Bad advice from vomiting, armless writers

As we near All Hallow’s Eve, I thought it would be fun to search for some of the—shall we say, less stellar words of advice shared among writers. In keeping with the holiday, they’re only scary if you believe them.


‘Said’ is the invisible tag. Instead, make the reader slog through an assortment of dialogue tags—she murmured, he growled, she mouthed, he whispered, she sobbed. Show me a person who can growl or sob words.

AVOID ‘THROWING UP.” Don’t use the phrase, “throwing up his hands.”

It evokes an image of a character chewing up his hands and vomiting them on the floor. Same with, “the truck’s wheels spun, throwing up dirt onto the car behind him."


Well, if you know what you know, certainly you know what you don't know. And if you know what you don't know, write about what you don't know! –got that?

REMOVE ‘THE’ FROM YOUR VOCABULARY. It’s holding you back.

WRITE DRUNK, EDIT SOBER. Makes sense. Or, is it, write sober, edit drunk? …does that mean drunk time can still be productive? Some good writer friends of mine (who shall remain nameless) will be delighted to hear this.

Unconfirmed quote by Stephen King:

DON’T CARRY A NOTEBOOK AROUND—it’s a graveyard for bad ideas.

GO AHEAD AND WRITE IT. IT’LL ONLY TAKE A YEAR. This can only be advice from someone who has never done it.

PUT YOUR CLIMAX IN THE FIRST CHAPTER. Aristotle is rolling over in his grave. Well, maybe the advisor was speaking of 50 Shades.

WHEN IN DOUBT, CUT. The insecure writer will end up with a one-page novel. No, wait, a one-paragraph novel. No wait, a one-sentence novel. No, wait…


This depends on where you are. Sixth round of editing? Or starting your novel with a “dark and stormy night?”

WRITING IS NOTHING TO BE ASHAMED OF. Right. How dare we try to craft words alongside the literary greats, and have the gall to call ourselves writers? Just do it in private and wash your hands. Someone once asked Stephen King why he wrote such terrifying scenes. His answer: “Do you think I have a choice?” And Kurt Vonnegut, “When I write, I feel like an armless, legless man with a crayon in his mouth.” Another good Halloween costume idea!


YOU ONLY GET GOOD BY WORKING YOUR ASS OFF. With the proliferation of good writers in RMFW, we can showcase our deformities by forming a bizarre Halloween parade.

WHO AND WHOM CAN BE USED INTERCHANGEABLY. Do not, I repeat, do not approach Conan with this statement--unless your Halloween costume includes a sword!

Happy Halloween, my friends. May the terrors delight you!

Janet Lane
Janet is currently writing the sixth book in her #1 Amazon bestselling series. She released ETTI'S INTENDED on September 1. Library Journal calls it "Almost too perfect ... Lane does a superb job creating layers to the Gypsy culture... a must-have for fans of the series."
Her novels are set in fifteenth century England during the so-called “Gypsy Honeymoon” decades #1 New York Times Best-Selling Author Lara Adrian called Emerald Silk “ enchanting medieval romance filled with passion, intrigue and vividly drawn characters that leap off the page. I loved this novel!”.
Janet was a featured author in RMFW Press’s Tales from Mistwillow anthology, and co-chaired the editorial board for RMFW's 2009 anthology, Broken Links, Mended Lives, which was nominated for the Colorado Book Award.

Janet welcomes your comments here or via her blog at, or her website,

11 thoughts on “Bad advice from vomiting, armless writers

  1. Thanks, John. The “throw up your hands” advice allegedly came from an English teacher. I was lucky–my English teachers were all awesome! Happy Halloween!

  2. LOL, Pat! Those are great!!! It brings to mind the crab Sebastian’s jaw when Ariel shocked him in The Little Mermaid.


    Well, if you know what you know, certainly you know what you don’t know. And if you know what you don’t know, write about what you don’t know! –got that?

    Love this advice!

  4. Great advice, Janet! Or, should I say, anti-advice? I went to a workshop years ago where the multi-published author said you should never use passive verbs, and never write in past tense. (shudder)

  5. Thanks, Kathy! Why, your story makes my Halloween even more terrifying! Hard to believe!!! Happy Haunting tonight, Kathy! 🙂

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