The Villain of the Piece | Figuring Out How To Write a Novel and Defeat Writer’s Block

My villain (well, one of them), just turned up in the writing and everyone is running around screaming. Great. I’ve been waiting to write this since the beginning. So why is there a sudden drop in motivation to write?

I don’t believe in writer’s block – it’s part of everyone’s “How To Write A Novel” journey, but I disagree with that idea that it’s just a thing. I think it’s a generic excuse for other underlying problems that surface when you’re involved in a project. It’s too easy to say “I have writer’s block” and just stop there and wait for the subconscious problems to fall back asleep.

The last blog dealt with the “Akrasia Effect” and that sense of upper limiting oneself. I thought that because I’d written about it, now I was fully aware of this pitfall. Unfortunately not. These are my own personal villains (as much as I love some of them) that I’m looking at as the cause for derailing my writing:

  • Not enough time
  • I have a business to run
  • I have a wife and a daughter
  • We have guests staying with us
  • I have this blog to write
  • There’s a bazillion other things to do
  • I have plenty of time left in the year
  • Now I’ve written the good bit, what next?
  • I can’t find the right music for writing
  • And also can’t find the right place to write
  • I got a new mouse and it’s not the same
  • I’m writing on the laptop, not the desktop
  • It’s too bright outside

And on and on and on.

Sheesh I’m just upending my head there to see what comes out. I’m a fan of tackling this kind of self-defeating cycle with the following rule:

Write each feeling down on paper. Then start straight after it with “Because…”

Get a little bit more information. Think through each of the points and add more detail as to why, the motivations behind the base feeling. I had years of anxiety and panic attacks in my early twenties and this is one of the tricks that I employed. So much of panic and overwhelm comes from the simple idea of something, without any kind of logic behind it.

  • Not Enough Time” = Panic
  • Not Enough Time because I’m not balancing my time properly” = Less Panic

  • Now I’ve written the good bit, what next?” = Panic
  • Now I’ve written the good bit, what next? Because I need to focus on the aftermath and then find my next highlight to write” = Less Panic

James Clear’s recent blog on The Four Burners was an interesting read and highlighted some of these issues about work/life balance.

Though primarily directed at business, the feeling of spinning so many plates was familiar and I wondered how could this apply to writing? Well, in a nutshell (help I’m in a nutshell etc etc), to be successful you have to eliminate one of the burners. Work, Family, Health or Friends. It’s a bit of a brutal system. I’m not sure I agree with it, but the principles of sacrifice are there.

So if Work = Writing and I’m driving to success, then Family is obviously too important to shift. But Health is already becoming a bit more flexible. I’ve already started by getting up at 5:30am and starting to gain those beautiful sleep-deprivation bags under the eyes. Onwards and upwards.

Thanks for reading

– Tom

By | 2018-03-26T15:30:25+00:00 June 15th, 2017|How To Write A Book, Month Five, Year One|2 Comments

About the Author:

I'm thirty five this year and for work I run my own small website/digital design business. I have a best friend and luckily she is also my wife. This is all capped off with our three year old daughter, who is the greatest/messiest thing ever. I'm writing One Book One Year to kick my own ass into gear with a long term dream, otherwise I'll never do it.


  1. Will Hughes June 26, 2017 at 6:52 am - Reply

    It is a while since I left a comment but for what it is worth ( completely inexperienced from someone who has rarely written anything longer than one page!) I still think the main point is that the plot is in some way secondary to the phraseology. Just think of two illustrations – two people telling the same joke – different response and the way different newspapers treat the same story. When I think of the many many books I have read it is the quality of the writing, the turn of phrase that makes it worth the read. My interest in Science Fiction clearly leads me to interesting plots ( the first thing I look for on a dust cover ) but the are many I have dropped after starting reading because I have been held back by way the story is written. How to tackle this? I think the plot has to be a given and so you have to concentrate on the quality of writing – simple things like sentence length, use of paragraphs, speech v description ( one of me personal bug-bears – much prefer less action and talk and more evocative description), and unexpected combinations of words.

    For what it is worth.

  2. Will Hughes June 26, 2017 at 6:55 am - Reply

    To paraphrase Churchill – if something is important it is worth repeating!!! ( reputedly said after mistakenly repeating part of his speech in the House of Commons )

Leave A Comment