Possible Writing Conditions & (Maybe) How to Fix Them

Writers work super hard – and sometimes we grapple with writing conditions. I mean, we like to be super simple and just say it’s writers block. But other times, it’s not just not having ideas. It’s writing ruts, or patterns, that are way too easy to fall into. 
And getting out is HARD. I know I fight these writing problems, so today’s post is all about diagnosing writing problems and working on how to overcome and keep writing. 

You’ve read through this condition before, especially if you’ve ever read Charles Dickens.
And halfway through a page, you roll your eyes and maybe scream, did we really need to know all that much about what the kitchen looked like???
Readers don’t need THAT much information. If you want people to know the girl didn’t like color, spent her time running around in the rainy woods, and wore her cousin’s hand-me-downs, PLEASE, don’t try to tell us ALL that in one paragraph.
Or else, readers are just going to completely skim this entire paragraph full of potentially vital details. 

Details are important. Don’t treat them like random trivia facts.

In fact, think about a trivia contest centered around your book. You don’t want important details to just be lumped in with all the extra stuff.
Like, Harry Potter’s Scar. That’s important. But Potter’s Scar and the Name of Hermione’s Cat are NOT equally important.
The Harry Potter books mention Harry Potter’s scar every 5 sentences (or something like that) The cat’s name, maybe 7 times total?

Know when to drop details – and why they matter to your plot.

I’m not intentionally insulting Hermione’s cat…he was just super useful for today’s object lesson  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

We’ve all seen this before – that moment when you’re reading a book and you STOP. And wonder, what is happening?

And I don’t mean the panicked, WHERE ARE ALL THESE PLOTS GOING, LEIGH BARDUGO? kind of wondering.

No, I do mean…what are these characters doing? Why have we spent 50 pages tracking across the shire, Mr. J.R.R. Tolkien
I found this gif…and I love it for this point. 

Ahem, yes, I’m talking about plot BOREDOM. When the plot, the characters, nothing is adding up into much of anything. You know the story should be progressing – except it feels like it’s going in circles.

Also, called, the Most Disappointing Plot Syndrome Ever™️

Wanting to skip ahead to the action scenes or character building moments is a problem. Don’t let it happen to your book!
Make every page matter. Easier said than done, I know.

But know what each step means for the characters. Clearly communicate why these actions matter to the readers. Make it clear to yourself. Just make stuff happen, ok guys? 

This problem doesn’t necessarily happen while writing – nope, this probably happens in the planning stage.

Creating characters is hard work and if you’re not careful, or mindful, characters can be cardboard cutouts. The characters don’t feel real, or their problems feel forced, which makes the story just tedious. 


How to fix this? Know your characters better than you know anything in the world. Get inside their head, understand what ticks them off, what little things make them incredibly happy, and why they matter to this story.

And if you’re having trouble knowing your character my number one advice is to interview them. Basically, ask questions about your characters and don’t rest until you know the answer.  

Oh, this one is so frustrating! Diverse characters used as plot devices or just there to score points. ERGH! I hate this! 
And I am really, really seriously frustrated with this problem. Apparently, being diverse is hot or popular, or whatever word you’d like to use. So writers, might just throw in a minority character just to try and sell their book as diverse. 

Of course, people do end up buying the book because we need diverse books! But token diversity is NOT REAL DIVERSITY. Instead, this just makes minority readers feel used. 

Don’t fall for token diverse writing. 
Instead, seek out diverse stories. I guarantee that if you read the experience of minority voices, it will change how you see the world. And the way you see the world, is the way you will write the world. 

This is why I think it’s so important to read non-fiction to write quality fiction. Read about minorities struggling against oppression, books such as When They Call You a Terrorist, so you can understand life from a non-privileged perspective. 

Talk to minority readers. Read diverse authors.
Invest in the community, don’t just use minorities to further your own agenda. That’s called colonizing and nobody needs more of that attitude. 

Now, not all writers are privileged. Not all readers are privileged. I am writing this from a more privileged perspective. But I think understanding and striving to create actually diverse stories is important for all writers. 
This is a tricky one, because ever since Shakespeare, it feels like writers are recycling some of the same plot ideas? I mean, there’s only so many different ways we can force our characters to fall in love. We all know this, we even have diagnosed our romance tropes with charming little names – Meet Cutes, Enemies to Lovers, Best Friends to Lovers. 

The problem with tropes isn’t that they exist – it’s when they are overused.

Now, if your writing follows the trope formula exactly, it might feel like a trope dictionary. Boy meets girl. Boy disses girl. Girl ignores boy. Boy now falls for girl. Awkwardly tells the girl. Girl scolds boy. Boy helps girl out of desperate situation. Voila, boy and girl are completely fallen for each other. 

How many different ways can this formula be written? Way too many ways. It’s totally ok to use a trope formula, a meet-cute or enemies to lovers, BUT try to find a way to spice it up. Kill a character. Turn the meet cute on it’s head. Just do something to surprise your characters (and you)

Me, giddy writing a surprise into any story. 

That might sound funny. But I find, when I step away from my draft, and come back to it a few weeks later and read it again, if I’m not surprised by something, the writing is disappointing. Yes, I wrote it. But I should still be surprised. 
Or maybe that’s just me and my quirky writing habits. 

I think this was this post took the longest time ever to actually write? I’ve had it sitting in my drafts since May! But forcing myself to keep writing it was just hard? Maybe because working through these writing problems is a constant struggle and not something that magically starts being awesome overnight. 

I love writing and making my writing better. Even when it’s hard. Knowing the story is worth the struggle makes all the writing headaches 10000000% worth it. 


lets chat
Do you struggle with any of these writing problems? How do you find ways to become a better writer? Does your own writing ever just surprise you? Have you ever interviewed your characters? What would you consider too many tropes in one story? 
Do you have any favorite writing tips? 
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7 Comments

  1. August 4, 2018 / 1:12 pm

    Well Elizabeth, I am really happy you wrote this post, it was SO good and so useful, definitely bookmarking this and trying to remember it as I will work on my WIP again! <3 I am always bothered when I feel like characters aren't fleshed out in stories and I really don't want to do that, so I really need to focus on them more and more and try that interview technique a bit more in depth, too 🙂 Thank you for sharing these tips! 😀

  2. CG @ Paper Fury
    August 5, 2018 / 7:39 am

    Ahhh I love this advice!! I particularly am very aware of making sure my books move along at a fast pace…but then, not TOO fast or that’s just as bad?! (THIS IS WHY WRITING IS SO HARD *sobs*) Also token diverse characters can really be a problem…and I get that a lot of writers feel like they’re trying their best, but like, it’s a good rule to NOT write a diversity that you know nothing about, just for the sake of trying to make your book better. Do the research! Do MORE research! Someone recently mentioned to me that they were writing about a specific minority because they thought “it wasn’t written about enough”…which was great right up until they said they didn’t know anything about it but they’d figure it out as they went. Um. 😳Maybe know the details first, mate?! Yikes!

    I also love tropes though. 😂My guilty adoration haha. I do think they need fresh twists to them!! A trope has to be done WELL. They’re pretty unavoidable but I definitely agree with you that they can’t be presented cliche!

  3. Ilsen Leon
    August 5, 2018 / 2:55 pm

    I am not a writer but I love this post! Yes I hate it when the characters are cardboard cutouts or they just aren’t doing anything. I mean if it turns out your characters are amazing and then they are not doing anything, maybe they can get away with it in a contemporary. But if it’s not, then I will get annoyed. TOKEN DIVERSITY IS NOT OK! Like no actually do your research. Don’t let the diverse character be a stereotype. That is so bad. And I do like tropes but they need to be done well and have a fresh twist just like you said. Also overload on details are annoying, but I will probably read it and not skip ahead. I don’t like skimming books. Every word deserved to be read in my opinion! Great post!

  4. August 5, 2018 / 2:57 pm

    This post is so useful!! I definitely have a problem with putting too many details in when I don’t know where exactly I’m going with the plot. Same kind of goes for dialogue. I LOVE writing dialogue a little too much, haha 😅 I don’t actually have much experience with writing full novels, but I’ll definitely be referring back here when I run into any problems with it 🙂

  5. August 5, 2018 / 8:37 pm

    I love this post so much! I’m currently editing and I’m doing as much research as I can right now. I definitely need to do some character interviews! 🙂

  6. August 10, 2018 / 9:44 am

    I love this! Sometimes we’re aware of these things but we have to remind ourselves to be on our guard and not let them go unnoticed!

Drop some knowledge!