Writing Advice From a Ninth-Grade Slacker

One of the things I enjoy the most as a mom is listening to conversations between my children. I especially love the conversations where child #1 gives advice to child #2. If you’ve seen Diary of a Wimpy Kid, then you know what I’m talking about. Teenagers can be very insightful when they want to be. (Now if you would only use your powers for good…)

The most recent piece of advice involved a writing assignment that had to be at least two pages long. Child #2 complained about this cruel and unusual punishment, prompting a heartfelt response from his older sibling. Child #1 (being a worldly-wise ninth-grader and self-professed slacker) bestowed his knowledge on child #2 as follows:

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  • Use a bigger font.
  • Double-space.
  • Make the margins bigger—but not too much because you don’t want the teacher to notice.
  • Write the same sentence twice. Just change the wording.

I cringe at the thought of their teachers knowing I’m a writer. This ninth-grade advice goes against most of the advice given by professionals, and it makes me wonder when we writers make the switch from not writing enough to usually writing too much. I remember groaning over the same kind of word or page count requirement, and now I’m constantly reminding myself to “write tight.” So what makes the difference? My guess is subject matter. When the subject is something we’re interested in, we can’t seem to say enough.

Maybe advice on how to look for the good in all things would prove more useful for writing assignments, but I don’t think that particular bit of wisdom will be shared among my children anytime soon.

So what’s the best (or worst) piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney

©2012 Kim Vandel