Talk to anyone about writing, and everyone knows the “right way” to write. Well, everyone except those of us who do this for a living.
This goes back to the revelation that everyone is sure they have the next Great American Novel inside them, and all they need to do is transcribe it onto paper so that their dreams of riches can be realized. Of course, they never actually get around to writing said novel, but that’s because things just kept coming up, gosh darn it. They’ll get to it once they get promoted out of their administrative assistant job, or once the kids get over the flu, or after they get that mortgage for the house. It’s always some excuse.
But they’re happy to give advice on how you should write. “Don’t put that comma there!” “Don’t you know you should lead off with action?” “You need to vary the dialogue and make sure everyone knows which character is speaking at every moment.” These things coming from those who pretend to have expertise but haven’t written anything except a comment on espn.com.
So who should you listen to? After all, there have got to be at least a few people who can give good advice, right? The answer to that is easy – go to those with proven records. If you know someone who is published, seek their advice. Read On Writing by Stephen King. And most importantly, READ! Reading what’s already out there and successful will give you much more insight than your co-worker who just knows how to do it but hasn’t. You can read books for sentence structure, punctuation, grammar, and ideas on how to build a story. Remember, these authors have actually done it, so you’re not wasting your time with a wanna be who dreams big but has less experience than you do in writing.
When you seek out the advice of true experts, what you’ll often find is how humble they are about their accomplishments. Very few who really know what they’re doing go around bragging about it. That’s not to say that they lack confidence about how well they write, just that they’re not insufferable about it. They won’t push it on you, but they’ll be happy to give you their perspective – all you need to do is ask.