The other day I bought my parents a take-and-bake pizza from Papa Murphy’s. It was one of those really hot days, so they decided to cook the pizza in a BBQ rather than bake it in an oven.
I didn’t think this was a good idea.
My dad insisted the pizza would be fine. He said they’d just cover it with foil— which I also didn’t think was a good idea. I might have kept my mouth shut, but I hated to see a beautiful Papa Murphy’s pizza destroyed. I told my dad covering the pizza with foil would interfere with its cooking.
I didn’t actually expect my dad to listen me. I thought there was chance I could be right about the foil. I also thought there was a chance that without foil the flimsy cardboard beneath the pizza would burn. I figured my dad would double check with my mom, but he trusted me so much that he didn’t. I didn’t actually find out he took my advice until I started smelling the smoke. When I opened the BBQ and flames burst out, I knew I’d given him bad advice.
This made me think about some of the bad advice I’ve received.
When I first started writing I tried to get as much advice as I could, especially when I wanted to query my first book. I had a friend who’d been writing longer than I had, so when she told me I needed to include a marketing plan with my query that made sense. Then she showed me a copy of her query, which was basically a single-spaced, one page, one paragraph synopsis of her book.
It probably goes without saying that my first queries were embarrassingly bad. When I queried my second book I avoided all of the agents who received that bad batch of queries just in case they remembered me. I should have double-checked everything my friend told me, but she was my friend, and she sounded as if she knew what she was talking about.
When my friend gave me horrible query advice it was with the best intentions, but that didn’t make her advice any better. All lot of well meaning people give really bad advice—just like I did with my dad.
Last week editor/author Rhonda Helms tweeted, “Writers-anyone can make a blog/twitter/tumblr acct & give writing advice. Just b/c someone writes it doesn’t make it right!”
I think this is good advice.
So what about you? Has anyone ever given you bad advice that you’ve taken?