Getting Into Your Writing Zone by Sam Blake | Resources | Better Fiction Guides | Getting Started | Plotting and Planning
Sam Blake

Sam Blake

Remember My Name comes out in paperback this week with a fancy new cover (and sprayed edges for Eason stores – very exciting!). My fifth standalone The Mystery of Four is out in January 2023. The Mystery of Four is actually my eighth book – my standalones thrillers are preceded by the three Cat Connolly Garda procedurals (starting with Little Bones) and I have one thriller that’s a digital exclusive – High Pressure (you can download it for free when you join my Readers’ Club – info at 🙂 )

Remember My Name has also been shortlisted for Crime Novel of the Year at the Irish Book Awards – you can vote for your favourite books (voting closes 10/11/22, be quick!)  and short stories at 

I’ve been writing constantly for the past 20+ years – as well as building a handful of companies and parenting. Creating my own writing routine and finding my own way to write has been invaluable part of that process. By listening to other authors and adopting the parts of their routines that suit me, I’ve developed my own. There’s TONS of advice on the internet, much of it apparently conflicting (!) but I’m a firm believer that this is because creativity and your own creative process are as unique as your words on the page. Every writer has their own way of doing things, and developing your own process is part of the secret.

Finding out what motivates, you, what helps you get into the writing zone makes the whole business of writing much less of a battle. Procrastination and not being able to get started writing are not the same as writer’s block. You can find my thoughts on writers block and ways to fix it here. All writers procrastinate – it’s amazing how much housework suddenly needs doing, or emails need answering when it’s time to write. I find if I’ve got too much time on my hands, I spend more time not writing than actually getting stuck in – I’d be a total disaster if I went to a writers retreat for a week!

If I’ve only got twenty minutes I’m MUCH more focused, and I’ve learned to write on the move. In fact, I find my office desk the worst place to write, as there are so many other things that need doing that distract me. I love to escape to coffee shops or hotels to write instead. I trained myself early on to shut out external noise. I find it hugely useful to have music playing to drown out the practical stuff going on in my head – hearing a specific soundtrack or piece of music triggers the creative side of my brain to get working.

If you’re the type of person who writes better in a ‘safe’ space, creating a writing space for yourself that essentially makes your subconscious comfy is ideal. I love writing on the move, away from the endless to-do list on my desk, but that gave me a big problem during the pandemic when everyone was at home and our movement was restricted. I got thrown off the kitchen table because I should have been in my office, but I can’t write there because of all the other distractions, so I set up a desk in the spare bedroom and created a writing space for myself.

Many writers have subconscious (that word again) habits that help them write – perhaps lighting candles or listening to a particular piece of music (I loved using scented candles on my writing desk during lockdown). These are all triggers that you can use to train your creative mind that it’s time to get started.

Triggers are incredibly powerful – look at your good writing days and your bad ones, is there something you are doing on one and not the other?

Create your special writing space – it doesn’t have to be fancy!
My lockdown writing space was a borrowed chair from one of the kids, €20 IKEA desk, scented candle, occasional cat.

Creating a routine of some sort (not necessarily writing every day, in the real world that’s not always possible) helps hugely – light a candle, go for a walk, have a coffee, whatever will help your brain switch on. Use routine to train your mind – let your story percolate while you are walking or doing the washing up (when Agatha Christie came up with her best ideas), and then be ready to write when you sit down. Even if you’ve only got 5 minutes.

Listening to music is an excellent way to find your way into your mental creative space. In the same way you can train your brain that its creative time starts when you light that candle, music can be hugely useful. I have a very busy mind and I find having a sound track for each book helps me switch straight into that world. I choose music that suits my characters, whether that’s chart music (for Cat Connolly) or classical for ex ballerina Vittoria (Keep Your Eyes on Me).

I use storyboards to help focus on the story – I find pictures on the internet of people who look like the characters in my head – they can be anyone, actors, or stock photo models, I don’t worry about who they are because they are different people in my story. I find their homes (external and internal shots) and sometimes cars. Often I add items that hold significance for them – on a storyboard I created for The Dark Room, I added a hare tile at the top. These hares inspired the country house hotel in The Dark Room – Hare’s Landing – and turned out to be much more significant than I knew when I started!

On the Remember My Name storyboard I have a picture of Cressida’s house, Emily Jane’s mini and Brioni’s tattoo.

Storyboards help me visualise and understand my characters, and as I create the board, sticking all the pictures down, it helps me understand their inter-relationships. I compose the pictures in the groups that they form in the book.

5 Tips to Kick Start Your Creative Brain

  • Procrastination and block are two totally different things – see my tips for writers block! Reducing the time available to get your writing done will help you focus.
  • Create a writing routine that kickstarts your creative brain.
  • Identify triggers that will give your writing brain a sign that it’s time to switch on and use them to train yourself to deliver – candles or music are ideal.
  • Create a writing space with as few distractions as possible. Make sure you’ve a comfortable chair, you’re warm and you’ve got that all important cup of tea nearby!
  • Listen to other writers and steal the bits of their process that work for you to develop your own routine. (These writer video interviews that I did for, with my agent Simon Trewin, are packed full of nuggets of gold) – some writers go for a walk before writing, others write before they go near their email. Listening to others will help you develop your own routine.

I love the quote ‘the only time to write is now’ – it really is, and I have this is pinned over my desk…

Happy writing!

(c) Sam Blake

Praise for Remember My Name 

‘This is an incredibly taut thrill with a tense undercurrent of threat rippling through every page. It’s compelling, modern thriller writing at its very best, combining sharply drawn characters with a dark, gripping plot. Utterly addictive!’ Victoria Dowd

‘Deliciously twisted’ Daily Mail

‘A high-octane thrill-ride into the dark underbelly of cutting-edge tech, full of intrigue, glamour and unforgettable female characters. If your webcam isn’t already covered up, it will be after you read this book.’ Catherine Ryan Howard

“A breathless STUNNER of a thriller and you need to read it!” Miranda Dickinson

Here’s the blurb:

Remember My Name pbIf she’d turned off her phone, instead of listening in, perhaps no one would have died…

When Cressida Howard catches her entrepreneur husband playing away from home, she hires security expert Brioni O’Brien to get the evidence she needs for a speedy and financially rewarding divorce.

But what Brioni uncovers goes beyond simple infidelity. Because Laurence Howard is also in bed with some very dangerous people.

Bribery and blackmail are the least of his worries as someone comes after the women in his life – someone who is out to destroy Laurence and his empire, whatever the cost. And Cressida and her teenage daughter could soon be collateral damage, if she and Brioni don’t act fast.

Order your copy here! (Free delivery UK and Ireland)

About the author

Sam Blake is the founder of (under her ‘real’ name, Vanessa Fox O’Loughlin), a board member of the Society of Authors and the Crime Writers Association. She has been writing fiction since her husband set sail across the Atlantic for eight weeks and she had an idea for a book. Her debut novel ‘Little Bones’ (Bonnier 2016) was a runaway bestseller. Across all her books Sam has been an Eason No 1 bestseller for ten weeks, an Irish Times No 1 for six weeks, and has been listed in the Irish top ten for a total of twenty-seven weeks. Both her first novel ‘Little Bones’ and ‘The Dark Room’ were shortlisted for Irish Crime Novel of the Year (2016 & 2021)

Moving away from police procedurals, now writing ‘deliciously twisted’ (Daily Mail) bestselling psychological thrillers, Sam’s focus is on strong female characters and ‘creating genuine page turners with metronomic timing.’ (Sunday Business Post).

Sam is originally from St. Albans in Hertfordshire but has lived at the foot of the Wicklow mountains, for more years than she lived in the UK. Follow her on social @samblakebooks. Visit for news and events and get a bonus free short story in audio & text when you subscribe to her newsletter.

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