Thinking Too Much About Writing Advice Can Stunt The Story

This is my personal opinion. You’re free to disagree. I’m coming from the perspective of someone who’s published 16 books in 11 years and during this time period, the creative inspiration was unstoppable. I was not only full of ideas, but I was actively writing those ideas and finishing books.

How did I personally get so much writing done in those 11 years while working full time, staying fit, dating, Skyping family, and meeting other obligations? Honestly, I just sat down and wrote to my heart’s content. No rules. I did read a lot, though. Perhaps it’s more about meshing your own inspiration with the works of others that eventually creates your own writing style and flow.

I will say if I spent a lot of time worrying about writing trends or studying every single rule and style of other writers, I not only would have not gotten anything done, but I likely would have lost the drive to write.

Now I realize everyone has their own process. Some people spend years writing one amazing novel and to me that’s worth just as much as writing several novels. Every author has their own timeline. I have to say I’m pretty happy with mine. I’ve read many books (Close to 300 now) while writing my own and I’d like to think that my writing gained quality and maturity over the years.

I also want to acknowledge that what’s more important than quality or following trends is that people become engrossed in your story and enjoy it. I think most people enjoy my books and a few don’t like them either because they don’t really like me as a person or the writing style wasn’t their type. And that’s okay. Every book will have lovers, haters, and those who are indifferent to it.

But what if you want to write the next great novel that makes you a household name? Honestly, even the people who have written popular books that became movies/shows and became famous didn’t overthink their process and spend loads of time trying to copy their favourite authors. They just wrote what they loved and they happened to have a mix of luck and a good query letter. Yes, you read that right. Having the right query letter that hooks an agent is what gets you in the door more than the book itself. You could have a great best-selling novel sitting in your computer, but if your query letter isn’t up to the agent’s standards, it’ll never get represented.

This is why I’ve said time and time again that great writing isn’t enough to be discovered. It takes a bit of luck, knowing the right people in the industry, and having a bomb ass query letter that actually gets an agent’s attention. If an agent loves your concept, they’ll work with you on any changes that need to be made. If you’re like most indie authors and don’t care what agents think, you’ll publish your own book when you think it’s ready and appreciate the readers who give it a chance.

For example, when I wrote my memoir, I didn’t read anything at all about memoir writing rules (Aside from the legal repercussions, so I knew what I could and couldn’t include). I did, however, read several memoirs over the years and I loved how natural they sounded and you could hear the author’s voice in them. I didn’t read memoirs by famous people (Usually those are written by ghost writers), but by everyday people who overcame challenges and reached a goal or healed from something.

The thing with writing advice is authors can take what is relevant for them and their writing and discard what doesn’t work for them. That is, of course, what makes each writer’s work unique. I think with most art forms if you overthink the process too much and care too much what other people will think, it’ll be really hard to finish it.

Sometimes it’s better to wander away from all the noise and just write what’s true to you.



  1. This is a VERY wise post, Sara. When I wrote two books (nine fewer than your outstanding total of 16 πŸ™‚ ) in the past 11 years, I consciously avoided most advice about how to approach things.

  2. Thank you for this tip. I am not a writer, but have been following this approach intuitively for my blog. I am enjoying the process more than anything and that feels most important to me πŸ’›

  3. Yes, very true. It is when I gave up following advice that my novel was accepted to be published. Right now it is being printed. Stay tuned to my site for more info! My first publisher, a good friend and colleague, passed away before publishing my novel. He believed in my novel and this pushed me to submit to one more publisher and it was accepted!

    • Wow that is so cool to hear that ignoring writing advice really helped your writing bloom – and eventually become accepted by a publisher.
      I’m sorry to hear that your first publisher passed away. 😦 I’m very glad you got to meet him and his belief in your book and in you will always live on. Congrats on being published!

      • Thank you! My first publisher, Jose, and I worked together as instructors teaching English as a second language for foreign students. We worked together for 5 years! Thank you! Go with your gut! My new publisher is in Naples, Fla.

      • Nice. πŸ™‚ A 5 year friendship teaching English is solid. I’m sure you shared some amazing memories!
        I’m ready to try something new besides writing, but I’m happy to share some of what I learned about indie publishing … and hoping to meet people who can accept that as it is and not make me feel like I just wasted 11 years on nothing. Ha.

      • Yes, I write fiction but some of the experiences are slightly revised in my book. Teaching English to speakers of other languages-one gains stories. There is a disclaimer to any resemblance to…..I am sure many of your experiences are invaluable.

      • That’s cool! I think that’s the best way to do it. To write certain situations out that are similar but not exactly how it happened.
        I started out writing pure fiction but some of my later books are based on certain people.
        I just want to gain more experience. I feel I haven’t experienced enough of certain things, so I’ll do more “doing” than writing.

  4. My issue with “writing advice” is that it typically is phrased as musts or have-tos. Thou shalt not use adverbs. Thou shalt not use exclamation points. Thou shalt use the three-act structure. Thou shalt do this and not do that.

    Whenever I see advice characterized that way, I just skip ahead. Which means I pay very little attention to what passes for writing advice.

    You touch on the one and only rule … write a good story. That’s it. That’s what matters.

    • Yes. That is SO true.
      You’re so right. :,) Write a good story and someone will enjoy it as much as you did.
      I notice advice in general is pretty “thou shalt not” or “you should do it this way”. Do what works best for you always.

      • I went to a couple of writing conferences early in my writing β€œcareer.” They’re good for hanging around other writers. But not much else. Because most of those writers are there desperately search of the rules.

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