Feeling inadequate? Here's why....

News The Litopia Shrine to Judith Kerr 1923-2019

News Ouch indeed!

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Paul Whybrow

Full Member
Jun 20, 2015
Cornwall, UK
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.

As has been said several times on the Colony, 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 that seduces the reader, but following advice too closely may produce cookie-cutter writing which 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:

Congestion on Everest leads to backlog of climbers in 'death zone'


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)
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I haven't paid for any course or stuff like that because I agree with what you said above. However I read a lot on the net and have learnt from it. Places like here offer so much. I also use a computer program that points out a lot of stuff in my writing like overuse of words, cliche's etc so to a large degree I am self taught. I don't know if I am any good but I do know I am not as bad as I was. At one point I signed up to lots of newsletters but cancelled the lot of them as I ended up confused and felt as if I was taking degree in what not to do when in fact only we know what we want to do.
The thing is, for every "You Should Do THIS!!!" post/ad on writing, there are at least ten "Don't EVER Do THIS!!!!" posts/ads. You'll make yourself crazy trying to follow all the advice out there. Do what works for YOU and ignore the rest. Remember, this is only advice from others like us. They don't have every answer. Some of them think they do, but really none of us has all the answers. We can only make the best decisions for our own writing careers based on what we feel in our guts is right and true. And it's difficult to know what's working and what isn't unless you're actively writing, submitting, or already published.

Once you are published, that's a different ballgame entirely. There are still posts/ads trying to give you advice, but you're also juggling sales, pricing, cover art, editing, marketing, and reviews. Again, all you can do is what feels right to you. The rest of it isn't worth fussing over.
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News The Litopia Shrine to Judith Kerr 1923-2019

News Ouch indeed!