10

What is the most fundamental advice when it comes to writing? feels like a very broad and/or opinion-based question to me, yet has many solid-seeming answers. (I haven't read all of them.) When I saw revision 2 I put it on hold as too broad and left a comment. When I next saw it, the OP had edited; on first glance that edit didn't seem to do enough, but the question had four reopen votes and I had mod-hammered the question closed, so I went along with the votes and reopened. This was probably a mistake, I now realize.

There are now other comments about it being broad and/or opinion-based, and it again has close votes. It also has 12 answers, which can be a sign of problems in a question.

What should we do with this question?

  • Could the question be locked instead of closed? When it's closed, as it seems about to be, it will disappear, which would be sad, given the valuable information in it. – user29032 May 1 '18 at 7:36
  • Closed questions don't disappear. They're actually more visible than locked ones; locked posts don't appear on the front page and in the question list (you have to search for them). Locked posts also can't be voted on or edited. This question is in no danger of being automatically deleted by the system. – Monica Cellio May 1 '18 at 14:24
  • @MonicaCellio Thank you for clarifying. I confused "closed" and "deleted". I had never before noticed a closed question, so I though they got hidden. – user29032 May 3 '18 at 18:52
13

This is a poll question. It's a fun one, and a popular one, but that's kind of exactly the problem -- everybody wants to read it; everybody wants to contribute a new answer; and none of the answers are comparable to one another. This would make a great forum discussion, but it doesn't work as Q&A.

Community-mode might be a good solution for this one, acknowledging existing work and popularity without closing the question.

Otherwise, close, possibly with a historical lock so the answers are preserved.

  • Standback, I have reviewed the answers and systematized their advice in my answer here below. Please read my summary and explain how, as you say, "none of the answers are comparable to one another". – user29032 Apr 27 '18 at 11:57
  • 6
    @Cloudchaser : I hope it's clear I'm not criticizing your question as a question, or a discussion -- it's a great one! Rather, Stack Exchange is a highly focused kind of site, that's geared for one very particular type of discussion -- formal Q&A. It's an unfortunate side-effect, though, that things that fall outside that formal structure, interact weirdly with the site, and have unfortunate side effects. That's what's going on here. Discussing in comments will be hard; wanna join me in chat? :) – Standback Apr 27 '18 at 14:45
  • The question was closed by the community, so I'm accepting this answer. – Monica Cellio Aug 22 '18 at 13:17
3

It's not a question seeking a specific answer to solve a specific problem. I'm in favor of outright deletion or simply closing it for all time so that others can stumble upon it or you can point to it for future discussions of how to moderate such things.

Why? Because questions like this get "bumped" and when you get enough of them the site can't fulfill it's intended role: to quickly offer expert advise to problems around professional writing.

On that basis alone, I'd recommend deletion. But, there may be more diplomatic considerations and the content is both interesting and useful for first time writers. Were this posted on a popular writing forum (and it has been, I assure you) it would stick around and be full of good advice and discussion. This site is not a forum.

1

It's a useful question, and it's going to remain useful for subsequent users of this SE. I think whatever we do with this question should be mindful of this.

With that in mind, converting the question to Community Wiki might be a solution. Just keeping the question open is another solution, although it keeps getting close votes, which isn't conductive to keeping the question open.

Closing, even with a historical lock, is not a solution I favour: everybody seems to agree that the question is useful. It's not impossible that someone at a later date might have something smart to add.

Protecting the question was a right move: I was about to do it myself after I saw the second one-line answer in the Low-quality queue, then saw it has already been done.

-1

You really should read the answers, Monica. As I have commented, many of them say the same things.

  1. Make writing a habit

    • Amadeus: "Basically [Stephen King] said, if you want to write, write. Every day."

    • Chris Sunami: "Be in it for the Long Haul: Writing, especially as a career, is an endurance race, not a sprint."

    • Cloudchaser: "Write as if it was your job"

    • SR. Prairie Wind: "... always keep a journal ..."

  2. Enjoy writing

    • Amadeus: "That most people that claim they want to be writer are fooling themselves, because what they want is To Have Written. ... but they don't actually love writing for its own sake."

    • Chris Sunami: "Make Peace With Writing For Yourself ..."

    • Galastel: "Write what you love writing, enjoy the process, do it for the art - not for the money."

    • Cloudchaser: "Enjoy writing"

  3. Don't aim for fame and fortune

    • Amadeus: "'They want this,' [Stephen King] says, waving at the set and his interviewer. The interviews on TV, the book signings, the money from a best-seller ..."

    • Cloudchaser: "Be content with making a living"

    • SR. Prairie Wind: "Most important, for those of us that may never see our thoughts lithographed in production."

  4. Write the next book

    • Chris Sunami: "One book is not a career: ... you'll need to keep on writing and publishing."

    • Cloudchaser: "Write the next book"

    • GGx: "... don't hold onto your writing gems because you think they're gold dust ... When I wrote my first novel I thought, I'll never come up with another idea this good, this has to be the best idea I'll ever get. I held onto it and honed it and honed it until I'd flogged the damn thing to death. Then I wrote my second novel and thought, no, no THIS is the best idea I've ever had. This is it, if I can't sell this, I can't sell ANYTHING. This is the end of the idea road, it doesn't get any better. And then I came up with my idea for my third novel!! :)"

  5. Consider the reader

    • Keith: "Consider the reader"

    • Jamie Clinton (deleted answer): "Always remember that you are writing so others will read you ..."

  6. Read

    • Totumus Maximus (deleted answer): "Read as much as you write."

    • fearofmusic: "Read deliberately ..."

There is some additional advice in the second answers from Amadeus (which limits itself to fiction and does not take the general perspective from which I asked the question, so it could be deleted) and SR. Prairie Wind as well as in the answer by Chris Sunami, but basically that's the summary of all the answers.

As you can hopefully see, the answers aren't as varied as everyone, who thinks the question is opinionated, claims. And if you delete all the one-sentence answers by low-rep users, points 5 and 6 are gone and the four pieces of fundamental advice, that I was aiming for, clearly emerge.


For the moment I have protected the question, because all the recent one-sentence-answers were by new low rep users.

  • 6
    Perhaps unfortunately in this case, whether a question is a good question or a bad question isn't really affected by the answers given. If it was, then we would have to wait until some (how many?) answers have been posted before we could judge whether a question is sufficiently narrow to be on topic or not. A question's topicality is a function of the question, not its answers. – a CVn Apr 26 '18 at 8:19
  • 3
    I would say that "Enjoy what you write" is also limited to fiction, I have written software and hardware manuals without enjoying it, I have written widely read ground-breaking academic papers and best-selling advertisements and not really enjoyed that writing, either; nor would I advise aspiring copywriters to "write every day." Nor would I tell them "write a manual for a tax software app for the love of writing"! All this advice applies to popular writing people will buy as entertainment, nearly all fiction and some history or biography, to which all my advice applies. Not business writing. – Amadeus Apr 26 '18 at 13:53
  • 4
    @Cloudchaser Based on that line of reasoning, I don't see how anything could ever be off topic anywhere, because you can always make such an argument to support the idea that a question is on topic. That's not how Stack Exchange works. It's well established that there are some types of questions for which Stack Exchange's question and answers format is simply poorly suited, and some of that is codified in the network-wide off topic reasons (too broad, primarily opinion-based, unclear what you're asking). – a CVn Apr 26 '18 at 14:54
  • 2
    @Cloudchaser great advice, I should quit my job because there is are parts I must occasionally do that I do not much enjoy. Every job should be back-to-back fun with other people doing all the distasteful parts of it. Of course that's ridiculous, I can enjoy my job just fine without enjoying travel, or accounting, or writing manuals or ads or spec sheets. Just like I enjoy my house despite the need to clean and maintain it. Just like I enjoy my dog despite the need to deal with his health problems and inexplicable need to eat twice a day. What's up with that? – Amadeus Apr 26 '18 at 15:55
  • 5
    Questions having more than one valid answer is one thing. Many good questions, even on sites like Stack Overflow, can have multiple valid answers. Questions that have no way to tell whether X is a better answer than Y is something else. I'm not saying that asking broadly for advice is bad (it isn't), only that Stack Exchange's rather strict Q&A format is a poor fit for that type of question because ultimately, it's not answerable but rather lends itself only to discussion. That can however work wonderfully in a more free-form discussion such as that seen on a typical web forum, or in Writing Chat. – a CVn Apr 26 '18 at 17:47

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .