Don’t Write X

thoughts orangutan

A couple of months back, I did a post about taste. But when I did it I was thinking more about readers than writers. Now, I don’t talk about this much, but I do actually write a lot (I know, what a surprise, the book blogger writes 😉 ) and I’ve thought an awful lot about what it can be like navigating the landmine of opinion pieces on what you should and shouldn’t write. I don’t know about you, but I personally think there’s a helluva lot of confusing advice out there, mostly of people telling others what to do according to their own taste. There’s a lot of “DON’T WRITE X”, “WRITE MORE Y”, “DON’T WRITE Z UNLESS YOU ARE Z”. In truth, I find it somewhat exhausting, especially since my view is pretty much write whatever the hell you like. To clarify, I’m not telling writers to ignore criticism (errr yeah, do that at your own peril I guess) and I’m not telling reviewers not to review (this is not me hanging up the bananas!!!), merely suggesting that sometimes a lot of the forceful generalisations are more a matter of taste. And I think some people would be well served if they knew that- which is why I decided to devise a list of instructions… on how to not take instructions (that made so much more sense inside my head). Here’s some of the ways you can avoid falling into the my-personal-taste-is-better-than-yours trap:

people pleaseDon’t try to people please. I know a lot of people go into it wanting validation from millions of people- however the thing is even if you get to be a bestseller, there will be people who hate your work. It’s a sad fact of life. One thing I’ve noticed whenever I do some piece where I talk about what I don’t like, like my least favourite fantasy tropes, is that someone will read what I’ve written and be discouraged. I always want to tell people that I am just one person and while I’m not going to pretend I’m  into things I’m not interested in, there are plenty of other bookworms out there who I’m sure will love it. This is something I try to do with my own work, because honestly I don’t see the point in pushing my writing on people who will hate it- that’s a road to ruin! So fly your freak flag and write whatever you like- just don’t make demands or be insulted if people don’t want to read your work.

colouring inDon’t try to do “paint by numbers” writing- I see a lot of people breaking down *exactly* how they think a novel should work. And while there’s a lot of good advice there, take it with a pinch of salt. Cos I’ve read some of the books based on those standards and yeesh– they’re boring. Again, this is my personal take, yet there’s no easy instruction manual when it comes to writing. Be prepared to mess up and to fail, but don’t be afraid to experiment. Incidentally, one way to get round this problem is…

read-fastDo read lots of books– I mean this is a no brainer, but I always have to put it in because there are still writers who say they don’t read and GAH I CAN’T EVEN! That said…

 

coolDon’t worry too much about being original– or being too original for that matter. I kind of wrote this one for me, because I have a freakout about this on a regular basis to be fair. But it’s silly, because, to use the corniest quote in the world “there’s nothing new under the sun”. I think it’s important to strike a balance- don’t be afraid to do something different, but don’t worry too much if something’s been done before. There are always those who will like either or both!

style orangutan logoDo understand that there are different writing styles and that *it’s okay* to employ one of the less popular ones. This is probably one of the issues of taste I see around the most and have been trying to address this for a while with my “differences in style” series (okay not recently, but I hope to rectify that soonish). I find a lot of people favour particular styles and then turn them into *universal rules*- which only work for said style. One of the best ways to combat this is to know about a variety of different techniques, so you can deliberately choose the best ones from your arsenal, rather than being subject to the whims of fashion or personal opinion.

bad writing gigDon’t get bogged down by pedants. Again, this comes from some criticism I see about a lot and usually comes down to things like specific word choice in world building. An example of this could be the widespread criticism of the word “hell” in Zenith, because it was space fantasy (which I personally didn’t agree with, since it was written in English and as one of the critiques said “every culture has an idea of hell”). We all have things that bug us, and that’s fine, we can’t help having pet peeves- however as okay as it is for someone to critique a word choice, I wouldn’t take it too much to heart.

choose books2Don’t steer clear of controversial content (aka “don’t listen to moral busybodies”). We all have our personal limits and every individual has content they don’t want to read, however, there are also people who take this one step further and say “my personal taste is more important than your art”. For instance, I have seen people saying things like “I object to the book because it has such and such theme”. Again, this is not to say you shouldn’t critique it, in whatever terms you like, yet it’s not a good reason to avoid writing about what you want. Even if it doesn’t resonate with one person, someone else will like it.

writingDo worry about your own personal experience- and don’t get bogged down in trying to make it universal for everyone. This is very similar to the last one, because I know there are a lot of people who will tell you “ah but it didn’t speak to *my* experience”. Well, I hate to break it to that hypothetical person: there are billions of other people on the planet. The idea that a book has to speak to every single individual experience is frankly absurd. The only reason to get offended is if you commissioned said book as a biography 😉 If you’re concerned that it’s not going to be “real” for everyone… good news, it’s not real! So this kind of goes back to #1- it’s not worth seeking validation from everyone. As cheesy as it is, you’re not writing for everybody, you’re writing for you.

And that’s all I have for now. I have a few more personal ones, but I thought I’d leave it there, or I wouldn’t be speaking to a universal experience- JK! 😉 Do you agree or disagree with any of these? And do you have any other ideas to add to this list? Let me know in the comments!

106 thoughts on “Don’t Write X

  1. What a fantastic post! I loved everything you wrote and could not agree more.
    To the “there’s nothing new under the sun”, I may add there is. Because regardless if that story has been told before or not, it has never been told by us and from our perspective. 😊❤️
    Being true to what we want to say rather than thinking who may want to read it is fundamental I think. I agree with your point, we can not please everyone, no matter hard hard we try (and as a recovering people pleasure, I know how exhausting that can be…)

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thank you so much!!
      I actually really agree- even for things that are retellings, it’s going to have something there that’s not been touched on- I love learning new lessons from old stories (and it’s why I can never stay away from retellings!) So I love how you put that! 😊<3 I just don't want it to be a point of anxiety for people if that makes sense.
      Absolutely! I'm glad you agree there! And yes for sure!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. This is ABSOLUTELY true, in so many ways!!! You CANNOT please all of the people all of the time — and the road to hell is paved by the exhausted souls who tried. Most writers don’t get all hung up on making sure the entire planet likes their work; indeed, I get so excited when just a handful of gushing reviews of my latest release turn up on social media — the fact even those few really loved it makes me so happy! And while it would be fantastic to sell a million copies, I am very aware this is highly unlikely, and I don’t consider myself unsuccessful if my sales only hit a hundred a year. As long as most of my readers are enjoying what I’m producing, it’s worth it to keep going!

    And are there folks who will never read my work, and not care that they didn’t? Oh, yeah. Does that bother me? A little tiny bit. Does it totally demoralize me and make me want to stop writing? God, no!

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Really, really great advice. I especially love the part where you describe how writers write in what they deem a specific format and just assume that’s just how it works across the board and everyone will or should love it. It’s just not realistic and as I always say, you should go in knowing that there are going to be people who don’t like your story or writing style or anything. Also, massively agree about the people pleasing. If you aren’t writing for you then I feel like the passion is completely sucked out of the sorry before it could even get a chance to gain a tiny spark. Aaah! Great post!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Good stuff! As a pastor I’d say that pretty much all of these apply to teaching/preaching as well. I’ve occasionally prefaced a potentially controversial sermon with a mostly-serious “I have to fear God more than I fear you…” 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

  5. Yes! I remember when I first started writing, I was worried I wasn’t following “the rules.” Once I decided to forget “the rules,” and wrote for myself, everything became so much more enjoyable! Great advice!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Yes! Great post as always! That old chestnut if you try to please everyone you wind up pleasing no one definitely applies to blogging. I try not to take anything personally when reading reviews (or any writing really) though I must admit the one thing that will bother me is when the writer goes off on other readers. Like you can not like a book all you want (or think its the greatest thing ever) and I want to hear about it but you don’t need to trash people who don’t agree with you.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. This is such a great post! I love writing but I’m always so worried I’m doing it wrong or no one will like it. I guess we all feel like that at some point but I’ve found that it’s so important to continue with it and go with the flow haha!

    Liked by 3 people

  8. This was a really great and informative post! I’m an aspiring author so I’m going to take a lot of this on board! I also, highly, agree about the write what you want kind of thing – if you’re putting in the effort and it’s your own book with your name on the front cover, then it should come from your own heart and mind.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. The main problem I have with my writing is my style, I write in my own way because I like writing that way. I feel more connected to my story and find the writing experience more enjoyable. Yet in the back of my mind is ‘omg is my style shit, do I write like a 5 year, will people like it’. So then I start doubting myself and thinking if I write in this style no one would want to read it.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. There are still writers who say they don’t read…
    Ummm…. No. Really??? Really??? Wow.

    Anyways… great post and great advice. Some of it easier said than done as there are always the attacks that hit and self doubt that creep in and then the nasty reviews that make writers question themselves. But this right here is pretty solid motivation!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I know!!! Crazy right?!

      Thank you- I really do get that- I’m not gonna lie, I wrote a huge amount of this for myself (to look back at later when I’m having one of my regular bouts of “oh shit my writing sucks” moments 😉 ) So I hope other people can find this motivating too! I’m glad you think so!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Great post, and I agree. Certainly authors who write something ‘contrived’ to people please don’t come across as authentically as those who write what they want. Sometimes the latter doesn’t draw a large audience, sometimes it does, often unexpectedly. I mean, who’d have thought, in a million years, that mashing up boarding school stories with standard wand-and-spell magic fantasy would sell, like, a billion copies (or something).

    Liked by 2 people

  12. You’re are completely right about pedants. For instance, I noticed that in your 14th paragraph, in the 3rd sentence that you incorrectly used a semi-colon. But no worries, right?
    Ha!

    I don’t particularly mind when other bloggers say whatever they want on their blog. They can say the moon is made of cheese. But, as soon as they come to my blog, they’d better toe MY line. Since I don’t interact with random bloggers (for the most part anyway), I don’t have to worry about running across those kind of bloggers who feel the need to tell the rest of us how we ought to be doing things.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. hahaha 😂 😂 (for a moment I thought I was horrified at the thought that I’d actually made such a ghastly mistake- that would’ve been unforgivable 😉 )

      hehe fair enough and I agree- I guess I go looking for trouble 😉 But of course, I think people should say what they think, I just want to make it easier for people to know when they should ignore the ones who feel the need to tell everyone what to do 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  13. I always worry too much about being original! Sometimes it actually stops me from doing/writing/saying something because someone else has already done it. I should really stop doing that haha 😀
    I really love your posts! You always give the best advice 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Thank you for this post – it’s thoughtful and very true, and I especially liked all your points on not everyone will like the same thing and don’t try to please everyone. We are all our first readers and we have to try not to be so hard on ourselves… which is extremely hard! I also loved your point about reading lots of books. The more voices and styles and plot pacing and this and that and the other thing that you absorb, the better off you’ll be. Also, (even though I’ve been awful at actually producing writing for years, but since last month, doing better somehow) write write write. A little or a lot whenever you can, because if you don’t write anything, that story won’t ever get told. Yes, thank you for this post, it’s very encouraging 😀

    Liked by 2 people

  15. This is all good advice. I’m not really writing anything at the moment, but if I WERE to work on a book, I think this would be spot-on. There IS so much advice out there, but it’s probably better to deal with most of it during the revision stages. I think that, foremost, you have to write for yourself and write something you believe in, or you’re never going to get anywhere. Listening to too much advice can be paralyzing (at least, for me). Honestly, if I actually wanted to write a book, I might take an indefinite leave from Twitter, for example, to help clear my mind of everyone else’s strong opinions.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you very much! I’m really glad you thought so! And yes that’s true, but even then I think it can be overwhelming or not good (if possible, it’s better to get specific critiques for work) Personally I’d say the best thing is to know both sides of the argument so you can know when to listen and when to ignore (as in when it’s not suited for the style/work you’re going for). I definitely think that’s true about advice. hehe fair point! I’d say if an author wants to feel bad about everything they’ve written, they should hang out on there 😉

      Liked by 2 people

  16. A lot of what you are touching on here are really points that I use for reviewing and try to spread to others. There are millions and millions of people out there so there will never be a right or wrong for everyone and that’s why there are so many books out there. I’d like to think that for authors it’s much the same, write for you and if others love it and you become rich great, if not then at least you pleased yourself and can be proud of getting it out the way you wanted to.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. This is such a wonderful post and you make such great points. You’re right that a book can’t be universally loved (the world would be boring if that happened, I guess) and also we can’t write for everyone either, depending on our experiences and everything else, there always will be people seeing things in a different light or saying that this does not reflect their experiences. I think it’s important to remember that we can’t please everyone for sure, even if we want to most of the time – I know I do hahahaha 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  18. Agree. I’d also add “don’t steer clear of tropes just because they’re tropes.” There are many tropes that I’m not a fan of, but if a writer wants to use them, who am I to say “no”? I also think that tropes can have power in literature. They can be used originally, and subverted in interesting ways.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. A few years ago a friend of mine decided to write a book and asked me for advice. I wrote a lengthy reply giving advice on style and also how and when to write. Then I concluded by telling him to ignore most of what I’d just written and just write, to learn by doing.
    It’s nice to read that you’ve offered similar advice.
    The one absolute I added was to read a lot. Yeah, I also hear writers say “I don’t read”, and I don’t get it either. That’s like saying “I’m a chef but I never try any new foods.”

    Liked by 2 people

  20. These are great points, thanks for putting such a great post together! I think a lot of new writers need to see this, there’s some especially good points to be made about not trying to please everyone and By-The-Numbers writing which always end in the biggest disaster any writer can have: just being flat-out boring and not worth talking about. Even a bad story or style is better, because at least there’ll be something of interest to gain from taking the time to read it.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you for reading!! And yeah I really think those are important ones. Especially since I see some of the people who doing the by-the-numbers thing being *super* boring (actually one indie author who shall remain nameless uses the by-the-numbers thing *and* doesn’t read- meaning they created a couple of very dull books- the second was such *generic* fantasy contest that I DNF’d it before the end of the sample). And yeah- I’d rather read something that I can hate read- cos I really struggle to be a DNF’er- but I can put down a boring book- there’s not much point in reading it.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh dear! I’m always sad to hold a truly boring book in my hand, because it means that people put time and effort into editing, printing, binding, producing the cover, all these things just as they would for a good book, but it;s all in the service of *crushing* boredom and I feel bad for everyone involved!

        Liked by 2 people

  21. Great list! 🙂 Another BS writing ‘rule’ I can think of is ‘write what you know.’ That messes things up for a lot of people because they think they have to write within their direct line of experience, and that really limits them.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. I’m so happy you put the point in about controversial content. There are so many triggers out there, and it seems like EVERYTHING offends SOMEONE. You can only write for yourself and hope that there are others out there like you. If people didn’t write anything that would offend or annoy… We wouldn’t have ANYTHING to read! I we really wouldn’t have a lot of out thriller, horror and Bizarro books! 💖💖💖

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m really glad you agree!! I was so nervous about doing that one, but frankly, I know how stressful that can be, because yes, there’s always going to be difficult content and I know that some things that I like reading don’t suit other people (and I also write things that I know a lot of people won’t like, but that’s okay, cos it doesn’t have to be for everyone and right now it’s just for me anyway). Exactly!! ❤ ❤ ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  23. A great post and I don’t say that out of common courtesy. I agree with everything you mention and although my writing is just some world building and a couple of shorts all this makes perfect sense to me.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. OMG, I love this post! Reading a lot of books is a great tip for all the writers. It’s like doing a research. I’ve seen some newbie wannabe authors who doesn’t read much and their books sucked. They publish books with boring plot and typical tropes.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Youre completely right! I always worry that I’m not being original enough, but then I’m like, there’s no way you can always come up with completely original content but you can put your spin on it and that is still good!! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  26. Great advice! You definitely compiled a really awesome list with this one. We should definitely take a moment to reflect on any criticism or even advice given to us anyone on our craft. The mind can be quite tricky and find itself in a vulnerable place if we let everyone tell us what we can and can’t do.

    Liked by 1 person

  27. Consider this the written equivalent of a standing ovation. The first point on every “how to write a best-selling novel” book should be “don’t believe everything you read”. “One size fits all” solutions are not what makes a great novel work, but somehow this craft and community are enamored with advice literature that tries to sell precisely that concept.

    Liked by 1 person

  28. Some simple advice really helped me:
    – Tell the truth (sincerity)
    – Tell the story that only you can tell
    – Offer value to the reader
    – Write from a place of passion
    – Go for it. Do whatever you please.

    Great post! Need to hear these points from time to time.

    Liked by 1 person

  29. This was extremely validating – thank you for writing this! I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve agonized over “originality” while writing my sorta-YA-fantasy series. But then when you look at how many brilliant and amazing authors (Neil Gaiman; J.R.R. Tolkien, J.K. Rowling) use fantasy tropes and traditional mythology and folklore in their stories, it reminds you that while no topic is new, every authorial voice is unique in the telling.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Exactly – and there’s a reason certain archetypal stories get told over and over: it’s because they’re good and they appeal to a lot of people on a fundamental psychological level. So let’s cut ourselves some slack!

        Liked by 1 person

  30. Paint by numbers writing – that’s it!
    I’ve only been writing fiction since I retired, and – being a bit… insecure – I’ve read so much advice (structure, character, plot, background, font, day-of-the-week…).
    I get the point, but it doesn’t work for me – especially structure. I draft the story and end up trying to fit it into the mould. that’s probably why I have two and a half fledgling novels and haven’t the heart to go back to any of them. (Although short stories have been keeping me busy.)
    Love the blog. I’ve only just plucked up courage to start one.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I completely understand and relate. Honestly, I don’t see a reason to force it into an exact mould- especially considering most books will end up having a lot of similarities naturally (I’ve seen a fair number of generic books out there- I don’t see why people should be encouraged to be too slavish to a rulebook).
      Thank you very much! And that’s brilliant- welcome to the blogosphere! 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  31. As supportive as the writing community can be, we can also be extremely critical – and you point out great things we need to consider when critiquing someone’s work. As for word choice, I brought a piece of YA Fantasy to a writing group that was all realistic, literary fiction (so they were already kinda looking down on me and my style) and one of the critiques was that you could not describe a person as “loping”. I was told the animals loped, not people. When I told that to a friend, her exact words were “have they never seen a teenage boy run?” And since my character was supposed to be in their young 20s and extremely athletic, I thought my friends analysis a little more appropriate to my story. Anyway, long way of saying I agree with you!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yeah that’s very true. I kind of aimed this more at people taking critique, but that’s true too. Erm, yeah, I think you can describe people as loping- even if it was true that it applied more to animals tha people (which by definition it doesn’t, so they were just plain wrong), that would be a bestial metonym and is completely fine in the context given. hehe no worries, that was my long winded way of saying I think that the word “loping” was totally fine and they were being nitpicky for no reason 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  32. Very nice discussion! As a book reviewer, I find myself getting rather pedantic and overly analytical about books I’ve read, but in hindsight I think that sometimes I was too critical. Books should be about enjoyment and finding the right audience, so like you say, it’s about finding the balance between personal and original stories without trying to please everybody: like, if a story makes sense to you, you should write it. The end. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  33. I think a lot of my hesitation with writing more chapters for Arcadia has had to do with the fact that I was suuuuper worried to offend someone or to just plain make a mistake. I do know deep down that not everyone will like my story (totally fair enough), but I still want everyone to like it nonetheless haha it’s hard! And it completely robbed me of my joy of writing. I had to take a long hard look into the mirror, get over myself and just write whatever I wanted to. It’s not a final draft anyway, so I can always change things. And if that’s what I want to write, I should have the option to at least experiment with whatever is spooking around my head.
    I could really relate to that post! Well doooone ❤

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yeah I totally relate- I’ve spent a ridiculous amount of time worrying about that too. I mean I can kind of deal with people not liking it, but would be really disappointed if people took offense- but I guess there’s nothing we can do about that. I think that is the exact attitude to have and wonderfully put!!
      Thank you so much!!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Exactly! Especially in these times, people really don’t hesitate to call you out if you offend them and it can spiral into real shitstorms so easily. But for now, I am writing what I need to write for myself. Glad you can relate 😀

        Liked by 1 person

  34. Ahhh this is such a great post that I really needed! There’s some great writing advice on the internet, but sometimes it can be a bit exhausting, especially when I was a bit younger. I really thought those were the Rules™️ and that if I didn’t follow them I’d be a bad writer and I’d never make it. I know that’s silly, but it seemed like those people knew what they were talking about lol.

    Liked by 1 person

  35. Great advice! The advice I’m giving myself is to just keep going. It’s just one word after another. Terry Pratchett used to write a set number of words per day, and if he finished one book without completing his word target he’d just start the next one.

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  36. When my writing partner and I decided to embark on this lengthy endeavor, we decided to start out educated. After reading writing books for ages, we realized the only two consistent pieces of advice were, 1. Read everything you can get your hands on. Classics, sci fi, fantasy, romance, and every other genre. 2. Write, every day. It might be, ‘I can’t do this!’ Expressed as many different ways you can think of.

    My two-cents, (you didn’t think I would pass this up!) keep an idea journal. When you are banging your head on the computer keyboard because you don’t know what to do, open your idea journal and read what you have written down. It never fails that I find something in there to keep me moving forward. Happy writing ♥️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Those are two excellent pieces of advice and I think they are the best two most important things for sure!! 😀

      hehe I always welcome your two cents 😉 And I one hundred percent agree about the idea journal. It’s something I love to do and I think every writer should do it! (I was amazed when I saw someone quoting King saying that you shouldn’t keep a notebook as a novelist… I mean, I get his logic that good ideas come back, but every instinct in me screams against that, cos yes, ideas come back, but if you have them written down you can hone them and make them better and it saves so much time spent trying to remember things. Anyway, sidetracked there, but I completely agree with your advice ❤

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hmmm… I guess whatever works for King! And for mel I can say that at first I was resistant to writing ideas down. I felt my memory was infallible and the universe decided to test this arrogance… I have to say I did remember the basic idea but it was never as good as the original. In fact I’ve found notes I made, after having relied on my memory and this is a proven thought! It just wasn’t as good. Also in the writing of the idea I got tangent ideas that really developed the entire idea…. and I didn’t remember those when I relied on my memory. But I guess to each their own. 😀

        Liked by 1 person

  37. I know the post is not about that, but I just can’t help staring at that beautiful GIF of the mandala being colored 😀 it’s hypnotizing.

    But this is a really good post and I agree with your points 🙂 especially people-pleasing. Since I’m not a writer, I can’t talk about it from that point, but it applies to a blogger point of view as well. Like the thing where half the bloggers think they have to blog about YA to be read at all. And so force themselves to read a genre (okay, age group) they don’t really care too much about. Same people pleasing problem!

    Liked by 1 person

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