Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Writing Advice You Should Never Follow - A Top-10 List for Writers

by Edie Melson @EdieMelson

Have you noticed the phenomenon that occurs when you confess you’re writing a book? 

It doesn’t matter if you’re an established author with thirty-plus books under your belt, or someone working on a first novel. 

Announce you’re writing a book, and you’ve opened yourself up for unsolicited advice. 

Writing Advice You Should NEVER Follow

  • 1. Write what you know. On the surface, this may sound like savvy advice. It’s not. With the advent of the Internet, we can do the research and find out almost anything. We're no longer limited to our own personal experience.
  • 2. Write every day. Again, it sounds good. Surely someone who’s serious about something will do it every day. Truthfully, we all work better when we take time to relax and let our minds rest.
  • 3. Never read in the genre you’re writing. I’ve never found reading other things in the genre I'm writing to inhibit my output or the quality of my work. I’ve found that reading keeps the writing fire stoked. Just be sure you’re not reading instead of writing.
  • 4. Write dialogue like you talk. We all want the dialogue we write to read like a real conversation. But the smart writer knows that means taking the boring parts out. Listen to a real conversation or better yet, record one. Then write it out. You’ll see how truly awful it is.
  • 5. Never use clichés. Never is NEVER good advice when it comes to writing. Sure you want to avoid clichés—in narrative. But the fact is, we all use them occasionally. Judiciously sprinkling them throughout dialogue can give your writing a familiar flavor that helps the reader connect with your characters.
  • 6. Never use the verb was, it’s passive. Sometimes the word was is passive, sometimes is just past tense. How to tell? The quickest way is to see if it’s helping another verb, like, She was sleeping. That’s almost always passive. A better option would be, She slept.
  • 7. Always outline before you write. Some people are known as plotters—or those who prefer to outline their story before writing. Others, referred to as pantsers or intuitive writers, like to discover the story as they write. The best way to do it? The way that works for you.
  • 8. Real writers don’t have to do rewrites. I’ve never spoken to a writer who didn’t need to do rewriters. I’ve heard rumors, but I suspect I’m more likely to get an in-focus picture of a Sasquatch than meet one of those elusive novelists.
  • 9. Always write in the same place. Most of us need variety, and that includes the place we work. Sometimes I write at my desk, others at the dining room table, and on good days, the screened porch out back.
  • 10. Don’t begin to build a platform until you have a contract. This is the worst advice I’ve ever heard, and there are two major reasons. First, if you wait until you have a contract to build your platform, you’ll probably have a hard time getting said platform. Second, you will be way behind. It takes a good year to a year-and-a-half to build a viable platform. 
As you may have noticed, the first clue the advice you’re hearing is suspect are the use of the words ALWAYS and/or NEVER. 

Now it’s your turn, what’s the worst writing advice you’ve ever heard?

Don’t forget to join the conversation!


Edie Melson is a woman of faith with ink-stained fingers observing life through the lens of her camera. No matter whether she’s talking to writers, entrepreneurs, or readers, her first advice is always “Find your voice, live your story.” As an author, blogger, and speaker she’s encouraged and challenged audiences across the country and around the world. Her numerous books reflect her passion to help others develop the strength of their God-given gifts and apply them to their lives. Connect with her on her website, through Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.


  1. Write to market trends is not good advice, unless you can put out a polished manuscript in 3 months. Markets change. What's trending this month/year will change by the next. Write the story in your heart.

  2. Great post, but I had to chuckle. Were you seeing if we're paying attention? Writing Advice You Should NEVER Follow...5. Never is NEVER good advice when it comes to writing.

  3. Catchy title. Great advice! Thanks, Edie!

  4. Great advice that was good for some chuckles. :-)

    How about the old “only write one thing at a time”? Yes, we need to stick with pieces long enough to finish them, but sometimes putting one thing on the back burner to work on something else gives us a fresh perspective or renewed excitement when we turn back to the first project.

  5. Thank you, Edie!
    Janet Ramsdell Rockey

  6. The worst advice I ever heard was, "You should write nonfiction before you write fiction." Huh? Since when?