Not-So-Helpful Writing Advice

Have you ever shared your writing endeavors with someone who doesn't write? It usually ends with some ignorant advice.

"You need to read this book because
this author knows how to write."

Implication: ...and you need to learn.

For someone who refuses to read anything I write, who doesn't write himself, who hasn't studied the craft, that was some of the worst advice ever. Sure, reading is a good way to improve the quality of your writing, and I did need to grow. But that wasn't what I needed at the time.

Besides, I had no desire to read that book after that.

"You should write a children's book.
There's a lot of cute books out there."

I'm working on writing YA fantasy and science fiction. I've worked really hard on my craft and building an audience. Now is not the time to try to change my direction.

"Getting published in a free anthology
isn't going to help your writing career.
You have to get paid for your work to
be considered by a publisher."

What a way to rip a person apart.

"Your character should be more angsty."

I have two characters in this story, both characters have faced the same painful experiences. One is angsty. The other snapped and went insane. It was the insane one that they thought should be angsty, and that totally didn't fit the character or the story.

Had any experiences of busybodies telling you how to write when they know nothing about writing? Please share.


  1. You tell busybody who thinks publishing in an anthology for no money isn't helping you to piss off. First, many anthologies pay no more than a free copy, or a very small token payment. So free or not, you're not going to make much that way. Unless your name is Stephen King and you make your own anthologies.

    Second, they probably have never heard of a platform. While you work on manuscripts and getting novels published, you also must build a platform.

    Yeah, I've heard the same thing in case you're wondering. I love when they haven't read anything but when they find out you write they say 'Hey, you should write (insert random genre here). That totally sells.' Sigh.

    Useless advice is the kind you simply nod and smile to and quickly forget. It's really all you can do.

  2. Not so helpful advice? That would be about 90% of it then, wouldn't it? The figure approaches unity when it comes from people who don't write or read much themselves.

    "You should write the story of my life! That'd be a best seller!"

    I usually respond by saying "Why? You're really quite boring..."

  3. I used to hear busybody suggestions when I was younger, but it hasn't happened lately. Are they not forthcoming or do I just not 'hear' them?

  4. I've been listening to and reading tripe like this for years.

    Usually they want to sell you 'their' book, or yet another 'scholarly' ...snicker.. masterpiece on how to write and be published.

    What a load of tripe.


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