We have updated our Privacy Policy Please take a moment to review it. By continuing to use this site, you agree to the terms of our updated Privacy Policy.

‘How to address a writing problem you can’t solve’


Addressing a lack of motivation

 from Your Writing Coach by Jurgen Wolff


Sometimes your lack of motivation doesn’t have anything to do with your mental or physical state, it comes from feeling frustrated that there is a writing problem you can’t solve. For those times, I have six strategies for you to put into practice:


  • Go back. The problem probably is rooted in what has gone before (or what has not gone before). What could happen earlier that would make this moment more interesting, more challenging, more suspenseful, more funny, or more whatever you want it to be? Sometimes this means going right back to the characters, not only to the previous action. If you have miscast a character, fire him or her (as Elmore Leonard does) and hire a new one.
  • Think about what makes a party more interesting and consider whether that might be what will make your scene more interesting as well. The options include:
    • introduction of a new character
    • introduction of a different emotion (of course it must be motivated)
    • introduction of new information (that has emotional implications)
    • open out subtle conflict
    • a subtext that goes counter to the text
    • a dramatic change in the environment
    • a realignment of loyalties

Consider whether any of these would help make your scene more lively.

  • Try the “opposite” technique. What would happen if your story went in the opposite direction? (Of course, you’ll have to justify this, but don’t worry about that at first.) You can also try this with characters: What if it’s a woman instead of a man; a young person instead of an old one; a foreigner instead of a local; a neurotic instead of an assured person?
  • Question your inner guide as to the nature of the problem and the solution.
  • Ask your characters what should happen next. In your imagination, step into each character and write a page or two about what’s on their minds, their feelings, and their notions of their future. This is also a useful exercise if there is one character you feel you don’t understand as well as the others, or who is not coming alive on the page.
  • Before you go to sleep, give your unconscious mind the request for a solution. The next morning, recall your dreams to check if one appeared in them; if not, do a bit of brainstorming to see what new ideas come up.