Although I don’t think I’ve ever suffered from Writers’ Block (my problem is the opposite – how to keep up with all the ideas crowding for attention) I know that many of my students have.  So here are 7 ruled for avoiding it.

  1. Busy:  The day job, the household, social engagements, TV /// the list goes on and on.  The only way to deal with it is to make writing your priority, and move everything else around it. Writing time is sacred, and you must protect it.
  2.  Lazy:   Don’t listen to that inner voice that says: “Relax.  Take your time.”  Writing requires effort and energy – don’t be lulled into laziness.
  3. Flighty:  You keep getting new ideas that you think are better than the ones you’ve already started working on.  You have to work through each project until you reach the end.  Just jot down a note of new ideas for future projects.
  4.   Foggy:  Don’t obscure your vision.   Know where you are going and what you are doing. Sharpen your perceptions.  Try coffee, a cold shower or long walks but fogginess of the mind will get you nowhere.
  5. Caution:  Writing is risky. Forget that – just wrote with flare and passion.
  6.  Doubt:   Don’t let it interrupt your efforts. Contradict it over and over when it tells you your efforts are not up to par.   Believe in yourself and your own abilities.
  7. Dull:   This haunts us all at some stage.  You can’t get your inspiration to shine through.   Try something different – write in a different place, listen to different music, set yourself a challenge and inject a bit of adventure into your life and your writing.        You can do it – just have faith in yourself!

I am always happy to hear your comments, or to help with any writing problem. You can contact me at   My latest novel (no. 14) is “Searching for Sarah”. This and many of my earlier books are available by contacting me direct.  Happy writing!



Sometimes it’s a struggle to get started on a project, but the best thing to do with a blank page is to put something on it.  I have come across a lot of inspiring words from successful authors, and always saved them.  Now I’ll share them with you.

Author Anne Rice says:  “On writing, my advice is the same to all. Write and write and write. If you stop, start again.  Writing is what makes a writer, nothing more and nothing less.”

Will Self advises: “Always carry a notebook, and I mean ALWAYS.  Short-term memory only retains information for 3 minutes. Unless it is committed to paper, you can lose an idea for ever.”

An amusing one from Geoff Dyer:  “Do it every day. Make a habit of putting  your observations into words and gradually this will become instinctive.  This is the most important rule of all and, naturally, I don’t follow it.”

Stephen King wrote: “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time – or the tools – to write.  Simple as that!”  He also wrote: “Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates or making friends. In the end, it’s about enriching lives of those who will read your work… Writing is magic, as much the water of life as any other creative art. The water is free. So drink. Drink and be filled up.”

Famous Jodi Picoult:  “You can always edit a bad page.  You can’t edit a blank page.”

Wonderful words from Anton Chekhov:  “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.”

And my favorite comes from Isaac Asimov:  “If a doctor told me I had only six months to live, I wouldn’t brood.  I’d type a little faster!”

I hope these quotes got you moving.  My 14th book “Searching for Sarah” is available on Amazon, or contact me direct at  I also have copies available of most of my earlier titles, including “The Pomegranate Pendant”, now a movie titled  “The Golden Pomegranate.”

If I can help you with any writing problem, write to me direct.  Happy writing!



You’ve heard the old maxim: “Don’t let the sun set on a rejected manuscript.”  Well, I now believe this is very bad advice.  Don’t send it out again the same day.  When your rejected article comes back to your mailbox, look at it as an opportunity, not a terrible defeat.  It’s an opportunity to make it a bit better, and raising its quality just a notch may be enough to bring an acceptance next time you send it out to a different market.

Whenever an editor says “Sorry”, suppress your despair and set about making your freelance work irresistible.  Look at it with greater detachment and clarity, and let new ideas emerge.   Here are some tips:

FOCUS:  Your topic may be too broad, robbing it of impact.  Hone in on just one feature, and don’t try to cover too many.  LEAD:  Is it exciting enough to make today’s “I’m in a hurry” reader  keep reading?  Good writers come up with outstanding leads.  A bicycling article I read recently started with this: “Life is like a 12-speed bike.  Most of us have gears we’ve never used.”  A lead like this can turn dashed hopes into victory.

ANECDOTES:  These are the lifeblood of a feature. They underscore the theme and make it more memorable.  Try for a lively anecdote to reinforce your point, and a new quotation can also help.   MARKETING:  Don’t overlook this dimension.  Perhaps your article is fine, but you sent it to the wrong medium.  Read new magazines and study their Writers’ Guidelines … today, there are so many choices, you should be able to find the right fit.  Finally, EDITING:  Have you done enough?  Is the story as crisp as it might be?  In “The Elements of Style” we read that vigorous writing is concise.   A sentence should contain no unnecessary words; a paragraph no unnecessary sentences.”   Look at your rejected ms. in the cold light of reality.  Don’t send it out again without making some improvement.  Double-check your accuracy.    Go the extra mile, and you’ll get a cheque instead of a rejection.  Happy writing.

I look forward to your comments, and am happy to help you with your writing queries.

My latest novella, “Searching for Sarah”, and most of my other 13 books are available on Amazon or direct from me at a reduced price – contact my e-mail:   Happy writing.



Popular crime writer, Mary Higgins Clark, once wrote: “I like to create people the reader can root for.”   This is the essence of writing  fiction.

We all wish that Romeo could overcome the Montague-Capulet feud and win Juliet; for Dr. Jekyll to conquer his alter-ego Hyde; for the wronged Count of Monte Cristo to get revenge on the men who sent him to prison. We all do. In every story, readers must pull for somebody, a character with whom they can empathize.

So how do you make the reader identify with a character?    Put your character in some sort of difficulty or peril or dilemma.   What makes us root for a character in fiction is the same as in real life?  Because he has the kind of problem that may happen to any of us.  Because he/she is striving mightily to overcome his misfortune.  We can empathize with the goal, whatever it is. The character shows no self-pity, and exhibits humor, courage, intelligence and determination.

So think of the story you are writing. Does your protagonist have an important problem?  Is he/she trying to solve it by his own efforts? Is the goal something the reader wants him to attain?

Show that you care deeply about the characters you have created, and the readers will find themselves caring along with you.  Happy writing.

My latest novella “Searching for Sarah” is now available, either on Amazon or direct from me at  I am always happy to hear your comments or to help you with any writing problem of your own.



They say that God is in the details. So, too, is much of the work of a writer.  Too little narrative leaves your character wandering through the equivalent of an empty stage.  Too much, and you risk the tombstone effect – blocks of text that tempt the reader to keep skipping until they come to some action.

To set the stage properly, choose the most vivid details possible.  Reveal the setting through motion.  Let your description unfold as the character moves through the scene.   Ask yourself which details your character should notice immediately and which might register more slowly.  Let’s pretend your heroine, a secretary, has just entered the mansion of a millionaire. How would she react?   She’d observe how soft the rich Persian carpets were underfoot; maybe recognise some of the famous artwork on the walls. Don’t tell the reader the sofa is soft until she sinks into it.  Let her smell the fragrance of hothouse flowers filling a crystal vase on the table.

Use active verbs to set the scene, but use them wisely.   Instead of explaining that light glittered from the crystal chandelier,, let your character blink, dazzled by  the prismatic display.   Break the descriptions into small nuggets and scatter them throughout the scene so the reader is not overwhelmed or bored.  Remember that different characters will react in different ways … the haughty millionaire owner who takes luxury for granted; and the secretary who is overwhelmed by the magnificence.

You can also reveal setting through your character’s mood. This can profoundly influence what the reader “sees”.   Different characters could perceive the same setting in opposite ways.  For example, a motorist has strolled into a stretch of moorland.  Across a stretch of gorse , she sees ruins of some ancient watchtower and sees it as just a jumble of stones.  She hikes up the slope  breathing the scent of grass and clover, and watches clouds drift overhead like fuzzy sheep herded by a gentle wind.     What if your motorist is in a different mood?  What if her car has broken down and she can’t find help.   Though the sun is high,  scudding clouds cast a pall over the landscape.  The eerie cry of some bird reminds her how far she is from civilization.  She wants to get out of this situation, while your reader is on the edge of his seat, expecting something worse than a ruined building on the character’s horizon.

Different sensory details evoke different reactions.   We make decisions and take action  based on what we see. Sounds  can make us shudder or shiver – or relax and smile.  Scenes that include sounds  are effective in evoking an emotional response.

The goal of description is to design a setting that provides the perfect background for your characters; a setting that stays in the background without overwhelming the scene or interrupting the story.   This is the way to have readers keep turning the pages, and not merely waiting for something to happen.



My latest novella “Searching for Sarah” is now available (my 13th book .  For copies of this, or any of my other books, contact me at   If you have any writing queries, I’ll be happy to help you.



All writers are given a lot of advice, and some of it is very repetitious.  So you’ve probably heard this before, but it’s still worth thinking about.


What are editors’ pet aversions?  Once it was poorly typed, messy manuscripts, but with the blessing of computers, we don’t have to think about that any more.  But the rest of the list still applies … a long, flowery introduction; an overlong article padded with meaningless or hackneyed phrases and cliches;   unrelated material written with no idea of the policy of the journal;  old ideas that are just a rehash of someone else’s work; too much personal touch or the writer’s life history.  If an editor wants to see more of your work, even if he rejects one manuscript, he/she will tell you so and leave the door open for the future.


Although publications need big name authors to sell them, they also need first-rate articles from unknown writers.  You may get lower rates of payment at first, but you will be encouraged if you show promise.  Big names are always in print, because they provide what is demanded.


Often the best time to sell an article is before it even gets written.  Many articles are written only after preliminary negotiations between editor and writer.  Once you have an idea for an article, it is a good idea to write to several editors sounding them out to see if the idea interests them.  This does not commit them to buy your story, but at least if the idea is acceptable, the length is right, the style is suitable, then you have a 90% chance.  Of course your letter to the editor must be clear, without bragging, concise intelligent, dignified and to the point.  It should crisply outline the feature, and indicate the authoritativeness of the material, and if possible – why you are the best person to write it.

I am still smiling about a letter written to a writers’ journal (obviously with tongue-in-cheek).  “You must publish my article because I am the best writer in the country, possibly in the world.  I have also written a book, which my mother says is the best book she has ever read, so perhaps you will consider that also.”


Happy writing! Am always glad to hear your comments, and to help with any writing problems.  My latest novel (no. 14) is “Searching for Sarah”.  If you want to buy it, or any of my previous books, contact me at:



Once it was a formula:  boy meets girl, then a crisis or argument, but in the end they marry and live happily ever after.  Not any more! Today, a romantic novel is one is which people start off emotionally impoverished in some way and end up emotionally richer.

They don’t have to get married, or even stroll into the sunset hand-in-hand. In the end, one of them might die (think Jo Jo Moyes “You Before Me”). But in the course of the story, they must have been on an emotional journey, and learned something about life, love and themselves.

Most romantic novels do end with the lovers becoming united. Fans of this genre like happy endings. But it’s time now to move past the Mills &U Boon type of romance.  The bad news is that it can sometimes be a challenge to sell anything less than a fairytale ending to publishers, and to your subsequent readers. But you could be brave and  give it a go.  I did in the favorite one of my 14 published books “Esther” – a Jerusalem Love Story.

My two protagonists did not end up together, much as I wanted them to, because the dictates of their life situations did not make it feasible.  It was not exactly a happy ending, but I felt it was the right ending.   Giving some kinds if stories happy – rather than emotionally satisfying – endings, would be as daft as tacking on a song and dance routine to the ending of Hamlet or Romeo & Juliet.

Giving your characters hope is the key to writing a good romantic novel. Traditionally happy endings are no longer essential, but you must give your characters and your readers reasons to keep going.  Some things to keep in mind are:

Is the story line too predictable?   Will you be able to keep the promise you make to your characters and readers?  Will they learn something along the way?  Is the ending appropriate – will it be happy, hopeful or even tragic?

In my latest novella, “Searching for Sarah”, you don’t know until the last page if the couple will face a future a together or apart.  I like to leave something to the reader’s imagination and let them fill in some of the blanks.

If you want any of my books, contact me at and I’ll tell you how to get them.  Happy writing!

I’ll also be happy to help with any writing problems.