On “writing tips”

If you write and you dabble in social media with other writers, you’re going to see a lot of “writing tips”. There are a few–a very few–that are truly valuable for the new author. Let your work sit for as long as possible before releasing it is the principle one of those.

There are so many more, though. So many that reflect the tip-giver’s preferred style. The tip-giver’s genre. The tip-giver’s target audience. The tip-giver’s pet peeves.

There’s usually a kernel of truth in these tips, and it’s good to have read them. What isn’t good is for you, as a completely different writer with a completely different style, genre, target audience, and set of pet peeves to take them to heart.

I am reminded of Japanese painters. When a person decided to learn to paint in Japan, I don’t know when but whenever it used to happen and people took it seriously, which may be today or a thousand years ago or–I don’t know, this is why I don’t write historical fiction–but anyway, they were first made to imitate the masters. The idea was that only by imitating the great can one learn what it means to be great. When you have learned that, you’re ready to do your own thing. Greatly.

One can’t imitate great writers, but one can study them. One can see how they did things. One can guess why they did them that way. One can note their particular audience, genre, style, and if the author has left a lot of letters behind, pet peeves.

And then one can write one’s own way, to please one’s own self.

Because the truth is, the only writing tips that will work for you are the ones you write for yourself. Anyone who says differently is trying to sell you something.

Except the thing about letting your manuscripts sit. That’s free. And you know what they say about free advice.


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