Four Ways Writers Get ‘Stuck’ and Tips To Get Unstuck

Writer’s block is something most writers experience at some time or another and it is something that writers tend to dread. I’m not a fan of the phrase ‘writer’s block’ because there is something about it that sounds so hard and final, like a literal brick wall. I prefer to think of it as simply being ‘stuck’. And writers get stuck all the time and for many different and complex reasons. Here are just a handful of ways writers can get stuck along with tips to get unstuck again!

Image by www_slon_pics from Pixabay

1.Plot Stuck #1- one of the most common and one of the hardest to get through. There are a number of ways you can get stuck when it comes to your overall plot and we will discuss two of them here. The first is the most frustrating and it happens to me a lot. You know exactly what you want to happen in your plot because you have planned it all out, created your character bios and maybe even written all your chapter outlines. You know what is going to happen, so it should be simple, right? Nope. The most frustrating thing about writing a story or a novel can be knowing what you want to happen but not knowing how to do it. I think one of the reasons we feel like this sometimes is a lack of confidence in our writing. We have a good idea, a solid plot but think maybe someone else could write it better. That’s not usually the case. You just have to accept it’s going to be hard work and a long slog to get it right. Eventually, you will bring in beta readers and editors to help point out where things could be improved and believe me, as further drafts are written and rewritten, you will eventually figure out the best way forward. Writing is largely rewriting after all!

The Solution – sadly there is no easy fix for this problem. It may involve lots of long walks and time spent thinking about your plot and how to move things forward. Sometimes the answers come when you least expect it. It may mean you have to go back to your chapter outlines and remind yourself of the plot, perhaps inspiring a way forward. Sometimes you just have to write it anyway. Put the characters where they need to be, write the dialogue, advance the story and worry about fixing it later. When you know what to do but not how to do it, the important thing is to just push through and get it done. It will probably be ugly and clumsy and you may very well figure out a better way to do it later on but don’t let that stop you.

2. Plot Stuck #2 – This is when you simply don’t know what to do next. This mostly happens to writers who don’t plan or outline their stories before they start. There is nothing wrong with that approach at all. It can be really fun and invigorating to just start writing and see where the story and the characters take you. But it does increase the risk of getting stuck eventually. You run out of steam. The plot trails away or misbehaves. You don’t know what these characters are doing. You’ve run out of ideas. It can be really scary to feel this way and many writers will give up at this point and start something else, but there is a way to solve it!

The Solution – Sometimes the only way to solve this one is to embrace planning and plotting. Go back to the start and remind yourself why you wanted to write this story, what the driving idea or concept was. Remind yourself of any important themes you wanted to explore. Take a look at your characters. Are they developed enough? Maybe they need more work to bring them to life, which again means giving in and embracing some planning. If this fails, there are other things you can try. I am a strong believer that taking long walks in nature dislodges ideas in our brains. Any time I have every been stuck with a book or a story, I have usually found the solution during a walk with my dogs. Some people find taking a long bath or shower can help or maybe another immersive task such as gardening or cleaning. Get away from the screen or the notebook and do something else for a while. Another thing worth trying is asking other people. Ask your friends and family or even people online what they think about your plot so far. This has also worked well for me in the past. I’ve often used a family member for a sounding board of everything that is annoying me with my work in progress. Often they will mention a few things or suggest something that actually really makes sense. Don’t be scared to ask for help or find inspiration around you.

3. The elusive ‘right’ words – another really common one and one I can sympathise with. Sometimes you’ve got everything else in place – the characters are fully formed, the plot is advancing well and you know what to do but then words and phrases start to elude you. When writing a first draft we want to get it right, it’s only human nature to want to try our best and achieve something good first time around. The words hide from us and its like we are looking for those perfect, right words to make our sentence really fly off the page, and they just won’t come. I hate it when this happens as it can really disrupt a good flow of writing. It’s a case of partly knowing what to say but not how to say it and partly being a bit of a perfectionist who wants to get it right first time.

The Solution – You can try some practical things like asking for help, consulting a thesaurus or dictionary or bringing in a beta reader or fellow writer to help you find the ‘right’ words. Or you can do what I do…use the words you have and move on. At some point you will come back to this passage and rewrite it. As we have already established, writing is mostly rewriting! Sometimes we just have to write the best sentence we can at that moment, shrug it off as imperfect but at least done, and move on. Remind yourself that you will come back later to fix it and more than likely the right words will be there as if by magic!

4. Not Enjoying It Stuck – Sometimes we get stuck because something is wrong. It may be a mix of all the things mentioned above or it may be something bigger. As writers, when we have already committed many hours to a story we are sometimes reluctant to admit it is just not working. I recently experienced this. I was writing a book, dedicating myself to a chapter every night, but it felt very forced. I was forcing myself to do it and that didn’t feel right to me, because writing should be fun! It took me a while but I finally figured out what the problem was, and yes it is going to involve a heck of a lot of rewriting but I am not stuck anymore! I had to admit what was wrong and set about fixing it. If you are not enjoying your writing, you will continue to get stuck or blocked so you need to work out what the problem is.

The Solution – Don’t give up. Don’t bin it just yet! You might need a break from it, in which case put it somewhere safe and come back to it another time. Write something else. Write a short story or a blog post or a poem. Give your frazzled mind a break from what has been frustrating it. This can work because if the idea is strong enough it will eventually push back through. But also, you need to figure out and admit what is wrong with it. Very often it lies with the characters. Perhaps they are not strong enough, not believable enough or developed enough. Go back to scratch with them and put more work into developing them into real people with flaws, quirks, wants, needs, mannerisms and back stories. Sometimes it might be the point of view. Try switching from third to first person or vice versa. Sometimes it might be the tense. Try it in present tense if it’s in past, and so on. Sometimes it is the audience – did you set out to write a thriller or a mystery or a romance? If you did, the chances are all the other books in that genre are sitting on your shoulder watching and adding pressure, along with the perceived tropes and expected elements of that genre. It is useful to know your audience before you write, but it can also sully the writing and make it feel like you are writing to order. Write for yourself first and foremost. Write the book you would like to read. This will bring the enjoyment back and you can figure out the rest later!

Over to you! Have you ever experienced writer’s block and if so, what was it like for you? In what ways do you tend to get stuck with your writing and have you figured out a way to get unstuck?

We hope you have enjoyed our post about writer’s block or being ‘stuck’ and have found the tips useful. If you have anything to share or add, please feel free to leave a comment!

Interview With Gail Aldwin for Indie Author Week UK

Hi everyone,

As you have may have seen on the Chasing Driftwood Facebook page, it is Indie Author Week UK all this week so we are trying to highlight a few local indie authors who we think deserve the shout out! Gail Aldwin is a Dorset based author with some fantastic titles to her name. Her latest release, This Much Huxley Knows is available from the 8th of July. She kindly agreed to an interview with us – so here it is. Enjoy!

  1. Can you tell us a bit about yourself – introduce yourself to anyone dropping by!

I’m Gail Aldwin, a Dorset writer currently on sojourn in Cambridge. I like to get about and was volunteering at a refugee settlement in Uganda before repatriation in 2020 due to Covid-19. I’ve been writing for over a decade and am continually fascinated by the ideas that pop into my head.

2. Do you have a preferred genre to write in and if so why?

My passion is for writing contemporary fiction. A novel is the biggest undertaking of all writing projects and perhaps the most rewarding. Pandemonium a children’s picture book I wrote with illustrator Fiona Zechmeister was great fun to create and involved in-depth collaboration – a whole different process from writing a novel independently. I continue to dabble in short forms of writing alongside drafting a new work in progress, as I find this exercises different creative muscles and like cross training, helps to build the stamina to complete a long project.

3. Where do your ideas come from?

Ideas are like dandelion seeds floating in the air. You just have to reach out and grab one. Now I’m more experienced as a writer, I usually know how to develop an idea. If it’s a fleeting moment or thought, that works for poetry. Where I can develop a story arc, it might be right for short fiction. Sometimes, ideas prompt questions and considerable thought. Those are the ideas I want to explore in a novel.

4. What kind of reader do you think likes your books?

This Much Huxley Knows targets readers who enjoy an uplifting novel. As it’s set in a London suburb and is going to be published in America, anyone who is an Anglophile or likes British humour won’t be disappointed.

5. What are you working on right now?

My work in progress is called Little Swot. It’s a dual timeline novel initially told from the viewpoint of a menopausal and redundant journalist in 2010. Stephanie decides to create a podcast which looks into the disappearance of sixteen-year-old Carolyn in 1978. Through the alternating structure of the two viewpoints, readers engage with Stephanie’s investigation and also connect with Carolyn’s experience of infatuation for a teacher and exploitation. This is a new venture for me, into the realms of crime fiction.

6. What sort of books do you like to read yourself? Any favourites or recommendations?

Lots of my reading recently has supported writing friends who have been published. One of them, Paula R C Readman, has written a remarkable novel Stone Angels which has been described as a why-done-it rather than a who-done-it. The story relates to an artist who requires beautiful models to satisfy his muse.

7. Can you tell us about your writing process? Are you a plotter or a pantser? How many drafts do you tend to do before you are happy?

My debut novel The String Games was written as part of a PhD and this involved using the novel to experiment with different ideas, techniques and strategies linked to the research. As a result, the novel went through about fifty drafts. Since then, I’ve plotted each novel to the ninth degree to try to avoid going down fictional dead ends. I’m sure This Much Huxley Knows went through loads of drafts but certainly not as many as fifty!

8. How often do you write?

I write every day. Since lockdown, I’ve joined writers’ hour each weekday morning at eight o’clock. It’s a zoom call with hundreds of other writers who share a concentrated fifty minutes of writing. We are welcomed by hosts at the London Writer’s Salon and offered a few inspiring words before we begin. At the end, there’s a chance to debrief. It works well for me, helping to separate the week days from the weekends (when I shouldn’t be writing so much but spending time with my family).

9. Did you always want to be a writer?

I came to the idea of writing much later than most although the seed was planted in my twenties when I lived overseas and wrote letters home. As a mature student, I worked on pieces for performance and then much later, when my children were teenagers, I was able to really focus on writing fiction.

10. Can you tell us about your publishing journey so far? Why did you take the indie path?

All of my books are published by small presses and in this way, I am regarded as an indie author. I started by getting interest in my collection of flash fiction Paisley Shirt and this was followed by a competition win with the offer to have a pamphlet of poetry based on the theme of siblings published. There is a huge growth in publication of such work by small presses, so this seemed the obvious place to start. I continued on my journey with independent presses in 2019 with my debut novel The String Games where the catalyst for the story relates to a missing child. Victorina Press also published a children’s picture book Pandemonium which tells the story of a purple panda. My latest novel This Much Huxley Knows found a home with a small press in America. I’m working hard to ensure my current work in progress is commercial so Little Swot may stand a chance of gaining literary representation and publication with a more established press.

11. What do you like about being an indie author?

Working with a small press means I’m involved with every stage of the process. It’s fun collaborating with cover designers and marketing assistants to try to help the work reach a wide audience.

12. What would you say are the struggles or hard parts of being an indie author?

Getting your book noticed when published by a small press is really hard. I actually enjoy the marketing aspect but it does take a lot of time and effort to get any recognition.

13. What advice would you give to anyone thinking of taking the indie route?

Try it! I’m very proud of the work I’ve had published to date. Small presses produce quality books that look attractive and professional.

14. How do you tackle marketing your books and what has been the most successful?

I’ve arranged a blog tour for This Much Huxley Knows. I’ll let you know how successful this has been after publication day on 8 July!

15. What has been your proudest moment so far?

Completing my second half marathon in 2019 – but that has nothing to do with writing!

Thank you so much to Gail for agreeing to this interview. If you would like to find out more about her and her books, her links are below. This Much Huxley knows is released on 8th July!

About This Much Huxley Knows

I’m seven years old and I’ve never had a best mate. Trouble is, no one gets my jokes. And Breaks-it isn’t helping. Ha! You get it, don’t you? Brexit means everyone’s falling out and breaking up.

Huxley is growing up in the suburbs of London at a time of community tensions. To make matters worse, a gang of youths is targeting isolated residents. When Leonard, an elderly newcomer chats with Huxley, his parents are suspicious. But Huxley is lonely and thinks Leonard is too. Can they become friends?

Funny and compassionate, this contemporary novel for adults explores issues of belonging, friendship and what it means to trust.

‘Read this and feel young again’ – Joe Siple, author of The Five Wishes of Mr. Murray McBride

‘Moving and ultimately upbeat’ – Christopher Wakling, author of What I Did

‘A joyous novel with the wonderfully exuberant character of Huxley’ – Sara Gethin, author of Not Thomas

Pre-order Links

AmazonUS, AmazonUK, Barnes and Noble, HiveUK, Book Depository

Social Media Links




10 Top Tips For Creating Believable Characters

For me, creating characters is one of the most enjoyable and challenging aspects of writing. I adopt the same approach to creating characters as I do to choosing books to read. When I read a book, I appreciate the writing style and voice, the plot and the genre, but it’s the characters I am really interested in. If the characters are good I will enjoy those other aspects so much more. The same goes for TV shows. I’ll watch anything in any genre if the characters are memorable! Creating characters is something writers often struggle with so here are some top tips to creating characters your readers will believe in.

  1. Start people watching – how much attention do you pay to the people around you? If you want to create memorable and believable characters you must get into the habit of people watching. I don’t just mean watching people from afar or eavesdropping on conversations (although both will give you valuable insights into tone, voice, body language and mannerisms), I mean paying attention to everyone. Your friends, your family, your work colleagues, parents at the school gate, strangers on the street and in cars, people who serve you in shops, other customers, neighbours and so on. What should you be paying attention to? Everything! Hairstyles, dress sense and what it might reveal, nervous habits and tics, facial expressions, tones of voice, types of laughter, phrases and so on. You can take bits and pieces from everything you have observed to create realistic characters.
  2. Start a basic bio – Everything starts small. Start a basic character bio and allow it to breathe and grow. The basics will include name, age, gender, occupation, physical appearance and character traits. You might want to draw your character or find images on the internet that feel right, or you might want to imagine them looking a bit like someone you know or have seen. Keep the bio safe in a specific notebook for the story you are working on and add to it whenever something new comes to you.
  3. Allow them to evolve – sometimes you have to be patient and resist the urge to force it, but as the character starts to grow in your head, you can start adding more and more detail to your basic bio. Back story is an important factor to consider. Where have they come from? What has happened to them? Do they have a family? Friends? Are there any important events in their history that might be relevant to the story? Start adding anything that comes to you.
  4. Devise personality traits – in order to create multi dimensional and human characters the reader can believe in, you need to give your character a personality. Ask yourself questions. What kind of person are they? Are they basically good or mostly bad? What are their personality traits? Are they an extrovert or introvert? Are they pleasant to deal with or obnoxious? Are they impatient or easily frustrated? Do they have a temper? The reader will want to know but remember NOT to TELL all the reader these things. Allow the character to SHOW who they are through dialogue, action and reaction.
  5. Make them flawed – This is so important. Flaws are what make us human. No one is perfect, just as no one is all bad or all good. Most people are a mixture of both. What are your character’s flaws? Do they have any bad habits? You can think up small ones like biting nails or interrupting people, or bigger ones like flying into a rage or holding grudges. Even if your character is the protagonist and you want the reader to like them and root for them, they must have some flaws. Flaws actually make us like characters more because they make them more relatable. Maybe they are nervous around strangers, maybe they are shy and come across as rude, maybe they are not very good at asking for help, maybe they assume the worst of people or put up walls to keep people out. Maybe they are messy, forgetful, impulsive or easily bored. If you get stuck think about the people you know in your life. Even the ones you love the most have annoying habits and character flaws!
  6. Know what they want – this is also very important. Characters in stories all want something. The plot is often about what they want and how they are trying to get it and what is in their way. You must know what your character wants and you must also know why they want it. Maybe they want to overthrow the government because they don’t like the way their society is run? Maybe they want to find someone from their past because they have a mystery to solve? Maybe they want to find true love because they don’t feel complete without it? Maybe they want to fight back because they are sick of being frightened? Know what they want and know why and you will be closer to creating a character the reader can engage with and believe in.
  7. Make it hard for them – in order to create characters the reader is really going to root for, we need to make the journey tough for them. Set up obstacles and don’t make it too easy. The obstacles they face must be ones they cannot walk away from or ignore. Ensure they are forced to react to the conflict they encounter. Throwing conflict at characters is a great way to reveal who they are. Every character will react differently to conflict and its important to think about this from your character’s point of view. For example, not every character will react in the same way to a dilemma or an obstacle. Make sure their reaction makes sense with regards to the personality you have given them but also use the conflict as an opportunity to reveal more. Back story, family relationships and conflict, personal trauma, regrets, all these things can impact how a character reacts to conflict and as these very human things are revealed to the reader, they will become more empathetic to them.
  8. Give them an inner and an outer journey – This sometimes gets neglected when writers create characters but it is important to be aware of. All characters will go on an inner and an outer journey. Think of the outer journey as the main obstacle, conflict or dilemma they have to face. Their partners affair, their lost child, their creepy neighbours, a hurricane, fire or explosion – these are all outer journeys, big events that make up the plot. But you also need an inner journey and by this we mean how and why the character changes as the story goes on. What is their inner journey? Think of it as their inner demons. Perhaps they have always been too shy, too scared to stand up for themselves but the drama of the outer journey forces them to react. Perhaps they have always been a loner who keeps people at bay, but a post-apocalyptic world forces them to learn to work alongside others. Perhaps they have a mental health issue that affects everything they do or a childhood trauma they are trying to deal with.
  9. Practice dialogue out loud – this goes back to people watching. When writing dialogue for your characters it’s vital to pay attention to how people speak. What they say and what they don’t say, how they say things with body language and facial expressions, what mannerisms they display when they talk, what phrases they might use, what things they might be likely to say. When you have written some speech try reading it out loud as if you are an actor playing the part – you will soon be able to tell if it sounds natural and flows well.
  10. Finally, allow the characters to speak and interact with each other – now that you have created a realistic character, don’t leave them mute. It’s tempting sometimes as writers to fill the reader in on important information using narrative but too much of this can really pull the reader out of the story. Rather than telling the reader what the character has done, where they’ve been, what has happened and what has been said, allow the character to! Scenes where characters interact with each other, talk to each other and respond to each other and to events are far more engaging for the reader and can also be used to reveal character traits.

We hope our top ten tips for creating believable character has been useful. Perhaps you have some of your own? Please feel free to comment and share!

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

How Do You Write A Book?

A question we often get asked at writing clubs or workshops is how do you write a book? Often someone will have a good idea for a story, and possibly some characters developing but are unsure where to go from there. It’s an intriguing question and one I personally love to talk about so we figured it would make an interesting blog post. It’s different for everyone and if you research how to write a novel you will find a mountain of advice, tips and strategies to use online. Not every approach will work for you. Part of the fun of writing is working out what suits you and your idea. So this is mine. This is how I write a book.

  1. Start with an idea – This is the most important ingredient. You need a solid idea OR a character. For some people the plot comes first and then they have to create and develop characters to go with it, and for others, it’s the characters they think up first. Either is fine and you might find it works differently each time. For me personally it is usually the characters that come first. They will start to develop in my mind and as their personality comes alive, they will start to suggest their back story and their main story and the plot will start to grow from that. Sometimes it works the other way around and I will get an idea for a story first and then have to devise the characters to fit it.
  2. Let it grow – To start with, I let the idea percolate in my mind for a bit. I write down anything I don’t want to forget, but most of it stays in my head. It will swirl around in there for a while, popping up when I least expect it, developing and swelling and growing tendrils! I think it’s important to let this process take its course. I don’t want to force anything. Usually I will already be working on another project so there is no hurry to jump to this new idea. I leave it be and let it grow naturally.
  3. Get a notebook – Now, when the real ideas start to flow, and by this I mean characters, personalities, back stories and possible plots and storylines, it becomes too much to contain in my head. I must start writing things down or something will get lost. I might start off tapping a few thoughts into my phone but eventually I get a new notebook and dedicate it solely to this idea. I start off writing down any notes I already have and everything else that has been growing in my head. Character bios, dialogue, action scenes, possible titles, character arcs, possible endings and so on. It won’t be a full plot yet and the characters will not be fully alive either, but I am paying attention to this idea now. It has its very own notebook.
  4. Work on characters – For me, the characters are always the most important aspect of books I read and books I write. It’s different for everyone, but I want to love the characters, feel fully engaged by them, root for them and care for them. I can’t enjoy a book if I don’t care about the characters and equally I can’t write a book if I am not fully in love with these people I am creating. So, I will start to write detailed character bios into the notebook. They might start with the basics: name, age, physical appearance, occupation, home, family etc and then they will get more complex. What do they want? Who do they love? Have they been hurt? What are their regrets? What are their flaws? I want to get under their skin and know them inside out. This will be a long process and I won’t fully know them until maybe draft three, but I want to put the work in now.
  5. Write a basic plot outline – This will start as a kind of mind-map of possible ideas. Ideas tend to spark of other ideas or questions, so I will note this all down. It all goes in the notebook. It’ll be messy and chaotic but it is all safely in one place. I’ll also bullet point what I consider to be the main storyline and jot down any ideas for sub-plots and character development. Most of my books are quite character driven so developing the characters alongside the plot is important to me.
  6. Write basic chapter outlines – I won’t usually know everything that is going to happen but I will outline as many chapters as I can in the notebook so that I have a starting point and something to refer back to. Inevitably, extra, unexpected chapters and scenes will work their way in between what I initially lay out and once I get past a certain point I will probably then know the next few chapters. I then work a few chapters ahead, so I will usually always know what I want to happen in the next few chapters at least.
  7. Start writing! – The fun bit. Also the scary bit! But by now I will be desperate to get going. If I have been working on another book, this idea may have had to wait for a while so by the time I get to it, I am very keen and excited to get started. I won’t know exactly where I am going and I don’t plan or plot every detail. I like to see what happens to a certain extent.
  8. Write a chapter a night – Obviously, life gets in the way sometimes and sometimes the writing just doesn’t flow but my goal is always a chapter a night. That’s roughly 2-3 pages of a Word document. I treat it like work, like a commitment and push through the tough bits and the bits that don’t flow too well and I just keep going. I don’t mind how messy or awkward the first draft is, I just aim to get the gist of it, the basics of it done. This usually takes three months.
  9. Second draft – I read it through, reminding myself of what I have done. I amend glaring typos but I don’t really edit much on a second draft, it’s more of a read through to see what I have got.
  10. Third draft – a more serious read through and edit. I add bits, delete bits, amend typos and errors. I will know the characters better by now so might add bits to them, their speech, their back story and so on.
  11. Fourth draft – I keep a list as I read through and edit and make notes of bigger things to fix like plot holes or inconsistencies in character or storyline. Whenever I go over another draft I check off these things on the list until there is nothing left.
  12. Fifth draft Kindle read – by now I feel like I can’t do much more, so I send it to my Kindle and read it on there. It’s amazing how many typos and errors are picked up when you read your book on an ereader! You feel a bit less connected to it and can tackle it in a different way. I keep the notebook handy as I read and write down notes for each chapter in turn, typos, grammatical errors, plot holes, questions, anything.
  13. Sixth draft – back to the laptop to amend the edits picked up on the kindle read
  14. Beta readers – I am very lucky that I have some fantastic people available to read my work at this stage and tell me what they think. I might want specific feedback ie is it fast paced enough, is this character interesting enough etc, or I might just hand it over and say very little.
  15. Seventh draft – editing based on beta reader feedback
  16. Send to editor/proofreader
  17. Eight draft/final – amend anything they picked up and that’s it. Done!

The amount of drafts will very much depend on the type of story, the length of the book and the feedback from beta readers. Sometimes my first draft attempt will evolve into something very, very different and sometimes it basically stays the same!

Feel free to add your thoughts on how to write a book. Everyone has a different process and there is no correct way to do it.

The first page of my notebook for a four-book YA series I am working on
First page of notes and ideas for a current WIP
Character bios for a current WIP

Coping With Writers Block During The Pandemic

2020/21 have been historical for all the wrong reasons. Covid-19 has impacted us all – halting life as we know for most of us. For creative people, it has been hard to concentrate on writing with so much turmoil and uncertainty around us. During the fist lockdown here I was unable to work with any of writers in person, but we managed to stay in touch online to some extent. A common complaint I heard from them was the inability to write. There were multiple reasons for this, including stress and exhaustion. I think the pandemic has affected writers in different ways. Some have written more – turning to the written word to help express the thoughts and feelings in their heads. Some have written less – unable to find the time, space, or emotional energy to put pen to paper. For me, my normal writing routine was a welcome distraction and escape from the virus, the lockdown, and the home schooling of my children. I also found I was blogging more than usual, recording my day-today thoughts and feelings on what was happening across the world. For those struggling, I offered the following advice on how to keep writing during unprecedented times and for the most, it seemed to work;

  • Meeting online – I was surprised by how keen people were to do this. It seemed like they craved the connection and some part of their old life carrying on, despite the restrictions of lockdown. If you are a writer struggling to put pen to paper now, try finding a writing group that has moved online. It involved a bit of adjustment for us and sometimes the technology lets you down, but overall, we found just talking about writing again, even if it was talking about the lack of writing, was incredibly helpful. We all came away from each meeting feeling energised and understood. We were not alone in our difficulties and sharing our frustrations was cathartic and productive. Often, members of the group came up with advice for others. Sometimes just talking about writing with other writers is all you need to reignite the passion.
  • Sign-up to regular writing prompts – you can find these all over the internet, but I would strongly suggest making sure you have a good supply of them if writers block is becoming an issue. Not all of them are going to help but some of them undoubtedly will. Photo prompts can be great – I recently wrote three stories from one photo prompt I found online. It might be that work on your novel has stalled but a random writing prompt will inspire a poem or a piece of flash fiction. Often, the act of writing can shift the gears in our heads and help us claw back enthusiasm for struggling projects.
  • Take part in writing challenges – if you can’t find any online try setting your own or see if a writing group is sending any out. These can really vary from word sprints, to themed poetry marathons, to flash fiction competitions – anything that gets you writing.
  • Look out for guest posts on blogs – these are always a good idea for getting your name out there and picking up new followers, but I saw a lot more features being offered to writers during lockdown and beyond. Again, it’s a chance to connect with other writers who may be experiencing the same issues as you. I took part in a lockdown themed guest post which ended up becoming a published collaboration. It inspired me to offer slots on my own blog and I am also hoping to get enough responses to put a collection together. 
  • Write anything! -A list, bullet points, an angry rant, a sad poem, one line, one thought, a doodle, a sketch, anything. You never know what could come from it. Try writing your own writing prompts or sorting through old photos for inspiration. Again, being part of a writing group can really help during times when the writing stops flowing. We often set each other prompts or create characters for each other to write about, or first lines and so on. It can be fun and even if the writing does not go anywhere, it may be all you need to get things moving in the right direction again. 
  • Pick up a pen – if you usually write at the laptop try picking up a pen and a notepad and seeing what happens. You could pop the notebook in your pocket and take it out for walks, jotting down what you see, hear, feel, and smell, as well as what you think. Perhaps find a spot to people watch and construct characters out of people passing by. Again, you never know what tiny random things can set off a story idea.
  • Try a different form – during lockdown I was working on edits for a novel but found myself blogging a lot more than usual and this was very therapeutic for me at the time. For some reason, I can only write poetry when I’m feeling down, so lots have been written during the pandemic. The same goes for short stories – they are not normally my thing, but for some reason I had the urge to write in different forms. I would highly recommend this if you are getting stuck or distracted. If you mostly write short stories, then try a script. If you mostly write novels, have a go at poetry and so on.
  • Collaborate – again, I saw a lot of this during lockdown and beyond and I think it’s a great idea. This could involve featuring on other people’s blogs, taking over their social media page or inviting them to take over yours, working on a joint story where you pass it back and forth between you, writing a short film script with a group and so on. Writing can be a lonely occupation at the best of times and during lockdown it is even more so. But there are ways around the loneliness thanks to the Internet and there are many other writers out there feeling the same. Reach out – who knows what exciting project could come of it?
  • Give yourself a break – I think this is the most important piece of advice. I have had to remind myself at times that these are unprecedented times. We’ve all been experiencing something we never imagined we would. We have all had our lives disrupted, our incomes affected, and we have all felt afraid for our loved ones. We have all missed normal life and we have all experienced fear, isolation, and boredom like never before. It is perfectly understandable that writing ideas and the urge to write might dry up with all of this going on around us. Don’t beat yourself up if the words won’t flow like usual. Don’t try to force it. Don’t be too hard on yourself. It might simply be your brain and your body telling you to take it easy for now. Hopefully, some of the advice above will help inspire some writing ideas or habits but if not, don’t worry, it is sure to come back in time.
Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Dorset Writers – Highlighting Paula Harmon

Hello everyone! Here at Chasing Driftwood Writing Group we are passionate about supporting local authors as there are just so many talented people in the area. Today we are highlighting Blandford author Paula Harmon to help celebrate the release of her next novel Murder Saturnalia Book 3. As well as being a prolific author Paula was also one of the people behind the wonderful Blandford Literary Festival. Below you will find a link to a video interview Sim did with Paula very recently. Enjoy!

And here is the blurb and links to Paula’s latest book:

Coming out on 18th February 2021 – the third in the Murder Britannica series. AD 192 in South West Britain. Escaping his Aunt Lucretia’s efforts to marry him off even to shy Adriane, Fabio joins his friend Petros for an undercover operation in the small town of Vademlutra where rebellion is rumoured. Convinced all he has to do is pretend to be poor and spend time in the tavern, his plans are thwarted by the discovery of a lost young woman in the woods. Unaware of Fabio’s location, Lucretia also arrives in Vademlutra to spend time with Adriane’s family for the Roman festival of Saturnalia and pursue her own agenda. With the town cut off by snow, even Dun, the ex-grave-robber is dismayed when an unexpected death makes him realise that diversifying might not have been a good idea. As Saturnalia passes and the darker traditions of winter solstice approach, Fabio, Petros, Adriane and Dun must put aside their differences and work together to save not only another life but the whole town from Roman retribution.

Get the book here!

Find out more about Paula Harmon here!

The Chasing Driftwood 21 books for 2021 Reading Challenge!

Yearly reading challenges are great fun and often force you to try genres, styles and authors you maybe would not have otherwise. Rather than search the net for a suitable challenge we decided to come up with one of our own for 2021! This is a 21 book challenge for 2021 and if you want to take part, just use the hashtag #CDWG21bookschallenge in any posts you share!

So here is the challenge;

1. A book where the location is paramount
2. A book set in a country you have visited
3. A book set where you live or as close to it as possible
4. A play
5. A book whose title is also a song
6. A book aimed at adults where the protagonist is a child
7. A fictional book based on real events
8. A book with a one word title
9. A book where the protagonist is a different ethnicity than you
10. A short story collection
11. A book with a dual narrative written in 1st person
12 The first book in a series
13. A book about climate change
14. A post-apocalyptic book
15. A classic you have always meant to read
16. A book you wished you had studied at school
17. A book you have seen the movie adaptation of but have not read the book
18. A book where the main character is an animal
19. A book from an indie author you have never heard of
20. A book where the main character has your dream job
21. A book where the main character has a disability but the story is not about it

Quite a challenge but we think it will be fun! It would be great if a few people could join us and if you do, please do let us know how you get on!

Publishing Options

There was once a time when the only way to get your book published and in front of readers, was to get an agent followed by a publishing contract. This option still exists, of course, and is now usually referred to as ‘traditional publishing’. It’s traditional in the sense that the same rules have applied for a long, long time. These days the traditional model is not the only option for aspiring authors and in this blog post we will briefly examine the other options available.

But first – a very brief history of the rise of self-publishing!

  • 1993 the worldwide web becomes accessible to all, opening the doors to self-publishing
  • 1997 Lightning Source, POD company is founded, opening the market up to small presses and indie pubs and inspiring companies such as Ingram Spark and Lulu.
  • In 1999, blog hosting takes off. Writers use blogs to share their work.
  • In 2000 Stephen King was the first major author to self-publish a book (The Plant) online in electric instalments.
  • In 2007 Amazon launches Kindle Direct Publishing, allowing authors to self-publish their books to be read on the Kindle e-reader.
  • 2008/09 crowdfunding platforms like IndieGoGo and Kickstarter make it easier for artists and writers to raise money for projects.
  • 2011 increasing numbers of people own e-readers and companies like BookBaby and Smashwords allow writers to publish and distribute ebooks worldwide.

And since then, things have continued to change and evolve! In fact, it’s pretty hard to keep up and anyone thinking of discussing the subject or offering a workshop or course, would certainly need to do their research again to ensure their information is up to date.

We’ve mentioned self-publishing so let’s examine that first.


Many people assume self-publishing simply means uploading a manuscript and book cover to Amazon and pressing ‘publish’. In reality, it’s far more complicated and complex than that, and even self-publishing has more than one option available to you.

  • Go it alone with Amazon Select
  • Go with Amazon and other distributors
  • Go with a  publishing platform such as IngramSpark, BookBaby orSmashwords
  • Pay for a publishing company to edit, format and market your book

All of these options have benefits and drawbacks to them and if self-publishing is the route for you, it’s a good idea to research the various options available before you start. Your final choice might be what suits you and your book or it might be decided by finances as the options have different price tags.

Indie press/small publisher

This option is becoming more popular and is an attractive one to most aspiring authors. Independent presses or small publishers are just that – independent and small. They are more likely to take on unique and original manuscripts and more likely to take a risk on you and your book. Often they are themed, as in some cater purely to crime writers, some to romance and so on. But there are plenty out there who publish books in multiple genres. Usually, you do not need an agent to submit your book to these publishers. There are drawbacks though: they will often require you to have a social media following or author platform on the go and they will certainly ask you to do as much of the ‘marketing’ of your book as possible. They just don’t have the same funds as the big, trad publishers. You’re also unlikely to receive an advance.

Traditional publishing

The model of publishing most people are familiar with. You polish up your manuscript and send it to a multitude of suitable agents. If you are lucky enough to be signed with an agent, it is then the agents job to sell your book to a publisher. If successful, you might receive an advance, but possibly not one as generous as in days gone by. The publisher will do the bulk of the marketing and selling of your book. This is often the preferred or ‘dream’ route for many authors, but it’s important to remember that the big publishers and agents often know what they are looking for and they are looking for what they already know will sell. You might also be waiting many, many years to see your book in print.

Joining other authors to form a publishing ‘name’ or creating your own

This is a more unusual way to get published but it seems to be growing in popularity. In essence, this is self-publishing, but with a slight difference. You can set up your own publishing name, perhaps with similar authors and create a logo and a website. Although your books are still self-published, they have a ‘brand name’ attached to them and possibly a logo. If you are in a collaborative group with other authors you can all help advertise and market the books and this will lead to increased sales. You could have a group newsletter to sign up to, have group giveaways, competitions and appearances and so on. It’s very much a DIY approach and can be a lot of fun for creative people.

So, there you have it. These days, if one door closes on your manuscript, you can be sure that there are still plenty of other doors to try. That doesn’t mean it will be easy – but that is a topic to explore another time!

Image by Ahmad Ardity from Pixabay

Have You Got Time To Write?

Hello and welcome to the first in a series of blog posts written to coincide with Facebook Lives on the Chasing Driftwood Writing Group Facebook page. If you don’t already follow the page, here is the link;

Our first topic and one that comes up again and again when talking to both new and established writers, is finding the time to write. I think it is true that everyone has a story in them and a story to tell, but finding the time to do it is often the number one thing that stops them.

Do any of us have the time to write? Well, perhaps if you are retired you might finally have the time on your hands, but what about the rest of us? I work with children and adults and even children these days cite lack of time in their increasingly busy lives as the main thing that gets in the way of their writing.

So, what can we do about this? Unfortunately, I don’t have the power to slow time or halt it, or add a few extra hours to the day for you, but I can tell you what has worked for me over the years.

When I was a child, I wrote endlessly. I loved writing and reading equally and if I was not doing one, I was doing the other. I was the kind of kid who hid under my duvet with a torch scribbling into notebooks or devouring paperbacks. I would rush up to my room as soon as I got in from school to write stories. This continued through my teens and into early adulthood. But slowly and surely, it started to fizzle out. Life started to get in the way! I wrote less when I was at University, and less still after I graduated and entered the adult world. And by the time I had my first child at the age of 24, writing was well and truly a thing of the past. I just didn’t have the time.

Or did I?

The truth is, when I was a kid, I had the time after school and I had the time in the evening because I didn’t have any other commitments. And obviously as I became an adult, my commitments increased, whether they were work or home based. I had less time, or so I thought.

In reality, the time was there, I just didn’t know how to utilise it.

Something had to change, as not writing made me sad and less able to cope with everything life threw at me. I didn’t feel like me without writing and even worse than that, I still had all those stories and characters shouting in my head, demanding to be let out!

When I was in my early 30’s I read a book and one of the characters in it reminded me of one of the characters in my head. I had written a book aged 12, rewritten it at ages 16 and 19 and then put it away as life took over. I suddenly felt utterly determined to write that story at last, even if I never shared it with anyone! Here is what I changed to get it done.

1 – I picked up a notebook and pen.

I don’t think the book would ever have happened if I had made myself sit down at a computer to stare at a blank screen. At that point, after so many years of not writing, I think I would have felt intimidated. It would have felt too big. Instead, I grabbed an A4 notepad and a biro and started writing. I could then carry this notebook around with me and I did. I started picking it up when everyone was out, and I started taking it to bed with me rather than a book to read. Before I knew it, the story was pouring out of me. Sometimes, good old fashioned pen and paper is the best way to start!

2 – I didn’t tell anyone to begin with.

Again, in those early days of regaining my writing, I felt very unsure about it and had very little confidence. I think if I had announced to the world or even my loved ones that I was writing a book after all those years, I would have felt the pressure immediately. It was scary enough without any added scrutiny so for a few weeks at least, I kept it to myself. I hid it under the mattress or the sofa if anyone walked in! I wanted to see where it went first and it felt very private. I think sometimes keeping it to yourself for a little while can allow that confidence to grow again naturally.

3 – I gave up watching TV.

This was probably the biggest change, and it had to happen. At that time I had three young kids and a full time job as a childminder. I was happy but exhausted on a daily basis. Once the kids were in bed, I would slump in front of the TV with a magazine and watch my soaps. I used to watch loads of them, plus reality TV! This had to change. I was wasting hours of potential writing time! Luckily, it wasn’t too hard to give up as my story was now consuming me day and night and just had to be written. I gave up TV for years. With such a busy home and work life, I had to give up something and the chances are, you will too. It’s all about making time for writing. In later years, I did start to let TV creep back and I now have the inevitable Netflix subscription! Now, I sort of regard TV as writing research and view it with a writer’s eye. However, if you are starting out and struggling to find the time to write, this could be the one big change you also need to make, at least initially.

4 – I built a writing habit and stuck with it.

I know the rule ‘write every day’ can be incredibly annoying if you hear it too often, so I’m not going to bang on about it here. Not everyone can write every day and not everyone should. What I would say is, you need to establish a writing habit and stick with it. Writing is like everything else in life, the more you do it, the better you get at it. And the more you write, the more you want to write! To start with, the writing is like an unused muscle. It’s there, but not really. It’s not sure what to do. But if you keep picking up that pen or sitting at that keyboard, the muscle will get used to being used again and it will start to work for you, not against you. For me, back when my children were small, I would write as soon as they were all in bed. No TV, no magazines, just straight to writing and no stopping. You would be amazed how this habit soon becomes hard to break. It’s a bit like exercise. You know you should do it, you want to do it, but the thought of it sometimes is too hard, so you have a day off and before you know it, days have turned into weeks and weeks have turned into months…and you are still unfit. It’s exactly the same thing. The only way to move forward is to pick a writing routine that works for you, stick to it and turn it into a habit.

5 – I told myself I deserved to write.

I think this is a big one – often, we view writing as a hobby, as an interest, as something fun and perhaps even a bit silly. We then allow ourselves to believe that we don’t deserve to spend time on something frivolous like writing. Other things are more important and deserving of our time – housework, childcare, family time, work commitments, shopping, gardening, DIY etc. Of course, these things are all important but if you start to view writing as important as well, you can convince yourself that you deserve to spend time on it. Look at it this way; if it is important to you to write, then writing is important! It has massive benefits to our mental health and our ability to communicate and deal with the world around us, at the very least! For me, I had to let go of all the little voices in my head that derided writing and believe me, I have heard them all over the years. It’s a waste of time, there’s no money in it, it’s not a real job, it’s a silly hobby, what’s the point and so on. If it is important to you, it is important! And if anyone questions you wanting to spend time writing, just tell them very simply and clearly that it is very, very important to you and hopefully they will back off a bit!

7 – I made the time – I chose writing

So, the thing is, it is unlikely that anyone is going to just hand you the time to write. It’s unlikely that your work and life commitments are suddenly going to decrease or demand less of you. You can’t sit around and wait for the time to write, or you will be waiting until your retirement. You can’t wait for your family and friends to give you some spare time either. It’s just not going to happen. You have to demand the time to write and make the time to write out of the time you have. Sometimes that simply means choosing writing. And choosing writing above other activities does involve some sacrifice. So you might give up TV for a while, you might give up some family time, you might let the garden get a bit wild, you might give up another interest for a bit. But that’s what it all comes down to. On the surface, no, you probably don’t have time to write. But neither do most other writers. Most writers have other jobs, in fact these days it is very rare to find even a traditionally published writer who does not also have a ‘day job’. Most writers have families and demands on their times. I now have four children and when the fourth was born, I promised myself this time I would not let my writing slip. I was absolutely adamant. I would write as soon as he was in bed and in the day, I would sit at the laptop with him over my shoulder, still writing. When he was old enough to play with toys, I would grab five or ten minutes here and there, letting him play while I wrote. It is possible!

8 – Take your writing with you!

Finally, the last tip I have is to make your writing mobile and take it with you! I have written entire manuscripts while sat in car-parks waiting for kids to finish various activities. I have jotted endless notes and scenes into my mobile phone when dog walking. I have taken notebooks to the strangest of places so that I can write if I feel the need! Don’t think of writing as something that only happens at your desk in your house, because inevitably this will make it feel like you need a certain amount of free time to sit down and do it. Writing can happen anywhere and at any time!

I think the last thing I would say about finding the time to write is this. If a story is important enough, if a story is growing in your head and consuming your thoughts, if characters are becoming so alive you can have conversations with them in your mind, if a story simply refuses to go away….then you must tell it and you will tell it. You won’t have a choice!

Finally, don’t forget we are here to help you! Drop us an email, ask questions or send messages on the Facebook page or join the Facebook group for writers. (Link is below) Support is there if you need it! Good luck!

Chasing Driftwood Writing Group Online