Plotting, Planning and Outlining

Where To Start When Solving Plot Problems

Where To Start When Solving Plot Problems

Where To Start When Solving Plot Problems


If you’re having plot problems, I feel back for you. I got 99% problems and…
Well… A few of them are plot problems.

They’re a common thing.

And there’s not one answer, which means that when someone says they’re having trouble with their plot, it can take a while to find something that works.

So, if this post was about solving plot problems generally, it’d be a really looooooong post.
Which is why I narrowed it down to where to start.

These might not be where your plot problems stem from, they might not help you fix them, but at the least you can eliminate these causes from your story.
Or, one of these things might fix your plot problem and get you writing again.


First things first:

A lot of people say don’t read through your first draft until it’s done.

This is impossible.

What most mean, I think, is don’t edit the first draft until it’s done.
Which makes a lot more sense. You don’t want to fine tune the beginning only to get to the end, have an amazing idea and find out the whole beginning needs rewriting anyway.

You should definitely read the first draft as you write it.

Especially if you’ve taken a day (or five) off from writing (we’ve all been there. You come back to the story and can’t remember anything that’s happened, what happens next or even how your main character talks).
You need to get back in the flow.

Re-reading can also remind you of how much you love this story and these characters.
Plus, you might have dropped some good ideas in there that you’ve since forgotten about, and those ideas could be the answer to your plot problems.


Where is the problem coming from?

Plot comes from three main places:

  • Characters
  • Settings
  • Events

So these are great places to check first when you have a plot problem.



It can be really difficult to build a good plot if your characters aren’t fully developed or are holding something back.
They’ll reveal some secrets about themselves to you during that first draft, so stay open minded while writing.

But if they’re holding something back or something’s missing, try having a chat or interview with them or, if you find this difficult, try writing a conversation between them and another character. See what they reveal about themselves.

Another option is to put your characters in different situations, either as an exercise or as part of your story, and see how they react and what they do.

You might find out they have a burning secret, or they react in such a way under certain circumstances that it could change the entire course of your story (which can be annoying but also amazing).



Your characters might be all there but maybe your setting or world isn’t.
What’s going on in your character’s world can be just as important as what’s going on in your character’s life for some stories.

Depending on the genre for your story, have a good think about how the world works, the political situation, magic rules or what issues from the wider world will affect your characters and what they’re trying to achieve.

Settings can provide wonderful obstacles for your characters if need be and certain settings and environments can often be treated as characters in their own right (think the Enterprise in Star Trek or the Empire State Building in Sleepless in Seattle).



Specific events can also create fantastic obstacles for your characters to overcome, or tools to get them from one place in their story to another.

If you’re feeling really stuck, try free writing a new event into the story, see how your characters react, maybe how the world changes, and go from there. It could give you the ending you’ve been hoping for or create the bridge you’ve been struggling to build between scenes.

An event can truly be anything, depending on your characters, the story and the genre. From an explosion to a pregnancy announcement to a heartfelt death.

Yup, if you’re really stuck, consider killing someone off and see what happens.
The beauty of the first draft is that you can always bring them back.


Plot problems can be painful, frustrating and stop all writing in its tracks. But there’s always a way to overcome it.
Even if it means stepping away and working on something else for a while so you can let the characters work it out in your sub-conscious.

Need some immediate help?
This brainstorming idea helped me figure out a massive hole in my latest novel’s plot so I could finally finish the first draft.

Or you can come and ask in the Facebook group – we’re all friendly and no question is silly.

Better yet…


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