Tag Archives: bad writing advice

Jefflion.net Must-Reads

There’s a handy blog meme I’d like to use here. Tagged bloggers (or, self-tagged in my case) should identify and present posts on their blogs that fit certain types. I think the idea behind it is to promote your blogging and present some of the posts most of your visitors are unfamiliar with (be it because you wrote them a long time ago, or because they didn’t get the attention you feel they deserved).

It’s also a great way to think about your blogging in general, and see where you stand.

So, here’s where I stand: my early blogging (read: most of the things written in 2007, 2008 and, to a lesser extend, 2009) sucks. There’s no other way to put it. I had no idea what blogging was, or how to write a decent blog post – and it’s not because I’m untalented for writing. I guess I thought blogs were online diaries, and I was never good at writing a diary. Luckily, I realized blogging was different, and it made my posts better.

That’s why most of the posts presented in the meme are the newer ones, from 2010 and 2011.

Also, I’d like to use this opportunity to introduce some changes on the site. I added a new popular posts script, so you can find the most accurate and up to date list of most popular posts at the sidebar. Plus, I added the similar posts script that appears at the bottom of the each post, recommending you similar posts. Because it depends on the words I write, its choices might not be accurate, but so far I like the way it works, and I think it makes my posts more connected, which is a good thing. It can also make some of the older posts visible again. The only bad thing is that it also makes my early, random posts visible.

And now, the meme:

Most Beautiful Post

I think most of my reviews are beautiful, and I am quite proud of them. But I’d like to include another post here, because it is more personal than my usual posts.

Why I like(d) Disney movies

This post turned out to be more beautiful and more personal than I intended it to be. Who knew animated movies can have so much meaning, or to make you remember your childhood (and teenage years?)

I also thought the post might become controversial (because Disney movies deserve a lot of criticism), but that didn’t happen (not that I complain).

Most popular post

It’s definitely something about sex. Cliché or not, it does seem that sex and dating make very hot topics.

Women and casual sex

This is the most popular post on the site, and one of the few that get regular outside hits (which means search engines bring people here). The funny this is that it’s not a particularly good post: there are way too many things I mentioned here, but it’s not well structured and the thoughts are all over the place. I guess the main idea was that women often enjoy casual sex less than men not because their morality and sexuality are different, but because men don’t try to satisfy a woman they have a casual sex with.

Honourable mentions: A Long Penis Rant (once again, I wasn’t sure what was the main idea behind this post), Sunshine (my most commented post, though I’m not sure if it counts because half of it are pictures of Cillian Murphy and some heavy off topic discussion).

Most Helpful Post

Bad Writing Advice

I like this post because I’ve finally managed to formulate what I always found questionable about writing advice. I also discovered I love writing about writing (and my experience with it), so maybe I should consider doing more of those posts.

Honourable mentions: The best sites for bored people (check them out, especially tvtropes.org, which is probably one of my favourite sites on the whole net), Recover a (WordPress) site infected by a nasty iframe (this is an old entry. It worked back then; I am not sure if this advice is still applicable).

Post Whose Success Surprised Me

Things I don’t write about

I wrote this one to explain (mostly to myself) why I don’t like to write about certain sensitive/serious topics that I sometimes feel people expect me to write about. (Both in a blog and in novels). Some of these subjects include: Balkan wars and former Yugoslavia (or anything related to Easter Europe), my father’s death (and the problems I’ve had growing up without a father), etc. I don’t write about former because I am too sick of the subject, and I don’t feel any need to include it in my writing. I am aware that many people (both here and in the rest of the world) expect for someone in Serbia to deal with these issues in her writing (particularly when it comes to novels), but I just don’t find that topic inspiring. Same goes for my family. Some of the things I do find interesting and want to include, but the others aren’t something I want to write about.

I consider this to be a personal post, that wouldn’t make people interested. I was wrong. It turned out to be one of my most popular posts. I guess it’s because it’s more personal than the others. Some people said it made them learn more about me. I am glad, but I am still surprised this post gained such a popularity. (Plus, I had no idea my average reader didn’t have much chance to “meet” me or to learn anything about me and the type of a person I am).

Honourable mentions: Writing chapter titles (I wrote this for myself, to test what chapters of my novel “sound” in English. Who knew people were into that stuff), I’m a flexitarian (it was one of my first posts; it wasn’t much of a success, but it was my first post that got any sort of attention).

Most Controversial Post

The most controversial post I’ve ever written (American privilege) isn’t even on this site. I don’t think there are any controversial topics on Jefflion.net, but it’s not because I want to play it safe. I guess the blog isn’t popular enough to get many hits or commenters, because in order for something to be controversial, there have to be people who disagree with it or view things differently.

The only possibly controversial post is Kosovo independence, but it didn’t generate much buzz.

Post That Didn’t Get The Attention I Felt It Deserved

The Best Movies of the Decade I and The Best Movies of the Decade II

I really think it’s one of my best posts (and I find all of my review posts good). I’ve also taken some extra effort into making pictures to go with this post (and it was very time consuming to Google all the images, find the best ones, and then arrange everything in Photoshop). It’s not that I regret doing it, but I really wanted to discuss the best movies of the decade with my visitors, learn about their favourites and maybe get some good movie recommendations). (The offer is still good, btw).

Honourable mention: Writing Sex Scenes (I think this one is a very good post that deals with a legitimate problem in writing: how to make good, believable, non-cheesy/embarrassing/narmy/facepalm/wtf-was-the-writer-thinking sex scenes. I think it’s a well-written post, and people are usually interested in both sex and writing, so I was surprised it didn’t get much attention).

Post I’m Most Proud Of

A friend claims she’s proud of all of her posts (and I am happy for her), but I am sorry to say it doesn’t work the same for me. I am not proud of my blogging pre-2010 in general.

But there are some posts I am quite proud of. This goes, first and foremost, for my reviews (especially movie reviews). I link most of them at a separate page (Articles), along with some other stuff I’ve written (that I think deserve special attention).

Some other good posts:

Stereotypes About Americans

Women: How not to be seen as fully human

5 songs I like against all odds and 5 songs I dislike against all odds

Rules of a chick lit (and what can we learn from it)

PS- I’m supposed to tag five people to do this meme, but I think it’s too pushy. It’s better if people decide for themselves they want to do it. (And if you choose to do it, I’d love to see your list!)

Bad writing advice

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.