19 Pieces of Terrible Writing Advice

By Steph Fraser | Posted on April 26th, 2019

In the writing world, writers are accosted with all sorts of writing advice from an assortment of amateurs, famous authors, and different writing authorities. Unfortunately, some pieces of writing advice are strange and terrible. There are some general rules that should be followed and advice that should be taken. Other times, you will receive terrible writing advice even from well-respected authors or teachers. It is important that you learn to differentiate the good advice from the bad.

The fact is every piece of writing advice can be terrible if one is enthusiastic with it and takes it out of context. The onus is on the writer to weigh every piece of writing advice they come across. It is important to ensure you aren’t heading for regret because there are lots of pieces of terrible writing advice out there.

How to Spot Terrible Writing Advice

Everyone has instincts which can sometimes help you let go of a piece of writing advice. Sometimes though, it can be hard to do when the advice is coming from someone respected. There are times when your instinct will fail you. Following a piece of terrible writing advice can have a negative effect on your career and journey. A writer needs to be cautious when seeking advice. When contemplating a piece of advice, there are some signs you can look for to determine if the advice is legitimate.

What to Look For:

  • A piece of advice that insists that there’s only one way to write. This is a rule that has been broken many times by top writers, and they’re still making good of their career by having their unique writing style.
  • Any writing advice that is almost impossible to follow is going to be terrible writing advice.
  • A piece of advice that is mostly market-oriented. If the information is just about the sales and the financial value that will be gained instead of focusing on a writer’s passion, this is terrible writing advice.
  • Any writing outline that’s too rigid to work with comfortable is bad advice.
  • Advice that is telling you to drop what works for you. Good writing advice will mostly boost your craft, not convince you to dump your methods. You should spot this as a piece of terrible writing advice.
  • Another way of spotting a piece of terrible writing advice is when it is in danger of staunching your potential as a writer.
  • A piece of terrible writing advice is one that cramps your imagination. A good piece of writing advice which allow you to be flexible and equally think outside the box.
  • Any advice that preaches about having just one way of being creative is a piece of terrible writing advice.
  • You can spot a piece of terrible writing advice when it sounds like a punishment or repercussion.
  • Terrible writing advice will always make you feel bad about yourself as a writer.
  • A piece of terrible writing advice will tell you that you must be excellent before you are able to call yourself a writer.
  • You can spot a piece of terrible writing advice when the advice is more about the advisor than your work.

19 Pieces of Terrible Writing Advice

You have now been told how to spot pieces of terrible writing advice from afar. Let’s look at some of the terrible writing advice that has been thrown around over the years.

Some of these pieces of advice might be okay when aimed at fixing a thing or two, but they should not be take as advice on writing in general.

Usage of an Outline is Mandatory

Most can agree that an outline is generally a good idea, but it is not the be all and end all of a book. Some people however, will say that no book will ever succeed without an outline. This is terrible writing advice. If you don’t need to use an outline and want to go straight to writing then go ahead – don’t allow anyone tells you otherwise.

Only Write What you Know

If all writers are to write on what they know, then there will be no creativity. All writers will be limited to the knowledge of things that they have been exposed to or experienced. There should be an avenue to explore your fantasies and creative spirit so that you can write beyond the scope of your own life experiences.

Dump the Use of Adverbs

This is a piece of terrible writing advice because every part of speech has its function and should be used when appropriate. Even adverbs have their place in the English language. Many people aren’t a fan of them, but that doesn’t make them outlawed. It is true that they should not be overused¸but telling someone to never use them is bad advice.

Great Work Always Takes a lot of Time

Many will try to say that it will always take a lot of time to write a good book, and if it didn’t take you long, it won’t be good. This is absurd. Writing a good book might take time, but it might not. What matters is the content of the book and not the time spent. Some books takes years to write, while others are conveived in a matter of weeks. Both can be great.

Only Write Short Sentences

While you should never let a sentence become a true run-on, writing the ocassional long one is not always bad. Constant short sentences can start to become confusing and irritating to a reader. It is good to break up the staccato with something longer and more thought-provoking. The truth is that good writing contains a healthy balance of short, medium, and long sentences.

Don’t Use a Semicolon

While some may be more common than others, every form of punctuation has its place. Having to use an awkward sounding conjunction is sometimes a poor alternative to a well-placed semicolon. So, anytime you need to link parts of a sentence or put two independent clauses that are related together, go for your semicolon. Avoiding the semicolon completely is terrible writing advice.

Write How You Talk

Some people don’t have a good sense of diction when they speak, so writing that same way is not ideal. Striving to write professionally and legibly is much more important than mirroring your syle of speech.

Quantity Brings Quality

If anyone gives you this piece of terrible writing advice, ignore them. Wordcounts make for great general goals. Sometime they dictate how long a contest submission needs to be. They will determine what your work is categorized as. The word count does a lot of things, but it does not determine the quality of your work. A good quality story of 2000 words is much more valuable than 10,000 words of poorly written prose.

Avoid Suspense and Provide Understanding

This is terrible writing advice. Ultimately you do need your readers to understand what is happening in your writing. But, that doesn’t mean adding suspense in the middle is a bad thing! As long as they get their questions answered eventually, use suspense to your advantage.

Being Consistent Kills Imagination 

Everyone has a different writing style. Staying consistant can have a lot of benefits and advantages, depending on the type of story or book that you are writing.

You Should Write When Drunk, Edit When Sober

This can be fun and entertaining sometimes, but don’t go by it for your writing in general. You always need to be thinking clearly if you are going to articulate thoughts accurately.

Avoid Giving Character Descriptions

This terrible writing advice will hurt you as a writer because a story that lacks character development will fall quite flat. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with giving a good account of your characters. It will provide readers with a more vivid picture of your story.

Avoid Rewriting

This is not good advice at all. There is absolutely nothing wrong with rewriting something to make it better. The idea behind this advice is to keep the original idea in tact. Avoiding any rewrites is not the way to do this. If you need to refer back to original ideas or notes, find your research and brainstorming notes. Of course, the original idea was from you. iIt will still be there with you when you need your work rewritten again.

Try to Work With Pleasure Only

This is terrible writing advice, because you are not going to love your work every second of every day. There will be times where you hate what you’ve written and you question your choice to become a writer in the first place. You should still work on these days, if you can. Don’t stop writing just because it’s a bad day.

Don’t have Children as a Writer

There is no denying that children take up your time and energy, but they in no way shape or form have to derail your writing career. It will require some balancing and dedication, but you can be a writer and have children at the same time, no question.

Never use a Long Word Where a Short one will Do

It is true that you want your work to be readable and understandable. But, that doesn’t mean you need to only use short, simple words. Sometimes that longer word sounds nice to gets the point across better. Just because a shorter word will also work, doesn’t mean you must use it.

Don’t Use a Dictionary

Hemingway believed a writer should read a dictionary just three times, internalise all of it, and then throw the dictionary away. Hemingway will always be a respected authority in the world of writing, but that doesn’t mean every single word out of his mouth was a good one. This is actually terrible writing adavice. Not everyone has the ability to memorize a dictionary. Don’t ever be ashamed or worried about using one if you must.

Try Not to Use the Foreign Phrase

There are some phrases in the English language that have foreign words in them. Some will say to avoid these, but that’s not always necessary. Sometimes the fully English equivalent will not work, and to say that it should still be used is terrible wrting advice.

A Good Writer Needs to Only Write

Writing does not just consist of producing words. There are other ingredients required for one to be an impressive writer. Grammar, spelling, sentence structure, and story development are just a few. To think that writers don’t need any of these additional things is terrible writing advice.

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