In the bulging file marked Clichéd Topics Writers Should Stop Using As Plotlines, you’ll find “characters with writers’ block” – at least as far as some publishing houses are concerned. Never mind that the scenario has provided fuel for so many of Stephen King’s best-sellers it prompted one editor chum of mine to quip, ‘Stephen, if being a writer is so traumatic, why don’t you take up landscape gardening?’, it’s regarded as somehow self-indulgent to tackle a problem so many writers have experienced at some point. But on the other hand, one of the first pieces of advice aspiring authors are always given is “write about what you know”…
Fortunately, it’s a situation I’ve never personally experienced – that of staring at a blank piece of paper or PC screen and wondering where the next word is coming from – but it’s a problem that affects Lily Metcalfe, the heroine of my Secret Library novella One Long Hot Summer, at the start of the story. A successful erotic romance author, she’s late on delivering her latest manuscript, and unable to complete the scene where her hero and heroine finally act on the attraction they’ve had for each other since the start of the story. In Lily’s case, her block stems from the fact her long-term boyfriend has walked out on her, and the emotional distress the break-up causes her. Her answer to the problem is to accept her friend Amanda’s offer to look after her house on Dorset’s Jurassic Coast. At first, the problem is just as bad as before, despite her new surroundings, then Amanda’s hunky 21-year-old son, Ryan, returns home, intending to spend his last summer of freedom surfing and partying with his friends. Soon, Lily’s creative juices are flowing once more, but one problem is replaced with another as she finds herself grappling with a bad case of lust for Ryan and trying to resolve her case of summer madness…
Lily’s situation might be fiction, but what should you do if you’re suffering from writer’s block for real? As I said, I’ve never had a severe case, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t days when I’d rather put on a load of washing, play with the cats or make a batch of cheese and tomato muffins rather than work on a story that needs to be put to one side and looked at with fresh eyes. But here are are a few tips that just might help if you’re seriously blocked:
Don’t set unrealistic goals for your writing.
It’s not always the best idea to measure successful writing in terms of word count or pages completed. With the rise of NaNoWriMo, with its challenge to pen 50,000 words in a month, or bragging comments on author loops from writers who can complete 10,000 words in a day, it’s easy to feel that writing is more valued in terms of quantity, rather than quality, and working best means working fast. Sometimes, writing a couple of good, strong paragraphs is better than vast screeds of words that you may later discard because they do nothing to advance the plot.
Do something other than write.
Step away from the laptop. You don’t have to take Lily’s drastic step of moving into a friend’s house, but being in a different environment can help offer a new perspective. Clean the house, go for a walk or just listen to your favourite music – anything that doesn’t involve looking at that half-finished chapter. You may find the words start to flow as you scrub the kitchen floor.
Try a different idea.
When Lily’s block begins to ease, she finds herself jotting down an idea for a completely different book to the one she should be working on, but it helps ease her back into writing. If you’re stuck on your current WIP, why not see if there’s something in your ideas file that inspires you instead? If you have some old story sitting half-finished, go back and see if you can work out how to complete it. Or follow an exercise my sixth form English teacher used to set: for five minutes, just write whatever down comes into your head, however bizarre and rambling. With no constraints on your imagination, who knows what you’ll dream up?
Find the whole range of Secret Library books at www.thesecretlibrary.co.uk
The Secret Library is a new range from Xcite Books which will appeal to the female romance reader market. Each book contains three specially commissioned novellas guaranteeing a satisfying and varied selection.
The story content is relationship led with a strong alpha male hero, a level of conflict and a climactic, explicit ending.
The covers are deliberately designed without visual imagery to be discreet. These books could be comfortably read in public, given as gifts and left on a bedside table.
The Secret Library contains six books with three erotic romance novellas in each:
Traded Innocence – Toni Sands, Elizabeth Coldwell and K D Grace
Silk Stockings – Constance Munday, Jenna Bright and Lucy Felthouse
One Long Hot Summer – Elizabeth Coldwell, Penelope Friday and Shanna Germain
The Thousand and One Nights – Kitti Bernetti, Primula Bond and Sommer Marsden
The Game – Jeff Cott, Antonia Adams and Sommer Marsden
Hungarian Rhapsody – Justine Elyot, Charlotte Stein and Kay Jaybee