The One Thing You Must Do Before Taking Writing Advice

The problem with writing advice is that it all weighs the same.
Weigh Scale

  • You read four articles on character development and start to worry because vibrant characters don’t come easy to you.
  • Your favorite writing-blogger is having trouble with dialogue in her own fiction so she does a series on the importance of natural dialogue. Now you start to think worry that your high-fantasy characters’ dialogue isn’t naturalistic enough.
  • It’s coming up to NaNoWriMo, and everyone’s talking about outlining and sharing their own Type-A version of it, which makes you start to doubt that you could ever write a novel because…damn!

There is an abundance of wonderful advice about writing online. If you are ever having a problem in your writing it is easy to find five different polemics on that topic in as many seconds.

But if you’re not writing regularly, how do you know what advice YOU need hear?

Find Your Strengths, Work On Your Weaknesses

I had the pleasure recently of being able to ask the talented and prolific Chuck Wendig about his characters and how he makes them pop off the page.

His answer took me completely by surprise.

“I feel like voice is my strong suit,” he said, simply.

He went on to talk about other areas that he struggles with more — areas that need work in the rewrites — but this? It was the easy stuff for him.

A small, controlled explosion went off in my brain:

He’s just good at this stuff.

I don’t have to be as brilliant at characterization as him. Maybe I can’t be.

If I’m really, really good in some other area, maybe it’s OK if I focus on that.

This Is Not An Excuse

This is not at excuse to avoid learning about the craft. You do need to be proficient in all areas of writing.

But if your first draft is weak in one area (or several), don’t let it slow you down. Instead, play to your strengths. If you’re witty, play that up. If your wordplay makes people smile, go to town on it. If  you are all about the dialogue, get that down first.

  • Write a lot to discover your strong suit.
  • Play to those strengths.
  • Fix the rest in the rewrite.


Need help with the ‘write a lot’ part? Try these articles:

How To Become An Insanely Productive Writer

Delegate Your Way To Writing Success

Five Irresistible Writing Prompts

Need more help? Take a look at the Time To Write Workshop, The StoryADay Guide to Breaking Writers’ Block and the Warm Up Your Writing Home Study Course in The StoryADay Shop.

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