and was never bored. But having had some time to reflect on this (it’s been about a month since I read it- ooh err, I’m always late with reviews!) this was a case of overpromising and under delivering.

That said, it was a really good collection, so here’s some of my highlights and (not-all-that-bad) lowlights:

The Thing About Cassandra– I really loved how this brought back my teenagedom. It was a super clever story, with a good twist.

Jerusalem– I felt a bit meh about this one, though, if I try to articulate why, I might sound like I have “Jerusalem Syndrome” myself. It’s just that I’ve been a number of times and this didn’t capture the city for me. It was a tad reductive.

Click Clack The Rattle Bag– Arghh!! This was the wrong story to read before bed! It was shudder-inducingly creepy!! And probably the most triggering 😉

The Man Who Forgot Ray Bradbury– I thought this was quite genius and absolutely admired concept.

Orange– I loved the style of this one the most and it was quite possibly my favourite. I adored the laugh out loud wit here.

My Last Landlady– atmospheric and a little spine tingling- I loved it!

Nothing O Clock– I liked the “what’s the time Mr Wolf” element- but the trouble is I fell out of love with Dr Who years ago (that whole Amy’s pregnant-not-pregnant thing drove me cuckoo) so it just wasn’t for me.

Ultimately while I wouldn’t advise reader discretion at all (but then I never do) one tip I would give before going in is that it helped to be well-versed in Gaiman, since a couple of stories were connected to American Gods and Ocean at the End of the Lane (which, FYI, are great books and you should read regardless 😉 ) Anyway, that’s enough rambling, my rating was:

4/5 bananas

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Okay, yes, I realise that might be a surprise to some people given the review- but have you ever had a bone to pick with a book you liked before? Let me know in the comments!

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Top 5 English Eccentrics in Books

Hello all! So after my post yesterday I started thinking very tangentially about the best of British things… and I came up with the English Eccentric, because one of the best thing about this country is the infamous English Eccentrics (yes other countries have interesting animals roaming about in the wild… we have peculiar and unusual people wandering about in wellies) And while I was musing about this over my cup of tea, I decided this would be a great chance to show the WORLD the kind of book characters that are Oh-So-English.

Without further ado- here are my top five favourite English Eccentrics in books:

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Mr Bennet– eccentrics are supposedly a little irregular and don’t bow to conventions- this suits Mr Bennet to a T. With his subtle humour and frequently disappearing off to his library, he doesn’t necessarily always act as he should. Still, he’s one of the most loveable father figures in literature and definitely has his family’s interests at heart.

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Dumbledore!!– Not-quite-a-doddery-old-fool, Dumbledore is one helluva wizard, with rather a particular taste in sweets. He probably should have told Harry what was up earlier in the story, yet I think that’s part of his charm (no pun intended)

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Lord Henry– outrageous, witty and totally outside the box, Henry steals the show as the voice for Wilde in Picture of Dorian Gray. And yes, his humour tends towards the more mischievous side, but we love him for it. (BTW the ’09 film portrayal *is not* the same character, so I didn’t use that picture)

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Aunt Betseyfrom David Copperfield I reckon there are *loads* of Dickensian characters that could fill this slot, I just happen to find her exceptionally wacky.

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DEATH– and not just any Death, Pratchett’s Death. I think all of Pratchett’s works are the blueprint for the eccentricities of his soul, so I can’t really put my finger on why this character calls to me as the best example. I just think that the little oddities of Death’s behaviour in the Discworld really takes the biscuit… or the curry (he’s a fan 😉 )

This is by no means an exhaustive list- who do you think is a great eccentric (English) character? Let me know in the comments!

The Great British Bake Off Book Tag

the great british bake off book tag

Hello! Long time no see 😉 I’ve been a bit busy the last week and not had the chance to come on here as much as I’d like, anyway *excuses excuses* I thought I’d do a quick tag today to make it up 😉 And no, I don’t watch the show, but everyone likes cake, I like cake and I’m craving cake right now, so cue CAKE TAG (that sentence just sound like cake cake CAKKKE!)

Thank you so much to the wonderful Zezee for tagging me to do this! Her blog is a scrumptious array of awesome things- so if you haven’t checked it out yet… what are you doing with your time?!

Rules:

Link back to the creator Zaheerah’s post.

Tag people or don’t. Just have fun.

Ready, get set, Bake! (or tag)

Amateur Baker: A book that is self-published

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By my lovely friend Daley Downing!

Soggy Bottom: A book that had a great start but a disappointing ending

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Because why on earth did they have to turn out to be plants? (okay, that’s not technically the end, so not a spoiler- but seriously it can’t really be uphill from there 😉 )

#Bingate: A book you great frustrated with and had to DNF

wicked

This is hard cos I rarely DNF things cos I’m frustrated (boring me is more of a putdownable offence)- heck I rarely DNF things period. So I’m cheating by saying Wicked because I originally quit reading this cos I hated the writing style (I went back to it six months later and finished it- still hated the writing though)

Junior Bake Off: A children’s book

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Just cos it’s classic.

A Hollywood Handshake: A book that impressed you

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I’ve not reviewed this yet, but mannnn this BLEW ME AWAY!

Signature Challenge: A book that you would recommend to your friends and family

man's search for meaning

Frankly I recommend this to everyone.

Technical Challenge: Books that you read without knowing much beforehand; rank them from worst to best

Some of these were happy accidents… others not so much.

marked

Honestly, I feel like I was a victim of blurb and cover fraud with this one cos it was not what I thought it would be. If I’d known what this was actually about, I wouldn’t have picked it up.

twilight

Believe it or not, I read this before it was “cool”- I know, I know I’m a Twilight Hipster 😉 I also think the blurb made me think of a *totally* different type of book.

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Totally underrated.

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A lot of the marketing around this book was about how you shouldn’t know anything going in- and that recommendation is completely correct, so I’m not going to tell you *anything* (except that it’s brilliant, go read it 😉 )

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I picked this up on a whim, knowing nothing about it, and it was one of the best surprises of my life. Also, the blurb tells you very little about the actual plot, so it was even more unexpected than I could have imagined.

The Finalists: A favorite trilogy

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Okay in the interest of not using the same trilogy for the millionth time, I’m gonna go with Daughter of Smoke and Bone because I’m currently rereading (very slo-o-owly) the first one with Being a Book Nerd and loving it!

An Extra Slice: A favorite companion book

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Okay, so these books are pretty unusual as companion fantasy books. They do have an overarching plot that becomes more involved as it goes on, but I definitely consider the second one a companion to the first (and you could probably just start at book 2)

That’s it! I tag:

Steph (cos I know how much you like cake 😉 ), Claire (ditto), Nel, Jess @MudandStars, Charley @BooksandBakes, Katie @NeverNotReading, Beth@ReadingEveryNight, Rebecca @MyLifeAsASportsFangirlMarcia and Melting Pot and Other Calamities

And for everyone else- what’s your favourite type of cake? Let me know in the comments!

A Major Unhaul

So I’ve run out of space… again… which means it’s time for another unhaul! And since this is such a major unhaul, I’ve decided to break it down into categories. (Plus since I’ve reviewed most of these, you can click on pictures for reviews…) Buckle up- we’re here for the long (un)haul! 

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Here’s a sneak preview…

Let’s start with…

Uni was a long time ago…

The Norton Anthologies– I’ve finally decided to bite the bullet and get rid of these. I didn’t want to for a while, because they were a big piece of uni life, but in all honesty, I’ve flicked through them a number of times and they’re just not useful for reading. Most of it’s out of copyright and available on Project Gutenburg- plus a lot of the stuff in here is only extracts (this only has only a couple of books of Paradise Lost for instance- what use is that? Even while I was at uni I had to get the rest of it elsewhere) And as one of my professors always said, they’re more like doorstops than books anyway.

Pretty on the Outside… Ugly on the Inside

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Okay, they’re not ugly per se but I didn’t actually like most of these, so couldn’t think of a reason (except the pretty covers) to keep them. Now I want to let them go.

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The Miniaturist– So starting off with a pretty meh read. I actually asked you guys whether to keep this when I mentioned my dilemma over how I liked the cover but not the story. The overwhelming response was to get rid of it, so now I’m finally taking your advice.

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Queen of the Tearling– Same with this one- I *did not* like this at all, but was seduced by the cover to hold onto it- but you guys said it’s gotta go, so it’s gotta go 😉 Given the hype though, I like to think someone’s gonna be chuffed with this find. That’s the dream anyway.

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Three Dark Crowns– I actually didn’t mind this one and plan to read the second one at some point… But that doesn’t mean it has to take up valuable shelf (or rather box) space, cos I’m not that keen on it.

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The Girl on the Train– You know, I think the only reason I kept this one was cos I bought it new (which is rare for me). Paying almost full price (okay it was discounted) for a book made me reluctant to give it away- but I wasn’t even keen on this and the cover’s not pretty so…. Bye!

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Caraval– Annnnd this one has the *most gorgeous* cover in the world. Plus I bought it with gift vouchers so I was almost sentimental about this one…. ALMOST! It’s just massively overhyped and in the end the cover is not a good enough reason for it to stay.

Books I Like But Won’t Reread

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These were hard to part with for an entirely different reason- namely that I actually liked these books- but since I have no intention of rereading them (and no space left to debate about it) I decided it was time to let them go and find new readers to give them some love.

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The Vampire Lestat– I liked this book! But man, that cover’s ghastly. And it’s not something I feel like I’ll ever get the urge to pick up again.

the fall

The Fall– Everyone and their mother know I adore this author’s work- but this one wasn’t my favourite of his, not by a big margin. Plus for reelz I don’t even own physical copies of my all-time favourite series by Nix, so I think it makes sense for this one to budge over and make room.

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A Suitable Lie– This is probably my most highly rated book on this list. But I struggle to read stories on this topic even once- there’s no way I’m gonna be able to reread it. That said, I’m feeling quite good about giving this one up, because I like the idea of someone else getting to read this story next.

ready player one

Ready Player One– Again, I liked this book- it’s really well done. Still it took me ages to get into and it’s not something I’ll ever feel the urge to reread. I considered keeping it for my sister- but she’s told me she’s not interested.

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The Sandman– Another toughie- and probably the only one I’m still on the fence about (maybe I’ll even rescue this one from the heap…) Thing is, I rarely read graphic novels and the ones I have are rated 5*. While I’ve looked through the gorgeous illustrations a few more times, I don’t actually want to reread it, hence the reason it’s in this pile.

And the rest…

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Most of these I literally have no reason to keep.

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The Killing Fields– Okay, this probably belonged in the previous  category, cos it’s a good book, I just have zero intention of rereading it. Can’t say I enjoyed it though, it’s very heavy going

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The Outsiders– Ditto with “Killing Fields”- it’s a good book, the writing style just really wasn’t for me, so I won’t reread it.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian– This book was a resounding NOPE for me. I didn’t like the style, the voice or anything about it really.

dorian will self

Dorian– I found this in a selection of books I thought I’d already combed through- I’ve not got the faintest idea why I kept this all these years because it’s TERRIBLE! This is legitimately one of the most detestable books I’ve ever read- it’s smarmy, pretentious drivel that reimagines and ruins one of my favourite books Picture of Dorian Gray. I actually feel bad about putting this one back into the world, cos whoever picks this up is gonna suffer. I hope that whoever picks it up has done something really awful to deserve it, like run over a puppy or killed someone (it’s that bad)

And that’s everything? Agree or disagree? Should I save any of these from the pile? (haha I’m just looking for excuses to back out, aren’t I?) Let me know in the comments!

Mooning Over Artemis!

*Received this book off Netgalley in exchange for an honest review*

Artemis-Book-Cover-Andy-WeirYou guys know the Martian was what started me off in the sci fi genre- so I couldn’t have been more excited about this book! And now I get to review it- yay!!

One of the great things about the way Weir writes sci fi is that he makes it accurate, without being boring. Not that I’m a scientist, but all the scientific terminology subtly woven into the story created a very realistic atmosphere. By the end I actually felt like I knew what it’s like to live on the moon- which was awesome- because who doesn’t want to know what it’s like to live on the moon? It didn’t feel like world building at all- it just felt like an authentic experience (so who needs moon tourism now, eh?).

Plus, Weir has definitely got the witty banter voice down. So even if I’m not selling you on the great setting, I can tell you I *loved* the humour. I will admit the main character has a very similar jokey manner to Mark Watney, basically making her a female version of him- but who’s complaining, because Mark Watney is awesome!

The characters were a bit of a mixed bag- some of them were better fleshed out than others, so a couple felt a bit surplus to requirements. I did really enjoy the penpal letters between Jazz and Kelvin though- they added a lot to the backstory and I genuinely got invested in them because of their interactions. More importantly though, I did think the addition of some actual antagonists was really helpful to the plot and added some much needed tension.

Because it was the slow build up (after a little false start) that gave me some pause with this book. But then, once it did get going, man, it got good- I mean, it’s a heist in space- a space heist! Again, what’s not to like? If nothing else, this was a fun romp on the moon. And speaking of which- isn’t Artemis basically the *best* name ever for this book? The classics nerd in me just really appreciates how super appropriate that title is.

Okay- enough gushing, my rating is:

4/5 bananas

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And this was published today- so you can get it right now

Have you read this? Do you plan to? Let me know in the comments!

Snarking on my Childhood Writing

Okay, so I’ve been talking a lot about writing recently, but I know what you’re all thinking (or all should be thinking 😉 ) What qualifies this monkey-brained buffoon to talk about writing? Well- fear not- I have the answer! Because I was just the ripe old age of eight when I wrote my first novel- and today I’m going to share that with you… It’s called THE TRAPDOOR…

the trapdoor cover

I know looks awesome. You are in for a right treat (*ahem*) giggle. (Honest disclaimer: I found this, I thought it was a riot and decided to share it with you- plus I included my modern day snark, so what’s not to like?)

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Ooh he’s an orphan- very original.

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I feel like this is very pertinent information 😉 More importantly though, I don’t think I had much fashion sense as a child cos I think this was meant to sound tramp chic.

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I feel like this is straight up plagiarising Aladdin.

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Hehe okay, definitely Aladdin plagiarism.

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I actually like this bit- I might steal this from myself later…

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My architectural sense was as advanced as my idea of what people wore, apparently.

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Ooh drama. But is the magically warming handle thing going anywhere… Spoiler alert: I’ve read the whole thing now, no it isn’t.

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I almost missed this- but was he just wandering round a castle an ENTIRE DAY? Did he even take a moment to sit down? Also, did he have anything to eat other than that apple? So many questions…

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Suddenly isn’t so sudden when you’ve been walking round a building for a day. Just sayin’.

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AHAHAHA THIS WRITING!! I HAVE NO WORDS

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Ye wot?! Plot twist!! This is so random.

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Hahahaha oh dear- I thought the last plot twist was good. Ah well at least I gave the spider decent motivation- no one likes know-it-alls.

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I love the childlike way of being dramatic- “anger he’d never felt before”- brilliant.

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Well they sound like bastards, frankly.

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I feel like the “said in disbelief” was in no way superfluous after he said “I don’t believe you” 😉

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I just love how James lists reasons. He’s being quite calm, considering he’s facing off with a giant talking spider.

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Well this is a lot of information the hero needs all in one place…

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I love how I used the “villain tells the hero all his secret plans” trope, but I was self-aware enough to realise this was a dumb thing for the baddie to do. I also like how I had the decency to point that out- even if pointing out you’re making a dumb writing cliché doesn’t make the dumb writing cliché any less dumb. Someone should have told my eight-year-old-self that- points for effort though 😉

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Also, that teensiest bit of self-awareness clearly didn’t stop me doing more of it though.

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Aww well, nothing says a happy ending like decapitating a spider. I’m so glad that all worked out.

I’m also happy to say that I didn’t stop at the writing- no, I illustrated it too! Look at these masterpieces…

Well I hope you all got a good laugh out of that! I guess the lesson here is… everyone needs to start somewhere. Even if that start is tropey and silly and frankly hilariously bad. Happy writing!

World’s Worst Writing Advice

There are a lot of people out there giving advice on how to write and that’s a great thing… BUUUUT sometimes it’s just so bad that it just makes me want to get a bit stabby with my pen on the page, scrawling something akin to “arghhhghdjsfg whyyyy”… Okay, I’m exaggerating- though it does physically pain me to see advice palmed out to the masses that is just plain WRONG. So today, I thought I’d share with you some of the *worst* writing advice I have ever seen doing the rounds and what you need to watch out for when it comes to guidance online (and elsewhere).

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Anything that begins “in the past people did x, now they don’t…”– okay, this isn’t something you should totally write off, because it’s good to know about differences of style and technique, however it does need to be taken with a pinch of salt. I recommend when you hear this, trying to come up with some examples of modern writers that practice the technique that supposedly no modern writers use. If you can’t think of an example, read more books!– partly because that’s the solution to all life’s problems, but also because I guarantee there are modern writers who have, say, used purple prose. Generally that’s the problem with generalisations– they don’t work all the time 😉 . Plus, the thing that’s important to note is that art is not a linear progression to what is “modern” or “good”. There is often a belief that art peaks/peaked at a certain point, yet in reality styles are always in flux and what’s in fashion is more fluid than you think.

Getting technical terms *wrong*– oh man, this is a killer for me. Honestly, if you notice someone’s using the wrong terminology, it’s probably time to switch off. Harsh, but true. For instance, I once saw someone saying “don’t start with exposition”- which is not terrible advice (even if it’s a total generalisation so not the best) then follow up with “because they did that in the past” (worst reason ever- see above) and then give the example of the first line in Pride and Prejudice. FYI that’s INCORRECT. The first line of Pride and Prejudice- “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife”- is an ironic aphorism. This is an inversion of exposition, because it’s setting up an idea in the same way you might introduce advice, only to undermine your expectations. In other words, Austen started with a joke- and if you don’t get that… well then, watch some stand-up, I certainly can’t help 😉 . To equate this with the exact opposite: “a comprehensive description and explanation of an idea or theory” is completely incorrect and it’s time to find someone who knows what they’re talking about- capiche?

Giving shitty examples of bad writing– usually with “evidence” the individual has made up on the spot or from their own bad writing. It’s called straw-manning and it’s not the best way to prove a point. The main problem with this is that it’s easily undermined- especially since the other side to this issue is that the writer in question doesn’t balance out the argument with examples of the same technique done well. Edit: Heck- it’s just better to show *how* to do something than how not to do something (in art class, no teacher ever holds up a crap drawing and says “don’t do this”). I originally said all examples (good or bad) should be from a real life book- for obvious reasons it wouldn’t be a good idea to subjectively select “bad” writing from books. But if you are trying to show various techniques, books are a good place to start, which leads me onto…

“There are writers and then there are readers”– I’m not even joking, there are people who give this advice. The truth is if you’re a writer, you ought to be a reader. I have heard people say you need to put the books down at some point if you ever want to pick up a pen, because otherwise it’s too daunting and that’s good advice. However, if you don’t read at all, or read very little, how will you ever learn about what it’s like for a technique to totally work, or what’s been done before (/to death) or what people actually enjoy reading? For all the advice on the internet, there is no better writing education than cracking open an excellent book. (Hey- you know my feelings about books- what did you expect me to say about this one? No one insults books and gets away with it- least of all wannabe writers!)

And that just about wraps up my worst writing advice. Agree? Disagree? Do you have any bad writing advice to add to the pot? Let me know in the comments!