Overcoming Writer’s Block

Overcoming Writer’s Block

No, not with beer! Although as anyone who knows me can attest to, the beer pictured combines two of my great loves – the beers of Brewdog (Five AM Saint is my current favourite) and the great Elvis Presley. Happily I quite like the beer as well, it’s fruity and refreshing but still quite potent.

However, this is not a post about beer (leave a comment if you’d like some beer reviews, more than happy to sample a few over the course of an evening and let you know what I think), but about overcoming writer’s block. And here it is, my secret.

I don’t know how to overcome writer’s block.

I’ve been going great guns on this latest novel (the sequel to my first novel, Realmborn, which can be found here along with its reviews), happily bashing out a chapter a day for the last couple of weeks, and even deliberately taking a couple of days off here and there so as not to burn out too quickly. And it’s been going well, I’ve fond myself easily slipping back into the world of Jake Ranidir and his Mage-Knight cousin Rayne, enjoying the complexities of the Realm they live in, and particularly pleased that I know how the overall story arc goes, so I don’t need to come up with any twists or plot devices, it’s all there already, just waiting to be told.

Until Chapter Fourteen.

Chapter Fourteen is an exciting chapter, with one of my favourite new characters, some action, a little bit of exposition…should have been a really quick one to type up and put in the “happy with that” pile.

Nope. Nothing doing.

I hit a real wall, just couldn’t get past a certain section, and so did what I usually do when inspiration isn’t forthcoming. Slept on it. Normally a sure-fire solution for me, but on this occasion (four days ago), I woke up the next day and (when parenting permitted) sat down to write with the same damn results. Typed up a paragraph, re-read it, deleted said paragraph. Rinse and repeat. Over and over and over again.

This time, instead of sleeping on it, I drank more coffee than is probably healthy and pulled an all-nighter, determined to push through and finish the chapter no matter what. I awoke at three in the morning with my face in the keyboard having last typed “fdcdhlrieyqfdhlhfdggieu”.

So, sleeping hadn’t worked, not sleeping hadn’t worked, and this chapter was now in its third day. Two days overdue. Threatening to blow my own self-imposed schedule out of the water and make me -gulp – work at the weekend. What was I going to do? Try persevering? Take a break and forget about it? Pay a vastly more talented writer to pen the chapter for me?

As it turned out the choice was out of my hands anyway. What with one thing and another the first chance I had to write yesterday was at about 10PM, and in fact I did do so with a beer, so maybe my opening statement was wrong. Because it was last night that I broke the back of the chapter, leaving me only a little to do today. And today I finally finished it!


Last night it was like the clouds had parted and allowed me to see the chapter in the sunshine again, and today finishing it off was simply a formality. And I have no idea what made the difference, although re-reading this blog entry it appears to be beer. Not that I am condoning the use of alcohol in any way, shape or form! Well, maybe a little bit, it does seem to be my go-to reward for finishing a chapter…but only in moderation, people!

And why do people say “everything in moderation”? Pretty sure there’s quite a lot of things that aren’t ok even in moderation…genocide, suicide, fratricide…any of the “cides” really. Also heroin. And any kind of bigotry. In fact, the next time anyone says that everything in moderation is ok, punch them square on the nose and ask them if that was ok. I mean just the once, that’s in moderation, right?

Anyway, I digress, which may be why Chapter Fourteen took me four days to complete. Too much digressing! I think the upshot of my rambling is that there is no sure-fire way to beat writer’s block. You can take a break. Might work. You can try pushing through it. Also might work. You can have a beer/cake/cuppa/poison-of-your-choice (in moderation). Again, might work. Who knows? The thing to do is keep believing in your ability to finish it eventually, and to remember that, at the end of that day, it’s only writing. It’s not the end of the world if it doesn’t happen. Continents won’t crumble, mountains won’t topple, the seas won’t rise…and yes, I am terrible at remembering this, and treat every chapter as though Armageddon and Ragnarok might have a child, presumably named Armageddarok, and if I don’t finish a chapter on time then that child would not only end the world but spit on its remains afterwards. But for Pete’s sake don’t use me as an example of what to do!

(Who is this Pete, anyway?)

Right, it is late, I am tired, and I have written far too many words today. Stay Frosty, People. Unless you are a writer with Writer’s Block, in which case do whatever you need to do to get those next 1,000 words written. Whatever the hell that turns out to be.

To procrastinate or not to procrastinate, that is the question…

To procrastinate or not to procrastinate, that is the question…

…whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous dedication, or to take arms against a sea of distractions, and by opposing, end them.

OK, I’m no Bard, but I think that sums up my day quite nicely. I did spend a great deal of my afternoon and evening attempting to ignore all the little things that can get in the way of powering through and reaching the goal you’ve set yourself.

There was washing up to be done. Would my mind be more at ease and creative if this minor chore had been taken care of? I’ll never know how creative I would have been if it wasn’t done, because I did in fact scrub those dishes, telling myself I was thinking of a good opening while I scrubbed…

OK, sat down, ready to write. Wait! I don’t have a coffee! Must have a coffee by my side to write. Back to the kitchen I went.

One of my best friends called. Do I ignore the call, and appear rude? No, no, that would be unthinkable. Can’t be rude to one of the people who always faithfully buys a hard copy of my books (and has in fact done so for my recently released Silver Soldiers, so I’m glad I took the call). Still, another twenty minutes of potential writing time gone.

Three paragraphs in, I look up, wondering how to start the next paragraph. I see my guitar. Realise it has been a while since I played…one or two songs can’t  hurt, can they? Might even get the old creative juices flowing, art feeding art and all that. Another forty five minutes disappeared.

Right, time to get serious. An hour of solid writing occurs, I am flying, I am dedicated, I am a writer! Of rubbish. Reading it back I realise it has the wrong voice for the character whose point of view I am trying to portray. In a fit of pique I select the last hour’s work and press Delete.

Stop. Pause. Take a breath. I stepped away, moved to a different room, got my mind a thousand miles away from futuristic bounty hunters, assassins and the sudden absence of sharp, witty dialogue in my brain, and smiled for the first time that afternoon. Afternoon became evening, and suddenly there it was. The opening lines I’d been looking for, the voice of the character I wanted to come alive on the pages, the humour and “me-ness” that had been missing from y previous hour’s distracted work.

The chapter flowed, and I maintained my Chapter a Day work rate. It was a close run thing, though…

Today’s reward went to my frequent writing companion Wade, pictured above. He told me to take a break, and he was right. Actually what he said was “let’s go the pub and sort all this wordy stuff out when we’ve had a few, yeah?”, but I got what he meant. Sometimes it’s ok to walk away from your beloved project and relax for a bit.

I think I’m learning as I go, with this whole authoring thing. And what I learned today was that sometimes, no matter how hard you push yourself, you should just step back and allow the procrastination to happen. You’ll feel better for it. And the dishes will be clean.

Till next time, Stay Frosty, People.