This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
Welcome to our writing advice column, where you'll find bestselling author Julie Cohen answering reader questions! Hit a roadblock or have a writing-related query? Drop them in the comments or email kerry@ and keep your eyes peeled for Julie’s response in later columns.
Sometimes when I’m writing it’s so easy and fun and fluid. Other times, every sentence written feels like having a tooth pulled. How can I get through those difficult times when writing feels unnatural and chore-like? Especially when I’m working to a deadline and don’t have the option to step away for too long!
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OH, ME TOO. Isn’t it awful? Here is a list of lucky thirteen things that might help you.
3. The Pomodoro technique: set a timer for a short-ish amount of time—say ten or fifteen minutes. Promise yourself that you will write for that entire time, and then afterwards, you will give yourself a five-minute break, also timed. Then start again. The marvel that is Kate Harrison taught me this technique and it really works.
4. Know that this pain is completely, utterly, normal—and indeed, desirable. If writing is easy all the time, you’re doing it wrong.
5. Swear. Profusely.
6. Go for a walk, or take a bath or a shower. Something about movement or running water seems to get me unstuck a lot of the time.
7. Find a Post-It note. Upon it, put the words WRITE CRAP. Affix it to your computer monitor, and when you look at it, remind yourself that for every good word you write, you are allowed to write 99 words of utter crap, because crap is fixable.
8. Did I mention chocolate?
9. Moan to your writing friends. Non-writing friends will not understand this particular hell, unfortunately. But all of your writing friends will. They will understand, and tell you that it will get better, and you will not believe them, but they will be right.
10. Stop and analyse. Sometimes, when writing is hard, it’s because you’re not attacking it the right way. Your character motivation might be off, or you may not have unearthed the true conflict in a scene. Take a little while to stop and think about what you’re writing. Maybe do a little bit of freewriting, explaining to yourself what you are trying to achieve in this scene. Or draw out the scene, or do a mind map around it, or whatever tends to help you.
11. Turn off the internet. The temptation, when you’re blocked, is to spend a bit of time surfing or chatting on social media or shopping. And this really isn’t going to help. NO, IT ISN’T. You need your head to be clear, not cluttered with tweets.
12. Try not to take it out on your poor, long-suffering family. They have enough of a hard time living with a writer, and you’ll end up feel guilty as well as frustrated.
13. Keep on going. This too, shall pass.
Julie Cohen has had 20 books published under her own name and pseudonyms, selling nearly a million copies and being translated into 15 languages. Several have won or been shortlisted for awards, including the Romantic Novelists' Association's Award and the National Readers’ Choice Award. Her novel Dear Thing was a summer 2014 Richard and Judy Book Club pick.
Julie is also a popular speaker and teacher of creative writing, tutoring courses for Penguin Random House Academy, The Guardian, Literature Wales, The Victoria and Albert Museum, and Writers' Workshop. She runs a fiction consultancy business, with several of her clients having gone on to publication. Her latest book is Where Love Lies.