(but you can still beat the block)

So. Well. Um.

I was supposed to teach an online course on Thursday, 10th September, on the topic of how to beat writers’ block. Unfortunately at the last minute I had to cancel the course because of personal plague-related reasons (everyone is fine now!) which is just the 2020-est thing that’s happened so far this year.

Anyway, just to get the self-promotion in quickly, the good news is that I’ve now rescheduled the course for Tuesday 13th October and you can buy tickets here. …


Want to write but feeling blocked? You’ve come to the write place…

(I’m sorry)

Well, it’s been a while since I last posted something here, but I’ve been busy these last few months: I’ve finished a novel, written some short stories, and I’m also preparing to delve into the world of online workshops. Yes, that’s right! This September I shall be teaching my very first online writers’ workshop, on the topic of how to Beat the Block. Read on for a quick preview of my thoughts…

Basically, I don’t think that there’s any such thing as writers’ block.

image: www.freeimages.co.uk

Wait. How can I teach you how to beat something I don’t believe in? Easy. Because, while I don’t believe that there is a discrete, single phenomenon that can be helpfully called ‘writers’ block’, I definitely know that writers can get blocked. I’ve been blocked myself. And I know that you can be blocked for all kinds of reasons — general stress, fear of failure, plot snarls — and that what works for one cause of block might not work for another. The important thing is to diagnose your cause of block correctly, and then try out a suitable solution. …


Stuck at home in lockdown, I have been indulging in a lot of online shopping (so much for saving money by not going out for brunch every weekend). My latest purchase is a board to help me plan my next murd- er, I mean, novel. And if anything stops me writing another book, it’s not going to be a lack of office supplies. I’ve purchased a whiteboard, post-its in four colours, pens in eight colours, magnets in sixteen colours, and even sixteen different types of yarn to create as many elaborately interconnected conspiracy theory time-travel tales of the multiverse as you could possibly want. …


So here it is. The Plague Year. The Pandemic. You can feel the gears of history grinding, and it’s not a pleasant sensation. We might wish these things didn’t have to happen in our time, but to paraphrase Gandalf, that is not for us to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.

One thing that at least some people have decided to do with the time given them is write a book. I’ve seen quite a few posts on social media (and elsewhere) suggesting that this is the ideal moment to get writing, as we now all have plenty of spare time. And there’s no shortage of inspiration either — the lockdown provides fuel for all kinds of stories, from cute romance between roommates or zoommates to domestic noir to Gothic horror. And didn’t Shakespeare write King Lear while in quarantine? …


Procrastination. The deadly enemy of productivity. And it’s not only a deadly foe, it’s also a protean one, taking many different forms, making it difficult to defeat the beast. Therefore, as an act of service to the writing community — and as a break from my current work-in-progress — I have taken it upon myself to list below some of the most common types of procrastination I have observed, (and in many cases, been guilty of myself), with a bit of advice on how to manage or avoid them. …


It’s time for my final blog post of 2019, and it’s that time again when many people take the opportunity to reflect back on the year that’s just gone.
Well, if it’s all the same to you, I think I’d much rather not.

(Although if you want to, you can read my blog post entitled ‘A Bad Year’)

For now, I’d rather talk about Mary Sues.
A Mary Sue, for those unfamiliar with the term, is a type of character who is most commonly associated with fanfiction but can also be found running wild in all types of media. She is usually a self-insert for the author (only way cooler). Her most defining traits are that she is super special and perfect in every way, that she overcomes her tragic backstory to defeat evil, and that she kicks ass at everything. Oh, and all the other characters are in love with her, except for the evil ones, who hate her because she’s just so awesome and they can’t bear it. …


Or, why I’m never feeling imposter syndrome again.

If you’re at all active on Twitter and/or the Game of Thrones fandom, you’ll have probably already seen this thread, detailing a Q&A with Davids Benioff & Weiss, the Game of Thrones showrunners, at the Austin film festival. If you can’t be bothered to read the whole thing, the tl;dr is: the two Davids were ridiculously, jaw-droppingly unqualified for the job, and perfectly happy to admit as much in public.

The online backlash has been as fierce as a fiery blast of dragon’s breath. Part of this is outrage that it apparently never occurred to Benioff and Weiss to hire some more writers — when, if they had done so, the much-reviled Season 8 of the show might have been a bit better. I’ve blogged before about how the reaction to the Game of Thrones finale proves that writing does, actually, matter. And, even before the final season, other aspects of the show might have also been improved by having a bit more diversity behind the scenes. …


I’ve just returned from this year’s Fantasy Con in Glasgow, which was, like last year’s event in Chester, exhilarating and exhausting in equal measure. This blog post is inspired by one of the panels I was on, and an idea that’s been buzzing round my head ever since. My fellow panellists were Jeffrey Collyer, RJ Barker, and Mike Brooks . The topic for discussion was portrayals of disability in fantasy fiction. Spoiler: there aren’t enough of them, and the ones that do exist are often Not That Good. One honourable exception is RJ’s own series The Wounded Kingdom, featuring a protagonist who is a assassin, and has a club foot. Apart from that, portrayals are often either lacking altogether, or have, um, unfortunate elements like the character with a disability being brutally killed fifty pages in. …


This blog follows on from my previous post, in which I talked about the difficult year I’ve just had, and the things that got me through it. Today there will be less soul-baring, and more talk about self-care and simple pleasures.

One thing I’ve found about looking after a toddler is that self-care is basically the same thing as toddler-care, except the unreasonable mewling selfish immature little monster you have to keep alive is… yourself. Much of self-care, after all, amounts to asking yourself questions like ‘have you had enough sleep? Don’t you think you should turn off your ipad and go to bed now?’ ‘have you had something to eat? …


I’m going to start with two confessions. The first is that I have had a difficult year, writing-wise. And the second is that this is a difficult blog post to write, so please bear with me. It’s difficult to write about my difficult year because I don’t necessarily feel very comfortable talking about some of my personal struggles in public — and after all, it feels like the pressure from social media is always to talk big, think positive, get your game face on. Nevertheless, I want to do it — because one of the few things I found genuinely helpful while I was at my lowest ebb of confidence was reading about the struggles of other authors. I am particularly grateful to Zen Cho — writer of sparkling alternate-history-magical-regency novels Sorcerer to the Crown and The True Queen — for sharing on her blog the problems she had writing her second book. …

About

Ruth de Haas

F&SF author, tutor, lapsed historian, fangirl. @ruthdehaas on Twitter. For monthly news, recs, and microfic, subscribe here: https://tinyletter.com/ruthdehaas

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