Category Archives: Unlock Writer’s block

Getting Started Writing That Book

Sharon A. Crawford's latest in the Beyond series

Sharon A. Crawford’s latest in the Beyond series

A friend wants to write a book and is having trouble getting started. She has done the necessary research and her mind is overflowing with ideas. But actually sitting down at the computer and writing it is presenting a problem. I know that feeling of having too many ideas brewing and circulating in the mind – even AFTER I have begun writing my books .

Both my friend and I have journalist backgrounds and I wonder if that has something to do with it. Journalists are known for collecting way too much information and many procrastinate about actually starting. But journalists often do an outline first to narrow down what exactly the want to include in their story. When I wrote newspaper and magazine articles, that’s what I did. I also had one peculiarity. I had to get at least a good draft of the story lead before I could write further. And I’ve mentioned this before, for one story I had four possible beginnings and not until I phoned another journalist and read out the four beginnings and she chose one, could I proceed further.

Some of these journalist habits can be transferred to books – fiction and non-fiction. In particular, do an outline. Some writers seem to be afraid to do an outline but if you remember that it is not sealed in granite and changes are possible as you actually write the book (and that is so usual with fiction), it can free you to do an outline.

Or if you don’t want to actually do an outline, do a list of the most important ideas and information you have. Often just getting it down, frees the chaos in your mind and also gives you some reference points.

I still try to get a good beginning draft, but try to keep in mind that it will probably change. Just yesterday, while doing more rewriting of my next Beyond novel, I changed the beginning somewhat – more the presentation than actual content. And yes, it came from an idea percolating in my head (plus a previous comment from the editor at my publisher’s about how I was handling a certain aspect of the novel, which included the beginning). In my case, the focus was coming up with something different in presentation and format from Beyond Blood.

If you still can’t get started and freeze in front of the computer, maybe try some freefall writing to unlock your creativity. Think of an emotion you are feeling now, or something bothering you in your life and just start writing about it for 15 to 20 minutes. Stop only to breathe (although you probably won’t even notice that you are still breathing). Go where the emotion you are feeling leads you. Go where the words lead you. You might go off on a tangent you hadn’t anticipated.

And you might just get writing something you can use in your book.

At any rate, your creativity will  be unleashed and your self-confidence will get a boost.

I also suggest reading Julie Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way for her ideas on getting going with your writing. Because the other thing is you have to set out some regular writing time and days and stick to it. Treat it like  your job and the payoff isn’t necessarily in money, at this point, but a book manuscript that you are finally starting to write.



And the usual, click on the Beyond Blood icon at the top for more info about my books and go to the Gigs and Blog Tours Page for more information on my upcoming author events.


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Get motivated to write that novel or short story.

I link to Sharon A.'s short story collection link to Sharon A.’s short story collection

It is by sitting down to write every morning that one becomes a writer.
—Gerald Brenan


You want to start writing that novel but can’t seem to find the time. The kids need ferrying to their soccer games; you have to clean out the garage, and hey you are going on holidays in a couple of weeks and need to plan your itinerary. Or you are beyond hooked on social media.

Meantime that novel sits either deadlocked at Chapter 3 or the novel plot and characters are scurrying around you mind faster than mice in your house.

What do you do? Who do you call?

You need someone to help get you motivated to write. You can get another writer friend who can empathize with your predicament, join a writing critique group. Or hire a writing consultant.

I briefly mentioned in last week’s post that I coach clients in writing. But what exactly does that mean? What exactly do I do?

First I talk to the client (either in person or by Skype or regular phone) to see where they are at (or not at) with their novel, short story, or memoir. We talk about their goals and if that is nebulous we try to get the goals more concrete. I present suggestions for working with them – in person or via Skype or a combination of both.

So, what exactly can happen during the consult?

If the author hasn’t actually started writing, we discuss an outline for our time together based on their story outline. I may get them to write a synopsis of their novel just to nail it down. The next step depends on the client. With one client we brainstormed ideas for each chapter and she took notes. Then she went home, wrote the chapter, maybe with a revision, and emailed that chapter to me to look over before our next consult.

At this meeting, we first went through this chapter with me making suggestions, which we discussed and then she made notes to do so (if the client brings his or her laptop or iPad, he or she can make the changes right then). The rest of the session we brainstormed for her next chapter. And then the process was repeated as we did with her previous chapter.

Another client is well into her manuscript and just needs feedback on what she has written. We work either in person or with Skype. She emails me the chapter she is working on (often a few hours before our appointment) and I look it over. When she is “here” she looks at her copy on her laptop and I look at it on my computer. She gives me a brief synopsis of where this chapter will fit in her book (it is non-fiction), what it focuses on and what she hopes to accomplish with this chapter. I make suggestions and ask questions about the content. Often I will suggest moving something up for the beginning, rewording the beginning or the middle, clarifying different things, adding different things, etc. As we talk, she is making the changes or making note of changes to make if it will take some time to do so (for example, if she has to check her research or do more research). Once we are done with the chapter, if there is still time in our hour together, she might go into what she will be working on next in the book.

The fiction-writing client and I met once a week. The non-fiction-writing client and I meet twice a month. Sure, there is a fee, but the feedback I get from my clients is that it is worth it for them to get going at their writing.

These writing sessions establish regularity in writing and because the author also has to write outside the sessions, a few meetings may be all she needs before she embarks on writing that novel, that memoir, that short story collection, without someone on her case. I see where these sessions also help the writer gain some self-confidence that she can actually do this, and actually write something. The latter ties in with the writing critique part.

So, if you don’t want to hire someone to coach you in your writing, join a writing critique group – it will motivate you to write if you have to produce something for critique every couple of weeks.


Sharon A. Crawford


You can read about my characters and their stories in my short story collection Beyond the Tripping Point (Blue Denim Press, 2012). Click on the book at the top and it takes you to Sharon A. Crawford’s profile – including book reviews – at
More info on Sharon A.’s upcoming gigs, workshops, guest blog posts, etc. at And keep checking for the latest news on the release of my first mystery novel Beyond Blood, also published by Blue Denim Press More info on the Beyond Blood page as we get closer to the date. And remember that clicking on the book icon at the top gets you to my Amazon profile.



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Book Review of Unblock Writer’s Block by Paul Lima

Cover of Paul Lima's Unblock Writer's Block

Click on Cover of Paul Lima’s Unblock Writer’s Block for Paul’s blog and sale places

The desire to write grows with writing.

–          Desiderius Erasmus

In Unblock Writer’s Block: How to face it, deal with it and overcome it, Paul Lima not only debunks some writer’s block myths, but provides some creative exercises to get writers writing. He compares his former writer’s block to “walker’s block,” i.e., not exercising, his situation until his wife got a dog. He started walking daily and the story ideas began arriving – a good thing for a freelancer with 35 plus years of experience writing newspaper articles, corporate, and fiction, who  is the author of 12 books, including the best selling How to Write a Non-fiction book in 60 Days. Lima also writes prolifically and quickly to deadline.

If you are doing other things to avoid writing, Lima says you are procrastinating, not suffering from writer’s block and you need the equivalent of a dog – writing exercises – to get you going on the write track. Lima emphasizes when you write the draft, ditch the editor in your head and just write. He also gives the option of “cherry-picking” exercises to get the most die-hard blocked writer going – a good idea because of the large and varied selection. When reading Unblock Writer’s Block, I kept flipping files to create story ideas. Lima recommends starting with  how you are feeling because you have to have emotion in your writing to connect to your reader. He has exercises for unlocking emotions focusing on the individual and his past, followed by three chapters with activities on freefall writing, directed free-fall writing and clustering – the three parts Lima advises readers do.

Ensuing exercises deal with the actual craft of writing such as plot, characters and point of view in fiction. My favourite exercise is one that could help POV problems. Lima suggests readers write a letter of apology to someone wronged and then switch POV to the other person and have him or her write back and perhaps letters back and forth will follow.

Although Lima uses examples from other authors such as novelists Margaret Atwood and Alistair McLeod (the latter’s cheese story is funny), I would have liked to have seen more Paul Lima stories, although the one where Paul apologized to a telephone pole when he bumped into it (Note: apologizing for everything is a Canadian trait) is priceless. The other bits of humour interspersed add spark to the writing wisdom presented.

Unblock Writer’s Block fulfills Paul Lima’s intentions, i.e.

“Our goal throughout this book is simply to do some writing—to see that we have the ability to write over, around and through whatever may be blocking us. You may not have produced anything you want to continue writing about. You may not have written how you want to write. But that’s not the point. The point is to write no matter what, and to be open to where your work may (or may not) lead you.”

Unblock Writer’s Block is available in paperback and e-copy. To find out where and more about Paul Lima and his books, go to

For Sharon A. Crawford’s upcoming events with Beyond the Tripping Point, go to her Beyond the Tripping Point page– I continually update it.

Today (Thursday, March 28), from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. I talk about where my characters come from and read from Beyond the Tripping Point at the Leaside Branch of the Toronto Public Library. (See the above BTTP link for more details.)


Sharon A. Crawford


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