Professional Ghost

5 Pieces Of The Worst Writing Advice

After more than 20-years as a professional writer, I have not had much call to trawl online for advice on writing. In recent months though, I have been conducting some research for my forthcoming book The Complete Guide to Ghostwriting, so felt it might be a good idea to get a feel for how other people hone their craft.

I have been genuinely surprised by some of the suggestions I have found. While many websites and blogs were helpful, on occasions I have stumbled across some words of advice that made me think; why would anyone do that?

So, for the sake of anyone who is, like me, searching for the best writing advice online, I would humbly offer my top five worst writing tips. In no particular order they are:

1. Fight writer's block.
The amount of blogs instructing people to fight through writer's block in a similar way to battling through a stitch halfway through a lengthy run is enormous. I completely disagree with this advice. As I mentioned in my previous post on getting over writer's block, it is counter-productive to be too hard on yourself. Acting as if it's not there won't make it any easier to continue writing. It is far better to take a break and come back to it when you are in the right frame of mind.

2. Plans are not needed.
In my opinion no writer should begin any piece of work as substantial as a book without a plan. Knowing where a book will begin, where it will go and how it will end is absolutely crucial to the process. This does not, however, mean that if you discover a sudden urge to change something substantial that you shouldn't follow it. Imaginative shifts like this are just much harder to incorporate if there is no definite central idea.

3. Never base characters on people you know.
Why not? Obviously there can be legal implications if the person is clearly identifiable and the storyline is contentious, but with care this can be a very useful technique to help build rounded characters. After all, we are all influenced by the people we spend time with, so why not use their interesting character traits to build your protagonist?

4. Write what you know.
First time authors are often advised to write what they know about, perhaps drawing upon their knowledge or experiences in their specialist field. It would be a pretty dull world if a civil servant from Croydon only wrote about being a civil servant in Croydon, or a horticulturist chose to concentrate on the trials and tribulations of tilling the land. We'd certainly never have had great novels such as Hitchhikers Guide, Watership Down or The War of The Worlds, which explore subjects beyond our everyday life. It is much better to have more ambitious plans for your work that take you out of your comfort zone.

5. Follow the zeitgeist and you can't go wrong.
Anyone who is hurriedly penning a pastiche of Shades of Grey or a novel featuring a hoard of vampires and zombies should look away now. That ship has sailed. While the known authors in these genres are still selling by the bucket load, traditional publishers are saturated with wannabe versions. By the time you finish your book you will be a long way beyond the tail end of a dying trend. In fact, the big trends in publishing are usually over before you've even heard about them.

My honest advice? Do what works for you; write with passion about the subject that grips you. That way you will get results.


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