Block that writer

Photographs of pompous man with a bow tie, moustache and pipe, representing the character Horace Tweed-BottomleyLiterary expert and professional cynic Horace Tweed-Bottomley reveals how easy it is to stop writers in their tracks, or at least waylay them.

“Any critic can inhibit a career with a damning review. I believe in prophylaxis; it’s never too soon to throw some critical salt on the slug of writerly ambition. When one has a lifetime of 19th and 20th century material to examine, one doesn’t wish to be importuned by the outpourings of this century.”

“One of my colleagues was pestered by students and ingénues who loitered about his rooms, asking for an opinion on their scribblings, or advice on how to become a writer.”

“Would-be writers are always seeking the Aladdin’s lamp of writing,” I told my colleague. “Proffer the following advice, feigning reluctance to reveal the Secrets. It never fails as a literary contraceptive.”

Horace Tweed Bottomley’s advice for waylaying writers

  • Read books about writing
  • Collect inspirational quotes about writing
  • Talk about writing
  • Maintain a social media profile
  • Agonise over the title and cover design of your magnum opus
  • Investigate marketing, publicity and search engine optimisation
  • Create a clutter-free physical and mental space by doing the housework and taxes now and downloading that ‘distraction-free workspace’ software
  • Do more research before you finish that first draft. Your historical novel could be full of humiliating anachronisms!
  • Create plot timelines and character profiles
  • Draw maps of your characters’ world
  • Look for objects your characters would own or photos that could represent them
  • Hunt for that perfect notebook/pen/tablet/Hemingwayesque typewriter
  • Ponder the ethical dilemmas of writing about real people
  • Seek out new and inspiring experiences
  • Look for like-minded souls online or in workshops
  • Go on pilgrimages to immerse yourself in a period of history or way of life, as a method actor might do
  • Experiment with ‘apps’ for organising your notes and planning the structure of your novel
  • Design the perfect creative workspace
  • Is your idea original? Find out how many others have written about the same subject.
  • Go to writers festivals and ask endless questions about inspiration
  • Plan your book blurb and marketing campaign
  • Pitch the film adaptation of your unwritten novel and play casting director
  • Craft the perfect proposal and query letters
  • Research agents, publishers, self-publishing platforms and e-book software
  • Follow your favourite writers and writing gurus online
  • Maintain a blog
  • Make lists.

© JD Ellevsen 2015

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