Let’s debunk some bad advice right now! While searching for some good novel-writing pointers for my Nano participants, I came across some advice I thought was awful, so let’s blast this trash for the bollocks it is.
This booktrust article had some good stuff, but this one I really hated:
“The first page of your first novel is the most important thing you will ever write.”
WHOA! Talk about negativity! Has this guy ever heard of rewriting??? Maybe the above is true for somebody somewhere, but seriously?!? Fear of writing bad work can stop potentially AWESOME writers in their tracks before they even give themselves the chance to begin. Don’t let that be you! During Nano month, remember this good stuff instead:
- Perfect is the opposite of good
- First drafts don’t have to be good, they just have to be
- There will be time to edit later, for now JUST WRITE!!!
Besides, I’ve heard that several famous writers (re)write the first page last, as a continuation of the flow they’ve established writing the whole book.
Okay, the next one you’ve heard a million times. “Show don’t tell.” But guess what? All novels show AND tell! You’re going to need blocks of exposition to tell some information, and you’re going to need blocks of dialogue to show some scenes. The reason this gets repeated so often is that some writers have the tendency toward too much tell and not enough show. Everybody is going to need a balance in that final draft. But in a first draft, just write how you write, whatever comes naturally. In my non-fiction first drafts I may write 30 pages without a line of dialogue. I work in the conversations later.
“Write what you know.” Obviously if you’re going to write about something less familiar you’ll want to do your research, like historical facts for historical fiction or scientific details for science fiction. But the point is not to paralyze you into feeling like if your parents aren’t divorced you can’t write about divorced parents. You can ask questions of the people around you. The phrase should be, “Write with authenticity.” If you tap into genuine emotions–fear, anger, grief–your reader will come along with you more easily on the plot points. Make your characters real people, with real reactions. And if you want to write what you don’t know, just learn about it!
If you want to read more about bad writing advice, check out these pros: