I have noticed this problem occur repeatedly within Writers. Whether it extends to other SE sites, I don't know (I would guess it does, but I haven't watched them closely).

This problem concerns chiefly certain members in Writers, whose names I will not mention. It should be noted that I have seen certain people doing this repeatedly. It should also be noted that these are highly respected members of the community.

I have asked, viewed, and answered several questions concerning the three-act-structure. On nearly every one of those questions, at least one of the mentioned users will have an answer, explaining why you should not use the three-act structure. This answer does not help the question. Not only does it not answer it, but it invites discussion and arguments in the form of comments. These answers have been posted repeatedly (I am not providing links to protect the identity of the users, but can do so if necessary).

This problem does not extend to the three-act structure. Just today I asked a question, and the first answer was one explaining why the writing tool I had a question about was a bad idea and should not be used. It did nothing to answer the question. This is the second of my questions alone that has received answers like this.

I believe these answers detract from the user experience (they have from mine, anyway), and are in general harmful to the question. What can/should we do to prevent them?


This question is an extreme example. There were multiple answers that did not address the question. Only after comments on quite a few of them, asking the question again, was I able to get an answer.

This question is the one I mentioned, which I asked only recently.

I feel there was another question asked by someone else which I saw recently, but I now cannot find it.

EDIT: After reading what's answer, I realize now what the problem is. I know everyone who replies is just trying to help. They mean well, and I value their opinions. My problem is when those opinions surface as answers.

I believe the purpose of an answer is to answer the question. Explaining why the format the question is using is wrong does not answer the question. However, these opinions are of course valuable, so I feel they should be posted as comments, not answers.

  • 1
    I understand that you don't want to cause offense, but it's difficult to answer this without specific examples. All I can say is, sometimes you won't like the answers you get. You can downvote, leave a comment, or both. Commented Jun 21, 2015 at 15:23
  • @NeilFein So do you think I should provide links then? Commented Jun 21, 2015 at 17:11
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    If a question asks "I'm trying to solve X problem by doing Y" and an answer says "don't do Y, do Z instead", that's still answering the question about solving X. If a question asks "how do I solve X?" and an answer says "X isn't a problem", that's possibly Not An Answer (flag reason). But it's hard to address this without some specifics. Commented Jun 21, 2015 at 18:28
  • @ MonicaCellio It's more like "how do I make use this part of X?" with an answer like, "X is a bad method, don't use it." Maybe X is a bad method, but that's not answering the question. I've included some examples in the OP. Commented Jun 21, 2015 at 20:44

1 Answer 1


I guess you are mostly talking about me. You are welcome to mention me in your question. I'm not sure I'm "respected" by the other users, I've been known to post offensive comments. Reputation is not equal to respect.

As to your question here:

I have explained how I came to my conclusions about how you can best learn to write in this recent answer: https://writers.stackexchange.com/a/17719/5645 In short: I used to believe in how-to books, but have found that they don't work for beginners. That is both my personal experience and what I gleaned from reading what other, professional writers wrote or said about their career.

I am absolutely convinced that you can only learn writing by writing a lot, and that trying to learn writing from books is in fact detrimental to your goal of mastering writing. You have read many fiction books (I guess), so you know what a book must be like, and all you need to do is try to write such a book. You will most likely fail the first time, but every time you try it, you will get better, until you have finally mastered the craft. Writing is like riding a bike in this respect. It is the repetition that teaches you, not the explanation. You cannot explain how to write.

The mistake that almost all beginning writers make is that they want the first book they write to be perfect. They are perfectionists and afraid of failure. So they read how-to books and follow those instructions and struggle with their first book for years and still their book does not get published because it is flat and lifeless and stereotyped and eventually most beginners give up – instead of carlessly writing ten increasingly better failures and one masterpiece that gets published in the same time. If you do not read how-to books but write ten books, one after the other, the tenth will get published.

This is my conviction. It may be wrong for you. But it has certainly worked for me and every other writer or artist I know.

As for the "bridging conflict", it is never good to introduce a secondary storyline only to cover up a boring part of your book. If you want to do that, don't expect me to help you, because I want to help you write a great book, not one that I would be disappointed to read.

My answers here are meant to help you with your ultimate goal: that of writing a book that readers will love. You may have minor goals that you think will lead you there, but I would be a bad person if I did not tell you that I thought that you were on the wrong track.

But I have said what I wanted to tell you, and I'll try not to answer any other of your questions. But I usually don't read the names of who asks a question, and if I mistakenly answer one of yours, please just ignore my answer or downvote it. I won't take it personally.

I do wish you luck with your writing and hope that one day I will find a book you wrote in a bookstore. And if, after publishing your first novel, you find that I was wrong, please come back here and help other beginners not to get fooled by my false advice.

  • What, it my personal opinion that how-to books can help beginners, but I completely agree that they need to write to learn. That is my personal experience, just as you have yours. I can understand how you don't want me to utilize something that will potentially weaken my novel - I feel the same way about several aspects of writing too. I think the thing that's really getting to me is when you make it an answer. It is, after all, not really answering the question. I absolutely have no problem with your opinions, and I would like to hear them. I just think they may be better as comments. Commented Jun 24, 2015 at 15:36
  • It's fairly obvious to me now that I'm over-reacting to this. I know everyone who replies is trying to help, and I appreciate it. For some reason, it just really gets to me when an answer doesn't answer the question. Comments? I don't have a problem. That's what they're meant for. I still highly value your answers on my questions, what. Please do not feel obligated to ignore them. Commented Jun 24, 2015 at 15:38
  • I understand how you feel. I feel the same way every time someone tells me not to do what I want to do on Stack Overflow.
    – user5645
    Commented Jun 24, 2015 at 18:47
  • While we're on it, let me clear up the bridging conflict. My definition might have been unclear. I don't use it to cover up a boring part - that would indicate I need to fix that part. Sometimes we can't introduce the main conflict right away. We need to explain setting (especially in the case of fantasy/sci-fi), set up stakes to raise, introduce characters and get the reader on their side, and sometimes we simply can't introduce the main conflict without this stuff. Therefore, I like to use a BC to fill the gap. This BC, in fact, is usually: "what is the main conflict?" Commented Jun 25, 2015 at 1:20
  • To use my example from the question, the reader sees the results of and reactions to the main conflict (zombies), making him ask the question, why are these things so? By delaying the revelation that there are zombies, I am creating a BC. I'm only doing this so that there is conflict everywhere in the book. Tension on every page. When it's time for the main conflict to arrive, I reveal the zombies. Presto! BC is resolved, and main conflict is in. Commented Jun 25, 2015 at 1:23

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