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Thursday, November 24, 2011

An Expert’s Take on Writer’s Block

A couple of months ago I had an opportunity to (once again) hear the amazingly talented, Kelley Armstrong give a reading and Q & A session at Toronto’s Word on the Street Festival.

Now, I’ve seen Kelley do readings before and I’ve been to quite a few Q & A sessions with her, but there were a couple of things she said this time around that really resonated with me. I know I’ve talked about writer’s block before and my feelings haven’t changed about it…I don’t think it exists with regards to the “muse” and all that, but I wanted to share Kelley’s opinion on battling writer’s block as I felt she really nailed the causes and solutions for it.

What Kelley said:

1) Never sit down without a plan – She told us that she never sits down to work without knowing exactly where she is going in a ms. She said that she always has a direction and if she gets stuck then she takes a break, goes and does some brainless task and lets her mind fix the problem. Like me, she said that she doesn’t do a detailed outline but definitely knows where she’d going before she actually starts writing anything.

2) Don’t let fear take control – She says that sometimes writer’s block can be caused by folks getting scared of the what if’s…like what if this sucks and what if no one likes it and what if…you get the point. Kelley said: you can’t fix a blank page. If you don’t write something you have nothing to work with…and no matter how bad you think it is, it’s probably not that bad….and if it is, well, then that’s what revising is for.

She said a lot of other things too…but these two points really stuck with me and validated what I already believed about dreaded writer’s block.


  1. Great points, Angie. I'm the same with my writing sessions: if I'm not sure, I hesitate, then I'm done - but if I know where I'm heading, then watch out.

    SO LUCKY to have seen her in the flesh...she never comes to Montreal:(

  2. I'd like to make an addition to this. A friend of mine, David Gemmell, also said that when you find the "magic" never question what makes it work. It can have exactly the same effect as the second point.

    Thanks for this Angie, and I wish that Kelley would write a "How to Write book" for the Paranormal genre. I know that theres already one or two out there, but with all the help she gives the OWG as well as taking time to talk to unpublished writers, that it would help get the message out there further. I hope she considers it.

  3. Some really solid advice there. I'm relatively new to writing, and so I've only been blocked once, for a few days, but going away and coming back fresh allows your subconscious time to do some creative thinking for you...

    Lacking confidence in a piece is another issue, and I've nearly abandoned one for that reason, but I think Kelley is right in that sometimes you have to push through to the end, so you at least can judge a piece on its actual merits, and not just condemn it when it's still only half finished...

  4. Great advice! It's so true and it makes the most sense about the dreaded 'writer's block'. This is a good sharing post Angie.
    Thanks for posting it! :)

  5. Thanks for sharing Angie! Those are good points, good things to keep in mind in that dreaded middle where words get bogged down.... plots seem to sizzle away and even my characters hate my writing... LOL. Middles are my worst.


  6. Thanks for all the comments, folks!
    It's always a pleasure to hear Kelley speak and she's full of amazing advice and support!

  7. Like you, I was there for the Word on the Street and also found her comments on writers block helpful. I've heard her speak about this other times as well and have come away with the same message, don't sit down to stare at a blank screen. Sit down with a plan. It's good advice!