Amid all this advice I’m giving on how to write dialogue, I am mindful that not all advice is helpful or well received.

For example, I once received this unsolicited gem from someone who learned in passing that I was a writer and was trying to be helpful (in the most assholeish way possible):

It will be taken as a sign of maturity when you accept that your book will never be published.

Lesson of the day? Projecting your own inadequacies is not advice. However, that comment is now forever burned into my memory and will be the crux of any inspirational words I have for anyone else.

Addendum: I did not piss in his cornflakes, before or after. Though I maybe should have.

So what was the worst advice you’ve ever been given?

Edit: I just remembered another one:

I have a family member who was burned by a vanity press (if you don’t know what it is, read up on it here) back in the 80’s and none of my extended family has forgotten about it. However, they aren’t writers and aren’t involved in the industry in any way, so they have been disconnected from the rise of self publishing. With eBooks and print-on-demand services, self-publishing is not the same as the vanity press scam (although the vanity press scam is still alive and well).

I’ve been working on a series of short stories for the past few months and the intent is to shop them around to online magazine publications first in order to qualify for joining the SFWA. Three qualifying sales and you are eligible. However, should that fail, my intent is to target the eBooks marketplaces. I do feel the work is professional quality, and I don’t consider self-publishing to be a failure. At all. But going that route first for the time being precludes qualification for SFWA membership.

The moment I opened my mouth about self-publishing a series of short stories, the floodgates opened. It wasn’t enough that I had to first endure a family member breathlessly recounting the horror my great uncle suffered, and their dire warning: “Don’t do it!” only to have to explain to them that “No, this isn’t the same situation. The market has changed. No, I do not pay up front out of pocket.” No, I needed to endure this gauntlet over and over and over with each of my half a dozen aunts and uncles in town for my uncle’s wedding. And then their spouses. And my parents. It would have been simple if I could just get all of them in one place just give a speech. But, that would be too simple.

But every single time it was: “Oh. Well, ok then. Be careful.”

/facepalm.

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2 Responses to What is the worst writing advice you’ve received?

  1. Robin says:

    Mine was probably “You should be a writer!”

    • Hmm. . . that is pretty bad advice. I wouldn’t trust anyone who said someone should do this if they had another alternative.

      In that way, it’s kinda like becoming a priest. “Don’t do this if you can imagine yourself doing anything else.”

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