Concerning Writing Advice

Here’s the gist: Ignore the advice and write your heart’s desire.

That almost sounds romantic. I’m sure I can counterbalance that soon enough.

I know my last post was heavy on the topic of writing, but let’s face it, even though I’m by no stretch of the imagination an expert on the subject, it’s the passion that burns in my soul. And my loins. But the doctor says I can get rid of the latter.

That pffffbt you heard was the sound of the romance sputtering past your ear like a dying balloon.

Writing is something I plan to discuss a great deal going forward, more so than I have in the past—in case you’re a long time follower of the blog and were wondering (which I know you’re not *scowls*). So buckle up and get ready because it’s going to be a bumpy ride! Which coincidentally my doctor said was to be expected.

*pffffbt*

Let me start by saying that 99% of writing advice is complete and utter bull spit. Imagine a bull. Now imagine that bull spitting in your eye. Why would you want that? You don’t. Unless you’re into that sort of thing. In that case, hit me up later because I know a guy.

But Matthew, haven’t you just declared your desire to give me writing advice (among other things)?

Indeed I have!

Should we assume that your advice would contain that 1% of untainted authorial wisdom?

To you, dear reader, I say: nay you should not. Assume it is tainted, and approach my taint with caution. Approach everyone’s taint with caution.

Now, I’m not saying you should outright ignore any writing advice spewed in your direction. In fact, there is a plethora of sound writing advice out there—much of it just so happens to come from the “nobody” authors who share the same love of the craft. In my experience, it’s the so-called seasoned professionals—the agents, teachers, and authors alike—whose advice tends to come off as commandments carved in stone (and sometimes deflating) more so than actual advice. These are the ones to be wary of.

Thou shalt not begin a story with the weather…

Back when I was shopping George’s Light around for an agent, I came across more than a couple of agent bios that stated exactly that sentiment. If your story begins with the weather, I will not read your manuscript.

That just makes me want to begin every story I write with the weather so at least that way I weed out the assholes first.

So be wary, and understand that at the end of the day, there is no right or wrong way of telling a story. And I’m sure there are plenty of story snobs out there who will disagree with me on the strongest possible terms whilst flinging snobs toward my face, snobbishly. (Uh oh, I used an adverb there. Someone alert the word police!)

When it comes to writing, sure there are rules. Grammar and punctuation and all that jazz. Mostly jazz. Writing is 87% jazz.

*jazz hands for 10 minutes*

But even things like grammar and punctuation can be tossed out the window. Look no further than Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. It makes use of bare-bones punctuation which only enhances the story’s post-apocalyptic, shit’s-hit-the-fan, there-ain’t-time-for-quotes setting. That’s one of the best books I’ve ever read. Holy shit that guy can tell a story.

Point you, I may, toward Jack Kerouac’s stream of consciousness style of writing and you’ll realize it ain’t exactly “proper,” but damn is it mesmerizing. And sure, a lot of this is based on personal opinion, but that’s the point, innit? If so much of writing and telling stories is about personal preference then why should we ever believe there is a right way to do it? That implies there is a wrong way. Screw that noise. Tell your story, write it however your soul desires, fling it from the rooftops like a newsie on strike…I’M THE KING OF NEW YORK!!!

It’s a tough habit to kick, but early on I was so focused on trying to check all the boxes, do everything the proper way, delete all the adverbs, blah, blah, blah *barf-yawn* that my storytelling suffered for it. I was so stuck in place for fear of messing up that I wouldn’t allow myself to take a single step in an interesting direction. Hence the several books I wrote that are now collecting dust in drawers that shall never be opened lest a new age of darkness sweeps across the land…of Kindles, I guess.

If you take away one lesson from all of my rambling, let it be this: don’t worry about what is right, just worry about what is interesting.

No matter what, someone out there isn’t going to dig your style. Someone will point out how those months of late nights you spent crafting your story were ill spent because you should have written it “this way.” Don’t let that put your creativity in a holding pattern of doubt.

Advice is just advice. It’s not rules. There are no rules.

And that goes for any artistic pursuit. Writing. Painting. Peeing in pools till the water turns pretty, pretty colors. (Gross.)

Do whatever you like. Have fun. Your art is fucking awesome and that’s all that matters.

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