The One True Path to Writing Success?
(Image from Flickr by wendysoucie.)
Want to know the secret?
There is no one true path. There is no one right way.
Sure, some bestselling authors / writing tutors / self-proclaimed gurus might insist that their way is the way … but it isn’t.
If you’re a parent, you’ll know that there is a ton of contradictory advice out there. (Gina Ford vs attachment parenting, anyone?) There are also plenty of tips that your best friend might swear by, but which simply don’t work for you and your family.
The writing world is the same. Sometimes, experts completely disagree. Other times, their tips may not work at all for you – at best, they’re useless; at worst, they’re actively harmful.
During my time as a writer, I’ve come across a fair few dictums that really aren’t as great as some people would have you think:
Write 1,000 words every day.
I tried that one when I had a full-time day job (that I wasn’t enjoying) and it just made me miserable; I couldn’t keep it up for more than a couple of days at a time.
Write every day.
One of my MA tutors strongly recommended that we write for 20 minutes (more was fine!) daily. This really doesn’t suit how I like to work: I ignored her and carried on with having 2-3 hour sessions a couple of times a week.
Post on your blog every day, Monday to Friday.
This was very popular advice when I started out in blogging – but I’ve gradually seen more and more bloggers move away from this pattern. I debunked the idea in a guest post on ProBlogger here.
Write first thing in the morning.
This one has worked for me at times, but it’s far from the only way. My best fiction-writing time used to be around 8am – 11am; it’s now 2pm – 5pm.
Never self-publish –you won’t make any money.
Never traditionally publish – you’ll make much more money self-publishing.
Self-publishing is right for some writers, some goals, and some books. Traditional publishing is right for some writers, some goals, and some books. I’ve done both. Each has advantages and disadvantages – and you’ll find writers who feel very strongly about their chosen form of publication. You can watch a short video of me talking about both here, or read the transcript.
Once you get an agent, you’re set.
I’ve never had an agent (though I have had a traditional publishing deal, with Publishing E-Books For Dummies). I have friends with agents, and their books aren’t yet on the shelves. I’m sure their agents are doing a great job – but having an agent is no guarantee that your book will be published.
Don’t quit your day job.
I got out of my day job as soon as I realistically could, after saving up for six months, and with a small and steady stream of writing income. It wasn’t the greatest financial move – I should’ve hung on another six months and built my business further – but I was so much happier.
No writer – however experienced – can tell you exactly what’s right for you.
No piece of advice is worth following if it’s making your writing less enjoyable.
Learn from published authors and industry experts, by all means. Read books, take classes, go to conferences. Try out their tips and see what works for you.
But don’t ever force your writing to fit into someone else’s definition of what’s “right”.
Have you come across writing advice that simply doesn’t work for you? Share it – and your thoughts on it – in the comments.
I’m Ali Luke, and I live in Leeds in the UK with my husband and two children.
Aliventures is where I help you master the art, craft and business of writing.
If you're new, welcome! These posts are good ones to start with:
My contemporary fantasy trilogy is available from Amazon. The books follow on from one another, so read Lycopolis first.
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