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Writing advice from leading authors

S.J. Watson is the author of the novels Second Life and Before I Go to Sleep.

Q: What is your method for overcoming writer’s block?
A: It depends. Short term block I get over by just writing anyway, and trying not to worry if I feel that what I'm writing isn't great. Anything is better than nothing, and usually there's something salvageable in amongst the rubbish. If I feel I'm really lost in a project I take a break, give myself a day off, and then try and write a page or so on why I feel I'm blocked or why something isn't working. Often that presents me with a way forward.

Q: What are your favorite or most helpful writing prompts?
A: I like to work to a schedule, so my prompt is my alarm clock! That, and reading great books—they inspire me to strive to be better.

Q: What is the most valuable advice you received as a young writer?
A: Unfortunately I don't know the source of the quote as I heard it second or third hand, but someone once told me that they'd read that any writer with a published book has written at least 150,000 words of utter rubbish that are hidden in a drawer or on a hard drive and will never see the light of day. It taught me that writing is a craft, something we have to learn, and that we need to serve an apprenticeship. It taught me that no word we write is waste, even if it ends up deleted.


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