I often see discussion threads in forums like Goodreads started by writers wondering about some part of the writing process. They feel insecure because they aren’t doing it exactly like [insert big name author here] and they wonder what’s wrong with them.
There is one piece of advice that I invariably give whenever discussions start up about the “right” way to do things, whether it’s about writing or critiquing or worldbuilding or editing or any part of the process. In fact, I think it’s the only true piece of advice I ever give. All else in my mind falls into the category of “this helped me, maybe it will help you too, but that’s for you to say.”
My advice is simple: develop your own judgment about what works for you and what doesn’t.
There is no “right” way.
The only things that matter are the words you have on the page when you reach the end of your writing process and decide to share your work with the world. How you get there is immaterial.
Now, this sounds like a recipe for ignoring any and all advice that people throw at you. No, that’s not it. Advice is good, but it is not God.
This is a tricky balancing act, especially because it involves self confidence, and writers on the whole are a desperately insecure bunch.
On the one hand, you should recognize that what is good advice to one person may be poison to another. Try things out, but have the courage to know when something just doesn’t cut it for you and to know that that’s OK.
On the other hand, that doesn’t mean be a jerk and refuse to ever listen to advice. At least hear why the proponent thinks it’s such a great idea and make a reasoned choice for yourself.
“I’m different,” “This is my voice,” “I’m trying to be experimental,” are all fair enough, but have the courage to recognize when it actually isn’t working for you and that maybe those dinosaurs who pay attention to little things like spelling and grammar might actually have a point ...
So, listen to advice, be receptive, look at what works for a whole bunch of people and work out why it works for a whole bunch of people. Don’t be afraid - or too proud - to try things out. But know that the goal is to get a story down on paper by any means that works for you. You’re being judged by those words and the impact they have on readers, not by conformance to somebody’s idea of a good writing process.
How about you? What perfectly reasonable advice have you discarded because it just wasn’t right for you?