WRITERS BLOCK: Even Hemingway got stuck sometimes. How he got UNSTUCK, (and how YOU can)


from A Moveable Feast


Sometimes when I was starting a new story and I could not get it going…


“Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.”


So finally I would write one true sentence, and then go on from there. It was easy then because there was always one true sentence that I knew or had seen or had heard someone say.


…I found that I could cut that scrollwork or ornament out and throw it away and start with the first true simple declarative sentence I had written.

5 Vital Tips For Starting Your Blockbuster Story

1. Most of the input we get about writing a story comes from people who are traditionally published, and traditionally published people are going to agents. Agents are effing lazy. So if you don’t hook the agent or publisher on page 1 paragraph 1, they don’t read much farther.

2. That’s… a lot of pressure for one paragraph.

3. On the other hand, the end customer is who we market to as independent authors. That means you have a much wider berth. 50 pages as opposed to one.

4. And that’s why it’s important to start your story quickly and hook your reader (I’m always gonna advocate that), but to remember it’s a rule that came from agents and publishers, not readers – so tell YOUR story.

5. Tell it well, but tell it the way YOU need to tell it.

Finishing up with Harry

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I did my 5-part series about JK Rowling’s Harry Potter, but as of that point I hadn’t actually finished the book.

Now I have.

So here’s the rest of my analysis.

Well, the chapters 11 through 13 were kind of slow. Take your pick; 12 through 14 or 10 through 13, but they’re a little soft.

And why?

Because we’re not learning new magical things. We’re no longer diving deeper into the wizarding world, we’re just existing in that world. That’s neither  good nor bad, it’s just not as interesting.

In order for a roller coaster to have the big hill with the big drop, it has to go up AND it has to go down.

No downs = no ups. All flat.

And all potentially less interesting as a result.

the newest wizard, complete with wand

Anyway, in chapter 15 there’s a big old “as you know, Bill”-style info dump between the centaurs. Normally, I’d throw a yellow card on that but I’m gonna waive it off because it’s a kids’ book. I personally think that if Rowling had written this book today she would have changed a few things – but she didn’t write it today. She wrote it in the ’90s and it’s wildly popular so I’m just going to sit over here and grumble to myself.

Oh, and while we’re at it – I guess Stephen King can go blow himself over that “the road to hell is paved with adverbs” nonsense. There’s an adverb every 10 seconds in this book. Nobody seems to mind.

Again, worlds’ most popular author.

The centaurs – having not appeared before – seem to have been brought in just for this one scene. It makes sense if they live in the forest and they’re the reason I’m not supposed to ever go into the forest, but suddenly introducing them now seems a little… convenient. (That doesn’t contradict what I just said about diving deeper into the wizarding world, either. I don’t think.)

Somebody would’ve mentioned them before now, probably. Hagrid or somebody, even in passing. They mentioned other things, why not centaurs?

So that’s another minor issue but nonetheless I wouldn’t recommend anybody I work with trying it.

it’s kind of an acquired taste

I’d tell you to plant it somewhere earlier. A passing reference. Something. No reason not to. The two wizards sitting in the wall in the very beginning could have made some kind of comment about it. Anybody, really. (And if they had, nobody’d remember that, so I’d also add that you refer to centaurs again somewhere so readers remember them. Have one character tease another one about why they’re always going on about centaurs.)

Harry paces up and down in front of a fire.

For all of those who hate when I say “paces back-and-forth”: Nyah, Nyah!

In chapter 16 there’s kind of a major screwup. They start talking about broomsticks but nobody has said there are any broom sticks – the flying kind – anywhere in the room. They need these to catch the flying key. Harry says, “Yes, to the broom sticks” – well we didn’t know they were any broomsticks. It’s like an idea, “We need broomsticks!” instead of “Look! There are some broomsticks over there in the corner. Let’s use those!”

img_8831Sorry, that’s major. I had to go back and re-read two pages to see where the damn broomsticks were mentioned. How’d I miss that? She didn’t mention them, that’s how. Harry just says it. Prior to that, they aren’t in the scene. You can’t do that (although, if you’re the world’s most famous writer, apparently you can.)

BTW, my wife was driving us back from skate night as I read this part aloud to our daughter. Savvy hung on every word, eating ice cream and conjuring up Harry Potter in her head.

Playing their way across the giant chess room? Harry says it’s obvious. It’s not. I’d have just walked across. Well, no, I wouldn’t have. I’d have thrown rocks at my characters. But it still wasn’t obvious. I’d have had them start walking across and have that not work because they didn’t play. THEN it would be obvious.

Later in 16, Hermione doesn’t explain how she knows which bottle does what, she just knows. Unless I missed something.

Oh. She rereads the logic puzzle and solves it. Okay, never mind.

img_8788Oh, and then a chapter break just for the sake of suspense, not because it’s actually a scene break. Going from 16 to 17, Harry just walked through the fire after drinking one of the seven potions. There was already someone there – but it wasn’t Snape. It wasn’t even Voldemort. Who was it? End of 16 start of 17: It was Quirrell.

I’m not allowed to do that. My editor won’t let me. Wonder if she’s reading this.

Then a bad guy monologue…. or two.

And a nice twist! Or two. Bravo.

But don’t get cocky. It’s still very telly.

But a pretty good mystery. Pretty good. I find myself smiling.

Pretty darned good.

Okay, I’m in. I’m a fan. I don’t know if it’s the best book ever written but it has a great adventure unfolding in a whole new world, and that’s pretty special.

Nice work, Rowling.hp-3

But there’s work to be done.

On to the chamber of secrets!


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your humble host
Dan Alatorre is the author of several bestsellers and the amazingly great sci fi action thriller “The Navigators.” Click HERE to get your copy of The Navigators – FREE on Kindle Unlimited!

10 Things I Learned From J K Rowling, part 5 (conclusion)

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your humble host

First, Happy Thanksgiving!

If you need some light reading, this week-long series about Harry Potter is just the thing. If not, you arrived just in time for the best part. (Check out part 1, part 2, part 3 and part 4)

So last night, I was reading Harry Potter on the couch and Savvy was watching one of her cartoons in her play area. Either on her TV that’s in there or on her iPad.

And she came in with her boogie board writing device. It’s like a stencil – no, it’s like a… it’s like an iPad that you write on. I don’t know where we got it.

She was practicing writing sentences and she needed some help with some words.

hp-2And she looked at the book and saw I was reading Harry Potter.

And so she asked me if I was at this scene or that scene, basically stuff from the second or third movie.

I told her no, this is the first one. Where here he finds out that he has a wizard and he goes to wizard school.

And she just started rolling off that story. “Oh! This happens and this and this and this…”

So I started reading out loud to her from the point at which I was.

And let me tell you what.

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Now available in paperback!

She was entranced.

I’m a good reader. I read with emotion and I change the voices around and stuff. But children love to have their parents read to them, especially a favorite story that they’ve seen and know the characters and know the story. Like Harry Potter.

I told her when I was done with the book we were going to watch the movie, and that we would probably watch one of the movies every night this week. She was thrilled.

But I remember Jenny saying she read the books to her kids and how much they loved them.

So maybe when I’m done with this book I’ll get the other ones and read them to my six-year-old.

The chapters are short so you can probably read them out loud in about 15 minutes. We could read one every night at bedtime or something…

She was literally sitting on the floor gazing up at me as I sat on the couch and read words about characters that she knew. Harry and Hermione and Hagrid.

Really opened my eyes.

soon to be acquired

And if we buy the books and read them to her, then later on she will be able to read them herself.


I guess I’m buying all the books. I want to have that kind of quality time with my daughter.

So that’s another thing I learned from J. K. Rowling.

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your humble host

Dan Alatorre is the author of several bestsellers and the amazingly great sci fi action thriller “The Navigators.” Click HERE to get your copy of The Navigators – FREE on Kindle Unlimited!