Bad Advice

The Word Play blog has a good post about bad writing advice today, my favorite of which was: “Write what you know. If I wrote about what I know, my books would be pretty boring!” submitted by @righter1.

The post reminded me of some bad advice I was witness to recently at a small writing conference. A panel of local authors was gathered to offer advice and guidance to aspiring writers. While a lot of their advice was valuable, one of their comments struck me as completely out of touch and very naive. Here it is, paraphrased:  “Write what you want. Don’t worry about your audience or genre. Your eventual publisher will figure all of that out.”

Okay, no.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m a card-carrying member of the Write What Inspires You Club. BUT… you’d better know who your audience is!

Bookstores organize their stock into categories for a reason. People know what they like, and they want to be able to find it easily. If you write a book that’s a mash-up of space aliens, fairies, a child dying of cancer, the reunion of two scorned lovers, and a Big Brother inspired government take-over, what genre will it fall under? Where is your book going to be shelved?

If you’re not paying any attention to the genre you’re writing in, how will you learn by reading already published books within that genre? How will you write appropriately to please and entertain your audience? How will you write a compelling query to interest an agent or publisher in your manuscript? How will you be able to list comparable books if asked? How will you participate in marketing once the book (hopefully!) sells?

Yes. Hearing that advice spouted carelessly to a room full of hopefuls was horrifying. I was tempted to raise my hand and speak out, but at the time, it felt disrespectful. Who am I, an unpublished aspiring writer, to argue advice given by a seasoned veteran? Now, I sort of wish I would have. I know we’re all creative individuals, but publishing is a business and should be treated as such. I’m very proactive in researching the publishing industry and the genre in which I write, but I’m willing to bet some of the people at that conference aren’t. And now they’re stuck with advice that, frankly, sucks.

What about you? Any horrible advice you’ve gotten during the course of your writing journey?


4 thoughts on “Bad Advice

  1. katharine owens says:

    Hmmm… I have not gotten much bad advice, but that’s primarily because the internet is such a great resource to find people in the industry and get a TON of good advice for free.

    I cannot imagine how my stupid mistakes would have been compounded in the past, with little internet guidance.

    I do hear funny things from people not in the industry– my mom doesn’t understand how you can send out your ideas, or put them on your blog without worrying that people will “steal” them.

    I’ve tried to explain.

    I’ve also had well-meaning family tell me to self-publish if I don’t find an agent. But again, thank god for the internet– which provides so much fantastic information.

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