A few thoughts from a grumpy old writer…

I sometimes get the impression that the e-publishing revolution has led to people with a bit of knowledge (enough to be dangerous) offering guidance to people with none.

Wright_Hobbiton4The thing is that writing, like any profession, is a practised skill that is also as difficult and time-consuming to obtain as becoming a concert pianist. There are no short-cuts. And like all such skills, there are points where people on the learning curve get the illusion that they know how to do it.

The fact is that we are all apprentices, but experience does count – and despite the apparent ground-shift in the field of late, the principles that always applied in the days of print journalism and of agents and publisher-gatekeepers still apply.

That experience, and the skills therein, hold authors in good stead. Having total control of your own words – which comes with about 10,000 hours of practise – counts. Knowing how books are put together counts. Having been through the proofing and editing process counts. Knowing how journalism works – even what the terms are, what it is all about – counts.

So why is everybody and their dog offering writing advice – often, clearly, without having the hands-on experience to back it up? I see a lot of it, and I can state for a fact that there’s a world of difference between theoretical knowledge and the hands-on understanding that comes with actually working in the field. I’ve even seen people offering editorial services when it’s obvious they don’t have the experience to understand how to let author voice flow through.

I suspect it’s because this sort of advice has always been floating around – in writing peer groups – but that social media and the new web paradigm has made it possible for everybody to share it. And it’s no bad thing. But when I see misconceptions being bandied about as if true it gets a little irksome.

The way to learn how to write is to mix a bit of theoretical knowledge with a lot of practise. Start with mastering command of words. Everything else flows from there. And don’t be afraid to throw away the practise sheets.

For more insights and stuff from a grumpy old writer with 30+ years professional experience in the field, don’t forget to ‘like’ my Facebook writers’ page: https://www.facebook.com/MatthewWrightNZ/

Copyright © Matthew Wright 2016


6 thoughts on “A few thoughts from a grumpy old writer…

  1. I think a lot of that advice is seat-of-the-pants stuff thrown together by folks who have published a book or two, and are following advice to use a blog as part of their “author platform.” Having written and published, we (because I’ve done some of this too) figure we can speak from experience. Never mind that it’s pretty limited experience. Social media makes it too easy to share anything and everything. BTW, this is why I get irritated to see glib advice to “get your writing professionally edited.” Just as you say, anyone can set themselves up as an editor. There is no licensing body for editors. Authors may indeed benefit from having their stuff edited before they publish, but finding a real, competent editor may take some doing, and their services will probably not be cheap. One of the seductions of writing and publishing in this internet age is that it looks easy. But doing it well is not.

    1. I agree. One of the jobs I’ve done in publishing is to evaluate editors – they all have different skill sets, even the trained ones. Prices vary a lot and the only universal is that, as you say, none of them are cheap!

  2. Each writer has their own style and voice. So called editors/experts can often return a book that is nothing like the original having inserted their views instead of just reading it and commenting on grammatical errors. Think we have all been there at sometime or another. This article is a sound opinion on the subject well said.

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