The secrets I am about to reveal are known only to those who have suffered and triumphed over a tricky non-compliant novel.

In other words, anyone who has ever written a book.

I’ve yet to meet a writer who says, “Oh yes, it’s easy. I just sit down to write and it all goes tickety-boo until I write The End. The real difficulty is getting paper into the printer.” (Please feel free to set me straight if you are that writer.)

Nothing drives me madder than a room full of aspiring writers whining, “I get halfway through my book and then I get stu-uck.”

Well of course you get halfway through and get stuck.  EVERYONE gets halfway through and gets stuck. Even the people writing My Magic Unicorn and Secret Lives of Football Wives get halfway through and get stuck.

It’s what happens.

So here are three things to try:

1. Walk away. For a few hours or a few days or even a few weeks if it’s really bad and you’re not on a deadline. Set your brain on autodrive and think about your problem every night before you go to bed. Say the words, “How will I solve this problem, oh brain?” as you turn your light off and if you’re really lucky and you practice enough, it will occasionally answer you.

2. Do something inspiring. I favour movies, theatre, art galleries, trying to convince my nutty horse to work nicely, watching my dogs chase squirrels on the heath. It sometimes takes more discipline to get up from my desk than it does to sit for another 24 fruitless hours. Brains benefit from refreshment, by which I do not mean Oreos.

3. Write through it. Sometimes the only answer is to stay at your computer and force yourself to write another chapter. Accept that it will be terrible and that you will have to get rid of it. But the subconscious has an endearing habit of slipping a little piece of illuminating dialogue into an otherwise useless piece of writing. OH, you will think when you see it. That’s helpful.

And when all else fails,

4. Give up. We don’t need more competition. Really.


17 thoughts on “How to Beat Writer’s Block

  1. Valia 7 years ago

    Awe thanks for sharing this! I especially like the creative part. I’ve taken up crocheting now 🙂

  2. Sharon Tregenza 7 years ago

    Last bit made me laugh out loud – at four in the morning (don’t ask) no easy task.

  3. Antony John 7 years ago

    Terrific advice, as always. Although, if I were writing “Secret Lives of Football Wives,” I think I’d get stuck long before halfway. Finishing the Prologue would pretty much do me in.

  4. Nicky Schmidt 7 years ago

    I am truly disappointed that Oreos don’t count as brain refreshment. What about wine?
    Brilliant post, as always, Meg! 🙂

  5. Jennie Walters 7 years ago

    Perfect! This says it all – and a very timely post for me as I’m blocked at the moment (and it’s only chapter 3!)

  6. Nina Killham 7 years ago

    Yup, yup, yup and YUP! May I add a fifth? Go on the net and read Meg’s blog. That will surely unblock. And if it doesn’t unblock well at least you’ll have a good laugh. x

  7. Sue Hyams 7 years ago

    Excellent advice, although I seem to have petered out after 68 words, never mind reaching the halfway mark! I’d go and watch the cats for inspiration, but all they do is lounge around. Should have got dogs instead.

  8. Vanessa Harbour 7 years ago

    Hee hee hee…love it,particularly the last suggestion. I am sure when you mentioned Oreos you didn’t mean….(fill in as appropriate: chocolate, wine, champagne or all three in my case)

  9. ejrunyon 7 years ago

    Great Blog Meg,
    A good friend/prolific writer friend (16 novels between 1997-2011) once told me a novel can be a series of short stories about a single character. Her work is very inspiring to me so I took the advice to heart. When I get stuck, I try to come up with a ‘new short story’ for my page people – it usually works.
    Number 3 is definitely my way to go.
    But, I live in a fantasy world as it is – so the escape tactics of #1 & 4 won’t do it for me.

  10. Bazza 7 years ago

    When I read this sort of stuff, which I am really interested to know, I am thankful that I am a reader and not a writer.
    I once heard someone say “After three years I have finally finished my first novel. I am going to start reading another one next year”.
    Who was that? Oh yes, it was me.
    Click here for Bazza’s Blog ‘To Discover Ice’

  11. sharon creech 7 years ago

    hahaha That last bit made me laff – and the rest is spot-on.

  12. Jake Elliott 7 years ago

    No more competition?!

  13. Lucy Coats 7 years ago

    Damn fine advice, Rosoff. Personally I do a little thing called ‘creative napping’. Insert problem into brain, put toes up, nap. Unconscious provides solution. Usually. However, I disagree about the Oreos. Ripping them apart and scraping off the white bit is very therapeutic and conducive to unblockery.

    PS: You can tell I’m catching up on my blog reading, can’t you?

    1. Meg Rosoff 7 years ago

      Ms Coats, I felt napping was too obvious even to mention. I could nap for Britain.

  14. Paul 7 years ago

    Good to know these things before I begin. Tomorrow at six I start my book that’ll sell in it’s millions… or maybe seven.

  15. D. D. Falvo 7 years ago

    Loved the last line, truly. Lol’d. We don’t. 😛 And do wish I was the kind that only had trouble putting paper in the printer. Great post. Thanks. 🙂

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