I've been writing seriously for publication since 2003, and on and off for many years before that. So, I've had quite a few chances to listen to different speakers, read books and be exposed to all manner of tips, tricks and learnings on the subject of writing.
What have I discovered?
One of my biggest pet peeves in the entire world, that's what. It irritates me more than a bra that rides up when someone says that if you don't write a certain way (usually THEIR way,) then you're doing it wrong.
Now, let me clarify that before all the purists spit out their morning coffee at the computer screen. As with every body of knowledge, there is the good, the bad and the questionable advice. Now, I'm not talking about the basics. For example, if you are writing a romance, your hero and heroine have to have their happily ever after - that's a given. If you aren't going to give them that, then what you're writing isn't romance. If you're writing erotic, you can't fade out at the bedroom door, and okay, you must must must have conflict, plot, big black moment and characterization etc. And yes, too many was/ing word combinations tend to make your writing passive and back story dumps usually aren't a good thing... You get the picture.
But what I'm talking about is the HOW, not the technique, necessarily. We must remember that what works for one person will NOT necessarily work for another.
I recently heard a speaker who was quite an accomplished author sit in a room full of fellow writers and tell them that if they aren't detailed plotters, they will never be successful - end of discussion. And she was quite hauty about it. Now, I'm a combo pantser/plotter and I've published several books. But even beyond that, I was sitting behind a USA Today and NYT Best Selling Author with dozens of books out who I know is not a detailed plotter. And just across the room was a RITA winning author who had also hit the USA Today lists several times, and again - she's not a detailed plotter either. So, I don't think the "will never be successful" was necessarily true. And even when these two women spoke up - the speaker sniffed disdainfully and said she stood by her statement.
I've also heard people say if you start out by publishing at an ePub, NY editors will NEVER look at your work. Hmmm, I started in ePubs and so did one of the two ladies I mentioned above, and I know dozens of others as well who are now published with New York. And most are still with ePubs as well. There are perks to both systems.
Then there was the speaker who told the crowd of mostly new writers that if they didn't write for at least forty hours a week, they would never get published. I remember that workshop well because the moderator spoke up. She is a multi-published, award-winning author who writes during her one hour lunch every day during the week and for four hours on Saturday and four hours on Sunday. She's written dozens of books that way. So, in only 13 hours a week, she's built a writing career.
I'm sure if you think back, all of you have seen examples of this. How many newbie writers have been scared off this path by those supposedly in the "know" telling them there is a better chance of them winning the lottery than them being published, or if they don't have some sort of degree in English, they can't write a novel or any of a thousand other things?
As you can tell, this is a hot button for me, and I grind my teeth every time I hear someone give an "absolute" like that. There are no absolutes in this business. Hell, even some of the "basics" I listed above aren't be all, end all absolutes. The business changes and morphs all the time and we need to run to catch up.
Here's my advice to newbie writers - write the book, however it works for you. Continue to learn everything you can about writing. Write, write, write, and make sure you take all advice with a grain of salt - even from those with successful careers. What worked for them, may not necessarily work for you. Go with your gut and finish the book! Then, shop it around, submit, submit, submit - and see what kind of feedback you get. That will give you an idea of what you need to change/fix, and always be leery of anyone giving you statements that are absolutes! And most of all - never ever give up. Don't let someone steal your dream!
Here's my advice for speakers - give others the benefit of your experience, but remember that their path to success may not be the same as yours. What works for you, may not work for them. And if you can't be motivational, uplifting and helpful to those you are speaking to - then why are you up there? They are there to find out what's in it for them, not to bask in your affluence and knowledge. Yes, speaking gets your name out there, but do you want to be remembered as the person who discouraged a new writer so much that they never tried? Or the writer who inspired them to try and succeed even in the face of what felt like insurmountable opposition? Think on this one long and hard. When we speak, when we blog, when we share our knowledge in any venue or any area, we are affecting others, sometimes more than we think.
Okay, stepping down from soap box now, and off to write. Hopefully, my rant gave you something to think about and go "hmmm." Also, I'm hoping I don't get flame mail from a bunch of speakers now...LOL!