It’s kind of surprising to realize that I’ve been off writing message boards for almost a year. I woke up one day and just deleted all the links to the writing message boards, and I was done. I’d been on the boards since at least 2007, and honestly, I haven’t missed them.
When I first signed up — early on, it was as many as six of them because I just couldn’t get enough of writing advice. I was always like I was looking for this one piece that would help me solve problems I was having.
One of the problems though was that most of the advice was being given by beginners to beginners, so no one actually knew what they were talking about.
Over the years, that started become apparent, particularly as I started thinking about moving to indie publishing. Going indie really changed my perspective because then it’s not about simply getting published; it’s about making enough money to live off it. Most writers don’t fit into that category. They want to get one book published. Maybe it’ll be three. But make a living at it? Nah.
The worst and probably the silliest piece of advice I heard was “You have to know the rules to break the rules.” A writer usually got told this when they were perceived to be doing something beyond beginner level, and if they asked what the definition of when you knew the rules, they were simply told the same thing again. It kind of came across as “Shut up and don’t ask questions.”
Honestly, how do you get above beginner level if you don’t experiment? I never understand it either when someone wanted to imitate a technique they’d seen in a book by a favorite author, but all the writers promptly said, “No, you can’t do that. Big name writer can get away with it. You can’t. Don’t even try.”
Seriously? That’s the best way to learn!
Over the last few years, I found myself participating less and less because of silliness like this. But the reason I finally decided it was time was because of a writer named Lester Dent. He wrote the Doc Savage books during the pulp era, and I don’t know, maybe I connected to how he wrote in a way. My early experience with writing was an uncle who also wrote during the pulp era, and Lester Dent reminded me that writing doesn’t need to be complicated.
He also reminded me that none of the very early writing books talked about all the nonsense we get today: three act structure; story beats; character worksheets. It was just story, characters, and setting. Yet, on the message boards and even in some craft books, the writing process had become enormously overcomplicated. Everything was about following a method, and not really about the writing itself. It’s like everyone mistook the technique for the process.
Worse, I found some of this junk getting into my writing, in spite of the fact I knew better. There was just so much of it that it was hard for it not to get into my writing.
I also discovered how shockingly negative most of it is. It’s a lot of “Don’t do this,” or “Kill this,” or “If you don’t do this/do this, you won’t get published.” Where exactly does the fun in writing come in when everyone is so busy trying to follow all these mysterious rules?
So the only thing that I could do was just stop.
I haven’t regreted it. My writing has actually improved once I got free of all the junk and the self-inflicted rules we see. Most of it isn’t necessary. It’s tell a good story. Have good characters. Use whatever needed to get to those two goals.