Welcome To Written Mirror
Greetings and salutations! A special hello to the ‘OG Mirrorheads’ you’ve been with me for 7 years now and I really appreciate you! Today I talk about ‘Bad Advice’ (writing).
For the newbies; I’m Jay Mullings the owner and founder of writtenmirror.com. I’m also known as ‘Wicked Penman’ now. For anyone wanting to follow me, it’s @writtenmirror/@1wickedpenman on Instagram and on Twitter.
Sound Advice For Writers
As a new writer; I guess it also applies to other creative fields. I wanted to go through examples and give you a bit of context. Some of these are personal examples of things that I’ve been told that I thought were ridiculous. Others I’ve found in discussion on Twitter.
People were mentioning some of the worst things they were told as writers. I’ll start this off with no. 1 which is;
only write what you know!
The annoying thing with that is it comes from a useful place. ‘Write what you’re confident in’ is the best interpretation of that particular type of advice, but it’s not the same thing they’re saying to you. They’re saying to write what you know. Now that might be well and good. But again it depends on the type of writing you’re doing.
In a screenplay for instance; the mundane stuff we do in our lives doesn’t make good storytelling in a script. It just doesn’t! That’s not what’s going to put your story over the top. It’s great if you use it to form the blueprint of what you’re doing. So characters familiar to what you know that might help. But the idea that you can only write what you know and never invent anything new is crazy! I want to know how much magic J.K. Rowling knows? How many times has she seen a patronus and dementors in person? It doesn’t work like that!
Writers Tool Kit
A part of it is writing what you’re confident in, sure! Yet you’ve got so many emotions you can be exploring: write what you are afraid of! Write what you’re ignorant about! Well, write what you don’t know about! Write what you thought you knew but turned out to be wrong! Well, write from the perspective that you had 10 years ago! Write from the perspective you might have 10 years from now! You’ve got so much to play with as a writer…
I think the worst thing you can be doing in the beginning is limiting yourself to only writing based on what you already know, or have already lived…
That’s just that’s just too limiting especially like I said depending on the type of writing you’re doing.
Sometimes you need to go to these other places you’ve never been.
You don’t have to go to outer space to write a space movie or a book that’s based on space travel. Same thing, you don’t need to be a witch to write about magical worlds. I just think that’s very limiting out of the box and what it does is it creates unnecessary problems for a lot of new writers. Writers who are then asking, “what do I know that’s interesting and worthy of writing?“. Instead of what they they already have which is instinct. If they’re being honest, a lot of them already know what they should be writing.
Bad advice just gets in the way! What you first need to do if offering advice, is help writers find what they’re passionate about! Even if you were to say, “Write what you’re passionate about!” That’s infinitely more open because if a writer is passionate about cars, they’re going to write about cars! Passionate about magic or fantasy? That’s where they’re going to go! I think that’s a more empathetic piece of advice.
Even then, it might not necessarily be they should write about their passion…
Empathetic Writing Advice…
That’s for the writer to figure out themselves. So I’m firmly against advice that is limiting, as it’s not as helpful as people giving it think it is. Another bad piece of advice is to write it in a traditional style. So it’s all got to be linear.
Start at the start! You go through the middle and then you get to the end!
No! The shared knowledge of storytelling, is that for something to be a story; it must have a clear beginning middle and end. It doesn’t have to be in that order! Lots of stories begin at the end take you through to the start and give you the middle. I think writing linearly; beginning middle end it might help a lot of writers sure! Then there are many writers that it won’t help because they don’t want to write that way and they don’t want to think that way.
They’ve already got a story that flows in its own unique way and instead what you’ve said to them is break that up and make it fit this traditional mould and this mould alone.
The Threat To Writers
Do it this way or no one will understand your story…
Which leads me to my next piece of bad advice that people give. Write it so that anyone can understand it, basically they mean to dumb down your writing! That’s bad advice! I think you should always write to your intellect level. Try to write that level or above. NEVER intentionally write a lower level; that just a no!
It doesn’t make sense! Why Jay? Simple, because there are people out there that are smarter than me and you. It could be anyone who’s reading this and that’s natural. Those are the people that you should be trying to reach.
It should either be smarter than you or the same level of intellect that you you possess or the same level of sophistication. You should never intentionally dumb down your content. I just don’t think that’s good advice. Oh it’s to make it appeal to everyone!
You CAN’T really appeal to everyone no matter what it is you’re doing!
The Simple Writer’s Test
There are comedians that people don’t like! Everyone should like laughing right? Everyone should like people that want to make you laugh right? No we don’t like all comedians! We just don’t! It’s not human nature to. So this idea that you’re going to write something that appeals to every single person on earth; it ain’t going to happen!
People like value, they like to learn write for the most sophisticated audience you can. So if you’re smart; write for people smarter than you! If you’re dumb. I’d rather not say if you’re dumb write for people dumber than you. If you don’t feel you’re that sophisticated or that intelligent, well, again you’re not going to want to write less than that level. My word what would that look like?
Another bit of bad advice would be, “Don’t write a particular genre because it won’t sell! This genre will sell, that one won’t sell!” What you should be writing or creating hopefully is content that you’re passionate about!
If you’re passionate about horror and you want to write a horror; WRITE A HORROR!
You shouldn’t be thinking oh I now need to write a superhero movie because superhero movies are all the rage. That mindset of do what is easy or do what sells is a bad mindset to come into the business of writing with. Writing should be something you care about.
Better Writing Advice
There are differing levels (it varies) of how much people should care about their writing. Some people probably need to let go a little bit more because caring is what leads to over caring. I should say that being overbearing is what leads to writer’s block and different types of anxiety as much as the inability to let go and be free/loose.
In general you want writing to be a joyful experience. If all you’re doing is writing (and) you’re phoning it in… you’re not going to last very long! It’s also not going to be a happy experience. I would say (above) that’s really bad advice to give. Write the best piece of content you can! Who knows? Whatever genre it is that you’re in that’s not thriving now, you can be the person that turns that around; it’s totally within your capabilities if you do it right. Do your research and see why this genre isn’t taking off the way it should and then you give someone something that absolutely undeniable.
I just don’t see how that fails or how that doesn’t revitalize that genre or whatever that particular form of writing or storytelling.
That’s my sincere belief! Again I could be quite naive, but, I just don’t think much good comes from trying to do what appeals to everyone. I don’t see that, I don’t feel that’s a good business model or way of leaving any kind of legacy behind. I just don’t see it! So those will be the main types of writing advice that I see given out very regularly and freely that I just don’t think is very good.
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Thank you again for reading How I Avoided Bad Writing Advice. Catch you sometime soon…
Multiple Award-winning Screenwriter, Author, Blogger, Film Director and Founder of Written Mirror Ltd. Jay is an ambitious but humble creative who wants to connect with audiences all over the world. Born in London but raised in Jamaica, Jay carries his experiences of both cultures and lends it to his work with his unique but authoritative voice which, he admits not seeing represented enough growing up.
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