Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Worst Writing Advice Ever Received

Congratulations to Dana and Erin, the winners in Kendra's giveaway. Thank you to all who participated.

Recently a diverse group of writers I hang with wrote blogs about the worst writing advice they ever received. These blogs were fun to read. I thought, “Great topic! I can do that.”

So I sat down to write my own. And I came up blank. Am I so rare that I wasn’t given a bunch of crappy advice that threw off my writing journey? Not even a little bit? How is that possible? The more I examined this odd notion, the more I attributed it to belonging to Romance Writers of America.

Writers who belong to RWA know their stuff. RWA is committed to educating their members. There are over one hundred workshops being offered at RWA National in Anaheim next week. And no one will say that you must do something a certain way. These authors give guidance and advice, not rules. They offer their experience and suggestions. They teach what works for them and what has helped other writers.  RWA members know every writing rule has been successfully broken. When an experienced writer gives advice, I listen carefully and either try it or toss it.

Advice that didn’t work for me but works for plenty of other writers:

Write every day:   Hell no. I need laptop-free days.

Join a critique group:  I work best on my own. I’m cruel critique giver—just ask my husband.

Outline your book: I’m a major planner and thought this would be perfect for me. Wrong. My best ideas appear out of nowhere as I’m writing.

Get up at 4 AM to write: Only if I go to bed at 8 PM. I need sleep.

Advice that did work:

Set reasonable goals and stick to them. I like weekly word count goals instead of daily.
Write what you love, not for the market. I love romantic suspense.

Don’t give up. I’ve taken some long breaks from writing but always knew I wasn’t done.
Write until luck happens. Enough said.

Please come say hello if you’re going to be in Los Angeles on July 25th. The RWA Readers for Life Literacy signing will be at the Anaheim Convention Center and is open to the public. Five hundred of your favorite authors will be signing their books and admission is free, but no outside books will be allowed.

What is the worst advice you've been given...writing or otherwise?

Kendra will be awarding prizes to 2 winners! One will be a print copy of HIDDEN, the other winner will receive an ARC copy of her August release, CHILLED.  

Giveaway ends 11:59pm EST July 22nd. Please supply your email in the post. You may use spaces or full text for security. (ex. jsmith at gmail dot com) If you do not wish to supply your email, or have trouble posting, please email with a subject title of JRS GIVEAWAY to be entered in the current giveaway. US and CANADA addresses only.


  1. I think it was when a lot of people I shouldn't move so far away from home after I graduated high school. Luckily, I'm very hard headed and stubborn so I didn't listen. Now...12 years later....they all tell me it was the best decision I ever made. Go figure! Well, thanks for letting me enter the contest & tomorrow is my b-day so it would be an awesome present!

  2. worse advise every recieved was when every one told me my kids would grow up they are in there 20s now when does this advise kick in lol
    thanks for the chance hope win and if i do would love the printed copy

  3. Great point about listening to all good advice but taking only what works for you. I'm an outliner, but I don't do well in critique groups, either, because I tell the truth with specifics, which some people can't handle. And that makes me feel guilty, so I try to avoid it when possible.

    Worst advice I got was from my dad - "You can't beat the odds and get published, so stop wasting your time and get a real job." Well, I took half the advice - I did get a day job and still have it. But I also kept up the writing and now I've sold 19 books, published three others and am about to sell 5 more. Sadly, dad didn't live to see he was both right and wrong.

    Won't be at RWA:( Y'all have fun without me.

  4. I'm like you. I can't commit to writing every single day. I might do that if the characters are working with me, but I need the freedom to walk away too. And outlining? Yikes! I do that, but after I've written the really rough draft.

    Worst advice? Yes, quit this time- and soul- sucking job to concentrate on your writing. You won't have a problem getting another, better job! Ummm, 2 years later and although I'm now epublished and writing like crazy, I'm still terribly underemployed.

  5. Sara, I had every intention of moving far from home after graduation. Instead I ended up staying in state. Now I live 5 minutes from where I went to high school. No regrets.

    Tammy, I hope your kids have at least moved out!

    Hi Paula, My dad would have said the same thing...very traditional. I quit my job to write full time last spring and haven't looked back. He was pretty shocked when I quit.

    Alexa, ugh on the job. Fingers crossed for you that writing becomes sufficient employment and you don't have to think about it!

  6. Congrats on the new and upcoming releases, Kendra. The advice wasn't for me, but my aunt told my cousin to just let her baby cry it out. There is usually a reason for the crying(hunger, diaper change.)

    janie1215 AT excite DOT com

  7. I also like the advice to set reasonable goals and sticking to them. If you can see where you want to go, it's easier to get there! There are so many great advice out there and it's okay to adjust them to make it work because everyone is different.


  8. The worst advice was not to take in a dog that was roaming the streets. We took him to a local shelter to see if he had been reported missing. When no one came forward, Jake become a loved member of our family and we were fortunate to have him with us for ten years.

    jtcgc at yahoo dot com

  9. Thank you, Jane! I received that advice, too. I hated letting my babies cry! I wavered back and forth many times.

    Hi Na. I think the key words there are reasonable and different! People want the magic formula, but it won't work the same on everyone.

    Hi Mary. What a wonderful surprise! Fifteen minutes ago my daughters found a black lab roaming the neighborhood. Some parents called animal control, but my first instinct was to let him roam back home. Now I see he has bad cataracts. :( So we'll see what animal control can do.

  10. You have some seriously good points there, Kendra. C-Ya in California.

  11. Congratulation on your new series. I love romantic suspense so your books are right up my alley. As for bad/or good advise? My mom alwasy told me to save for a rainy day and I can say that I took her advise and it's paid off more than once.


  12. It was probably to do what you don't like to do.


  13. Kendra Huge Congrats on Hidden's rocket ride to the bottom of the Kindle Store. Down below #100 in less than a week! Your book has legs!

    The worst advice I received as a writer was NOT to self-publish. They said I wouldn't sell anything and it would ruin my career. This was last summer when I first started considering it. Thank God I ignored everyone. lol

    I do find it funny how many posters have mentioned not making good crit partners because they are too critical and honest. This is exactly the quality I look for in a CP. O-O You won't know whether something needs to be fixed, unless someone identifies and then tells you about it! Critical, honest CPs are a prize!

  14. Great topic! I think the worst advice I've ever received would be to write for the market. I just couldn't do it. I have to write what I love and what I want to read. My best friend convinced me to do that, and it resulted in what I think is a good book.

    I love honest and picky crit partners - I'm luck to have two of them. But I think you can get too many opinions and mess yourself up, too. And I'm so glad to hear I'm not the only one who just can't get up at 4am to write. I always feel like a slacker, but I just can't do it.

    Thanks for post!
    Stacy stacy(dot)whisenand(at)gmail(dot)com

  15. thanks for a great post and congrats on the new release!

    I'm not a writer so I don't have anything to add there. Just life stuff. I think that one of the worst pieces of advice that I had ever been given was right after I was told I was in remission from my leukemia. I was talking w/ my pastor about how I had essentially lost my faith b/c I never felt God was w/ me during my illness. He told me that the whole thing was basically a test of faith, which I was failing, and I should "not miss the forest for the trees" and that this was just a little "bump in the road" I should just shake off. The jerk even sent me a card w/ both sayings in it! Well, I never went back to that church. Yeah, almost dying 3 times in the hospital, spending almost 9 consecutive months in said hospital, and suffering a yrs worth of chemo and side affects does not constitute a bump in the road. If anything, that helped me to shake off my religious dependence and make my life my own. It's been over 12 yrs and I'm still mad about that exchange. But... things worked out ;)


  16. Hi Catherine! I'm looking forward to finally meeting in person next week!

    Hi Judi, RS has always been my first choice of reads. I'm the rainy day saver in our family. My husband doesn't like to think about it.

    BN 100, Lol. I have an image of my mother. She always believed I was better off if I was suffering in some way.

  17. Hi Trish, I'm guilty of giving that advice. But I admit it's been a few years back. Just yesterday my oldest (14) asked me if her friend should try to self-publish the books she's been working on forever. I said the market is in constant change and by the time she finishes, assess it then. You've had tremendous success!

    I don't enjoy being a cp. I'm never 100% certain about the advice I'm giving. What I hate, someone may love.

  18. Hi Stacy, I don't like that write for market advice. I've heard that, too. I think your heart will come through in your writing if you write what you love best. The next person who tells me I should write one of those "porn books" and make a lot of money is gonna be slapped.

    Hi Erin, I'm glad you pulled through the health scare. Sounds like that pastor couldn't see the forest for all the trees himself!

  19. "Write for the market?" People still say that? I was given that advice by someone years ago and even then I knew it was bad advice.

    But the worst advice I've ever gotten, I think, came from someone who told me "don't worry too much, all agents are about the same." Uh. No. I also knew that was bad advice. I see people getting "taken" all the time by someone who's basically given themselves the title "agent" (or even "editor") and just sit their waiting for over-eager authors who'll do anything to get a foot in the door.

  20. Go with your instincts instead of others' opinions.
    saltsnmore at yahoo dot com

    1. Oops had that backwards....not to trust your instincts was the advice.

  21. Write for money! Big NO..No...
    Please enter me in your draw. Great cover!



  22. I consider any advice that starts with ALWAYS or NEVER to be bad writing advice. If I read these words, I skip it and move on.
    I've been thinking about joining the RWA, maybe I'll hope over to the website and check it out.
    Thanks! Would love to win either of Kendra's books.

    danamason06(@)gmail dot com

  23. The worst advise given to me was telling me I am incapable of doing anything. How would do they know what I'm incapable of if I have never tried? This is what frustrates me the most.


  24. I was told by a university lecturer that I shouldn't think about becoming a writer because of my unconventional writing style. So many wasted years. After self-publishing a book (non-fiction), reviewers have been unanimous about my ability to write and I am now having two books published conventionally.