The savvy, smart and sexy Anne Calhoun and Megan Mulry are discussing Bad Writing Advice!
Megan: before you evaluate the advice, consider the source – I have role models in the industry for how I want my writing career to turn out. If Jayne Ann Krentz says “write every day…and have a life” I’m going to listen to her. If there’s a writer who I see being persistently dissatisfied with (fill in the blank) her agent, her latest book deal, her reader feedback, her husband, her job, etc. I’m a lot less likely to follow their advice.
Anne: I’ll consider any advice that comes from someone I find to be authentic and humble. Lose either of those qualities and there’s so much static in my head I can’t even consider the advice.
If the person giving the advice doesn’t trigger your bullshit/poser radar, then consider the actual words of wisdom…
Megan: I stay away from anything that makes me feel like “I’m doing it wrong” (how much time on social media, contests, blog tours, book signings, conferences, etc.) I’ve learned (am learning) to do what works for me.
Anne: Well said. In a similar vein, with a few exceptions, use of the word “should” automatically triggers spinal reflex defenses in me. A good mantra is “Today I will not let people should all over me.” That said, check your diva at the door, because your agent and/or editor are your partners in your career. Shoulds from them get a pass, because they’re people whose opinions I value.
Megan: Actively trying to “acquire” readers through social media…doesn’t work for me. It’s going to take a lot longer, but I like to “acquire” readers one reader at a time…because they’ve read my books and like them.
Anne: I enjoy interacting with readers who’ve read my work and want to talk to me, or about the book. Soliciting readers is trickier. I try to remember that in general readers want to read books and enjoy finding new authors, but for the most part, this is advice I actively try to manage rather than wholeheartedly follow.
Megan: Get as many people as possible to read your unpublished work – this is the shittiest of the shitty advice for me! The more people who read my WIPs, the more diluted and off-course I feel when I finish the book. If it’s just me from start to finish, (fast draft, a quick beta read, revisions) I can keep a really clear focus on the story. If everyone is telling me what they think…it just goes pear shaped. There are only three people who need to love my book: my agent, my editor, my reader.
Anne: I never got this advice, thank God. I like brainstorming with people and have found it to be extremely effective, but generally I don’t ask for a beta until I know I’ve done what I can with a book, or if I’m well and truly stuck. Some authors find it very helpful to have a trusted beta read during the process. I prefer to muddle through, then turn to one of the people I know likes and respects me and my work but will also not pull her punches when it comes to pointing out where I’ve fucked up.
All bad advice is good because if you can detach from the emotional effects, you learn something about yourself, your process, from it. Publishing – and life! – is entirely too complicated to boil down to a couple of nuggets of wisdom, or one right way to do it. Choose a course, pay attention to how you feel about what happens, make corrections.
After doing time at Fortune 500 companies on both coasts, Anne landed in a flyover state, where she traded business casual for yoga pants and decided to write down all the lively story ideas that got her through years of monotonous corporate meetings. Anne holds a BA in History and English, and an MA in American Studies from Columbia University. When she’s not writing her hobbies include reading, knitting, and yoga. She lives in the Midwest with her family and singlehandedly supports her local Starbucks. Please visit annecalhoun.com or follow her on Twitter at @annecalhoun for more information on upcoming releases.
Megan Mulry writes sexy, stylish, romantic fiction. Her first book, A Royal Pain, was an NPR Best Book of 2012 and USA Today bestseller. Before discovering her passion for romance novels, she worked in magazine publishing and finance. After many years in New York, Boston, London, and Chicago, she now lives with her family in Florida.