I’m a big fan of self-education for writers. And the internet is stuffed with advice for writers – often from those with courses to sell. But how do you know what is good advice? What can you safely ignore?
Having read her latest book, Indie With Ease (read the review here), I invited Pauline Wiles to talk to us about the writing advice we should ignore.
Take it away, Pauline!
3 Types of Advice for Writers You Can Ignore
There are almost 1,000 books on Amazon on the topic of advice for writers, and almost a million results from Google. That’s a mountain of well-intentioned guidance to sort through! And the problem is: much of it may not work for you.
Whatever stage you’re at in your writing career, there’s a danger in absorbing a message that there is only one way for a writer to be successful in a certain area. You’ll judge yourself critically and likely become disillusioned if you find that tactic doesn’t help you get more, or better, words on the page.
So, take the advice you read with a pinch of salt. View your writing habits as a mini experiment, and approach each piece of advice with curiosity. See if it clicks with your personality type and is a boost, not a burden to your efforts.
In particular, here are 3 types of writing advice to be wary of:
1. Stealing from sleep to make time to write
My least favourite advice for writers is that you should make time to write by getting up an hour early. There’s nothing wrong with this suggestion in itself, but it must be accompanied by the advice to go to bed earlier, too. Stealing from sleep eventually destroys both your focus and creativity and makes it more likely you’ll fall into bad habits like overeating and caffeine reliance.
As Arianna Huffington, author of The Sleep Revolution reminds us, “Sleep is profoundly intertwined with virtually every aspect of brain health. Lack of sleep over time can lead to an irreversible loss of brain cells.”
Instead, writers should consider other activities which are not key to their overall health, like watching TV and mindless web surfing. Try to divert precious minutes from those instead.
And if you have trouble sleeping, try gently applying your writing skills at bedtime. A short journal entry, or even making a “worry list” can help your brain switch off and signal that it’s time to rest. The Journal of Experimental Psychology reported a study which found bedtime list-making helped people fall asleep faster.
Also, keep a notebook close to your bed, in case you wake up in the middle of the night with an inspired idea. By jotting it down, you’ll reassure your brain it doesn’t need to stay awake to remember that nugget.
2. The ideal writing routine
The advice for writers we seem to hear most often on the ideal writing routine is “write every day”. That’s fine if it works for you and your lifestyle. But what if you work a double shift on Tuesdays, and are in sole charge of four kids on Saturdays? Don’t hesitate to develop a pattern which works for you. Personally, I’m a fan of writing often enough so that I can remember what’s going on in my manuscript.
In his book Daily Rituals, Mason Currey looked at the creative routines of 161 famous people. He noted there were huge variations in how they went about their work: the only thing they truly had in common was they all made time for their creative endeavours somehow, and then consistently showed up. Meanwhile, Bec Evans, co-founder of writing app Prolifiko, says that “binge writing” is now the most common pattern of finding time to write
3. Advice from authors at a different point in their career
If you’re ambitious as a writer and keen to further your craft and marketing skills, you’re probably consuming advice in the form of podcasts, interviews and articles from established authors. This is an inspiring and informative way of honing both your abilities and your approach. However, before you take their guidance as gospel, be sure to discover where they are in their author career, relative to you.
Joanna Penn, for example, is a huge proponent of publishing “wide”, whereby your work is available on many platforms, not just Amazon. But she also notes that when you’re early in your author journey, perhaps with just one or two books published, going wide may not be the smartest strategy.
I also heard a keynote speech from Bella Andre, who is a phenomenally successful indie author. In her opinion, the best marketing you can do is to write the next book. However, that works best when you’ve already established a tribe of readers. If you’re much earlier in your publishing career, understanding and targeting your ideal reader is necessary groundwork; you should spend time here first.
In summary, knowing yourself and your author aspirations is the best advice an author can take to heart. While you should stay curious and open to new approaches, understand that the methods which truly help you achieve your writing goals may be surprising, and personal to you.
Thank you, Pauline!
Bio: British by birth, Pauline Wiles is now a contented resident of California, although she admits to an occasional yearning for afternoon tea and historic homes. An author, speaker and productivity mentor, Pauline writes light-hearted women’s fiction as well as articles on time management and organizing for creatives. Her debut novel, Saving Saffron Sweeting, reached the quarter-final in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. Recognizing that many self-published authors feel overwhelmed by their writing and publishing activities, Pauline offers resources and encouragement to other indie authors. Her newest release is Indie With Ease, offering practical ways to conquer stress, boost productivity and love your self-publishing career.
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