It’s hard to narrow down best and worst writing advice, because I seek out so much of it (I need all the help I can get, people). I adopt what works for me and discard what doesn’t, so I don’t always remember what came from where. I’ve gotten advice from websites, books, fellow writers, and people who know nothing about writing, and I’ve received both good and bad advice from all of those sources.
I think possibly the best and worst advice is the old adage to write what you know. While it is true, to an extent – it’s hard to write convincingly about something you know nothing about – it is also misleading. I don’t know everything. Hell, I hardly know anything, really. But I learn. If I want to incorporate something in a story, I will do research until I know enough to write it. If I wrote solely based on my own experiences, my writing would be pretty boring.
I do agree, though, that writing what you know is important. However, I use it more to imbue reality into the fiction and fantasy I write. I’ll use emotions evoked from other situations to give a character more depth, or add a detail that I ran across in my own life to make my imaginary world more realistic.
The best advice I’ve received about writing is probably the most simple: just write. Write every day. Don’t think, just write. Don’t edit, just write. I’ve received this advice from many different places: books about writing, blogs by authors, my fellow writing group members, my family, and the Office of Letters and Light, the organization who puts on National Novel Writing Month. NaNoWriMo. They are the organization who encourages writers to focus on quantity over quality, and for some reason, their permission is the permission I needed to let myself go and just write. Every day. Without letting my internal editor or my self-doubt get in the way.
I’d say the worst advice I’ve gotten is to pursue an MFA in creative writing. I’ve encountered nothing but failure from that sector, and I’ve found that I am a writer, and a pretty good one at that, even after being rejected from eight different MFA programs across the country.
The bad advice was finally ousted by the good advice, thankfully, and as long as I follow the good advice, I am able to stay happy and confident and writing.