Navigating Through Writing Advice to Find Your Voice

If you’ve ever thought about writing, Facebook is probably popping sponsored posts for various writing programs into your news feed. They’re cycling through three different ones for me. (Or is it four now? I’m not entirely sure.) The current one is offering the kit for free, as long as I pay shipping and handling.

But writing advice, tips, systems, and programs aren’t limited to Facebook ads. They’re everywhere. Most author interviews that I’ve read or skimmed feature some question about the writer’s process. Some of those authors have written entire books on it. Then there are message boards, how-to books, and blogs like this one.

I’ve bought a few books in the past. I’ve read message boards, joined writing groups on Facebook, read online articles. I’ve tried tricks suggested by writer-friends. I haven’t bought into any of these writing systems that “guarantee” to help me finish my book, but it’s gotten to the point where I’m highly suspicious of anyone asking for money (I’m working with a part-time retail income, here.)

Few tips have stuck.

Maybe I’m just ornery. I do tend to like figuring out how to do things the way that works best for me. But here are the three tips I’ve come across that I feel are truly universal for writers of any genre.

The first one that stuck was from R.L. Stine. I was obsessed with his books as a child (and I still have my Goosebumps collection.) In an FAQ at the end of his autobiography, he answered a question seeking advice to kids who wanted to grow up to be writers. His recommendation was to read. Read everything. And I wholeheartedly agree. Not just because reading is a wonderful past time (and reading fiction helps you develop better empathy skills.) Reading across different genres and authors will introduce you to new voices and styles.

The second, I’ve heard from various sources: write every day. Even if you’d rather stick pins through your eyelids, write something. It doesn’t have to be any good, or even coherent. Just write.

And the third was something I’d come to accept, but the first time someone suggested it was last year, when I was at the Guy Gavriel Kay signing. He said: find your own way. By all means, try all the tips and systems you want. Some of them will stick. Some of them, you’ll modify. Or you may make it up entirely. It doesn’t matter. What matters is producing the work.

So keep that last one in mind, especially if you want to try one of those systems or read one of those books. Or if you’re reading my articles. What I’ll write about here is my own experiences. You’re welcome to try anything I suggest, or modify my methods into something that words for you, or to ignore them entirely. The only “writing rules” I will ever say are universal are the three I’ve listed above.

So explore. Have a little fun with it all. You’ll find your way if you keep at it.

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