The Novel Cure: Literary prescriptions for writer's block

 

Ailment: Writer's block

Cure: I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

For an ailment that can hit at any time, and persist for years – if not a lifetime – if left untreated, it is a travesty that modern medicine has so far failed to come up with a reliable cure for writer's block. Those afflicted will know only too well how its onset triggers a host of other ailments, including shattered dreams, marital tension, and financial ruin – not to mention the loss to the world of what might have issued from your pen. Do not despair, however. A simple but effective cure can be found in the pages of this charming novel of genteel eccentricity, set in England between the wars.

As his name suggests, Mortmain has been unable to put pen to paper since an unfortunate incident involving a next-door neighbour and a cake knife landed him behind bars for three months. While his three children and ethereal wife Topaz struggle to feed and clothe themselves, and the castle crumbles around them, Mortmain drifts around reading detective novels and staring into space. He has ditched all his friends and more or less stopped talking to his family. Eventually, responsible Rose, the elder daughter, decides she'll have to marry her way out of poverty and becomes engaged to a man she does not love. It's the younger, wiser Cassandra who realises that the solution lies not in self-sacrifice, but by forcing their father's writing hand.

Her complicated cure works like a dream. We can't disclose exactly what she does, for to do so would be to give away the plot. And in any case the remedy she inflicts wouldn't work if you knew it was coming. But read between the lines, and a fuller picture emerges of how Mortmain's creative juices are gradually unstemmed. Finish the novel, then gather around you the ingredients for your own blockbusting kit: among other things, a person of like mind, someone else to do the cooking, and an Encyclopaedia Britannica. Trust us.

thenovelcure.com

Arts and Entertainment

Will Poulter will play the shape-shifting monsterfilm
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Hollywood

'Whether he left is almost immaterial'TV
Arts and Entertainment

game of thrones reviewWarning: spoilers

Arts and Entertainment
The original Star Wars trio of Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill

George Osborne confirms Star Wars 8 will film at Pinewood Studios in time for 4 May

film

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before