I love writing advice. I love writing advice blogs (like mine), I love writing advice YouTube videos made by AuthorTubers, I love writing advice Twitter threads by authors and agents… I love it all. However, I also think it can be detrimental to new writers. Let me explain why.
When I was young and just learning how to write, not worrying about being published someday, I was experimenting. I was writing the stupidest plot lines, with the weirdest story structure, and the worst grammar you’ve probably ever seen. And, yeah, the result was some pretty cringy material I’d probably never show anybody, ever. But I’d argue that my cringy writing from back then is what helped me eventually develop my own personal writing style. I was able to discover my own writing voice, and learn about the stories I enjoyed telling, all on my own. I didn’t have any social medias, I wasn’t watching writing advice YouTube channels… Hell, I didn’t even read books about writing craft. All I had was the library of Young Adult novels I was reading at the time and my own intuition.
But what about new writers today? The ones who, unlike me, are exposed to the constant barrage of other people’s opinions. On the surface, it may seem like a good thing that they’re getting what I never got: Advice from experienced–maybe even professional–writers. They won’t have to make the same mistakes I did. They won’t have to spend years learning the lessons I learned from trial and error. But… like I mentioned earlier, it was that trial and error that created my own personal writing voice and style. It was that trial and error that made me the writer I am today.
Now, new writers aren’t experimenting for themselves. They’re going to an influencer (who may or may not actually know what they’re talking about), asking that person’s opinion on a writing question they have, and then taking that person’s opinion as gospel. They aren’t deciding for themselves what things they do or don’t like to write, or how they like to write those things. Instead, they’re letting someone else decide that for them. And the thought of that makes me sad.
I’m not saying you should never listen to writing advice. At the beginning of this post, I even said I loved writing advice. I think the internet is a great tool, and that it’s wonderful that experienced writers are giving advice to those less experienced. But I don’t think beginner writers are the ones who should be taking that advice. I think that advice should be for the intermediate writers. The ones who have experimented, and are now ready to really hone their craft and take their writing seriously. The ones more prepared to decide for themselves if a piece of writing advice is good or bad. It just feels like newer writers don’t know enough about writing to know when they should or shouldn’t take certain pieces of advice.
Who knows. Maybe I’m crazy. Maybe I’m worrying over nothing. I just don’t want new writers to try and grow up too fast. I want them to enjoy where they’re at, and take things slowly. Fifteen-year-olds shouldn’t feel like they have to worry about writing a publishable draft of their novel. Someone who’s only been writing for a year shouldn’t be preparing their query. These people should be learning and growing and experimenting. They should enjoy the experience of learning how to write.
So, to all of the new writers out there: Please, do yourself a favor and stop taking writing advice. Stop trying to write the perfect story. Stop listening to these other writers just because you think they know more than you. If you listen to your own instincts, I can guarantee you’ll surprise yourself. After all, you’re the only you out there. Why try and write like someone else, when you can write like you?
Because, personally, I think you are pretty great.