Everything Wrong with Modern Writing Advice

This is not an easy thing to do. We keep doing it anyway.

This morning I woke up, as one tends to do. I dragged myself out of bed and down to The Room Where Coffee Happens, and as I filled my mug I thought about everything I had to do today. Per usual lately, today’s blog post surfaced as my biggest worry. What am I going to write about this time?

This daily worry is not a self-inflicted curse. In fact, it is what prompts me to sit down and write to you every morning. But lately I’ve been struggling with deciding what kinds of topics to cover here. I very rarely come up empty when it comes to ideas for blog posts – I have this stubborn brain that never shuts up (you might know a thing or two about what that’s like).

It’s not that I don’t have ideas. It’s that, sometimes, I doubt my own ability to choose the right ones.

Giving writing advice is easy. Giving good writing advice is not. That’s because everyone seems to think they know what’s best. So virtually every writer writes about writing – to prove their expertise? Because they enjoy it? I don’t know. Coming up with advice no one has ever heard before is draining. Not writing about the exact same thing twice in six months is exhausting.

But I do it. Because I care. Because I want you to believe you have the power to earn yourself a successful career in writing. I really do.

What frustrates me the most about doing what I do every day is that my audience is small. This is not at all a cry for followers – it’s not up to me whether you click a button or not. The problem with a small audience is that I want to know what you want to know. But getting the level of response necessary to create a better content strategy, with a small audience, is pretty much impossible.

I may not be able to satisfy every curious creative that stumbles upon this blog. But I do know, from experience, what not to do – and all the shortcomings that plague modern writing advice on the internet. So because I’m in a rut, and I have no idea what to do, I’m going to talk about what we all need to stop doing. Sound fair? Let’s try it.

This is everything wrong with modern writing advice. And yes, of course I’m also guilty of some of these things. I’m only human. That’s why I’m addressing them now.

It struggles to individualize

Every time I give a piece of writing advice, I have to include some kind of tag at the beginning or end of it: ‘this is what has worked for me,’ or, ‘Maybe this will work for you; maybe it won’t.’ Because I once made the mistake of giving a generalized piece of writing advice on a different site for writers, and the faceless, far too easily offended commenters yelled at me. I’m a big girl, comment hate doesn’t faze me. But that doesn’t mean I don’t feel guilty when I unintentionally assume something is the case for every person and forget to address otherwise.

A blog can’t give individual writing advice – unless posts are in a question-answer format, but again – small audience. Questions frequently go unanswered, so I gave up on that a long time ago (people just ask Google everything now … not bitter or anything). So everything has to be carefully suggested. Try this, it might work. Some people find this helpful. It’s the best we can do. I feel bad about it constantly – I’d love to coach you individually. I can’t. Which is why I’ve gradually gone back to a more traditional blogging format – using my personal experiences to help you make sense of yours. I don’t particularly enjoy talking about myself every day, but 85 percent of the time, it’s the most effective way to at least get you thinking.

It assumes everyone is at the same level

All writers start out as beginners, and all move through different stages of writing at different speeds and intervals. This means I have to write every post with the understanding that some people reading it won’t even have started writing their first thing yet – while someone with years of publishing behind them might also come across that same piece of content. It’s both challenging and intimidating. I’m sure within this niche there are bloggers who only write about what to do when you’ve finished writing a book. There are blogs about how to start writing, blogs about grammar, blogs about characterization. Blogs about blogging about blogging. This blog is none of those things.

It is, literally, about putting ideas into words. About getting writing done, about motivation, about organization, about Getting Stuff Done When You Don’t Wanna. So I write for writers. I assume writers come here looking for answers to all kinds of questions. It’s not that my audience is too broad – it’s that bloggers like me are challenged to know the needs of their audience at differing stages of a process. Pleasing everyone is literally impossible. Trying something new, you risk turning people off. Unfollow. You risk attracting people who are genuine and grateful and want to become part of the family. The moment writing advice stops being relevant to one person is also the moment many people might decide to leave and never come back again.

Trying to be inclusive in anything you do is harder than you think. I suppose it’s just part of the deal.

It often comes off as one-directional

I never realized until I started blogging 8 years ago how much of writing consists of talking at other people. I sit here and I tell you what I think. I do this for a living. I don’t count comments, I don’t judge my level of success or the worth of my work on how many comments each post gets. But I do notice when things get quiet. In the back of your mind, for a few seconds, you wonder what you’ve done wrong – when in reality, people only leave comments when they have something to say. And writing advice, let’s be honest, isn’t always a solid conversation starter.

Engaging people on blogs becomes more and more of a questionable effort every day. I know for a fact only a handful of you are still reading at this point. This is the reality of publishing things online – people stop reading. It doesn’t matter if they’re bored or annoyed or just don’t have the attention span to focus on what you’re saying – it just happens. So most of the time, I end up writing as if I am talking to you. And I know that to some degree, some of you are absorbing my messages. I simply can’t depend on discussion-driving posts to keep this blog alive. I have to have faith that using my voice to add more words to the void will at some point generate some kind of conversation.

As a writer writing about writing, you learn you can’t force other people to do anything you suggest. You send off your words of wisdom or hope or desperation into the world and you start to wonder why you keep doing this. Much of writing is believing you’re helping someone, though you’ll never know for sure whether you are or not.

As I hope you already know, I do the absolute best I can to use my words to help you grow and thrive as writers actively pursuing your creative passions. I strongly believe 2017 is the year this blog will shift from a casual jog into a full-power sprint. I always hit these awkward points of questioning and struggle before we make a mad dash toward a new milestone. It always gets harder before it gets easier.

That being said, if there is anything you ever want me to discuss here, you are always welcome to address it in a comment. Unless you’re  a spammer (please stop), I publish every comment left here. This blog is not about me. It’s about you, about us. For now, these posts are all I have for you. I do my best every day to provide the best content I can for you. Know it’s because I genuinely want to do good things here. I hope that’s enough.

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and a nine-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

Is It a Waste of Time to Write About Writing?


There is an author I love, who shall remain unnamed in this post, who posted a piece of writing advice on her Goodreads page awhile back that, at least temporarily, made me question what I was doing with my life.

Okay, a bit of an exaggeration, maybe. The magnitude of questioning, not the piece of advice. To aspiring writers, she suggested, and I’m paraphrasing here, that instead of writing about all the books they wanted to write and about their writing progress, they should step away from their blogs and actually get some writing done.

For brand-new writers, or writers who are really struggling to focus and get things done, this is really good advice. But for someone like me, who has been writing for over half her life, it sort of threw me off.

Was I wasting valuable writing time by writing about writing?

At first, I started to think so. Most of the posts I write take around an hour, sometimes less, and I could very easily crank out 500 to 1,000 words of an article I’m getting paid to write, or a novel I’m hoping to get published, instead of spending it “with” you guys.

Yet I’m not sure this author’s advice really applies to me, in the sense that by blogging and connecting with other writers online, I’m actually gaining much more than I’m losing. I’m experienced and disciplined enough to balance it all, whereas a newer writer won’t be – not because they’re not good at what they do, but because they haven’t had years of practice fitting writing into the various hidden crevices of their daily lives.

I think it depends on the person. This is one of unfortunately many cases in which general writing advice is more harmful than it is helpful. I do my best to try and give you advice that you can either apply to your own writing life or pass on to someone who you think might benefit from it. It’s never going to apply to everyone, but generally, we do our best.

You have to do whatever keeps you moving forward when you’re trying to get a lot of writing done. Most days, writing blog posts gets me fired up to do the rest of my writing for the day. I don’t think I would have as much drive to write as much as I do without keeping up this blog. I enjoy it. I enjoy putting my thoughts out there, but more importantly, I enjoy the opportunity to hopefully, maybe, help another writer or two find their way.

It doesn’t feel like wasted time to me. Do you write about writing, via a blog or Facebook groups or other types of forums/websites/other mediums? Does it help you focus, or take away from your productivity as a writer?

Love&hugs, Meg<3

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and an eight-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter.

Image courtesy of Kalyan Chakravarthy/flickr.com.

Filling In the Gaps (Midweek Novel Update #17)


When I say I’m close to finishing, I mean close. Close enough to stop in the middle of doing something else to click back over to my draft and add a paragraph before I forget it. Close enough to wake up in the middle of the night, turn my laptop back on and write a few hundred words. Close enough that the story is all I think about, and I feel like I’m going insane.

It’s been a long time since I’ve felt all the end-of-the-novel feelings. I have missed this so, so much.

I’m not saying the book will be finished when I’m done filling in all the spots I skipped over, mostly necessary-but-aggravating descriptions (and honestly, that funeral I said I was ready to write, but haven’t yet). It’s going to need a lot of revising. I’m probably going to need to cut out a lot, to simplify things a little. I’m a Wrimo veteran; that will be hard for me. But maybe … maybe not as hard as it’s been writing and rewriting and rewriting over the past 38 months.

I’ve written and revised books before, usually enough to feel good about the free proof copy I could get from CreateSpace, so I know what I’m about to get myself into. This time around will be different though. I’m planning on putting together queries for this one. Which isn’t any different than what other aspiring novelists would do in my situation, but (and not to get too deep) I haven’t finished writing a book or thought much about trying to publish one since I lost my creative writing mentor.

It’s kind of a big deal. I sort of made a promise. And I might actually be able to keep it. Which is terrifying, because I never thought I’d get this far. Writing a book I’m actually proud of, I mean.

This is a weird stage of noveling. I spent a good ten minutes this morning describing rain (imagine trying to explain the sound of rain from the viewpoint of someone who’s never seen or heard it before). I’m going back and adding in small details I didn’t realize I needed. I accidentally foreshadowed something in the middle of the story and now have to make sure it connects to the end.

The end. It’s so close.

Technically, I’ve written the end already. It’s completely different than my original ending, but isn’t that how it always works out? The epilogue is what is supposed to carry the reader over to the next story … but I can’t think about that yet. I have to finish this one first.

Be on the lookout for a victory-I’m-a-free-woman-again post. That’s all I’m saying.

Except we’re never really free. I already have the idea for my NaNoWriMo novel rolling around in my head. But that’s for a future blog post. 

Love&hugs, Meg<3

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.

Meg is a twenty-something workaholic with a passion for writing, coffee and health. In addition to her status as an aspiring novelist and Grammar Nazi, Meg is the managing editor at College Lifestyles magazine and a guest blogger for Food & Nutrition Magazine.  She is a seven-time NaNoWriMo winner and has written several creative pieces for Teen Ink. Follow Meg on Twitter. 

What I Discovered When I Almost Quit Writing, but Didn’t


I wrote to a friend a long time ago something like, “I’m not good at writing, I don’t even like it anymore. I think I’m done trying.”

He wrote back: “Okay. If that’s what you want.”

When you’re having that kind of conversation over text or Facebook or whatever, it’s easy to stop answering or log off, pretend it never happened, passively channel your disapproval into something or someone else. Except when your usual channel of choice happens to be writing, which you just declared you weren’t doing anymore. Then what?

I didn’t want him to tell me not to stop writing. A good friend, after all, lets you make your own stupid mistakes more often than not, and when you come shuffling back after you’ve gone off to wallow in your dumbness, there’s not judgment. You don’t ever have to even bring it up again. Nobody’s right, or wrong, just a little more grown up.

Of course I didn’t quit writing for long; I kept writing terrible cliché prose and it didn’t matter if people liked it, I just knew I had to do it, and that was the first time I tried quitting, and realized just considering it—quitting—made me a better writer.

Wanting to quit, pondering the possibility of quitting, realizing no one is going to stop you from quitting, makes you see the act of quitting in a completely different light. Quitting becomes That Thing Everybody Always Said You’d Do, ergo, The One Thing You Can Never Let Anyone See You Actually Do, Ever.

For a few hours, for a day, for a week, sometimes Life Happens, you want to write, but you can’t, there’s something in your way and you’re not ready to face it head-on yet, you need time to think, to breathe, to scrutinize; but you plan on coming back, and often you do, and you’re like a freaking phoenix, at least until you want to quit again.

But you won’t quit, not for real. Writing is a part of you. A piece of your soul. You need it to live. You’re nothing without it. I’m nothing without it.

Funny, though, how I may never have understood my own dependence on the practice if in college I had not stopped journaling for seven straight months, because it hurt too much, because a paper or an article was Nothing Personal and I did not have to open to a blank page and watch my own soul bleed out ink onto an innocent piece of paper.

We try to force others to understand the passion—“Read this, does this make sense, can’t you see writing is all I’m good at or what I suck at the most, blah blah quitting blah”—but they won’t, they can’t. That’s why someone else will let you quit, knowing you won’t, but you’ll let yourself quit and truly believe it’s forever.

Most of the time I despise what I write, I always want to back up and start again, and when I don’t feel like doing that, I just want to stop. I’ve thought plenty of times, since that first time, of stopping forever, but knowing I could, knowing that same friend still wouldn’t stop me, made me finish this sentence. And will make me write this one, too. I don’t think anyone ever loves their own work, but somehow we learn to tolerate it, and cringe through the worst dialogue, because even one more word, that’s the opposite of quitting. One word a day is still progress.

I think the more we Almost Quit the less likely we are to actually do it. Maybe that’s all we need when writing gets to be too much, to be reminded that we didn’t quit last time, or the time before that, and doing it now, well, that would be pretty stupid.

One more word, one more page, just one more, one more.

Love&hugs, Meg<3

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.

A recent graduate with a B.A. in English and a completed major in nutrition, currently seeking a graduate degree in health communication, Meg is a twenty-something workaholic with a passion for writing, coffee and dietetics. In addition to her status as an aspiring novelist and Grammar Nazi (and the mastermind behind this site), Meg is an editor for College Lifestyles magazine and a guest blogger for Food & Nutrition Magazine’s Stone Soup.  She is a seven-time NaNoWriMo winner and has written several creative pieces for Teen Ink magazine. Follow Meg on Twitter.

Tales of a Highly Caffeinated JulNoWriMo Enthusiast – Day 16

I’ve learned something very important in the past 12 hours. It has nothing to do with word count or test grades or running in six thousand percent humidity. It has nothing to do with how delicious Jimmy Johns sandwiches are, or how many applications someone has to fill out before their head explodes.

No. It has to do with Starbucks.

I made a mistake, you see. A big mistake. And this big mistake started a chain reaction of smaller, less significant mistakes, all leading to the same consequences and therefore one big conclusion. My conclusion: never drink coffee after eight o’clock ever again. EVER. AGAIN.

The decision to get coffee on the way home from a very long day was, well, not a terrible decision to start out with. It was almost eight, I was tired, and I knew I had to come home and finish my accounting homework before I went to bed. So of course, at the time, it seemed like a fabulous idea. But the first little mistake was, of course, not ordering a tall sans whipped cream.

I knew as I sipped my grande iced mocha latte (with whipped cream) that I would definitely be awake long enough to finish my accounting homework. I mean, I’ll do anything to declare victory over FIFO/LIFO and gross profit. I didn’t know that when I’d finally finished my homework (before eleven, which was much sooner than I’d expected), I would still be awake. Very, very awake.

Enter mistake  No. 2 – deciding not to go to bed. The thing about thinking your not tired is, once you get cozy under your blankets and cuddle with your pink stuffed elephant anyway (don’t judge me), falling asleep really isn’t all that hard. Because once I start reading a book or even think about closing my eyes, BOOM – I can fall asleep in seconds.

But no. I decided to fill out my fall intentions form for my internship, and gather application materials for a position in said internship, and read some articles and OH, let’s write some more words!

1:30am and I had a party. It was beautiful. Until my alarm went off at five.

Now you understand why I’m fighting to push through the morning.



It’s okay, though. I’m past 22,000 words and don’t have to almost make myself have a stroke trying to finish my accounting homework this morning. And now I can drink as much coffee as I want, because there’s no chance I’m going to bed early when I have (technically) two finals tomorrow.

But first, I have to finish the take-home test I’ve barely started for another class.

College life. It never gets boring.

Love&hugs, Meg<3