The Queen of Books – Fanny Blake
Fanny Blake is here. Chatting to me and eating cake. I can’t quite believe it. This woman is responsible for a great many of my book recommendations (I personally hold her responsible for 80% of my weekly purchase of books) and she’s come to Booktrail Towers today for a slice of Victoria Sponge. A bookish Queen is going to help me celebrate the actual Queen’s 90th birthday celebrations. Have to say though, Fanny lives in a castle of books and has written about a house of dreams. Same thing really.
The House of Dreams is a story of a family – Jo, Lucy and Tom are all gathering for a weekend where their lives will change and secrets will come spilling out. The siblings have all come to remember their mother Hope, but the time they spend together reveals a lot more than they realise. As the time for their main remembrance dinner approaches, the secrets build up and for dessert? Hope seems to have had a few secrets of her own too.
Today, as we eat cake, Fanny confides in me about something readers always ask her about – writer’s block. Luckily, writers are never sent to the tower for this, but it can feel like a prison when it strikes. But Fanny, Queen of Books, has some advice for fellow subjects: Booktrail the House of Dreams here
How I Deal with Writer’s Block
I’m glad to say that I’ve never had writer’s block – or at least what I imagine real writer’s block to be: an inability to write for months or even years. However I have often got hopelessly stuck and just stared blankly at the computer screen wishing inspiration would strike or that I’d never begin the novel in the first place.
Why do we sometimes get jammed like that? In my case, it’s often because I haven’t plotted enough and I don’t know what’s going to come next. In that case, I have to go back over what I’ve already written and see if that will nudge me forward. Also, the fear of writing something that just isn’t good enough can make me freeze. Relegating that fear to the back of my mind is hard, but it’s the only way. Sometimes there’s no apparent explanation at all.
When I do get stuck, I resort to different ways of dealing with it.
I remove the distraction of the Internet by switching on the Freedom or Self Control apps. I use Self Control more often because I’ve worked out how to remove the Freedom blocks (Not hard). Then I have no excuse not to focus on what I’m trying to write.
I make myself sit at my desk and write something – ANYTHING! I might look at the scene I’m stuck in and then just write the dialogue between the characters without any of the supporting detail. Although I never know exactly how the novel will work, I do know some of the key scenes when I start out, so I might jump ahead and try to write one of those. Or I might write something completely different altogether, possibly a short story or a review: anything that will get the fingers moving over the keyboard.
I read. My own novel is still percolating away whatever I’m reading so sometimes I get inspired by something I’ve read. I don’t mean that I want to copy anything but seeing how another author treats a particular scene may jog my thoughts in another direction or make me consider a different approach.
I phone a friend. One of my great friends is also a novelist and we talk each other out of difficult patches. And if that doesn’t work, then we just have a good chat anyway. At least we feel better and less despairing when we’ve finished.
If all else fails, I go for a walk. It doesn’t have to be in an idyllic rural landscape, I can just be pounding the pavements of London where I live. Wherever I am, the movement seems to free me up and ideas that had completely evaded me when I was chained to the keyboard work themselves loose from my self-conscious. Then I can go back and try again.
Getting stuck seems to me to be part of the writing process. I’m learning to accept that. If I push on and write something – even if not quite what I’d planned – my mojo usually comes back. And if what I’ve written isn’t the best I can do, I can always go back and improve it.
With thanks to Fanny for chatting today and to just say – I also find cake helps a lot with any writer’s block. So I wave Fanny off with a box of Mr Kipling’s finest and think that maybe a cake delivery service for authors who do suffer from writer’s block might just be the way to go.