Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Good Writing Advice. When is it too much?

I've been thinking lately about good writing.  There are so many resources out there to help writers to grow in their craft.  Whether it's technical, grammatical, emotion-fueled, or character based, the information out there can be overwhelming.  With the advent of digital media, e-books and vlogs, combined with the traditional printed word, it doesn't matter whether you're a cyber-geek or traditional quill writer, there is always a way to access the information writers so desperately seek.

But what is the downside to all this information?  When is advice on good writing too much?

First, let's get one thing straight - every reader and writer has an opinion.
Second, not every opinion is right.
Third, not every opinion is wrong.

Based on that, a writer can be left wondering what information to follow and which not to.  Of course, credibility of the source can largely define what advice you choose to absorb.  However, that isn't what this post is about.  It's about whether you can have TOO much good advice.  Strange question, right?  But I'm going to say YES, you can have too much good advice.

Let's break it down, shall we?

A novel, a good novel, not only has good writing, but it has that indefinable X factor.  It's something that writers, readers and editors can't quite put their finger on.   But they "know it when they see/read it" (and yes, those are probably some of the most frustrating words a writer can hear, but they are very illuminating).

Despite some of the best technical writing, some novels don't quite gel.  They lack that spark.  Even though a writer has studied character arcs, plotting, pace, themes, grammar, and a myriad of other elements, their finished work doesn't quite hit the mark.

Is it a lack of heart?  Of passion?

Well, not always.

You see, sometimes good writing advice can actually suck the soul out of your words.  You can have 100% heart and dedication but you can also write it completely out of your novel.  At the end of the day, the key is to find balance.  Balance writing advice with your own voice.  Remember, this is your story, your tale.  While great advice is crucial to making the best of your words, it's also important that you don't bleed the soul out of your work.  And this is perhaps one of the biggest flaws I see in new writers' work.  Brilliant technical writing lacking soul.

So do yourself a favor and trust that your soul is just as important as your skill.




  1. This post is excellent. I think I might do this to some extent, so I'm really glad you brought it up. I do think, though, that there are some people who actually give advice on how to put your soul into your work (I'm thinking Donald Maass in particular)--but even there, I suppose there is a danger of getting too distanced from your own decisions and instincts.

  2. LOVE THIS POST, Fiona!! LOVE IT! Great wisdom here.

  3. I really needed someone to say all this to me today, so thank you, Fiona!!!!!

  4. Excellent post! Thank you for this!

  5. Thanks for commenting, guys! I'm so glad that it's useful for you all! I have to remind myself of this often when I'm writing. That it can't be all technical without soul. Happy writing you guys! I hope to see you around the YATopian blog! :-)

    P.S. I am in awe of Donald Maass, Susan!