Take your characters to the pub: Miranda Dickinson tackles Writer's Block

30 September 2015

By Pan Macmillan

Writers’ block. Ugh. That dreaded, enthusiasm-zapping condition those who write are scared of and those who don’t write joke about. It has stymied the most famous writers in history and if it hasn’t got you yet, it probably will. So, when the block hits, how do you overcome it?

Something I’ve found to be really useful is to write a scene further along in the story. I don’t exhaustively plan my novels, but I know the main events that have to happen, so I can skip ahead and know what’s meant to be happening there. Most of the time, that scene remains in the book, but sometimes it just works to get my brain over the block. When I speak at my WriteFoxy events, I often refer to this as ‘taking my characters to the pub’. I hang out with them, in a scene that isn’t crucial to the story. It gets me back into writing, takes away the fear and reminds me of why I want to tell the story. Also, writing a bit further down the story timeline often solves the original block because by that point in the story whatever has stumped me has already happened.

Beneath every bit of writers’ block is something far more dangerous: what many writers refer to as The Fear. The Fear will tell you that you can’t write. It will whisper in your ear that you’re doing it wrong, that your story isn’t working and that you can’t fix it. But the best way of overcoming The Fear is to write through it.

When I first started writing, I thought you had to begin at the beginning and write chronologically. That’s when blocks often occur - because you feel trapped by the problem with no way over it. As I’ve written more books, I’ve learned to write whatever I’m inspired to write, regardless of where it will eventually appear in the finished book. It’s part of giving yourself permission to write in the way that suits you best – and not beating yourself up about it. So, to combat both The Fear and the blocks it throws in your path, write a scene that inspires you and prove to yourself that you can write your story!
A Parcel for Anna Browne