8 writing tips you can safely ignore

A lot of writing tips are personal experience, not tips that work for everyone.

Linda Caroll
Nov 22, 2019 · 4 min read
photo by Sherise on Unsplash

This morning I read a piece about how to increase reads.
It had over 2K likes. Yay social proof. Must be good, right?
*sigh*

It said if your writing isn’t deeply personal, no one is going to read it.
Really?

The story that’s paid me the most isn’t personal.
My top 5 “most read” stories aren’t personal.
I have one with a 98% read rate, also not personal.

A lot of writing tips are personal experience, not tips that work for everyone.

Get personal and 7 other terrible writing tips you can feel free to ignore

1: You have to get deeply personal.

No, you don’t. Do you know anything about Seth Godin’s sex life or his children? Yeah, me, neither. Doesn’t seem to have hurt him any. What about Margaret Atwood? Yes, we know Stephen King had addiction problems. Some writers are confessional writers and comfortable with that. Some aren’t.

It’s not about getting personal. It’s about whether your writing is compelling.

2. Write what you know.

Can you hear me laughing? Copywriter, 23 years. In marketing, no less. Not just copy, but copy that rings the cash register. Sometimes you have to write about things you don’t know squat about. That’s what Dr. Google is for.

Write what you know is lazy. It means you never have to learn or stretch. Write what you know if you want to. If you like to learn new things and write about them, then do that. See rule #1. It’s about compelling. Little else.

3. Great writing takes time

If you want to get technical, it’s not good writing that takes time, it’s good editing that takes time. The first draft of anything is usually crap. But even that’s not carved in stone. First story I ever got curated was a rant I vomited out in 10 minutes and didn’t bother to edit because I had my face in a knot. Imagine my surprise to get the curation notice. lol.

4. Write how you talk

Uh, no. I’ve said that too. I was wrong. Really, we just mean don’t write like a pompous wind bag. Some people have lousy diction. They probably shouldn’t write how they talk. Write so it’s easy to read. Want to know if it’s easy to read? Read it out loud. Where you stumble, the reader will, too.

5. Write for the joy of it

Spoken like a true novice. No one loves anything all the time. I love what I do for a living. Except the days I hate it. I love chocolate, except the times I’ve had too much and don’t want to look at one more piece.

If you’re a writer, some days you’ll love writing and some days you’ll hate it.
If it’s how you keep the hydro on and bacon in the pan, you write anyway.

6. Use short sentences

Here. Isn’t this delightful? Thank you, Gary…

This sentence has five words. Here are five more words. Five-word sentences are fine. But several together become monotonous. Listen to what is happening. The writing is getting boring. The sound of it drones. It’s like a stuck record. The ear demands some variety.

Now listen. I vary the sentence length, and I create music. Music. The writing sings. It has a pleasant rhythm, a lilt, a harmony. I use short sentences. And I use sentences of medium length. And sometimes when I am certain the reader is rested, I will engage him with a sentence of considerable length, a sentence that burns with energy and builds with all the impetus of a crescendo, the roll of the drums, the crash of the cymbals — sounds that say listen to this, it is important.

Gary Provost, 100 Ways to Improve Your Writing, 1985

7. Write more / write less

More wind-baggery. It’s not about if you write too much or too little. It’s not about if you hit publish once a day or once a week. There’s no rule that says how often you have to write to call yourself a writer.

This is blunt, but if your writing is unreadable, writing daily isn’t going to make it more readable. It just means people roll their eyes more often when they see you in the feed. If you’re a compelling writer and can only squeeze in twice a week, it won’t make you less enjoyable.

8. To stop anything that’s working for you…

If anyone tells you to stop doing what’s working for you, feel free to ignore them. Me, included.

Most of the time, they’re not telling you what will work for you, they’re telling you what works for them. Like the guy who said writing has to be “deeply personal” — clearly that’s what works for him. It’s not what works for me.

Good writing makes for good reading, and good reading is subjective. What resonates with my readers may not resonate with yours. Make sense? :)

“We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.” — Ernest Hemingway

Write Before Lunch

Writing about writing

Linda Caroll

Written by

20 years in design and marketing. Get writing and marketing tips on Fridays at https://lindac.substack.com/

Write Before Lunch

Writing about writing

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