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Writing Advice for Fools

image by Gary Ging

Happy April Fools’ Day! In honor of the holiday, I’ll be giving highly prescriptive, condescending writing advice that sets arbitrary limits, reinforces inflexible constraints, and just generally crushes your creative spirit. For fools, from a fool.

*throws confetti, the most foolish of celebration tactics*

  1. Write what you know! Only what you know. Don’t make anything up. Don’t try new perspectives or wild plot lines, especially in early drafts. Don’t ask what if.
  2. Write every day. If you don’t write every day, you’re not a real writer. You don’t care enough. What could possibly be more important? If you really cared, you’d find a way.
  3. While you’re at it, quit your day job. Because day jobs are for suckers. Real writers just write. You can always downsize to living in someone else’s walk-in closet and eat nothing but instant ramen — have you thought about that option? Try it. And there’s always crowdfunding. A real writer would make it work, somehow.
  4. Real writers also produce perfect first drafts. Whatever you put on the page that first time sticks with you forever, so definitely obsess over it. Word after laborious word.
  5. Beta readers? You don’t need them! Only you know your creative vision and no one else is qualified to help shape your book. If they did that, it wouldn’t be your book anymore. So no critique partners, no workshops, no conferences. The only path to writing brilliance is a completely solitary one.
  6. When someone asks you what kind of reader your book is for, the only correct answer is “Everyone.”
  7. When it comes time to seek publication, there’s only one way to do it. Whatever way you think you might want to do it is stupid. The right one is the other one.
  8. Once you’re published (which you definitely will be, following this awesome advice), when people review your work online and they don’t love it, tell them how wrong they are. Contact them personally and really let ’em have it. How dare they, even? And if someone writes a review that reads like a five-star but only gives you four stars, rake that person over the coals too. That extra star is really meaningful. One more star on one more review makes all the difference.
  9. You must be on all social media all the time, whether you like it or not, and definitely pressure everyone you encounter to BUY YOUR BOOK at all times because what’s more convincing than shouting BUY MY BOOK into the void? A DM to every new follower telling them BUY MY BOOK, that’s what. Do that. It sells truckloads.
  10. When people congratulate you on your success, which they’re definitely going to — you’ll probably even get interviewed on TV! — take 100% of the credit. You earned it all by yourself with no help at all. Luck doesn’t play any role in writing or publishing, for sure. Only people who deserve it get published, and if you don’t make it, it’s because you weren’t good enough. That is the only reason. See, told you should have quit your day job.

Q: What’s the most foolish writing advice you’ve received?

About Jael McHenry [2]

Jael McHenry is the debut author of The Kitchen Daughter [3] (Simon & Schuster/Gallery Books, April 12, 2011). Her work has appeared in publications such as the North American Review, Indiana Review, and the Graduate Review at American University, where she earned her MFA in Creative Writing. You can read more about Jael and her book at jaelmchenry.com [4] or follow her on Twitter at @jaelmchenry.