If you’re an aspiring writer, you’ve probably heard them all, but here are some extremely annoying ones:
Write what you know
In a way, this advice makes sense. If you write about the things you know nothing about, you will not only make huge mistakes, but will also lack certain authenticity (and, dare to say, integrity). But this advice shouldn’t be taken literally. After all, writing “what you know” would limit everyone to writing autobiographies – because you can only know your individual experience and nothing more.
So, this advice is useless for us who are not into writing about our own lives. Of course you will write about the things you don’t know, it goes without saying. But it’s a huge difference between “things you don’t know” and “not doing a research”.
Show, don’t tell
Unless you are making a conscious stylistic choice, chances are you will do a lot of telling in your story. Let’s face it: writing is telling, not showing.
In literary terms, “showing” means describing situations, plot, dialogue, and allowing readers to fill in the blanks. You don’t tell feelings, you show a person is angry by her actions and the words she says. This is a good advice, but shouldn’t be taken as a strict rule.
The trick is to tell effectively. Just determine what works for your story and your style. There are great books full of “telling” (“The Virgin Suicides” and “Jazz” just being two examples of it), and horrible books full of showing (political thrillers seem to be particularly prone to this).
Don’t use adverbs and adjectives
“Twilight” might be a good example of what can happen if you don’t follow this rule, but seriously, you should not alter your writing style to match this advice. Adverbs and adjectives can kill a story if overused, and they sure can make writing seem pretentious and / or flowery… But they can also enrich the story, if used correctly.
Write in third person singular, in the past tense
… Because we all know first person is amateurish, present tense is pretentious and any other option is just unreadable.
Don’t use prologues (and epilogues)
I used to think this is US-centric writing advice, because, honestly, it’s not something I’ve heard before I visited some American writing forums. But it looks like it’s quite prevalent: even J.K. Rowling named her prologue to Harry Potter “Chapter 1″ (though she was famous/powerful enough by the time the seventh book was published so she got to keep her epilogue). But this is advice I don’t get. A prologue is an integral part of the book; you should know when to use one and what to put in one, but I wouldn’t say it’s “forbidden” to use it.
Write for yourself
This advice is bad because it’s impossible to achieve. Nobody writes for herself. People may write because of themselves and to make themselves feel better, but nobody writes for themselves. People write for a Perfect Reader, and even this Perfect Reader is them, it’s not the same as writing for yourself.