How to Write: Five Show-Stoppers

There’s a lot of things that can stop you writing. Sometimes it’s real life, which can’t usually be helped; if the cat decides to spill a glass of water on your laptop, that does put a crimp in your ability to type. But sometimes the show-stoppers are either in your head, or in your writing. Here’s five things that your head might be telling you, and some suggestions to overcome them.

  1. I’m not good enough.

That brilliant writer that you want to be like? The one with best-selling novels? Or even just the last piece you read on Tumblr, the snippet of something on Facebook? You’re thinking that you’re not as good as them, you can’t do it, what’s the point of trying…

Stop for a moment, and consider how long they’ve likely been writing. How long have they had to practise, and to hone their craft? Writing is a skill like any other; it can be learned and it can be improved. How many drafts and tears and moments of doubt has that best-selling novel gone through? How many edits and revisions?

You aren’t that good. Not yet. But you won’t ever be that good unless you start practising.

Try. Experiment. Play. And practise, practise, practise.

  1. Everyone’s going to hate it

Ugh, the invisible audience. I think this is possibly the voice that I hate most; the feeling that whatever you do, someone is going to criticise – and it’s usually yourself! I’ve got a couple of ways round this.

  • Write for yourself. Yell back at the voices; pretend no-one else will ever see it, that it’s only for you. Or, if you’re the most critical, write for a friend who’ll forgive the errors and just wants to read your story.
  • Things like #2BitTues and #1LineWed on Twitter; they’re small forums to post your funny lines and your favourite sentences. It’s a little thing that makes you appreciate what you’ve written.
  • Anything can be fixed in editing – just get that draft written. You can’t fix what ain’t there!
  • Accept compliments and praise with the same readiness that you accept criticism. I trust my alpha and beta readers to point out the flaws, and I should also trust them to tell me when it’s good.
  1. It’s trite/cliché/boring/annoying/awful.

The invisible audience strikes again! Sure, you’ve got words…but you think they’re the worst thing anyone’s ever written.

  • Give it some time. Work on another project for a bit, and then go back to your first one. I find that even a night’s sleep lets me judge my writing better than an immediate re-read.
  • Remember that it’s boring because it’s the x-hundredth time that you’ve read it. To the reader, coming to it for the first time – it’s new! It’s exciting! Stop judging that plot twist as predictable – of course it is, you know it’s coming.
  • Clichéd? Do a bingo card of all the tropes from your genre, and cross them off as you re-read your story. Then balance how many you think you’re allowed with what you think you need.
  • Trite, annoying and awful? Is that honestly your judgement, or are you being overly critical? I tend to leave it to my alpha readers to judge if something is good or not; they have a much better handle on my skills than my anxious brain does.
  1. I don’t have time.

The devil of everyone with a life – or anyone who tends to procrastinate! The injunction is usually “Well, find time” – which isn’t always so easy.

  • For a longer timescale and project, try NaNoWriMo or Camp Nano. Writing a novel in a month definitely focuses your brain, and you get lots of encouragement from other participants.
  • Set time aside; half an hour or an hour that’s just for writing. A friend gets up extra-early and writes for an hour before the rest of the household wake up, and it’s surprising how much she gets done! Another writer I know uses their lunch breaks; again, the words mount up.
  • A writing place; have somewhere that you only write, or a certain set-up (a cup of a particular tea? A certain object?) that means once you sit down, you’re in the zone.
  1. Someone else has already written my idea.

Really? If you simplify everything, then most things have been written. It may be true that there are no new ideas, but the devil’s in the details…

  • Get inside someone else’s head. Give us the POV of the baddy – are they really just taking over the world because they want to? Do they consider the hero a whiny little child who really just needs a good slap? You may be telling a well-known story, but can you give us a different perspective on it?
  • Give your story a twist. Mix two genres; for example, Harry Potter is Magic + Boarding School. Add aliens. Murder someone and have the rest of the story told by a ghost.
  • Your voice is different. You have got new ideas, you have got a new way of saying something. As long as it’s not copy and paste, you are telling something differently. Just write it how you want to.

So, now you’ve had that pep talk…get writing!

Green Sky & Sparks

by Kate Coe


Find yourself transported to a different world. The author really draws you in with her descriptions. I felt as though I could picture the whole landscape.
Sara Ellis
Kate Coe
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