5 Pieces of Writing Advice I Paid for That Are Actually Terrible

Especially for beginners

Photo by Sticker Mule on Unsplash

As someone who has not-so-proudly taken at least $1000 worth of writing courses I found on Medium, I can tell you the best thing they’re good for is meeting other writers and getting you to hit publish. Other than that, it’s usually just some dude trying to come up with enough content to make you feel like the price tag was worth it.

The last time I checked, you don’t have to actually pay anyone to do either of those things, you just have to do them.

But these courses promise us other great things too like:

“Make an extra $100,000 writing online every month.”

or

“Learn the strategy that made me $300 billion writing online.”

Of course, once you’ve taken the course (heh), any success you have is proof that the course works, and every idea in that course is now certified gold! Of course!

So you keep on worshipping a bunch of ideas some “pro writer” used to pad his class syllabus, accepting it as valuable writing advice. Well, I love to break it to you: some of it’s downright terrible. Today I’m gonna single out which writing advice is the worst and why.

Do a research project

Unless your name is Sean Kernan and you have the unlimited power to pluck interesting stories out of thin air that feel like something you’d find on a Snapple cap you should probably stay away from this. Far away.

Research is going to be boring for both you and your reader. Why should I read your story instead of Wikipedia? I probably shouldn’t. It’s not like you’re an expert on the topic. Are you bringing something new to the table?

Beginning writers aren’t going to have the X factor they need to pull this off. Even experienced writers still struggle with this. I’m not gonna lie, I do too.

Interview people for a story

Let’s say you’re in the early stages of your writing career but you’re not confident enough to really go for it without purchasing a writing course. There’s no way in hell you’re going to be ready to do an interview.

Do you even know what kind of questions to ask an interviewee to get the information you need for a good story? Because a straight-up Q and A style interview is going to flop unless you’re talking to the most interesting person on earth. Spoiler alert: you’re not.

And if you have the skills to not only 1) conduct a good interview, but 2) fashion it into an engaging story, you should probably be working for a major publication and not fishing for pennies on Medium.

Use questions from readers

I don’t know what level you have to reach for readers to give enough of a shit what you think to ask you questions, but it’s definitely not beginner level.

I’m not sure if anyone has ever asked me a question, let alone have enough people done it that I’m able to choose from those questions to come up with a new idea for a story.

This advice feels very “let them eat cake”-ish; the advice-giver is so far out of touch with the experience of most writers that they suggest things that clearly won’t work for them. Most of us aren’t getting our brains picked, dude.

Repurpose or summarize existing content

If you have enough content that you can summarize and repurpose it then you probably don’t need anyone else’s writing advice.

This honestly doesn’t even qualify as writing advice. It’s more like, remember that thing you already wrote? Just shine it up a little and republish it. Nobody will know.

Is it a decent hack or a strategy? Sure, but it’s not gonna help someone who needs to know how to write more shit. How to keep the writing machine going. How to refill your writer's oil. This is just a cheap trick to milk the Medium cow, and most writers can’t take advantage of it.

Edit your writing

Telling writers they need to edit isn’t bad advice in and of itself. It’s the level of editing suggested that’s terrible.

Yes, you need to edit your writing to make sure there aren’t any ridiculous scandal-causing typos or whole words missing. What you write has to make sense.

What you don’t need to do is “remove all extraneous words” and whittle your writing down to the bone. You don’t need to remove an aside or a short anecdote just because it didn’t serve the purpose of the story enough. If you like it, keep it.

So-called “filler” words can add flavor. Don’t cut your personality out of your own writing in the name of “editing.”

Besides, plenty of top writers publish filibuster length pieces that could have been half as short and twice as strong.

The only writing advice you need

You’d rightfully expect advice you paid for to be the best of the best, but sometimes it’s straight booty. So what advice is worth it then? What wisdom shall guide us on our writing journey if not the high ticket holy scriptures of Medium Jesus?

Well, Kris Gage said it best actually:

Have something to write, and then write it.

That’s all there is to it. It’s that simple. If the advice you’re getting isn’t some variation of how to “just live your life and pull pieces out of it that made you feel something” then it’s probably not writing advice you actually need.

Artist and blogger. I help people bring more art into the world: natedoesart.com

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