The One Time You Should Avoid Writing Advice – A Ramble

Well, I thought that I’d talk about writing advice today (shocking, I know!). In particular, the one time when you should avoid it like the plague. Yes, you heard me correctly.

A couple of days before I prepared this article, I’d just finished writing a chapter of the first draft of a longer writing project I’d been experimenting with. So, I relaxed by watching random Youtube videos. To my surprise, one of the videos that appeared on the front page of the site was an intriguingly-titled advice video about common writing mistakes. I clicked on it. Then I clicked on a few other writing advice videos. Big mistake.

After about four of these videos, I found myself so racked with worries about the quality of my unfinished first draft that I almost felt like abandoning it. My mind reeled with nightmarish visions of reams of rejections. Of unreachably high standards that only other people can even dream of achieving. To say that I felt dejected, dispirited and disillusioned would be an understatement.

Then, after several minutes of angst about the subject, I remembered that I was writing a first draft. First drafts are never perfect. If they were, then they wouldn’t be first drafts. And, luckily, my motivation to write returned once again 🙂

Of course, this made me think about writing advice. In particular, when to seek it out and/or listen to it.

The very best time to look for writing advice is before you start a writing project. If you go into your story knowing what mistakes to avoid and knowing the techniques for writing a good story, you’ll feel more confident and you’ll also end up with a better (but not perfect) first draft too.

The other good time to look for writing advice is after you’ve finished your first draft. This time round, the advice can help you to edit your draft by showing you the kinds of things that you need to change and improve in order to turn your draft into something better.

But, the one time you should never ever look at writing advice is when you are actually writing your first draft. When you are writing your first draft, the important thing is to keep writing and to finish it. It doesn’t matter too much whether literally every technical element of your first draft is perfect or not. The important thing is to get words onto the page and finish the story. Even if you’re just writing 500 words a day – then keep doing this.

Remember, it is a first draft. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It can be improved when it is finished.

Or, to put it another way, an imperfect, but finished, draft is a hundred times better than an absolutely perfect, but unfinished, one. Too much perfectionism during the actual writing phase can slow down your story, drain your motivation, give you writer’s block and/or shake your confidence.

So, avoid writing advice like the plague when you’re in the middle of writing a first draft. Your first draft will be a bit “badly-written” and this is all part of the process. But, the most important part of a first draft is actually finishing it. Remember, writing advice is useful before and after writing your first draft, but not during.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

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