How to Figure Out Which Writing Advice Fits You Best | Jane Friedman

How to Figure Out Which Writing Advice Fits You Best | Jane Friedman

Today’s post is by romance author and book coach Trisha Jenn Loehr (@trishajennreads).

There’s an endless supply of advice for writers. But when you come across this oversupply of often contradictory information, how are you to parse it and figure out which advice fits you—your story, your personality, your skills, and your writing style?

The process is surprisingly similar to figuring out which clothes work for your body and lifestyle. The best way to know if something fits is to try it on—just like you would try on a pair of jeans at Target. Because just like jeans, writing advice is never one size fits all.

Here are five things to do when trying on and evaluating the fit of writing advice.

1. Check your closet—what do you need?

Just like with clothes, you don’t want to waste your time or money on pieces you don’t need. When you jump to try every piece of writing advice or new writing tool you come across, you will likely end up spending all of your time doing that instead of writing.

If you already have a jacket that is in good shape and keeps you warm and works for your climate, you wouldn’t go buy a new $400 coat just because somebody said it was the best jacket they’d ever worn. The same goes for writing. If you already have an outlining method that works for you, why spend time learning different outlining methods? You don’t need them.

So, before you try out any writing advice, first think about your current writing life. What problems do you need to solve or hurdles do you need to get over? What are you struggling to get right on the page? What’s blocking your progress toward your writing goals? If the advice doesn’t aim to solve a problem you already have, ignore it for now.

2. Gut check: are you interested in this tool or piece of advice?

Just like when choosing clothes, we often have a visceral reaction to writing advice. When you first see it, how does your mind or body react? If you are immediately intrigued and picturing yourself in that sweater, great. Grab it off the rack and add it to your fitting room to try on. If you come across a writing method that turns on a lightbulb in your brain, get ready to try it out.

But if you immediately feel yucky when you come across it, it’s probably not for you. That gut reaction is often a solid judge.

However, if what you’ve been doing hasn’t been working, take a pause and consider why this new advice feels gross to you: Is it because you’ve tried it before and had a bad experience? Or is it making you uncomfortable because it’s so different from anything you’ve tried before, maybe even the opposite of what you’ve been taught?

Your gut feeling is important, but sometimes it’s worth considering new ideas, especially if the old ones aren’t working anymore. Listen to your gut but be willing to ruminate. Trying something that at first seems strange might be worth a shot.

3. Try it out.

You can’t tell if clothes fit your body unless you try them on. Writing advice is the same. Once you find something that seems like it might solve a problem and appears like it might fit, you must try it out. You can try it once or a bunch of times over a few days or weeks. See how it feels. Does it feel empowering or constricting? Does it feel authentic or forced? Does it inspire or bore? Is it moving you toward your writing goals or holding you back?

The key to trying things on is to truly try them and, if possible, try a few similar items so you can compare. Don’t just read the book or watch the webinar. If you need help planning your story or figuring out if it has narrative drive, make a Save the Cat outline and an Inside Outline. If you need help getting the words on the page without getting distracted, do some solo Pomodoro sprints and attend a writing group that does writing sprints together.

It might feel like too much time to spend when you just want to get an answer or a tool and move forward, but like grabbing the first pair of pants you see when you walk in the store and not comparing it with another size or style usually means you end up with a pair that you’re not 100% sure about. The first piece of writing advice you hear doesn’t always work out.

4. Once you’ve tried it on, assess how it feels.

Taking time to reflect on what you’ve tried is just as important as trying out writing tools or advice. Sometimes you want to just quickly throw a pair of jeans on, make sure you can button them up, glance in the mirror, and then head to the checkout. But trying things on thoughtfully demands that you assess it from all angles.

Take a few moments to think how it feels and how it compares to the other things you’ve tried. Even better, write out your thoughts about it so you can process them visually too. Did following that advice or using that tool feel good? Did your gut feeling about it stay the same or change? Did it help you solve your problem or was it another hurdle in your way? Did you make progress on your writing project? When you compare the two things you tried, which felt better?

Once you’ve identified what feels good and helps you move forward on your writing project, you can confidently know what fits…for now.

5. Just as bodies and seasons change, leading us to need new clothes, so do our writing needs.

A tool or piece of writing advice that works today might not be a good fit for you on your next project. and that’s totally okay. When a writing tool or method stops feeling good, give yourself the freedom to put it back in the closet and go shopping for a different tool that will work better.

There’s nearly unlimited writing advice available on the internet. Take what works for you and leave the rest behind for others.

Trisha Jenn Loehr

Trisha Jenn Loehr is a romance writer and an Author Accelerator certified book coach who helps women write romance novels by giving them feedback and tools to enhance their writing skills and not feel guilt or shame for writing books full of tropes and kisses and happily ever afters. Connect with her on Instagram, Twitter and her website.

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