This will sound like I’m going against the message of the site, but I like to be honest with readers. There are a lot of books and sites out there that want to tell you “writing is easy!” and “just follow these steps and you’ll be a great writer!” I try to stay away from these kinds of messages here at the Corner because I don’t think that is what can be taught about writing. It’s tempting to spend a lot of time burying your nose in these ubiquitous books, but here are a few reasons why reading “How to Be a Writer in Ten Steps” won’t actually help you.
They are Often Vague.
It’s easy to give advice on improving a creative discipline. “Find your center”, some books might encourage. “Learn to let go of your fears,” say others. These writing advice books can begin to sound like cheesy self-help manuals, trying to apply enormous sweeping statements that have little relevance or actually advice in them. Beware of these vague statements; they aren’t what the real writers used to hone their craft.
They encourage homogenous writing
Some of the books may give specific guidelines on technique, but all they are encouraging at that stage is to write like a competent version of everyone else. The way you are going to be a great writer isn’t to gradually make your writing as blank and adequate as you can, and it isn’t just to do a good style imitation of someone else. Reading these books too much, however, will only get you just that.
After the jump: another reason to stay away from writing help books
They are telling you how to sell, not improve, your fiction
Another thing that these books are essentially going for is how to make your writing marketable. They will tell you the rules that the paperback romance writers follow. If you want a rubric for publishing success, this could actually help you; but it won’t lead you to your best writing. To find your own voice and hone and sharpen it, you’re going to have to throw away the books. You’ll have to read a lot and write more; practice, fail, and practice more; think, wonder, question, and experiment. Following a “writing is easy!” guidebook is fundamentally missing the point of writing to me, so don’t fall into the trap.