Challenge,  On Writing,  publishing

Because of Last Night’s Comments

I Did a Tip of the Week…

On how and why bestselling authors give bad advice to young writers.

So in a very quick post here, I thought I would list a few reasons that come to me off the top of my head.

1… It was how the bestseller learned in the last century, so beginning writers should learn the same way, even though that is not how the bestselling writer actually works now.

2… It seems like a good way to train beginning writers (like the no adverb silliness).

3… The author is not talking to other authors, but to readers. (Writing as work and rewrite myth comes out of this one.)

4… The author hasn’t bothered to keep up with the new publishing world, so any advice is thirty years dated. (Telling beginners to get agents comes out of this area.)

5… Author is tired of the stupid questions. (Hemingway writing standing up is the prime example of this.)

6… Author hounded to do a writing book even though they don’t want to. (This happens more than you can imagine and thus spreads really bad advice.)

I am sure there are a bunch more… Just thought I would list a few for fun.


  • Philip

    Implicit in this is the reminder that writers should never stop being readers.

    When you read for pleasure, and when you read for analysis, you can SEE WITH YOUR OWN EYES how the author tells a story… right there in black and white on the page. You read the TELLING and you read the ADVERBS and you read the stories starting with weather or you read the cliches used here and there etc. etc.

    Now, what should you follow? The stories you love as a reader, or the bad advice you read for any number of sources? The answer is simple.

    Tell the damn story, and tell it in a way that makes it fun to write and fun to read. That’s the biggest takeaway I’ve gotten from your video lectures and courses, Dean.

  • Vera Soroka

    The best selling indies can be just as bad. And they will preach it loud and clear. I was just reading on a Facebook group and this poor fellow was stressing over these AMS ads and KDP not helping him out with some issues. I guess they are still sorting things out with the merger. But honestly they were telling this guy how to publish and what to charge and all the other promotional sights to use as well. Stacking ads they call it. Which is fine if you are doing a promotion of some kind but every book in a series? And always putting book one on sale when the new one comes out? Sounds exhausting. These paid ads get addictive and these indie authors rely on it for their income and rely heavy on that KU platform and then yell when the Zon does some changes and screws them over. But they keep coming back because they are not making anything on the other sites. They create a vicious circle for themselves. But they keep preaching it anyway.

  • Jeremy M

    I’ve read a lot of writing craft books the last few years. My conclusion is that everyone has an opinion on the “right” way to write. My opinion on those opinions is to leave them all outside the door when I go into my little writing cave to make shit up. If the advice is something that resonates with me, it’ll come out through my fingers without any conscious effort on my part.

    • dwsmith

      Spot on the money, Jeremy. If it works for you it will show up. Learn and forget is how it works in writing. Learn something, then put it away and if it’s right for the book, the situation, that chapter or paragraph, it will show up if you are just writing and having fun.

      • Mike

        I tend to think of this concept through the lens of sports. Lebron James doesn’t dribble down the court and think, “OK, I’m going to do a crossover, a spin move, then pull up for a jumper.” That’s ridiculous.

        Instead, during the offseason, he spends hours practicing the crossover, the spin move, the pull up jumper. He hones those things with deliberate practice.

        Then he goes out in the game, has fun and stays in the moment, and those things come naturally as the situation dictates. He trusts they will be there because he’s put in the work ahead of time. And then he lives with the result when the game is over.

  • Janine

    I got a few more sources: “Because my agent said do” or “I studied/teach English and/or Creative Writing, I know better than the average noob”.

    What it leads to:

    Writing (and rewriting) a book is a team effort. If I wanted to work on a team to write a story, I’ll go into TV or something like that. Most people want to write the book solo (unless they are co authoring something). Sure, I have a support group, but in terms of them trying to change my WIP, no.

    “I have an English degree, so I know more about writing than you, a STEM degree holder”. And yet I see a bunch of the STEM degree holders writing novels that become bestsellers. I graduated with a biology degree and sure, my writing style isn’t stuffy, but I found it’s similar to one found in a highly popular YA series.

    “Because the agents say so”. Oh yes, the agents. Many writers look at them as the authority to what’s good and what’s not. The “show, don’t tell” and “no info dumping” and “first sentence” myths come from this.

    • Philip

      I couldn’t agree with you more. I am not a team player. A big attraction to writing prose is precisely that it’s all about my creative mind and energy and I’m the boss. That’s what makes it therapeutic and fun.

  • Tony DeCastro

    I still love reading what long-term successful writers have to say about writing. Usually there’s something to learn buried in the BS. I recently came across this Murakami interview… My favorite part is his answer to the difficulty of the writing process? BASICALLY, IT’S FUN.

    There’s some of the typical writing voodoo myth in there about waiting around for the right idea, but he does seem to claim that he doesn’t know where he’s going when he writes…

  • Melody

    I have been listening to best sellers and professional sellers and hot ranked amazon authors for years. Never helped but I still didn’t discount any of it. I mean everyone agrees with each other, right? Then I heard about your blog all those years ago. Visited. Saw some potential but it still didn’t make much sense. If I was ever going to get anywhere, I had to follow the leaders.

    Then my health went bad. I just abandoned everything. I got better though, much better, but I realized all I really wanted was to tell my stories, not chase after amazon or anything. So this time when I decided to stop by here again for the ‘opposing voice’, it clicked the right way. Popular opinions aren’t always the right opinions. I’m not gonna chase around in KU or the latest trends or anything. I don’t even care if a lot of authors keep discouraging new ones from going wide because ‘they’ll never make it without some clout from Amazon first.’ That right there I think is when I gave up on the myth that bestsellers know best.

    And that’s the latest advice, coming straight from all the author boards. Only the successful authors should think about leaving KU because it will take a huge chunk of advertising that newbies can’t afford. Yep. Now wide? Is considered for the elite only. My brain hurts. I am off to write.

    • dwsmith

      Melody, I sure don’t consider myself an opposing viewpoint. I just have been at this for three or four decades and have millions of copies of my books in print and think wasting my time is silly.

      And as far as going wide, why would I ever want to tell any reader interested in my book that they aren’t good enough to get it? That they have to go to only one store on the planet? Makes no sense to me. So I let everyone have a chance to buy my books. And then I write more to entertain myself.

  • Nate

    “Author hounded to do a writing book even though they don’t want to. ”

    So that is how I ended up with so many useless writing books in that one NaNoWriMo bundle. I had wondered about that.

    • dwsmith

      Not this year’s bundle, Nate. Some really amazing ones in this one that the authors really wanted and worked hard to write. I was talking about how these older how-to-write books got added in the traditional publishing days into contracts and the author was forced to come up with something. Part of the 1970s to late 1990s traditional publishing world because of the distribution channel of that type of book. And sales forces for a time thought it would help an author until one day they changed their mind.

      • Gordon Horne

        I’ve inherited the writing libraries of three writers; books like poisons for writers, police procedure for writers, price guides and inventories for shops in 1860s British Columbia. There are also multiple copies of craft guides on the same topic from Writer’s Digest by different Big Name Writers. Comparing the books it is obvious one Big Name Writer had zero interest in writing his version. I wonder who forced him and how.

  • Janine

    Encountered something a couple of days ago, which while accepted in the “writing community”, it boggles my mind and I’m sure Dean and Kris would shake their heads. Without too much detail, a writer ‘wowed’ a pair of other writers (one published with one novel, the other not published) with their manuscript and they spent a bunch of time gushing over it. A couple of weeks later, I find out that they had said writer rewrite their entire story. I didn’t say anything, but my mind seemed to not register. If you liked the story that much, why does it have to be rewritten? Then again, their aim is to wow an agent and agents only want ‘perfect’ stories. I’m not bashing any of these people as they are nice people and have the best interest in mind. But this idea of rewriting everything in the ground to satisfy others…yikes.