And some ways to break through it

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I used to believe that writers’ block didn’t exist.

I started out my writing career when I was a full-time teacher, head of year and at times, interim head of department at a boarding school, a job that required me to be at school for a minimum of 46 hours a week and many weekends, plus marking and planning time at home. For the first two years before my first book hit the shops I did all of this and also wrote three manuscripts per year. I wrote late at night and on the weekends and holidays. I wrote in…

Even normal ones.

Following the murder of Sarah Everard, who was killed by a man when taking an ordinary walk through London, I’ve seen the hashtag #NotAllMen trending. I want to tell you a story. It’s not an important or traumatising story, though it is. It’s not about all men, either. But it is.

This is a picture of me a few years ago, at a publishing party. It was a fun party. I met a lot of great colleagues, and some quite famous people. I’d been told that my book was the top selling ebook in the company. I was wearing a…

How can I write more?

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Dear Julie,

Even when I put a full day of writing in, I only ever seem to be able to get a max of 1000 words down. Do you have any advice for upping my daily word count?


Dear Adrienne,

Eat more chocolate.


Julie x

…No, wait. That is BAD ADVICE. Let me start again:

Dear Adrienne,

For word-oriented people, writers seem obsessed with numbers! We compare ourselves to each other all the time. We look at how many words others write per day, how many books others sell, how many books others…

How do I keep writing when it’s hard?

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Dear Julie,

Sometimes when I’m writing it’s so easy and fun and fluid. Other times, every sentence written feels like having a tooth pulled. How can I get through those difficult times when writing feels unnatural and chore-like? Especially when I’m working to a deadline and don’t have the option to step away for too long!


Dear RM,

OH, ME TOO. Isn’t it awful? Here is a list of fourteen things that might help you. Your mileage may vary.

1) Chocolate.

2) Booze and/or caffeine and/or petting a friendly animal.

3) The Pomodoro technique: set a timer for a…

How do you find your distinctive writing voice?

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Dear Julie,

I’ve been writing a novel for about a year with a few stops and starts and I’m nearing the end (finally!). Reading back through, I feel as though the voice and tone changes as the story progresses. Perhaps this is because of what I was reading at the time of writing certain chapters or maybe it has more to do with my style improving during those weeks and months when I was able to write with more regularity. Is this something all authors deal with when they’re writing over a long period of time? In some parts, there…

Between finishing a manuscript and getting feedback

My desk, mid-edit.

As always, I celebrated too early.

I had champagne when I finished the first draft of my manuscript. Then, I edited it, and when I was finished, I sent off the manuscript to my agent and I had some champagne. This was last Thursday. She told me she would read it as soon as possible.

Friday, I waited. It was a bank holiday. I reasoned that my agent wouldn’t be working so I shouldn’t be anxious. I was anxious anyway.

Saturday, I waited. I knew it was unreasonable to expect that my agent would be working on the weekend. Everyone…

Does it ever get any easier to write?

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Dear Julie,

How do you get over that feeling of not being good enough when you’re writing? I love writing, but I have so much self-doubt. Does every author go through this or is it a sign that it’s not meant to be?


(Warning: the following answer makes copious use of all caps.)

Dear Linda,

Here’s the real answer: YOU DON’T EVER GET OVER IT.

I have never, ever, EVER met a successful author who feels that they are good enough. There may be some out there, but I haven’t met them yet. When a group of authors get…

Editing, and how I feel about editing

My desk right now.

I didn’t write my novel-writing diary last week because I was too busy editing. I’m still too busy editing, but this week I realise that it will probably be helpful to talk about how I edit, and how I’m feeling as I edit, because it might help other authors find useful tips, and reassurance that they are not, in fact, necessarily wrong for feeling bad.

How I edit

My rough finished manuscript was about 85,000 words. Ideally I would like the finished draft to be 90–95,000 words, but I know that I usually under-write and so more words generally get added in subsequent…

How long should my book be?

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Dear Julie,

I need help with length and structure! How many words should my manuscript be? It’s a women’s fiction book with a dash of romance. How many words should I be aiming for total? How many words per chapter? How many chapters? So many questions!


Dear Sarah,

The answer to so many writing questions is so often ‘Well, it depends.’ It’s nice to have a question with a definite answer, for once.

Well, almost definite.

The length of most mainstream print-published women’s commercial fiction novels is between 80,000 and 100,000 words. Occasionally you might see a longer one…

How do I avoid being boring online?

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Dear Julie,

You are a great author to follow on social media. I’ve been trying to use Twitter and Facebook more as an author, but I’m always doubting myself and never know what to post, so my feed comes across as dull and impersonal. How can I make my posts more interesting and personal to help readers get to know me?


Dear Judith,

Thank you so much! I’m glad you enjoy following me on social media.

A lot of authors are told that social media is absolutely essential for reaching readers, but you know, I am not sure this…

Julie Cohen

I’m a Sunday Times bestselling novelist and creative writing consultant. My latest novel is SPIRITED. Twitter: @julie_cohen

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