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Just Write—Avoid the Bullshit Gurus

Bondi Beach

Short and on point. Bonus: she writes well.

Against Motivational Advice on Writing

"What I am going to do is explain, as clearly as I can, why these articles are bullshit which serves the only purpose of flogging bullshit books and bullshit guides about writing. I wrote this as a response to a story, but I will repost it here." —Giulia Blasi

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Replies:   REP  awnlee jawking
REP

@Bondi Beach

A very good article. What she says makes very good sense to me. Although I might quibble on her 'No correlation' comment in certain things for I can see a very small correlation in certain circumstances. But even then, I agree with the intent of what she means.

awnlee jawking

@Bondi Beach

First: there is no direct correlation between success and the quality of your work.


She's clearly not a mathematician!

There's quite a strong correlation between success and quality. As an agent once explained to me, 99% of unsolicited submissions go straight in the bin because the covering letter, the synopsis or the first three chapters are so poor as to indicate the work is not worth persisting with.

Second: there is no direct correlation between how much work you put in and the amount of money you get paid to write.


I would expect a correlation, weaker than above, for similar reasons.

Is there really a plague of bloggers peddling motivational advice as a magic formula to make you a successful writer?

AJ

REP

@awnlee jawking

Is there really a plague of bloggers peddling motivational advice as a magic formula to make you a successful writer?


Yes, but the advice isn't necessarily motivational.

Replies:   awnlee jawking
awnlee jawking

@REP

But that's what the blog's about - hence the title.

AJ

Replies:   REP
robberhands

@awnlee jawking

There's quite a strong correlation between success and quality. As an agent once explained to me, 99% of unsolicited submissions go straight in the bin because the covering letter, the synopsis or the first three chapters are so poor as to indicate the work is not worth persisting with.

That just means you talked to a very selfassured person. He/she may or may not be able to recognize a succesful book. Publishers and their agents often reject even most succesful books, as they often belatedly find out when some else published them.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
REP

@awnlee jawking

I was referring to the other 1,000+ bloggers who tell you their opinion as if it were fact.

awnlee jawking

@REP

That's why I'm trying to adopt a more scientific approach to improving my writing ;)

AJ

Ross at Play
Updated:

This is a quote from the bottom of the "bullshit guide for writing" SHE IS FLOGGING!
(With my bold font added)

The Writing Cooperative is a community of people helping each other write better. Become a member to join our Slack team, get fresh eyes on your writing, and participate in the 52-Week Writing Challenge! Only $3 a month.

Bondi Beach

@awnlee jawking

Is there really a plague of bloggers peddling motivational advice as a magic formula to make you a successful writer?


Not sure it's a plague, but the last two motivational types I read insisted a blog is essential to your marketing strategy. In other words, marketing was part of their motivational pitch. In their words, "You can sell more books with a blog."

That said, she distinguished between blogging and writing fiction, although ended up by saying if you want to write, write. She'd already said your chances of making money with your fiction depended more on circumstances that had no direct relation to the quality of your prose.

I just did a couple of spur-of-the-moment images of my sister and her partner, not trying for formal portraits. They're not bad. He thanked me and said they'd use them for their [book] jacket photos. I told him to get writing, already, although for all I know he's already got a draft. I doubt she does.

In other words, writing makes one a writer. Period. (Although of course acquiring all the accoutrements—pens, paper, the right chair, the right desk, the right corner of the house or garden, garret not required—is a lot of fun, too.)

bb

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Ernest Bywater

Her first point is mostly right, but misses the most significant aspect of what's said when people push about being a good writer. I'd word that piece as:

While good quality work won't guarantee your acceptance as a good writer, bad quality work will guarantee your rejection unless there are some odd external factors involved.

Replies:   Bondi Beach
Bondi Beach
Updated:

@Ernest Bywater


While good quality work won't guarantee your acceptance as a good writer, bad quality work will guarantee your rejection unless there are some odd external factors involved.


[EDITED] Those "odd external factors" explain the success of "Fifty Shades of Grey," wildly successful self-published "mommy porn" before it was picked up by a mainstream publisher.

By all accounts the writing is terrible. But, and it's a big "but," it hit exactly the intersection she describes:

"Also: marketing, self-marketing, publishers' firepower. It's got nothing to do with how well you write. Everything to do with a combination of luck and being in the right place at the right time."

bb

Crumbly Writer

@awnlee jawking

Is there really a plague of bloggers peddling motivational advice as a magic formula to make you a successful writer?

I've long complained about the quality of most articles and books on writing, suspecting—based on the terrible advice—that they were either written by failed writers, or by writers hoping to prevent anyone else from competing with them. Their advice is not just unhelpful, but it's downright counter productive. The kind of thing most knowledgeable authors would avoid at all costs.

And yes, most struggling authors quicker give up on writing, turning to writing blogs about writing so they can draw attention to themselves, establish themselves as 'experts', and charge for hits on their site with advertisers. It's a thriving cottage industry, though the writing journals aren't any better.

That's why I prefer spending my time in the forums, asking real authors what works and what doesn't, rather than listening to the supposed experts with no real successes to back up their advice.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Crumbly Writer

@robberhands

That just means you talked to a very selfassured person. He/she may or may not be able to recognize a succesful book. Publishers and their agents often reject even most succesful books, as they often belatedly find out when some else published them.

Not only that, but they're trying to market themselves as the arbeiters of publishing knowledge. They're not about to admit how often they judge wrong, otherwise no author would trust them when they say their work isn't worth the effort. Also, since publishers no longer offer free editing, they'll reject poorly edited pieces no matter how good it may be, simply because they don't want to pay the extra expense.

Also, most publishers work only with selected agents, who often share the same assumptions about what sells and what doesn't, so usually, publishers only sees the few the agents pass on. Those are the reasons why most traditional publishers are now forgoing reading submissions themselves, now offering deals, often sight unseen, to any self-published author who can sell over 100,000 sales on their own, preferring to pour money into an already successful marketer rather than trying to market a newbie themselves.

Crumbly Writer

@REP

I was referring to the other 1,000+ bloggers who tell you their opinion as if it were fact.

Sound like anyone you know? 'D But seriously, what I discuss here, is only after I reject the majority of crappy advice available. I instead base my decisions based on the recommendations of proven authors who have no vested interest in offering crappy advice.

Not only do I trust their judgement, but I also doubt their motivations. Fewer decent new authors, the better their own crappy books sell.

Crumbly Writer

@Bondi Beach

That said, she distinguished between blogging and writing fiction, although ended up by saying if you want to write, write. She'd already said your chances of making money with your fiction depended more on circumstances that had no direct relation to the quality of your prose.

That's another detail I keep harping on. Most authors who blog, become so wrapped up in keeping new content on their site, that they never write another novel again. At most, they'll enter flash contests, more often offering to 'judge' flash contests so they can draw even more newbie authors to their blogs.

It's one huge scam for the unaware.

Crumbly Writer

@Bondi Beach

Those "odd external factors" explain the success of "Fifty Shades of Grey," wildly successful self-published "mommy porn" before it was picked up by a mainstream publisher.

The other thing that marks success, especially among self-published authors, is marketing expertise. You can sell more books if you spend ALL your time marketing, and little time actually writing. Thus, most publishing houses aren't as interested in quality writing, as they are in proven marketing success, so they won't have to market the crappy books themselves (i.e. if they invest money in marketing the book, the author won't fumble the ball during interviews and book signings, plus they'll bring their existing fans to the table, meaning any books will have a solid first-buy which pushes them to the top of the best-sellers lists. That's why so many cheezy books like "Fifty Shades" get published.

P.S. I'm a crappy marketer myself. I've read the suggestions about how it's done, but either can't make heads or tails of it, or don't have the pushy personality required to make the sales. :(

Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

I instead base my decisions based on the recommendations of proven authors who have no vested interest in offering crappy advice.


Since new authors would represent competition, proven authors who are still writing do an interest in offering crappy advice.

Ernest Bywater

@Bondi Beach

Those "odd external factors" explain the success of "Fifty Shades of Grey,"


Yes it does. It also explains some of the crappier Vampire stories that some publishers pushed to try and catch a share of the Twilight Series publicity and market. Sometimes when a publisher feels something is on a wave or about to be a wave they accept almost anything that fits that demographic just to have a finger in the pot.

Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer

And yes, most struggling authors quicker give up on writing, turning to writing blogs about writing so they can draw attention to themselves, establish themselves as 'experts', and charge for hits on their site with advertisers.


Which is why the only blog I have is the ones on the WLPC sites I use to announce a story being released on the site and discuss aspects about the story readers raise which I feel needs a bit more explanation.

awnlee jawking

@Crumbly Writer

I instead base my decisions based on the recommendations of proven authors who have no vested interest in offering crappy advice.


I suggest instead you study what the authors do in their own works. For example, Stephen King frequently offers writing advice which is contrary to his own writing style.

Perhaps the saying should be:-
Those who can, do.
Those who can't, teach.
Those who can, can't teach :)

AJ

Dominions Son

@awnlee jawking

For example, Stephen King frequently offers writing advice which is contrary to his own writing style.


As an active author he has an interest in new authors being less than successful.

Crumbly Writer

@awnlee jawking

I suggest instead you study what the authors do in their own works. For example, Stephen King frequently offers writing advice which is contrary to his own writing style.

Perhaps the saying should be:-
Those who can, do.
Those who can't, teach.
Those who can, can't teach :)

Pardon me, but King's fantastic treatise On Writing is the one author written advice book which disproves the entire 'writer's can't teach writing' theory. Although he often does things which contradict his own advice (what author doesn't experiment by contradicting the rules?), that doesn't mean his advice isn't excellent.

I'm mostly talking about the advice many authors promote on their blogs which seems counterproductive, causing their initial works to either be flatly rejected by publishers, or cause them to try things they'll then have to unwind in order to proceed. :(

Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

As an active author he has an interest in new authors being less than successful.

As he's stated many times, he's SO successful that he won't make any less money if another 10,000 authors flood the market, cause everyone will continue reading his new works. Thus HE really has no incentive to offer conflicting advice. Average authors don't have the same position, as they can be knocked from their precarious perch by anyone writing something mildly similar.

awnlee jawking

@Dominions Son

As an active author he has an interest in new authors being less than successful.


I don't think he indulges in deliberate sabotage but, curious as it might sound considering his success, there seems to be a disconnect between what Stephen King likes and what his audience likes.

The books he rates as favourite amongst his output, the ones which most closely conform to his writing advice, are among the poorer sellers. And the films for which he does his own screenplays tend to falter at the box office.

Because of his success, and the availability of his writing advice, he's much studied by Creative Writing courses. While there are very few writers who have been as successful as Stephen King, there's a feeling that he could have done much better. Imagine if each of his books had sold as well as the Harry Potter novels.

AJ

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@awnlee jawking

Because of his success, and the availability of his writing advice, he's much studied by Creative Writing courses. While there are very few writers who have been as successful as Stephen King, there's a feeling that he could have done much better. Imagine if each of his books had sold as well as the Harry Potter novels.

I suspect that's mainly the genre he writes in. While a LOT of people like horror stories, there are also a LOT of people who would NEVER pick up a horror story.

Harry Potter appealed to kids of all ages, across the spectrum, while horror appeals to a certain segment of the 'never got past their teenage years' group. Given that, I seriously doubt many lovers of horror give a shit about literary technique, as all they want is schlock, titillation and surprises.

After having written my first zombie book, it's a very hard market to crack.

Replies:   robberhands
robberhands

@Crumbly Writer

Given that, I seriously doubt many lovers of horror give a shit about literary technique, as all they want is schlock, titillation and surprises.

How come you hold Stephen King in high regards as an author but have such a condescending view of his readers? I read some of Stephen King's horror stories (don't forget, he wrote other books as well) and I enjoyed his style. The same with Edgar Allan Poe's 'horror' stories, just to add another example.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@robberhands

How come you hold Stephen King in high regards as an author but have such a condescending view of his readers? I read some of Stephen King's horror stories (don't forget, he wrote other books as well) and I enjoyed his style. The same with Edgar Allan Poe's 'horror' stories, just to add another example.

I enjoyed Poe as a young boy (back around the same time I was reading the entire Conan the Barbarian series), but haven't ever glanced back since. I'm just not a fan of horror stories. I was forced to read Jaws back when it was first published and HATED it with a passion, and never bothered watching the movie. Unfortunately, I've seen so many outtakes and clips over the years, I could give you a full play-by-play of the entire movie. :(

I feel the same about Stephen King. I've always appreciated his writing advice, but never got more than a couple of pages into any of his stories. Even for someone who typically writes sci-fi stories about alternate universes, I find his plots completely unbelievable. I can't even begin suspend my disbelief.

But again, that's the genre, not the author. I should dig out one of his more 'literary' works and see how it stands up. However, I admire his advice to other authors so much, I'm afraid to poison my good opinion of him with a confirmation about what I've always felt about his writing.

But for those who have no problem suspending their disbelief with those kinds of films, I don't judge them—though I will bitch incessantly if they try to drag me to one!

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