Why I share experience instead of advice

I love Sarah Enni’s podcast, First Draft. It’s basically a series of interviews with YA writers, conducted over the course of a cross-country road trip.

Episode 32 features Kiersten White, one of the authors whose blog I followed religiously when I first started learning about the business side of publishing. She was ahead of me on the path, and I learned a lot from what she was going through. Also, she was wickedly funny. (And still is, on Twitter.)

KW: I feel like blogs are a great way to hone certain skills, especially humor. Because humor in writing is its own language. And so you really need practice with it.

As with so many writers, Kiersten has blogged less and less over the years. In this First Draft interview, she explains why.

KW: I used to give a TON of advice on the blog. Like, I would give writing advice, I would give publishing advice. But honestly, the more I wrote, the more I was like, “Oh, I don’t have ANY idea what I’m doing, and I don’t feel comfortable telling anybody else.”

KW: I see people who are just starting out, they give a TON of writing advice. They give a TON of publishing advice. Because that’s what they’re figuring out, and so that’s what’s on their mind, that’s what they’re interested in. Once I was sort of IN it, I was like, Well, I’m not interested in it anymore, because it is what I’m doing. It’s not something that I’m aiming toward, it’s something that I’m IN.

KW: And then yeah, I just felt a huge fraud giving writing advice, because it’s like, Well yeah, that worked with that book, but with this book, NOTHING is working. I think the more you write, the more you realize, Oh I’m terrible at this.

SE: Yeah I think that IS the trajectory a lot of people take, who have done blogging as a regular part of their journey to get to a certain point. And then you learn enough to know that you know nothing.

(I will resist the urge to make a Jon Snow joke.)

I don’t think I’ve ever really given much writing advice, largely because of what Kiersten discusses above. I’m a writer, but that doesn’t make me a writing expert. I’m just like every other person trying to put words on the page. What works or doesn’t work for me is constantly changing. I don’t even know if that means that I am inherently fickle, or that I simply haven’t found the right method yet. Either way, all I can do is keep trying different things and hoping for the best.

What I prefer to share is my experience. Not “This is what you should do,” but rather “This is what I have done and how it went.”

(For the most part, that’s how I try to approach all things, not just writing.)

Hopefully that’s as valuable and interesting to others as it is to me. It’s why I listen to podcasts like First Draft, and why I still read writer blogs even though I know they can’t give me a magic formula. I like hearing about everyone else’s experiences. I like tapping into the mutual struggle. It makes me feel less alone, and sometimes it sparks ideas — a new technique, or something that I can incorporate into what I’m already doing.

Anyway, if you’ve ever wondered why I don’t talk more about my career or my works-in-progress, that’s why. I will say this, though:

1. I am always open to questions.

2. I have saved up a bunch of notes from my time in the query trenches and on submission. Someday I will turn those notes into posts.

3. You can find really great advice on writing at Laini Taylor’s site Not For Robots, and really honest perspectives on publishing at Natalie Whipple’s blog Between Fact and Fiction.

Like this:



Someone read my mind and then wrote this piece


Question everything


  1. I don’t think I’ve ever offered much advice on my blog (well, writing advice anyway — I do offer advice of the “hey, you should check out this movie!” kind).

    I talk about my writing, but more because I hope it will be entertaining, rather than of any practical use.

    I do offer one piece of writing advice at pretty much every opportunity, though. I got it from my father.

    “There is only one rule in writing. Write well.”

    That’s served pretty well for me.

    • Your dad’s advice reminds me of when people say “Oh just write a bestseller like Twilight or Harry Potter.” Lol. Yep, I’ll get right on that!

      • I’ve found that it’s kind of the opposite. It focuses the attention on the things we can control (writing well) and away from the things that have a huge element of chance. And it also makes it easy to ignore the fads that go around from time to time (banish passive voice, eliminate filter words, never have prologs or flashbacks, etc.).

        • Yes, that’s definitely the right thing to focus on!

          Sorry for the teasing. I was reacting to the “well” part of the advice, because that’s such a subjective term. But maybe that’s part of the point: Please yourself with your writing; let that be its own form of success.

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