Advice on Advice

Here’s a little mote of wisdom:  Not everyone who claims to be an expert, is indeed an expert.  Please note: I have never claimed to be an expert on anything except perhaps making the perfect omelet, and if you don’t like spicy, you’d probably argue with me on that one, too.  In fact, anyone claiming to be an expert on anything, in my opinion, should immediately be viewed with suspicion, or be able to produce a PhD Diploma on the subject he or she is professing to be expert in.

First, let’s define “Expert”

From the Latin “Ex”, meaning former or in the past.

From the English “pert” a contraction “Spurt”, which is a small volume of water or some other fluid being extruded under pressure.

So, we have our definition: Ex is a has-been, and a Spurt is a drip under pressure…

All right, enough tom-foolery.  The point is, of course, to consider the source of your “advice”, this blog included.  I will offer opinions on almost any subject, but they are just that, opinions, and if you find a better one, please take it and let me know of it so I won’t embarrass myself further.

There are only a few things that separate good advice from bad advice.  Good advice must come from someone who is at least marginally experienced in the field.  The advice must be reasonably current, when dealing with subject matter which changes over time; for example, how to get your book, story, poem, or art published.  In areas that are less susceptible to change, some advice is timeless.  The perfect example of this is the list of “Twain’s Rules of Writing”, which are not only entertaining, but spot on, and always will be.  They are not trendy “this is the new editorial trick that will make your writing better” quips, but ideals every author should learn and live by.

My personal favorites are:

#5: “When the personages of a tale deal in conversation, the talk shall sound like human talk, and be talk such as human beings would be likely to talk in the given circumstances, and have a discoverable meaning, also a discoverable purpose, and a show of relevancy, and remain in the neighborhood of the subject in hand, and be interesting to the reader, and help out the tale, and stop when the people cannot think of anything more to say.”

#6: “When the author describes the character of a personage in his tale, the conduct and conversation of that personage shall justify said description.”

#8: “Crass stupidities shall not be played upon the reader by either the author or the people in the tale.”

#9: “The personages of a tale shall confine themselves to possibilities and let miracles alone; or, if they venture a miracle, the author must so plausibly set it forth as to make it look possible and reasonable.”

They are all great truths, and should be read and thought through carefully.  Twain was always one for saying a whole paragraph’s worth in a single sentence.  Please note that the website linked above belongs to Mary Anne Mohanraj.  It also has a link to Writing Resources, which I glanced through.  Most of the material is a little dated (about 5 years) but some is interesting, and worth a read.

Well, there you have it, more advice from a non-expert.  The take-home is, of course, to keep your eyes open and do what you feel is right.  You may choose to not take a single word I print here to direct your efforts as a writer, but I think you can trust Mark Twain…


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