I don’t know about you, but I’m a reluctant adopter of good advice. This is a bad trait in anyone learning a craft. There has been a ton of advice, very good advice, that I’ve read, reread and had hit me with a hammer, but which I’ve refused for years to adopt. The only person who suffered for this stupid, stubborn behaviour is me. My writing could have improved much faster.
So, I’ve introduced my stubborn brain to a new concept. A flashing neon sign that alerts it to its own stupidity. And that sign is “Yes, but…”.
When I read, hear or otherwise encounter some good writing advice and my response is “yes” because it makes a lot of sense or is said by someone I’ve learned to trust, but then followed up with “but” I’m going to take a long hard look at my response because “but” is a signal that I’m arguing with good sense.
Want an example?
I spent years (in my head) arguing against the removal of adverbs, particularly those that coloured “said”. They’re useful, I whined. I like them. They’re great words, those adverbs, and I don’t want them to feel unused and unloved. And look I’ve spotted one in this book and that book, and, and, and…
“she said stubbornly”
Yes, my rational mind knew the use of those adverbs attached to said meant my dialogue wasn’t strong enough to stand on its own, but instead of committing to rewriting and strengthening that dialogue, I hung onto those adverbs.
If I had any tech skills to speak of, I’d end this post with a flashing neon graphic: