Beware the “Experts”!

Lots of people are being touted these days as writing “experts.” And you can easily tell what their latest advice is by the posts you see from authors across social media who parrot that advice ad infinitum. The challenge is to determine who the real experts are (and I do not claim to be one) and assess their advice in a rational manner.

The Latest Trend

At present, writers are being advised to do two things:

  1. Put out a newsletter
  2. Offer a bit of free fiction in exchange for a person signing up for this newsletter

Nothing wrong with that, right? Well, to me there are three things wrong:

  1. Newsletters take time and are a distraction from your writing, especially if you are going to do one that will keep your subscribers from unsubscibing. (I currently subscribe to two just as a show of support to fellow authors but barely look at what they send.)
  2. People can sign up, get the freebie, and when your first newsletter arrives in the email inbox, they can unsubscribe (and will if there’s nothing in the newsletter worth their while).
  3. Giving away your writing for free cheapens it but also conditions readers to seek out such freebies instead of wanting to buy. (Yes, I posted a story on here for free, but the circumstances were exceptional. It had been posted by an online lit mag in a very improper way, so I wanted readers to see it properly.)

Other “Expert” Trends

Making matters even worse is the trend toward “simplifying” your writing to fit the extremely short attention span many people have attained thanks to TV, social media, and other influences. That means short sentences, short paragraphs, simplified language (“said” instead of “exclaimed” or other alternatives), and even simpler plot lines. This might be appropriate for some genres, but literary fiction (my genre), fantasy, science fiction, and historical fantasy need something more intriguing to the reader. Fantasy and historical fantasy genres seem to be growing in popularity, and this might be a reason for it, that is, readers want more.

Speaking of simpler plot lines, the “formula novel” is rampant these days. A romance novel contains these elements, a historical novel has those elements, and so on. Imagine authors like Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Victor Hugo, and Ayn Rand getting their work published in today’s environment. Not hardly! In fact, I saw someone post the opening lines of Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities and opine that they were poorly written. Now that’s chutzpah! Frankly, while I don’t accept all of Dickens’ ideas, his novels are a study in entrancing writing with a rhythm and flow that is totally lacking in what constituents modern fiction. (I recently read a flash fiction piece online that read like staccato machine gun fire. Ugh! I didn’t make it to the end despite the short length.)

Worst of all is the idea that you have to write only what literary agents say they are interested in. I actually saw a writer post that she was going to write a dystopian novel because some agents were asking for them. Another author said he had seen a lit agent say she didn’t want anymore COVID pandemic stories, so he was wondering when it would be okay to write them again (he might have meant that as sarcasm, but it didn’t seem so). Yikes! Write your story when and how you want.

That’s the biggest problem with these “experts” – a one-size-fits-all approach. But there is hope!

It’s Up to You

I encourage you to resist every little bit of “expert” advice that comes down the pike. And look into the person writing that advice. There are some legitimate experts, but they are few and far between. If you find one, stick with him or her.

As for your own efforts as an author, if your grammar, punctuation, spelling, and word usage are good enough for a reader to follow what you’re saying, then I encourage you by all means to start writing. As someone famous once said (I forgot who, but I saw it online recently), “you can’t edit a blank page.” Get your ideas down, and worry about the niceties later.

Hope you found this helpful and have been inspired to start and/or continue writing!

Please check out my WIPs. And thanks for reading.

Disclaimer: I get no compensation for links in this post or on my site to other sites and/or products.


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