When a complete stranger emailed me to ask if he could write a guest blog post for my site, I considered it carefully for about two seconds. I really, really wanted a blog vacation. So, please welcome guest blogger Nikolas Baron of Grammarly as he inspires you with . . .
The Worst Writing Advice on the Web
From whom do you seek advice? Invaluable gems of wisdom issue forth from mothers, coaches, teachers, mentors, and colleagues. From the same mouths, however, issue misleading statements, illogical conclusions, and seriously bad ideas! How does one separate the good counsel from the bad? As a new writer, it is imperative to find the tools and strategies that really work. In fact, I spend a lot of time at Grammarly searching for solutions to the problems writers face. One of the worst offenders is bad advice. Let’s tackle five of the worst suggestions head on!
● Write as if the reader knows nothing.
I remember this counsel from high school. When writing a research paper, a teacher suggested that we explain all details as if the reader knows nothing. However, as a writer, you usually have a target audience. Your readers fit into a certain demographic. Therefore, you should be able to assume a general understanding of certain matters. If you are writing in a genre that requires specialized knowledge, such as historical fiction or medical thriller, you will need to explain some of the obscure facts.
● Focus on a career that makes a lot of money; write on the side.
Careers require training, time, and energy. If you are using your resources to pursue a different career, what will you have left to put into your writing? If becoming a writer is a serious goal, it may help to place all your eggs in one basket. Why? Here is a truism: Necessity is the mother of invention. If you need something, you will be motivated to fulfill that need. Your necessity will make you creative. The reverse is also true: If you do not need to write to support yourself, you may never get around to doing it.
● Go back to school if you want to be a writer.
That you need a university degree in journalism or English literature to be a writer is a myth. Plenty of writers do not have degrees. Others have degrees are in other areas. While a degree might help you, it is not mandatory. If you feel that your English skills need brushing up, check to see if your local college offers workshops to the community. One creative writing workshop may be all you need to get started on the writing career path.
Bonus Fact : John Grisham attended law school and practiced law for a few years before he published his first novel. Can you use the training and job experience you already have to craft a unique story?
● Plagiarism is okay.
If you type this sentence into Google, you will receive over 50,000 results (with an additional 30,000 if you change the spelling of okay to ok). This opinion is more popular than you’d think. Besides the ones that broadcast the opinion online, there are those who show their approval of the concept by committing the offense. Plagiarism is NOT okay, for three main reasons. First, if a publishing company detects plagiarism, your work will be automatically rejected. Second, you will damage your reputation. Third, you make yourself vulnerable to legal action from the proper owner of the work. Use a plagiarism checker to make sure you did not intentionally infringe.
● Let writing flow like speech.
If you have ever transcribed speech, you realize it is full of false starts. The sentences are often choppy and interrupted. In general, readers prefer fiction that flows smoothly. Think of your five favorite novels. Reread a page or two of each. Why do you like the writing? Try to recreate the same type of prose in your own novel. Just don’t plagiarize!
There is no lack of people who want to give you advice about how you should write. The bad advice abounds. Wade through the river of bad advice to find the nuggets of gold. Avoid these five pieces of counsel—they resemble fool’s gold more than the genuine article! When in doubt, ask several successful, published authors to share tips and evaluate the opinions that you have heard.
Nikolas Baron discovered his love for the written word in elementary school, where he started spending his afternoons sprawled across the living room floor devouring one Marc Brown children’s novel after the other and writing short stories about daring pirate adventures. After acquiring some experience in various marketing, business development, and hiring roles at internet startups in a few different countries, he decided to reunite his professional life with his childhood passions by joining Grammarly’s marketing team in San Francisco. He has the pleasure of being tasked with talking to writers, bloggers, teachers, and others about how they use Grammarly’s online proofreading application to improve their writing. His free time is spent biking, traveling, and reading.