Our stories are often plagued with these common story problems, but if we don’t know how to fix them, we’ll never improve our writing. It’s important that you remember you don’t need to scrap your novel if you keep having the same issues over and over again. Hopefully this list will help you pinpoint what’s going on and provide ways for you to improve your novel.
Problem: Unmotivated Characters
If you’re having trouble figuring out where your story should go next, the problem could be with unmotivated characters. Characters aren’t in your novel just so you can push them around every once in a while and make them do things. They need to develop over time and keep your story going in the right direction.
Work on your character’s wants, goals, and motivations. You need to figure out what’s driving your character if you want them to do anything. Where do they want to end up? What’s standing in their way? What’s their plan? Who will help them? Think about everything your character will need to do to resolve your novel. Focus on what they want and what motivates their actions and your characters will stop being dull and lifeless.
Problem: Boring First Chapters
A boring first chapter is dangerous because you want to captivate your audience right away. You don’t want to lose readers just because of this, but sometimes it happens. You should give enough information to keep your readers interested, while also keeping them intrigued enough to figure out what happens next.
Putting emotion into your scenes from the beginning will not only help set the tone, but we’ll get an immediate understanding of your world. The best advice I can give is to construct a scene that helps us best understand your character. If they’re on the run, show us that they’re being chased. If they’re sad and lonely, construct a scene that lets us feel their isolation. You don’t necessarily need to open your book with action, but you do need to introduce the conflict. Think about what your character wants and go from there. Think of your first chapter as an introduction to an essay. You don’t go right into the points immediately, but you set us up for something good.
Problem: Plot Holes
Writers worry about forgetting to include important information in their novel that’s necessary to the plot. If you’re discovering that readers often point out plot holes in your story, maybe it’s time to reevaluate how you plan your novel.
Pre-planning or prewriting your novel often solves any plot hole problems. If you take the time to write out important scenes so you don’t forget them, your story will become stronger. However, if you’re not someone who likes to do so much planning, you can tackle plot holes during the editing phase. Take notes when you’re editing so that you can catch these plot holes and figure out where you can add necessary information. A plot hole does not always mean your novel needs loads of reworking, but it is something you need to take the time to fill in.
Problem: Poor Pacing
Poor pacing can ruin a novel, but luckily it’s something you can tackle head on before you even start writing your story. Good pacing helps add tension to your novel and helps you make sure there’s enough rising and falling action to keep your story interesting.
Planning out your novel ahead of time also helps solve pacing problems. You can create a timeline that helps you keep track and plan out when you want certain things to happen. Read up on story arcs and try to plan out your scenes accordingly. If you’re already done with your novel and you notice poor pacing, try rearranging scenes or spreading out the action.
A very common writing problem is info-dumping. This is when you tell your readers loads of information at a time without showing them anything important. Info-dumps usually occur in first chapters of novels, but they can happen anytime during the course of your story. Info- dumps can drag down your story and bore your readers.
Cut out long paragraphs where you explain what’s going on in your novel and show your readers instead. Avoid over explaining things that can be explained through action. Letting your audience figure things out instead is a much more satisfying reading experience and it lets your readers connect with your characters on a deeper level.
Making this post about relationships got me thinking about fems. I’ll probs eventually make a male version of this.
- Trans* fems
- Fems who are incredibly disinterested and intimidating (there are a lot of idgaf girls who are loud and talk shit and get crazy, but I want to see girls who can silence a room with one look and care so little about what others think that people are scared of her. i.e. I want to see me)
- Fragile fems who are breaking and broken but not portrayed as lesser
- Desperate fems
- Suave fems who play up their sexuality like a lot of guys do, but aren’t written off as whores, nor wholly characterized by their sexuality
- Fems who are quiet and scared but have to go save the day anyway, breathing into a bag while they do it
- Fems of non-average appearance (tall girls, fat girls, girls with acne, really short girls, girls with gigantic jugs, u kno. although, the oddly colored hair thing is getting kinda old)
- Fems who have crazy high standards for a love interest and when the douchebag bad boy comes along and thinks he’s going to seduce her with his edginess she just doesn’t even care. Bonus if she ends up completely platonic friends with him, or if she kills him one day. That would be fun.
- Fems who ARE the douchebag bad boy but not in a cliche way
- Really funny fems
- Anti-hero fems
- Evil, evil evil evil evil fems (both genuinely hated and kinda admired)
- Fems who are innocent and sweet and still likable even though people nowadays look down on naïveté
- Gorgeous fems who know they’re gorgeous but their gorgeousness is simply a trait and not their entire identity or even that important to them/their love interest
- Fems who are oblivious and spend too much time in their own heads
- Really smart fems
- Nerdy/fangirl fems who are quiet mostly and then get rEALLY EXCITED ABOUT BOOKS OR TV SHOWS AND THat’s basically the only way they know how to really communicate/connect with people
I’m going to stop myself here before I get too crazy with this. I want to see a lot from YA fems.
- Trans* boys
- Fat boys
- Boys who are really bad at like almost everything
- Not-hot boys. Like just average looking boys.
- Boys with acne
- Boys who are love interests and aren’t dark and scary but are, like, normal
- Nerd boys hell yeah
- Boys who don’t have a love interest
- Boys with girl BFFs
- Ridiculous boys who say and do ridiculous things, for good or for bad
- Boys who are terrible aND AREN’T FORGIVEN FOR THEIR TERRIBLENESS BY THEIR 1. HOTNESS 2. TRAGIC BACKSTORY. Boys who are just terrible and compelling anyway.
- Boys who realistically interact with love interests (I can tell you that there are very, very few teen boys who will go out of their way to flirt with you if you are aloof and cold. Or even just not-flirty. The fragility of their male ego doesn’t usually allow for it.)
- GOOD GUYS
- Boys who don’t constantly pursue a fuck
- Boys who have risen above gender roles and societal expectations for their personality or behavior or whatever
- Boys who are drowning in gender roles and societal expectations for their personality and behavior or whatever
- Boys who don’t get the girl
- Funny, optimistic, good-natured boys (I’m done with snarky sarcastic cynical boys really I am. I’m done with snarky sarcastic cynical anyone really.)
- Boys who see the stupidity going on around them and don’t participate (but aren’t cynical)
I’ve been working on a plot for an idea I’ve had in my head for a few years now, and it has grown significantly beyond the scope I’d originally imagined. I know that it’s way too much to fit into one book, and I’m okay with that. The issue I’m having is one of planning: I want to make sure that each book in the series has its own arc, but I have no clue how much “story” would constitute “one book.” How can I make sure I’m planning each book with the “appropriate” amount of plot? Thank you!
The most important thing you have to remember is that each story in the series (because you are looking at it from a series perspective) must have a contained story. Let’s say, for example, your end goal is to defeat the big bad (win the throne, defeat the Capital, etc). Each book can be a step in that direction, but they must have their own stakes and accomplishments. Look at The Lord of the Rings or The Hunger Games as an example - each story has an arch, even if the characters are aware of it (destroy the ring) or not (defeat the Capital was not the goal of Katniss until the third book).
This means that each book needs to have their own stakes, new problems, and a satisfying ending. Satisfying doesn’t mean you have to wrap things up, or that you can’t leave the reader at the edge of their seat, but there does need to be a feeling that one book’s story is ended and another begins.
Let’s look at it it as a trilogy example:
- Book One: We are introduced to the characters, discover their main goals, follow them through suffering and trauma as they try to accomplish these goals. The end of the book finishes the major problem of that book (defeat the dragon, fight the overlord’s minion), but doesn’t solve the Main Problem, or leads to new ones.
- Book Two: Shit gets harder. The last book’s challenge was a cakewalk compared to this one. Minor characters probably die. Maybe a major character or two dies too. Main obstacle of the book is tackled or defeated, but not without cost.
- Book Three: It’s all or nothing. Characters start dropping like flies, or the main character realizes she’s been betrayed by her friends, or the love interest turns out to be the enemy all along. Final problem is resolved, but not without irreversible character and world changes, for good and for bad.
See how the stakes are high in each book, but consistently grow through the series? The books have a goal for each one, although that goal gets harder, and it gets the characters closer to the final goal.
Here are some links that can help you out:
is it a good show or is it just dark and gritty with a high production salary and middle age white dudes?-a question y’all need to ask yourself