Of all the things I’ve ever done, that required learning new skills, I think that writing is the most neurotic. Whatever you do, it’s not good enough, but if you just read this article or attend this course or pay this editor to knock your manuscript into shape, then you’ll be a better writer.
As examples of what I mean, here are the titles of emails on writing sent to me today:
*Authors You Need To Follow On Social Media
*What’s the point of Blogging?
*Secrets to help your Content go Viral
*Ten Reasons You Book Is Not Ready To Publish
*Beginners Guide: 26 Most Common WordPress Mistakes To Avoid
The stance of the writers of these helpful articles is that I’m making mistakes that need rectifying, that they know things I don’t. Of course, some of these experts are selling their services in direct ways, while others earn funds through the ads on their websites and blogs. That’s fair enough, and they’re doing nothing different to what anyone advertising a product or service does—trading on buyer’s insecurities—they’ll be better people if they only buy this.
It’s worth remembering, that the stores selling food and equipment to gold rush prospectors made more loot that the miners digging for gold.
The thing is, creativity is dependent on free thought, the spark of originality that attracts the interest of the writer first of all and then the reader. Literary agents say things like: “We are always on the lookout for new writing talent who see things in a different way, producing great stories to share with the world.” What they don’t say is: “We’re looking for adequate authors who produce stories we know will sell, because they’re the sort of humdrum thing that’s sold before.”
I sometimes wonder about the worth of following advice designed to make me feel inadequate. Certainly, there are useful tips and tricks to learn to create an appealing manuscript which seduces the reader, but following advice too closely may produce cookie-cutter writing that is technically correct, but which reads just like everything else churned out by authors who subscribed to that course.
It’s hard enough to get noticed from writing the mountain that is a book, but if you’re following the same route to the summit, you’re joining a queue, as shown by this tragic story about the deaths of mountaineers attempting to scale Mount Everest:
Writing a book should be hard work, but it should be enjoyable, a journey of discovery in which you’re surprised. If that happens to you, it may well happen to the reader.
Remember Sturgeon’s Law which advises that 90% of anything is crap—and that includes advice about how to write.
I think I need to unsubscribe from many of my newsletters. It’s not that I think I know it all, but I do know enough to get through without having so-called experts tell me I’m going the wrong way. It makes for a lousy start to the day.
What drives you mad about writing gurus?
Have you ever paid for training or editing which was beneficial…or, which was a waste of money?
(Happy Birthday, Bob, who is 78 today)