Authors Giving Sh*tty Advice

Last week, I shared this post on Facebook via BookBaby, called, Elmore Lenonard’s 10 Rules for Writing.  It was an homage to the author who had passed away this past summer.  However, the funny thing about Mr. Lenonard is that he broke all his “rules” which, I thought was a little hypocritical.

Anyway, my friend Dellani Oakes, reminded me of Stephen King’s mantra, “the road to hell is paved with adverbs.”  Now, any Stephen King fan can tell you that Mr. King has used his share of adverbs.  So what was the point in telling people to do things he’s not doing?  Are these authors trying to sabotage us?

I’ve realized long ago, there are many methods authors can approach the craft, so there are no definitive set of rules.  How can there be?  Most grammarians can’t agree on what the rules are.  Do we use the Oxford or the AP comma?  They’re both considered correct, which is beyond confusing.

There are Even Rules About What You Can Write

As if that weren’t enough, every genre has its own criteria, not to mention lists of unwritten rules.  For example, in the romance genre, infidelity is considered a huge no, no, especially, when a character is married.  In fact, I’ve read multiple discussions and  online rants where people slammed an author who handled the subject wrong.  I guess there’s a right and a wrong way to cheat on your spouse.  Who knew?

Today, I decided to have some fun and compiled some of the worst advice given to writers by other writers.

The Five Worst Pieces of Writing Advice

Writing Advice

Write drunk, edit sober. ~Ernest Hemingway

Have you ever been drunk?  Like most drunks, you probably just ended up calling your ex, or tripping over your own feet.

You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you. ~Ray Bradbury

Again, with the drinking!

Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong. ~Neil Gaiman

Just try that one with your editor.

“If you can tell stories, create characters, devise incidents, and have sincerity and passion, it doesn’t matter a damn how you write.” ~W. Somerset Maugham

I’m sure Dan Brown, E.L. James and Stephenie Myer would agree. 😉

If you have any young friends who aspire to become writers, the second greatest favor you can do them is to present them with copies of The Elements of Style. The first greatest, of course, is to shoot them now, while they’re happy. ~Dorothy Parker

*Disclaimer: The comments expressed by Dorothy Parker are exclusively those of Ms. Parker and not those of Rachel Rueben.  Writing by the Seat of My Pants does not endorse violence of any kind towards aspiring (newbie) authors.



  1. “Write X number of words a day, no matter how bad they are, and then go back and edit.”

    A lot of people present that not just as advice, but as the only way that a novel can be written. I simply can not work that way. I’ve tried, but I end up with garbage that no amount of rewriting can fix. Instead I have to edit as I write, and only physically type something out once It’s been through several revisions in my head.

    I don’t do drafts, I sit down, start at the beginning, and write straight through to the end, and then I’m done. I’ll edit for spelling and punctuation, and fix egregious continuity errors, but for me once the words are written on the screen, I’m done with them. Every time I’ve tried to do a rewrite or a second draft I end up pitching the entire project and starting from scratch.

    • I’m the same way, I can’t write with a quota. That’s why I can’t do Nanowrimo because their mantra is, “Write even if it sucks” and I can’t do that. If I wanna gouge my eyes out, I can only imagine what a poor reader must feel like.

  2. I don’t force a quota on myself, but I do try to write often. I don’t write every day. Some days simply aren’t conducive to writing. I am a very linear writer. I start at the beginning and go on until I reach the end. Every time I start a new session, I read through what I wrote before. Not only does it give me continuity, but I catch little errors I might not otherwise see. I don’t try to go back and find them later.

    Worst advice I ever got: OUTLINE. You MUST OUTLINE! You must KNOW THE ENDING BEFORE YOU BEGIN. What a crock. (Also was told that being a spontaneous author who didn’t plan was no only wrong, but inefficient. BAH!)

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