Follow the Right Advice

The vast majority of money I make does NOT come from helping people. Most of the money I make comes from me actually writing.

That said, I spend a tremendous amount of TIME helping people.


I think we all know what life is really about.
We’re not just ready to accept the bad news.
So we fight it with God and the Devil and all this New Age bullshit.
Everyone needs a club, right?
Club God or Club Scream.
Take your pick. But when it comes down to it,
we all know that it’s X amount of years and then the ground.


This line from “God is a Bullet,” (recommended watch by the way), sums it up.

You pick a side in life.

Are you gonna help people, spend your energy in service of others.


Are you gonna help yourself, conserve your energy for personal gain.

In the end, that’s it. That’s the choice.


I’ve always been a creator. Since I was kid.

These days, when I’m not writing, I’m probably breeding and raising my pointers.

My dogs are quality dogs that cost a chunk of cash.

But I don’t make any profit on them either. The upkeep is far too high.

The reward in dog breeding is being a part of the ultimate creation process AND bringing lifelong joy to families.


What motivates the people giving the writing advice you find online?


I’ve been moderating the comic writing subreddit for about 5 years now. I’ve had this free writing advice blog up for just about 10 years.

When I comment or reach out to folks with writing advice:

  • I’m not trying to get famous or noticed.
  • I’m not trying to get clicks to my website.
  • I don’t generate any advertising revenue anywhere.
  • Personal book sales from people I engage with advice, is so small annually, it doesn’t even register.
  • I don’t look to the internet for validation of my own work or processes.


I do what I do because fiction, is my world.

And helping people, is the side I’ve chosen.


Coming from a place of genuinely trying to help people get a leg up on writing:

1) I hate seeing bad writing advice floating around online. Especially, when folks who don’t know better cheer and upvote that advice.

(It’s like watching an officer hand out combat knives to a bunch of otherwise unarmed soldiers, about to charge a machine gun nest. WTF!)

2) I also get disappointed when folks see my advice online somewhere and tell me I’m lying and shilling to sell my books, or whatever other nonsense they say. I don’t care that they’re throwing shade on me personally, but I do care that they are not listening to the genuine help I’m trying to give.


I’ve struggled for a while, trying to figure out how to immediately earn peoples’ trust when I post some advice. Especially, because my advice is often what folks don’t want to hear.

Anyway, thinking on this recently, I thought maybe it would be more helpful to give y’all some insights on taking writing advice.

So here are some thoughts on recognizing the good advice from the bad.


Ignore Strangers

You’re walking down a crowded city street and a blue collar guy walks up to you, he says, “Metlife stock is going to go through the moon.” Then walks away.

Would you go invest a ton of your money in Metlife?

Probably not, because you have no reason to believe the random plumber guy has any idea what the fuck he’s talking about.

So why is it any different on line when it comes to writing?

The first rule, only take advice from people you know.

This doesn’t mean you have to know them personally. But you must know their body of work.

Look, I write a lot of horror, action, sci-fi stuff.

Even if the rando giving advice online is a very successful writer, what if their success came from Yentil, Ghandi, and The Coal Miner’s Daughter?

This stuff is so far removed from my personal wheelhouse, 90% or more of the advice is not gonna resonate. The only advice from them that would really be applicable, would have to be really generic or broad stroke advice… that, really wouldn’t be too helpful at all.

But there’s something even more to the point.

What if I personally hated Yentil, Ghandi, and The Coal Miner’s Daughter. Then I would definitely want to avoid this guy’s advice.

And here’s the big problem…

If you don’t know a strangers body of work, YOU DON’T KNOW IF YOU LOVE IT OR HATE IT.

You have to know the frame of mind, the taste, as it were, of the person giving the advice.

If you enjoy their work. If you appreciate their work, you’ll likely find some really useful insights.

Ideally, folks listening to me here have read at least something I’ve written over the years. However, you get a bit of a pass if you actually spend the time to read through my blogs. When you’ve spent the time putting out articles for a decade or more, in effect, that becomes my body of work; or at least a good representation of it.


Anything can be Reverse Engineered to Fit a Specific Viewpoint

This is a big one.

I’ve said this a bunch before, the only person who can tell you about a script or work of fiction is the original author. Everything else is speculation.

The problem arises, with fiction, it’s pretty easy to justify anything you want to justify. Given the complexity of story… and enough time, a smart person can “explain” whatever they want with a story.

Basically, they can find the clues to support whatever interpretation they want.

Ok, hold up.

I use movie, comic, book, and game references all the time.

The difference is, I present a fundamental writing concept then say, “we can see this in play in this scene, here, here and here.”

I’m not saying, “because we see this in play in this scene, here, here, and here… we have a fundamental writing concept.”

I don’t cite examples to prove validation. I explain a concept or “rule” and show it in action, so you can see it working and gain greater clarity.

The folks who reverse engineer, always attempt to prove validation through the examples they showcase.

Again, it’s easy to take an existing showcase of anything and say, “ok, this is a rule of writing.” Anyone can do that, and it will sound like it works, but outside of that particular instance, it doesn’t necessarily work…. certainly isn’t requiredand may even be harming your understanding of proper fundamentals and narrative structure.


Bookworms All Theory No Practice

Another thing to look out for are folks offering advice that’s a mere regurgitation of the famous approaches.

Folks read “Save the Cat,” or “Campbell’s Hero’s journey,” and off to the “advice races” they go.

You can spot these folks a lot when they give you real technical breakdowns or explanations, but it’s not in their own words, and the examples are never from their own work.

99% of the time, these folks haven’t actually done the work. At least not for any length of time.

The don’t really know. They just think they know, because they read about it.

The ultimate culmination of these pseudo-specialists is when they mash up a bunch of different famous approaches into one mega writing technique and it’s not even a technique that they modified or customized based on their personal experience.

They literally just copy, position, and paste plot points and narrative structure elements all together, passing it off as the most robust and effective system.

In reality, they’re unwieldy, far too complex, and make a complete and total mess of things.

When you run into these cats, try and discover how long they’ve been writing and what specific stories they’ve used their mega writing system on. If you can manage to get ahold of a story they’ve actually written with said system, you’re likely in for a good laugh…

or cry, depending how you look at it.


Horrible Advice in Practice

Before we proceed, do you remember the opening scene of DIE HARD?

Close your eyes and see if you can remember, before you read further.


Ok, so here’s a snippet from recent writing advice in a popular writing forum I came across. This post got so many likes, it was insane.

In DIE HARD, we get that deafening jet, which suggests intensity. We get the fists with your toes dialogue, which suggests fun. And we get a glimpse of John’s gun, which suggests action. Great. We know what kind of movie we’re getting.

The author of the post went on and on about the effectiveness of Die Hard’s opening image. One of his advice bits was that you need a really powerful opening image in your script…

A roaring 747 landing… REALLY?

Did anyone reading this article remember it started with a plane landing? Jesus, I’ve seen Die Hard a million times. I watched it just a few months back… and I still couldn’t remember the jet opening image…

Why, because it was nothing.

It wasn’t interesting, impactful, important, or memorable. I’ve seen a million plane landings in movies.

Die Hard is a plot-driven spectacle script. I’d argue all day that the opening shot is purely plot based, primarily setting up John’s arrival on the West Coast and giving us an immediate introduction to the main character.

Next, the advice is that the “fists with the toes dialogue” suggest fun.


“Fists with toes fun” is NOTHING anywhere near “bullets blazing fun” that is Die Hard. Further, the whole idea of the fists with toes, is to set up the ongoing plot device, that Willis has no damn shoes on the whole movie.

The rando giving writing advice IS JUST REVERSE ENGINEERING THE MOVIE, to support whatever conclusions he wants to express as his narrative advice.

Last one, “We get a glimpse of John’s gun which suggests an action movie.”

Really, they don’t make movies with cop characters as far away from action as they can get? Like a straight drama or something?

Of course they do!

Seeing McClane’s gun, could have been the start of a freakin’ legal drama for Christ’s sake, or a slow-ass mystery.

In this poster’s line of thinking, with the “fun” toes in fists line, the movie should have been a cop comedy, not the quintessential action-thriller of all time.

I posted this example of Die Hard, because 80’s action fiction is a core part of my wheel house. While any bad writing advice gets me flustered, bad writing advice where I live, well, that just drives me to action! 


Giving Advice Makes you Vulnerable

The writing profession as a whole, but certainly writing teachers, putting yourself out there and giving folks direction… that takes some guts. Even the best of us have a bad take once in a while. I respect everyone that’s trying from a place of authenticity.

But on a daily basis, I see people with bad… no horrible takes.

People that are actually harming newer writers who REALLY need guidance and help.

Sadly, these “Die Hard” takes are everywhere.


So the next time you see some writing advice online,

  • Get familiar with their work before you take their advice to heart.
  • Make sure you relate to their work and tastes.
  • Look for folks who explain a technique BEFORE citing where its seen in practice.
  • Avoid all theory no practice folks. Especially folks who seem to jam multiple famous systems together.
  • Watch for folks that don’t seem to specialize in any genre. Most writers are drawn to specific areas and their expertise in these areas should noticeably stand out above the others.


I don’t have the market for writing advice cornered. There are certainly a lot of genius writers, some of them famous, giving good advice… but there are far more folks giving really BAD advice, that looks not-so-bad on the surface.

Do your diligence. Find people you trust. And make sure, whoever you listen to, your writing improves.

About the Author —
If you enjoy this article, please share the direct link on your social media.

Newcomer or veteran writer, if you’re working on a project that needs commercial success, Nick urges to you read this intro article.

Nick Macari is a full-time freelance story consultant, developmental editor and writer, working primarily in the independent gaming and comic markets. His first published comic appeared on shelves via Diamond in the late 90’s. Today you can find his comic work on comixology, Amazon, and in select stores around the U.S.