Thursday, 29 May 2014

Question Corner with Lorraine Mace

Unblocking the Blockage

Gerard Young is suffering from something many writers have faced. He writes: I have a problem and I need some advice. I have a crippling writer's block that I can't get rid of. I have some ideas for stories but when it comes to writing the story, nothing. What should I do? Would enrolling in a writing course help in any way?

Enrolling in a writing course might well be the answer to your problem, but I doubt it. If you have ideas already, but can’t bring yourself to write them, being on a course might add to your woes, rather than easing them.

There are as many reasons for writer’s block occurring as there are suggested ways of dealing with it. As I don’t know you on a personal level, I will have to put forward several things for you to try. I hope one or more of the following will do the trick for you.

Have a set time to write
Whether it’s first thing in the morning, an hour when you get home from work, half an hour during your lunch break, set aside the same time every day. It doesn’t matter what you write. The important thing here is to train your mind to accept that this part of the day is writing time.

Another trick under this heading is changing the time you’ve set aside to write. If you have already made the decision that mornings are your writing time, but it no longer works for you, change the time. Write in the evening instead.

Relax and stop looking for perfection
Don’t read what you’ve written so far. Just get on with the next bit. Turn off your internal editor. Many people stop writing because they cannot produce perfect prose in a first draft. Nobody can! Don’t allow the fear of imperfection to get between you and your writing. There will always be time to polish that imperfect prose. Get it written and edit it later – much later!

Don’t write
Sounds like a contradiction, I know, but maybe your brain needs time to formulate the ideas properly before you settle down to write. You might have so many ideas in your head that you aren’t able to decide which one you want to develop. Go for a walk. Take a train journey. Spend an evening with friends. Forget about writing for a while. You’ll come back to it refreshed and raring to go.

Read more
Reading helps the creative juices to flow. I find reading in a different genre to the one I write in is beneficial, but you might find you get better results if you read material similar to that you want to write.

Set deadlines with a writing buddy
Find a friend, online or in real life, who also wants to get back into writing on a regular basis. This works well if you lay out some ground rules first. Decide how many words per day, week or month you will each write. Then set deadlines for exchange of material. It’s a bit like running with a friend, or going to the gym. It’s easy to backslide when you’re on your own, but much harder to drop out if you’ve committed yourself to a word count and deadline with someone else.

Work on more than one book, story, article or poem at a time
This doesn’t work for everyone, but some writers find it easier to switch between works, depending on what moves them for that day.

Writing exercises
I’ll be honest, writing exercises for the sake of it isn’t something that would work for me, but I have been told that many writers swear by it as a way to overcome writer’s block.

However, there is one thing that I do, which could be considered a writing exercise. Try interviewing the characters you want to write about. Put together a series of questions and then write up the answers as if you were the character. I find characters come to life if I allow them to answer for themselves. Believe me, once that happens, your characters will live in your head, nagging nonstop until you write their story.

Make sure your writing space works for you
Is your desk covered in scraps of paper? Do you feel hemmed in and uncomfortable? If your work area doesn’t make you feel creative, it will stifle the urge to write. Spend a bit of time making your writing area somewhere you want to be.

Remember that writing is fun!
This is the biggie, for me. Most of us write for pleasure. It’s fun. We create worlds and people to populate those worlds. Then we make life difficult for them so that they have to overcome obstacles in order to succeed in whatever we have decided they should do. We have the power to make them fall in love, fall out of love, go to war, lose a battle, find a friend, betray a colleague, become a saint, sup with the devil, rise like a star, fall into despair. How can we not enjoy ourselves?

Let go of your inhibitions – write and have some fun.

If you have a question for Lorraine, comment here or email

Lorraine Mace is the humour columnist for Writing Magazine and a competition judge for Writers’ Forum. She is a former tutor for the Writers Bureau, and is the author of the Writers Bureau course, Marketing Your Book. She is also co-author, with Maureen Vincent-Northam of The Writer's ABC Checklist (Accent Press). Lorraine runs a private critique service for writers (link below). She is the founder of the Flash 500 competitions covering flash fiction, humour verse and novel openings.

Her debut novel for children, Vlad the Inhaler, was published in the USA on 2nd April 2014.

Writing as Frances di Plino, she is the author of the crime/thriller series featuring Detective Inspector Paolo Storey: Bad Moon Rising, Someday Never Comes and Call It Pretending.


  1. A piece of advice I heard on the subject, recently, was: "Don't get it 'right', get it written!" Then again, I find that having a small wooden step outside my bedroon door is an aid to writing. It's inscribed: 'This is the writer's block', and I am forced to get over it every morning :o)
    Regards, Steve

  2. I love the idea of getting over writer's block every morning. Clever!

  3. Yes, it's a psychological trick - a bit like a placebo tablet - but the mind is a funny thing. Getting over the physical barrier of the 'block' can help with the mataphysical one, too. And if nothing else, you'll start the day with a smile or a laugh :o)

  4. Well, you made me smile, so thanks for that.