|Looks like the Jersey Shore, all right.|
Nobody has ever given me writing advice.
Wait. No. One person has given me writing advice, but I haven't followed it (maybe that's why nobody else has offered).
I know; I'm shocked, too. You always hear authors talking about "the best writing advice someone ever gave me," or "the one piece of writing advice I wish I'd never heard," or "the one piece of writing advice I always pass on to young writers." It seems like every writer is absolutely inundated with tips and inside information on the best way to rearrange those 26 letters in the English alphabet to somehow tell a coherent story.
Not me. The one piece of advice I remember getting--and this was in response to a direct question--was from the late brilliant comedy writer and screenwriter Larry Gelbart, who once told me (in response to deciding what to write about), "Go where the pain is."
I believe Mr. Gelbart was a genius, an underappreciated master who could make you laugh and cry, sometimes at the same moment (he was also a ridiculously nice man and a gentleman). But I don't think I've ever heeded his advice. I haven't gone where the pain is. It's too painful.
Other than that, I've been on my own for quite some time now. And I don't really mind all that much. I mean, I haven't actually sought out any writing advice, although I haven't actively dissuaded anyone from offering it, either. I guess it's just never come up in conversation. I've met a good number of writers in my time, including many of the fantastically talented Jungle Reds, but I've never asked how they write, nor have they asked me. We just do what we do, and figure if anybody wants to know, they'll say so.
I really don't mind the lack of direct mentoring. I'm not sure I'd be able to implement any changes even a world-class writer might suggest. Writing is such a personal thing, after all. When an aspiring author asks, I will hand out two pieces of... I don't know that I'd call it "advice" so much as "products of experience":
1. Don't tell me about "Writer's Block." I don't believe there is such a thing. I believe writers are the best procrastinators on the planet, will do ANYTHING to avoid pulling the day's allotment of words out of their heads, and therefore have created a fictional disease that prevents them from writing. Nonsense. If you feel "blocked," write anything. It's easier to fix something you've written than to write something new.
2. Here's the exact style and method you should use in your writing: The one that works for you. If it entails getting up at 4 in the morning and working until 9, more power to you. Try not to make too much noise, because I'll be fast asleep. If your process is to write longhand with a quill pen on parchment, enjoy yourself. I am a Jobsian Mac maniac. I will avail myself of technology and write at 4 in the afternoon, when I'm awake. What works for me might not work for you, and vice versa. That's why there's more than one writer on the planet.
That's it. If you want more advice, you're going to have to ask questions. But I'll give you this for free, because it came from a genius: Go where the pain is.
Maybe it'll work for you.
E.J. Copperman is the author of the Haunted Guesthouse series, in which a divorced mom tries to run a Jersey Shore guesthouse that happens to be inhabited by two ghosts. The latest in the series (which can be read out of order), OLD HAUNTS, publishes on February 7. You can also friend Copperman on Facebook, chat on Twitter, or catch Copperman's blog, Sliced Bread.
Usually, we'd ask you to tell us what writing advice you've used, dear Reader. How about we mix it up this time? Share with us the most ridiculous piece of writing lore you've read or heard!