|Picture from wikimedia|
The problem with writing stories is that there is no right way of doing things. There are as many paths as there are writers, and every single path will be viable for someone. And while I do believe we should study the craft and soak up as much information as we can, the truth is that we kind of have to figure out most of it on our own. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that we have to reinvent the wheel. But someone can give us the tools and tell us how to make a wheel, even draw a diagram, but the only real way to learn how to do it is to do it.
I think that sorting through the writing advice is a lot like sorting through all the parenting advice out there (I’ve touched on this on an early post, but I’m going to go into more depth here).
When I had my first baby, I read about four books on parenting and a ton of articles and blog posts on the internet, all written by professionals with impressive credentials. So much of it was contradictory. Put your baby on a schedule vs. follow your baby’s lead. Baby should sleep with the parents vs. get the baby out of your bed or he/she will stay until he/she goes away to college, etc. I had to pick and choose the advice that made the most sense to me, that fit my personality and the baby’s.
But sorting through the advice was so much easier than implementing it. No matter how many fabulous examples the books gave, none of them fit my situation perfectly. I was constantly tweaking and adapting the advice to fit my unique situation. It was hard and involved failing at times, but no one can really tell you how to parent any more than anyone can tell you how to write. It all comes from trial and error.
I realize that none of this directly addresses unpublished writers giving advice, so let’s get to that. In keeping with parenting theme, I see unpublished writers as other new parents. Having some good, solid friends who are in the same place as you in writing or parenting is like gold. A lot of it is support, but sometimes just talking through your problems with them can help you see what you need to do. And sometimes they can give you the best advice because they are right there with you and can understand where you are coming from better than any seasoned professional.
Since you have to use your brain to sort through all that professional writing advice, I don’t see why you can’t also sort through the advice given by unpublished writers. And who knows how many of those unpublished writers are on the verge of being published.
Of course we shouldn’t blindly follow them, but then I believe we shouldn’t blindly follow anyone. Each of us is unique, and we all have to find our own path.