Unsolicited Writing Advice & Why You Need to Resist Giving It.

For the last week or two, I’ve been stuck. I needed to have a fist fight, one that was a long time coming between these two characters. I knew how it’d end, and what comes next because of the fight. But I was having a hard time figuring out how to get that first punch thrown.

I knew which character would throw it, but not the words that would antagonize him enough to do so.

As is my norm, I talked about this on social media. One friend offered her services as a sounding board. Last night, via messages, her feedback was helpful and I was able to get the lead-in right. I’m working on finishing the fight – and the chapter – today.

This is how you offer up your advice to authors. You ask if they want your help/input, and wait for them to respond.

Another person – who also writes – chose to comment as well. However, it wasn’t about my problem. Rather, they ranted about how I needed to make it short because of a bad editing experience they had with an author who wrote a long, descriptive fight.

I did not ask for that type of advice. This person knows I tend to write shorter fights, for one. I had others message me, privately, saying they were appalled/embarrassed at what was said. It was meant in a good way, yes. But it smacked of, ‘don’t do this because I don’t like it’.

No one dictates my stories besides me. If I choose to write a longer fight scene, I will. There’s millions of readers out there that like them.

This is a classic example of unsolicited writing advice. I didn’t ask for an opinion in my original post, simply expressed frustration. Yet they chose to put in their two cents, blatantly disregarding that I rarely write long fight scenes, and publicly try and tell me what I shouldn’t do with my book.

Don’t do this. Ever.

Writing is subjective. Every single author has a different process, a different take, on what a book needs. Some authors love to write fight scenes, and are knowledgeable enough to write them well. There’s readers who want that in the story. Just because this person doesn’t like them doesn’t mean they’re worthless. Nor does it mean I’m going to not write one simply because they don’t like it.

No one else can dictate what an author does with a story, or a single element within it, besides the author. So, before you offer up your opinion, ask yourself a few questions:

  1. Is it relevant?
  2. Did the author ask for opinions or are they simply venting?
  3. Is what I’m thinking is advice actually nothing more than my personal preferences?

Because, I guarantee you, if you offer up advice that’s not requested, it won’t be well received.

BB/Chan Eil Eagal Orm

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