What to do when you struggle to get your story written

LIssa Bryan wrote a great post about this exact feeling

Lissa Bryan has written a great post about this exact feeling

I am now a week behind my re-writing schedule. I am struggling to concentrate and appear to have misplaced my motivation. When I sit down to write the words are not what I intended and the scene turns out to be irrelavent, boring or both. My characters spend too long agreeing with one another and the conflict is absent. Or, the conflict is there but the writing is so weak that it does not adequately demonstrate the tension required. So, I’m left wondering what I should do now. There are a number of options:


Blindly go forward
This is a phase. I can write myself through it. As long as I turn up and write, eventually the words will sit in their rightful places and the flow will return. I just need to give myself permission to write rubbish while I work through it.

Spend some time plotting
Perhaps I’m struggling because the structure is missing from the scenes I am trying to write. I don’t understand my character or the situation enough to write the suitable atmosphere or there are too many incompataible elements that I need to tease out. This requires thinking time to ensure I can justify the scene and the character motivations.

Take it one scene at at a time
Maybe I’m overthinking things. Perhaps if I break the task down into small, manageable chunks – like individual scenes – it will seem easier to handle. I might be putting too much pressure on myself to do too much, when really I just need to take it one bit at a time.

Write something else
I need a break from this story and these characters. I should take some time to try and write something else, something with lower stakes and less pressure that is posed by the novel.

Write about my struggle to write
Alternatively, if I find that the crippling effect has leaked into all my fiction writing abilities, I could spend some time simply writing from the heart and describing my difficulties. This might allow me to externalise the problem and move it from my head to the page so I can put it aside.

Remind myself of MY motivation
I need to rediscover my passion for the story: why did I want to write this novel? What compels me to tell the story of these characters? If I can recapture some of the enthusiasm I had when I started, perhaps this will propel me on.

Change position
My writing environment might be toxic. Perhaps I need a change of scenery or some other more stimulating atmosphere that will encourage me to write? Maybe my body is not happy with the way I am sat – lounging on the sofa/bed – and requires sustenance or a bit of attentive exercise. Occasionally, it’s the body not the mind that needs care.

Examine the other side
Maybe my brain needs to comprehend how these scenes could be written, in which case I might need to educate myself on how to write by reading. Perhaps I just need to process some writing that isn’t my own, in order to deconstruct the method and remind myself that this is process, not the final product that I’m working on.

Take a break
My mind is too full of other stuff right now and I need to take an actual break from writing and allow myself time to readjust. I’m not feeling well, personal issues have arisen and my paid job is mad busy. Sometimes we need to admit when to take a step back and set things down for a little while.


There are a lot of potential solutions to my current predicament and I’m grateful to all those individuals on Twitter who offered me advice when I mentioned my lack of ability of late. There’s a lot going on in my life right now, so it is possibly inevitable that my mind is not focused on the writing itself right now.

What I can’t do is panic: so I am a week behind schedule – I planned in some contingency for falling behind. Berating myself for not being where I wanted to be at the moment is not going to help me move forward. I can’t turn back time and I can’t force myself to enjoy the writing anyway. It is what it is. This is the nature of being a writer – of being human – and we’ve all experienced it. The key thing is not to beat yourself up about it and put too much pressure on yourself, lest you break.

I have a set of potential solutions. Now it’s just a matter of working through them to hopefully come out the other side renewed and refocused on the job at hand.


What do you do when you find it difficult to write? Do you find it easy to identify the reasons for your struggle to write?
Let me know in comments or Tweet Me.


5 responses to “What to do when you struggle to get your story written

  1. I think your best plan would be to leave it, stop worrying about it (if you can!), go on to a piece that you’ll find easier to write. Then re-read it in a couple of weeks – it might not be as bad as you think. Is your schedule one to which you must adhere, at a cost to you financially or professionally? If not, it doesn’t matter.
    In the first book I published on Amazon, I had a chapter in the middle that I found hard to write because it was necessary for the plot, but not that interesting. I did the above with it, and when I went back to it I kept it as short as possible. I kept the dialogue and the reactions of the characters short, blunt and to the point. It was never one of the high points of the novel, but it didn’t matter.
    Hope that all helps!

    • Thanks for the advice Terry. 🙂 The deadline is self-imposed, based on the fact that I’m due to have a break at the beginning to July and would feel depressed/dishearted if I had to return to finishing this novel again (It’s been a very long process so far!).

      I took your advice, of a sort, and moved on to critiquing a separate section of the novel that I knew would need some hefty rewrites but doesn’t contain the same main characters as the bit I’m struggling with.

      That seems to have worked, because today I feel back on form and I’m able to write again! I think letting go and realising that it’s more important to get the words down has helped. As you say, there are always a few slower moments in novels, and sometimes we just have to find a way to work through them.

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing some much needed moral support and practical advice. I feel very lucky that I can write about my ‘writing woes’ and have people respond with useful tips to help me work thorugh it! 🙂

      Much appreciated,
      Take Care, Cat x

      • Glad it helped, and that you found a solution. Something I’ve discovered over the years (and is echoed by your reply) is that mood makes all the difference in how you see what you’ve written. Now, if I read something and think ‘it’s a load of crap’, I realise that it probably isn’t crap at all, and it’s just that I’m tired. I log off and pack it all in for the day – I know it’s just because I’ve been ‘at it’ for too many hours, and it will all seem different in the morning.
        I think sometimes it’s practical advice you need, not people saying “oh, I am sure it’s awesome” or something like that!!!

  2. Wow, that’s an impressive list of options. I have two strategies when I’m stuck. If what I’m writing bores me, I know it will bore the reader so I skip ahead to the next conflict/situation or I work on something else for awhile. I’ve been spinning my wheels for a few weeks now, so I think I’ll try something from your list. Hope you break through the block you’re having!

    • Thanks Dawne. Hope that something on the list works for you. I like the idea of moving on to another part, so I will definitely try that.
      Appreciate you stopping by to add to the list 😉
      Take Care,

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