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1.)  I have a terrible case of writer's block.  I have a great, developing idea for a thriller, but I can't seem to get anything written.  I have bought tons of books relating to writing, and now I have overloaded my brain with information.  It's like this:  one false word, and I'm done for.  What advice do you have for overcoming writer's block?

2.)  I need some specific questions answered about coroners and medical examiners, mostly procedural.  What free resources are out there for writers?  How do writers fill in the gaps in novels to create believable scenes?

Hi Meghan -

1) The 'one false word' syndrome is very common among writers. Here's the solution: Don't worry about the words (yet). I advocate slopping out the fastest messiest rough draft possible and not worrying about any specific words until the rewrite (and let's not pretend there won't be a rewrite). But before you slop out a draft...

If you're writing a thriller, plot and structure are crucial, which means at some point you're going to have to outline the story so you can build twists and escalations into the architecture - which is almost impossible to do if you're ONLY drafting. Your prose is the trees, your outline is the forest.

You can use bullet points on paper and/or a computer file and/or index cards. For a thriller, I've often used index cards. Write the headline for one scene or story beat on each card. Don't worry about the order at first. Just write down the things that will happen in your story. When you have at least 20 cards/beats, start putting them in order. That's your outline. Then write a draft using that outline as a guide. If you get stuck in one section, you can hop to the next section and draft that.

Honestly, I often start drafting (what I consider 'exploratory writing') at the same time I'm outlining because a) I'm impatient and b) that lets me verify that my ideas are working when I write them out.

2) Have you tried calling your local Coroner's Office or ME? They probably both have 'Public Information Officers', or someone designated to deal with the press and public. They can answer basic questions. They may even be able to arrange an interview with someone in the office and/or a tour or site visit. Talking to the people who actually do what you're writing about will give you unique, resonant details.

I hope that helps. See my book "How To Be A Writer Who Writes" for more about outlining.  

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Greg Miller


I can answer questions about writing and the creative process in any form or genre. I have been a writer and writing coach and teacher for 15 years, working with NY Times bestselling authors and absolute beginners on memoirs, screenplays, TV scripts, solo shows, personal essays and standup comedy.


I'm the author of "How To Be A Writer Who Writes" ( and the writer's reference book "Miller's Compendium of Timeless Tools for the Modern Writer" ( I have taught at UCLA Extension, Humber College, Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health, Cal Arts, NY Institute of Technology, Teen Canteen and numerous arts and cultural centers. I am co-director of The Comedian's Way Workshop for Writers, Performers and Other Humans, which I have taught privately with Beth Lapides in Los Angeles for 15 years. I have been coaching writers privately for almost 10 years. I have also worked as a writer and producer for TV, film, stage, radio and online media.


LA Weekly, Writers Digest, Omni, Premiere, CBC, NPR

NYU, BA in History/Journalism

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