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Every writer, myself included, has advice for other writers. Some of this is excellent and comes from a place of expertise. Some of it is terrible and no one should listen. Some is in the middle, so is either vague and unhelpful or else accurate but not coming from personal experience or knowledge gained. There is such a thing as right and wrong advice. The problem is, it varies from person to person.

For example, one piece of advice I see a lot is “don’t over-describe.” This is good advice for people who spend pages and pages on detailed descriptions of minor moments. This is not good advice for me, because it gets stuck in my head and I don’t just avoid over-description, I avoid description altogether. One of the main complaints in my work, especially my more recent work, is that even the main character has no physical description, and the settings are vague.

Of course, another example is the common advice about adverbs. Namely, don’t use them if at all possible. I use them a lot, and this piece of advice is never going to be one I’ll take completely at face value. I like adverbs too much. But it does remind me to go back through and cut them out, or find more vivid verbs to replace them. This piece of advice is immensely valuable to me personally because I’m never going to use it one hundred percent but being aware of it as a rule makes my writing better.

(And the same goes for eliminating the word “that”. Best advice I’ve ever gotten.)

Some rules are foolish and come from those days when we were children in school still learning the basics of the language. You have to learn the rules before you can break them, after all. And it’s hard to figure out which advice works. The advice that’s hardest to implement is usual the one where I have the biggest blind spot in my work. And on top of that, there’s the stuff that turns my head in circles because it’s something I already do automatically and trying to do it more makes a hash of my writing.

This is why the best and only rule of writing is this: there are no rules. There are guidelines, and there are good suggestions, and there are things to look out for. Beyond that, you do you. Find someone smart enough to see the blind spots, and write the best you can. It’ll turn out just fine.

How is your writing style affected by the writing rules you were told to follow?

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