Blog

Seven Surprising Ways to Break Through Writer’s Block

Don’t panic! It happens to almost everyone. There are ways through. Deep breath…

Walk through nature

The more you panic about your writer’s block, the more uptight you become which just adds to the mental immobility. Go for a walk. Make sure there is nature around you. If you’re lucky enough to be close to open countryside, that is perfect, but if you are in a city, head to the nearest park or graveyard. It is important to understand that you haven’t gone there to think up solutions to your block. You are purely there to allow yourself to unwind and your mind to expand. Engage all your senses: look up at the sky, look around you at the flowers, bushes and trees, listen for the insects and birdsong, smell the flowers, touch the leaves and the petals. Remove your shoes and press your bare feet into the earth to really connect. If you have an animal with you, stroke it. Lots.

Clean the windows/floors/vacuum/exercise

Mundane jobs take no thought but occupy you enough to stop you hyper-fixating on your writer’s block. Moreover, if you’re trying to enjoy writing, knowing that you have visitors tomorrow and your house is a state, it puts you into what Prof. Steve Peters (of The Chimp Paradox) calls “the dark playground” – you are trying to do something pleasurable, but it is ruined by the nagging guilt at the back of your mind that you should be doing something else. This definitely contributes to writer’s block. Just think – if it doesn’t work, at least your house will be gleaming! Exercise can have exactly the same effect – did you tell yourself you would run twice a week but haven’t done it? Get out for that run, you’ve ticked a task off your list and allowed your mind to run free with you.

Sentence starters / Writing prompts

You can internet search thousands of sentence starters and writing prompts, but here are just a few from me:

  • Henry had an unsettling feeling he’d been here before…
  • It was 2am, too early for sunrise, yet the room was bathed in a bright light…
  • The two old ladies, held on to each other as they laughed and laughed…
  • Just around the corner, Jack’s life would be changed forever…
  • The two girls skipped down the beach hand in hand, never to be seen again…
  • It was the same coffee shop. The same street. The same time of day. Yet there was one big difference…
  • Deep under the ocean, something was stirring…
  • “Two people can see and hear the same thing, yet interpret them very differently,” the detective thought to himself.
  • The apparent strangers exchanged a brief look. Somebody else at the airport noticed that look too…
  • Angela arrived unusually late for work, her face red and her usually immaculate hair wild. She rushed into her office, slamming the door behind her…

Read similar books

Know your genre and age group, know your target audience. Then pop to the library and borrow lots of books in that genre. Allow yourself a break from writing to read, but keep a notebook and pen handy. Sometimes a book will inspire new ideas, sometimes you will think of how you would have written that book differently. Either way, ideas will start swimming around inside your head.

Guess

Have you ever sat somewhere for a period of time with nothing to do? Like a train station for example? I like to “people watch” I look at them and try to guess their story. Who are they? Where are they going? Why are they going there? What are they like at home? I get clues from the way they dress, their body language and interactions, what they have with them and so forth. I’m probably wrong 100% of the time – I’ll never know, but they give me great writing material. You can do the same by visiting your local library and looking at book covers in your genre, then try to guess the story. Or visit a local art museum. There is inspiration all around, once you tear your eyes away from the screen/paper you’re using to write your story.

Chat to your book friend about favourite books

We all have that one geeky book friend to whom we can chat overly-enthusiastically about books for hours upon end and they don’t look at us like some kind of weirdo. Go visit them – in person preferably, but over Zoom if necessary. Ask them what they’re reading, tell them about what you recently read, let the conversation go wherever it wants. You’re not asking them for help. You’re just enjoying chatting about books – any genre. Oftentimes that’s enough to unplug the blockage.

Write Rubbish!

Honestly. NOBODY is going to see it. You set yourself a time and start writing. It only needs to be 30 minutes. No matter how bad it is, it’s more than nothing. Be as ridiculous as you like. Take the mic and write something atrocious. It’s okay, because it’s like a leaky tap, it starts dribbling and then all of a sudden it just gushes the words out. And somehow, they start to get better all by themselves. You can fix the beginning later – just go with the flow.

Blog

Seven Reasons Why a Library is so Important in a Secondary School

L = LITERACY. “About 90% of vocabulary once children get older is actually learnt through reading” (Gill Jones HMI, Deputy Director, Schools and Early Education, Ofsted). How often have you noticed the vocabulary of a person and judged them on it? When one person comments the weather is volatile and another comments it’s p!$$!ng down, we judge the first to be more intelligent than the other. It isn’t necessarily true, but it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. The more students read, the more words they learn and become familiar with and eventually use. They also begin to spell more accurately and construct their sentences in a more sophisticated manner. This helps with more than just exam grades – it lifts their quality of life.

I = INTELLIGENCE. “Reading enjoyment has been reported as more important for children’s educational success than their family’s socio-economic status” (OECD, 2002). Obviously, reading a lot of non-fiction will teach the reader a great deal about each subject they’re studying, but readers learn a surprisingly large amount from fiction too. Authors research carefully – if the book students are reading is set during Victorian times, they may learn a lot about the different types of horse-drawn carts or how the upper-classes socialised. If a book includes a badger clan, the writer will weave all sorts of badger facts into the story (I should know – you can read my book “The Boy Who Couldn’t” here. Spoiler alert: it has badgers in it.)

B = BELONGING. = Librarians are empathetic, compassionate, kind and understanding. The world can be a complicated and scary place for many teenagers. They often feel awkward, like they don’t know where they fit in. The library is a great social space for people who want to mix on their own terms. They can go in to choose a book and stay buried in it, or they can begin to make friends with like-minded students, often over a same taste in books, or playing a board game or card games such as Uno. An experienced librarian is able to recognise when to help students to begin to mix with their peers and when they just want to be left to themselves. The pastoral role of a librarian should not be underestimated.

R = READING FOR PLEASURE. “There is no such thing as a child who hates to read, there are only children who have not found the right book” (Frank Serafini). It doesn’t matter how much we dangle carrots or chastise, if a child does not enjoy reading and does not see the value in it, they will only ever read the minimum, while the teacher or parent/carer stands over them. However, an expert well-read librarian, can help children find the right book for them (in interest and level), once the student finds “that one book” it leads to another and another.  It is possible to convert previously reluctant readers into voracious readers. Thanks to public libraries, they’re also set up with a free hobby for life.

A = ACTIVE. School libraries never stand still. They are constantly changing and evolving according to latest research, best practices, new releases. A good librarian will be up to date with prize winning novels, interests and trends such as books relating to the latest NetFlix series. Libraries are vibrant places for students to spend time in.

R = RESEARCH. Whether discovering the capital cities of countries, the life cycle of a humming bird or understanding their own sexuality, the library should be seen as a safe place to ask questions. However, the librarian cannot be expected to be the expert in all areas, or sometimes, the student may be embarrassed to ask their question to an adult, therefore, the library should be well stocked with a wide selection of non-fiction books covering all areas of the Dewey Decimal System. Children who know how to research properly and not rely on social media, will develop into well-informed adults.

Y = YOUTH. Young people need to feel seen and heard. They need to be able to relate to the characters in the books they are reading. Therefore a well-managed school library will ensure there is a diverse range of characters within the books, such as main characters being black, or from a working class background or LGBTQ+ or different religions or having a disability and so forth. They should also ensure that the authors who write the books and visit the school are also diverse.

In summary, all schools should have a well-stocked school library with a dedicated school librarian. This gives every child an equal chance to develop a love of reading, discover a source of reliable information and all the benefits that accompany such resources.

Blog

Questions for students to ask an author

Every author is different; they come from different backgrounds, have different experiences and different interests. Therefore it is wise to research as much as you can about the author first so that you can ask some really interesting questions relevant to them and their writing. These questions are designed to help you, but there will always be additional questions that come to mind when you are researching your author, so jot them down as you do your research.

Questions about writing

  • When did you first realise you wanted to be an author? What inspired you?
  • What is your favourite genre to write? Why do you like writing it?
  • What hobbies do you like? Do they appear in your writing?
  • There are a lot more books now that include LGBTQAI+ characters and characters with black or brown skin or characters from diverse cultural backgrounds. Is this something you actively seek to do? Do you think it is possible to write authentically about a characteristic if you don’t have it yourself?
  • How many books have you written? How long does it take to write each one?
  • Where do you find your inspiration to write?
  • Do you read your reviews – do negative reviews upset you? How do you deal with them?
  • Have you ever ghost-written for somebody famous?
  • How different is writing books for publishing compared to writing stories for school?
  • Do your write a little each day or do you write lots in one go followed by none for days?
  • What is your most common mistake that you or your editor has to fix?
  • How long do you spend researching compared to writing?
  • How much do you rewrite?
  • How much do you write per day – do you have time set aside?
  • Which is your favourite book that you have written and what is it that you like so much about it?
  • Which age group do you prefer to write for and why?
  • What made you want to be an author?
  • What’s the title of your next book?
  • What made you decide that you wanted to write for children?

Questions About Reading

  • Who is your favourite author? What is it that you like about them?
  • What is your favourite genre to read? What do you like about it?
  • Which author do you most admire and why?
  • What is it about your favourite childhood book that makes it so memorable?
  • Were you a reader when you were young? How did you get into reading?
  • Do you enjoy reading your own stories – have you ever cried or laughed out loud at one of your own stories?
  • What makes a story exciting in your opinion?
  • At what age did you start reading?
  • When a new book comes out in a series you like, do you re-read the whole series up to that book?
  • If you find an author you like, do you read everything they’ve written?

Other questions

  • How would you like history to remember you?
  • What were you like at school?
  • If you weren’t a writer, what would you want your job to be?
  • Do you have lots of author friends? Do you all know each other?
  • Do you like living where you are?
  • Have you kept in touch with friends from school?
  • Would you rather stop writing or stop reading?
  • What was your favourite subject at school?
  • What is your favourite food?
  • What genre of music do you enjoy?
  • Have you ever had any other jobs?
  • What did you think you wanted to be when you were still at school or have you always wanted to be an author?
  • Do you like being famous?
  • What would your job be if you weren’t an author?

How to avoid asking questions that may be rude!

There are some questions that we are taught never to ask – how old are you? How much do you earn? Do you have a disability? Are you gay? It’s personal information that somebody may not be comfortable sharing. However, it may be that the question is really relevant to you. Perhaps you want to know if the earnings are going to be enough for you personally if you make it a career. Maybe you have a disability and want to know if it will affect your chance of obtaining a literary agent or publishing deal. So here are some ways of asking those questions without causing offence. These questions do not ask what you want to know directly, but they open the path if the author wants to share more.

  • How old were you when you first started writing?
  • How old were you when you published your first book?
  • Do you think you will continue to write all your life?
  • Do you get paid per book or per publishing deal?
  • Is it possible to make a living from writing or do you need another job alongside?
  • How many books did it take before you could leave your day job to focus solely on writing?
  • Do you think a writer with a disability should write a character with that same disability?
  • Is it possible to write a character with a disability if you have not experienced that disability yourself?
  • Do you think writers should include more LGBTQAI+ characters in books?
  • Can an author write authentically about LGBTQAI+ if they themselves have not experienced living that life?

I hope these questions will help you when an author visits your school. The authors are usually just as excited to meet you as you are to meet them! Enjoy the visit 😊

Blog

Top 10 Writing Tips by Author @RLCoverdale #Top10WritingTips #TuesdayBookBlog #Writing

Thank you to Shelley Wilson, author who contacted me to create this. Check out her other #Top10WritingTips too!

Shelley Wilson Author

Learning from mentors helps us to improve and evolve in our chosen field. I still recall the advice given to me at the start of my writing journey.

To help other writers, I started a feature whereby established authors shared their words of wisdom and top ten writing tips.

It was a huge success and I was delighted to bring the feature back for a second season! You’ll find all the Top 10 Writing Tip articles here.

Meet Rachel Coverdale

Rachel Coverdale was born and bred in the beautiful North Yorkshire countryside in North East England. Raised with copious amounts of animals but without the distraction of a modern TV set, she turned to books and her own imagination for entertainment. Animals were and still are a huge part of her life and inevitably they made their way into her stories. Believing strongly in fresh air, nature and outdoor…

View original post 1,287 more words