5 Strategies for Writing the Parts You Don’t Like

For all writers, there inevitably comes a time when we encounter aspects of the craft that, for one reason or another, we just don’t like. Whether it’s meticulously constructing a setting, creating the intricacies of dialogue, or grappling with a specific writing style, we all encounter elements that trigger a sense of dislike or resistance. The question that often arises is: How can you effectively handle writing the parts you don’t like? It’s a puzzle that demands thoughtful consideration and practical strategies to ensure creative flow remains intact even in the face of elements that might not align with a writer’s personal preferences.

The creative journey is a diverse landscape. Each writer grapples with unique preferences, strengths, and challenges. The key to writing the parts you don’t like lies not only in recognizing these areas of discomfort but also in devising practical approaches to surmount them. Embracing the discomfort as a natural part of the writing process opens the door to growth and improvement. This exploration of the less likable components can then become an opportunity for honing skills, refining one’s craft, and ultimately elevating the entire writing experience.

Today’s post was inspired by a reader’s question. Sionnach asked:

How do you write things you don’t like? For example, I hate setting. Hate it. I skip over it in books I read. I can appreciate when its being done well, but I still find it boring…. I add in just enough setting so that my characters aren’t talking in empty space. One of my beta readers has said she would like a little more scenery. Maybe a little more wouldn’t hurt—except for the fact that I loathe it. I like to hear the characters. They’re the things that interest me. I read your article on setting and am going to try incorporating a bit more in my story, but every writer probably has something they hate. How do you push through it?

Writing a novel is such an incredibly complex and varied artform. It requires so many different aspects writers must learn. We have to learn how to describe settings and people, how to mimic real-life dialogue, how to write character actions, how to share character thoughts, among so many other skills. And then there is the variety of subjects we might need to write about in any given scene—everything from romance to violence to parenting to police procedure to girls’ night out. Really, a writer might be called at any given moment to write about anything within the entire gamut of the human experience.

It’s only natural we won’t resonate or enjoy writing it all. Part of that can come down to the fact that perhaps we haven’t yet developed the necessary skills to write something. Part of it might come down to personal preference. And part of it can even come down to personal triggers and shadows—which can show up every which way, from having trouble staying present with finicky description details to feeling resistance to writing certain subjects.

5 Tips for Writing the Parts You Don’t Like

The parts we don’t like writing will be unique to each of us. Some of us love setting and hate dialogue. The one thing that isn’t unique is the fact that most of us can identify at least one thing we feel like we’re supposed to be writing into our stories and… we really wish we didn’t have to.

Today, let’s break down the experience of resistance so we can discover possible solutions for easing the hard bits and perhaps eliminating some of them altogether.

1. Identify Why You Don’t Like Writing Something

This is always the place to start. Ask yourself, Why? Why don’t you like writing this particular part of your story? Where is your resistance coming from?

If your initial answer is, “Because it’s boring!”—go deeper. Boredom is a mask put forward by deeper motivations and usually signals a different emotion we don’t want to feel. The deeper answers can be vast. At the heaviest end of the scale, maybe there’s something here that’s triggering you or bringing up difficult memories or feelings. At the simplest maybe it’s just difficult to focus your attention when writing this specific part of your story. This could be because your skill in this area isn’t well-developed yet or because you’re trying to write something without the foundation of necessary knowledge (e.g., it’s hard to write descriptive details for a setting you don’t know anything about).

A good exercise when exploring your deeper reasons for experiencing the ick is to compare your feelings about writing a certain part of a story versus your feelings about reading that same element in someone else’s story. For example, you may discover you quite enjoy reading someone else’s love scenes but don’t enjoy writing them yourself. Most likely, however, you’ll find that what you dislike as a reader is also what you dislike as a writer.

Put yourself in your audience’s shoes by exploring your experiences as a reader. Indeed, in my experience, this is the single best way to learn anything about writing and storytelling. Study your own reactions. If you don’t like reading dialogue (and, yes, I have encountered a couple people who don’t), then ask yourself why? If you get bored by lengthy backstories, ask why?

After a little investigation, you may realize you only dislike certain techniques or types of scene when they’re poorly done. When well executed, they may rivet you. If so, examine what makes the difference between one author’s approach and another’s. If you find you have a blanket dislike for this part of the story experience, try to decipher why that might be.

2. Don’t Hesitate to Leave Out the Parts Readers Skip

Try to leave out the parts people tend to skip.–Elmore Leonard

A simple rule is that if you’re bored when you’re writing it, there’s a good chance readers will be bored as well. The good news is this can excuse you from having to write the parts you don’t like. The bad news is that the fact that it bores isn’t always a sign your story will make sense without it.

If you’ve completed the previous exercise of identifying why you dislike something—as a writer, a reader, or both—you can make an educated decision about whether or not that part of the story is worth keeping. When paying strict attention to your own reading habits, notice what you’re skimming or skipping.

Personally, I’m most likely to skip rehashed backstory, unnecessary subplots, and dialogue with extraneous characters who are just there to add color. From that, I can easily deduce the reason I’m skipping is because, as a reader, I don’t care about this stuff. Put another way, this is the stuff that takes me away from what I really do care about—the main characters in the present-day plot taking actions to further the heart of the story. Even a cursory examination tells me the reason I’m skipping is because these elements are poorly presented within their stories. I’m skipping because the inclusion of these elements is just bad writing.

And who knows? Maybe these authors were super bored and made themselves write these scenes when really their stories would have been so much better off without them. (Of course, it’s also possible the authors wrote these scenes with their self-indulgence glasses on, believing readers would love anything they loved writing.)

The point here is that if you’re writing something you wouldn’t enjoy reading then… don’t. Cut the filler. Instead of a couple paragraphs of setting description, hone the skill of identifying one or two “telling details” that can bring the whole thing to life in readers’ imaginations without wasting anyone’s precious time or attention. For all that we like to emphasize the importance of showing over telling, summarization is a crucial writing technique that should be exercised liberally to keep the narrative moving and the pacing tight.

When writing something you dislike, write the least amount you think you can get away with. Then run it by some trusted betas to see how readers might react. Did they feel they were given all the necessary information to understand the story? Did they feel like everything flowed and the pacing worked—and that it wasn’t choppy and didn’t feel like something was missing? If it works for them, that’s a good sign that your resistance might just have been your own good story wisdom telling you didn’t need it.

3. Uncover the Deeper Reason Why the Part You Don’t Like Is Important

When you feel resistance, it’s usually a sign of inner conflict or cognitive dissonance. If you were totally in alignment with not writing something (as per the previous point), then you wouldn’t be worrying about it. You have to ask why a part of you insists this is important to the story. Although you may still decide less is more, it is important to consciously recognize the deeper reasons why something seems like it should be in your story.

Let’s say you’re writing backstory for your protagonist. It’s boring you to death, but you feel like readers need the context. Ask yourself why this backstory is important in the first place. What is its function within the story?

The top layer of this answer might involve the specifics of your story, your character, and the events of that character’s backstory. You might realize that if readers don’t understand something that happened in the backstory, the events of the main story might not make sense.

You can dig even deeper to an understanding of what we might call the “archetypal” function of backstory, which is to create the verisimilitude of cause and effect by providing a reason for the character’s motivation to pursue the plot goal in the main story.

Once you recognize that, you can examine the bit you’re having trouble writing. Does it fulfill that deeper mandate of backstory (or whatever element you’re working with)? In short, is it functional within your storyform? The answer may be, simply, No, it’s not necessary to fulfill the deeper meaning of the technique. But another answer may be, Yes, it is necessary—but it needs to be written with more finesse in order to achieve its full potential.

4. Brush Up on Your Skills

I’ll admit it: I don’t like doing things I’m not good at. I would even generally say that many of the things I’m not good at bore me—which, of course, points to the underlying emotion of discomfort the boredom is covering up. On the flipside, I find a tremendous amount of satisfaction in doing things I am good at. Even if those things are relatively tedious, there is true enjoyment in moving through a task with skill.

Of course, this applies to our writing as well. Sometimes the resistance we feel to writing certain parts of a story may point less to a lack of functionality or importance and more to our own lack of confidence in executing those parts.

Perhaps we need to do more research. We might struggle with writing scenes of our character’s job place and think it’s because we just don’t like those scenes, when really we’re blocked because we don’t know enough about the details of this career to describe or use it as a foundation for interesting characters or conflict.

It could also be we simply need to practice the actual writing skill involved. As stated earlier, writing a story is not just one skill. It is a host of very different skillsets all bundled up together. Just because you’re aces at one skill doesn’t mean you’ll measure up on the others.

Whenever you encounter a part of your story you don’t enjoy writing, consider how you might practice the skill involved—whether it is description, dialogue, showing instead of telling, telling instead of showing, or whatever else. Study how some of your favorite writers execute this technique. Go so far as to copy out passages or mimic their style.

Dig even deeper and ask yourself what they are trying to achieve at an artistic level with this technique. For example, if you’re working with description, you may begin to notice true wordsmiths are rarely “just” describing something at length. Rather, they may be intentionally using description to achieve other ends—everything from evoking symbolism and mood to furthering the plot or providing commentary on a character.

You aren’t just seeking to become good at a specific technique, you’re seeking to master it—to understand its deeper purposes and uses, so you can employ it in your story with all the skill of a general positioning battalions.

5. Gamify It

Finally, there comes the unfortunate truth that not all of writing is fun all the time. After you’ve explored the above possibilities for either eliminating the parts you don’t like or evolving them into parts you do like, you may be faced with the realization that you have to write the tough stuff anyway.

From there, the only thing you can do is come up with a game plan that will mitigate your resistance as much as possible. Get real with yourself about how this part of your writing is affecting you. Do you feel so much resistance that you end up avoiding that scene—or your entire story—altogether? Do an honesty check and evaluate whether you would be most productive forcing yourself to power through these scenes, or whether you’d be better off leaving yourself a note along the lines of “[WRITE DESCRIPTION HERE]” and then putting off all the hard stuff to the end. (Some of the thoughts in this post talking about the pros and cons of editing as you go are pertinent.)

Whenever the time comes to write the hard stuff, do everything you can to set yourself up for success.

1. Seek Inspiration

You might start by psyching yourself up a bit and getting in the right mindset. Seek whatever inspiration would be most helpful. This might be reading similar passages by authors you admire. It might be brushing up on necessary research, so you have all the information you need fresh in your mind. Or it might be browsing related images or music videos to put you in the mood.

2. Set a Timer

Set a timer for an amount of time slightly shorter than what you think will be necessary to write this section, up to fifteen minutes. Then write like the wind! If you haven’t finished after the first fifteen minutes, set the timer again and keep going. Writing in short bursts can make the obstacle seem smaller. After all, you can definitely write something you don’t like for just fifteen minutes. Don’t overthink while writing. Leave the editing for later.

3. Bribe Yourself

Finally, a well-timed bribe can go a long way toward grounding you and helping you move through grinding resistance. If I’m writing something particularly difficult, I will sometimes provide myself with something to eat that comes in tiny pieces, like craisins or chocolate chips. Even just having a cup of coffee to sip can do the trick. Then I will “bribe” myself with the rule that I get to take one bite or one drink after every paragraph or section I complete. Not only does this give my brain forward-thinking momentum, it also helps contain the impulse toward other distractions.

***

The ability to navigate and conquer the parts you don’t like writing is a sure sign of resilience and growth. When you embrace the multifaceted nature of the creative process, you have the opportunity to reach toward greater and greater mastery. Even though not every part of the writing experience will resonate equally, you can utilize your own wisdom about your process, as well as these practical strategies, to transform resistance into productivity. The path won’t be without challenges, but each conquered obstacle is an opportunity add a new layer to your expertise and artistry.

Wordplayers, tell me your opinions! What are some of the parts you don’t like writing? Tell me in the comments!

Click the “Play” button to Listen to Audio Version (or subscribe to the Helping Writers Become Authors podcast in Apple Podcast, Amazon Music, or Spotify).

___

Love Helping Writers Become Authors? You can now become a patron. (Huge thanks to those of you who are already part of my Patreon family!)

Sign Up Today

hwba sidebar pic

Sign up to receive K.M. Weiland’s e-letter and receive her free e-book Crafting Unforgettable Characters: A Hands-On Introduction to Bringing Your Characters to Life.

About K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland

K.M. Weiland is the award-winning and internationally-published author of the acclaimed writing guides Outlining Your Novel, Structuring Your Novel, and Creating Character Arcs. A native of western Nebraska, she writes historical and fantasy novels and mentors authors on her award-winning website Helping Writers Become Authors.

Comments

  1. Richard Siers says

    To the writer mentioned at the beginning, If your test readers are wanting more setting, then maybe approach the setting as another character. If “where” is important to the story, then it is in essence, another character. Perhaps treated this way, it won’t be quite as much of a chore.

  2. Great analysis, as usual.

    One thing that I think ties so much of this together is, “Style, style, find your style.” That is, look at how you’ve been writing and how you really want to be writing, through the question of “How would I write this if I had to write *every* similar moment in the book or my career the same way?”

    There’s a difference between writers who know their work would be better with more setting, and the ones who think they’d do better with less if it was done right. If you know you’re the first kind, you could learn how to see more depth in a location quickly and how to keep it contributing to the story. If you go the other way, you might study setting writing too — to find those “telling details” that can add a layer to the writing and move on fast without using up time or space.

    *Should* your writing have more or less of something, to work with everything else and so it’s a joy instead of a chore to keep including it? Then learn to make that much or that little of it work.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Very true. So much of writing well is knowing *why* you’re making certain decisions. Are you doing it for your own reasons–or because someone else did it this way and you think you should follow suit? This is also why it is so valuable to study not just how other writers are successfully doing things, but analyzing *why* they are making the choices they’re making and what effect they’re having on the readers.

      • Yes indeed. One of my favorite ways to start a critique is “It looks like you’re trying to… so if that’s the focus you might want more…”

        • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

          Which is a great critique practice, since it both describes what you, as the reader, are experiencing, while also offer constructive advice for moving forward–all without assuming responsibility for the writer’s vision.

  3. Wow, this came at a perfect timing as I sat down yesterday to ask myself how I can make writing more fun for me. Love the tips here and the depth of the questions you ask! As I was reading them, I realized I hate writing the ‘fun and games’ part of a story–the first part of Act 2 when the character has crossed the threshold into a new world. This is a big problem, as it is one of the meatiest parts of a story in terms of entertainment. When I went deeper, I realized that I got so into character arc and character development that this part just seemed like a superficial filler for entertainment. But, once I brought that into consciousness, my excitement soared because I know that there is no part of the story just there for entertainment–every part has meaning, including this part. This is the part the protagonist is either being punished or rewarded for using their lie/truth. I also love the concept of ‘fish out of water’ with the protagonist and this is the part of the story where this really shines if you’ve thought of a good example of it (for example, a woman with ADHD decides to become a professional organizer to prove her worth). Once I started asking those quality questions, writing this part became exciting for me.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      That’s perfect! Sometimes just coming to a more nuanced understanding of our own resistance can open the floodgates of inspiration.

  4. For settings I do a lot of research about what certain places in certain times look like. I also download pics of places and things as visual aids.

    In regards magic systems, I borrowed mine from the GURPS: Magic book by Steve Jackson Games. The various GURPS books also provide backgrounds on career skill sets and character templates. A great resource, even for those of us who do not indulge in role-playing games. 😀

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      The Internet has made research so accessible. I remember writing early historical novels before Internet research was readily available. Such a different ballgame now!

      • Michael K Capriola Jr. says

        Another thing about creating magic systems (or anything else, for that matter) is to keep in mind Gene Rodenberry’s Axiom: “Joe Friday never stops to explain how his .38 revolver works. He just uses it.” I worked out a magic system, but never really explain it. The mages use it, the results are such and such.

        Another thought on setting (gosh, but I’m such a chatterbox): In one of my manuscripts, I used a short paragraph to describe a city during one of its famous market fairs. Pulled out all the stops. And then followed that up with a short one-sentence paragraph: “The party arrived during the off-season.” (LOL)

  5. Cher Gatto says

    The ending is killing me! Love the post because it forces me to look at why. The answer lies in the weight I carry to authentically and deeply impact my readers beyond the story itself. My protagonist struggles with significant wounds and many of my readers do too. I have to remind myself that I am not (and neither is my story) their path to healing and that burden is not mine to carry. It seems obvious (I’m a fiction writer, not a self-help author), but it comes from my own need to fix, to have the solution, to have all the right answers. And when I don’t … well, that’s my writer’s block. 🙂

    • Elisheva Halle says

      Wow, powerful realization–I have the same issue, especially as I studied narrative coaching and bring my own knowledge of storytelling into coaching sessions, I am very aware of the power of stories to heal. One way I started to look at it that helped me is that the ‘lie the character believes’ is a mechanism the character has learned to suppress their emotions-and emotions provide us with the clues as to who we are (and the reconciling of contradicting emotions all the more so, which often is the stuff of story conflict) and what we need to know in order to move forward in an authentic way. The emotions are the gray area and the lie brings the protagonist into a black or white space. Stories are really about how we go past the black and white and connect to the rich world inside of us. In this way, there is no black or white answer in terms of what the character chooses to do in the finale, but there is a ‘teaching moment’ in terms of how the character moves past their lie so they can connect to that inner world. For example-a lie can be ‘I must always provide’. A plot where the conflict is such that the character cannot provide fully for one person without it hurting another will force the character to meet their inner world where they will have the answers what to do. That realization that true love requires boundaries is a powerful gift to give and help readers experience through story.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      One of my favorite dictums about good fiction is that its job is not to offer answers but to ask questions. Sometimes viewing the process through that lens can be helpful in more realistically assigning responsibility.

      • Wow, love that. I think the need to have a solution to present to the reader comes from a desire to give something meaningful to the reader. Giving the gift of powerful questions can literally shake someone out of their status quo and black and white thinking.

        • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

          Totally. Nothing more life-changing than a good question. 😉

        • Rod Schmidt says

          I once wrote a draft of a sequel/backstory to “A Wrinkle in Time,” because that book leaves so many questions open.

          Eventually I realized that the job of a writer is not to solve puzzles, but to make them–not to answer questions, but to ask them.

  6. Sionnach says

    I pretty much find anything past a few sentences of setting boring to read. I realized while reading this newsletter that I don’t like landscapes, either. The only landscape that comes to mind that I really like is The Starry Night. It’s emotive and seems novel even after I’ve seen it a million times.

    Strangely, my mother mostly painted landscapes. We had a complicated, often traumatizing relationship, but I don’t really know if that’s where this comes from. It’s sort of interesting, though.

    I’m going to work through these steps and try to write more symbolic and powerful settings. I like the idea of picking something unique and describing it, but I already do that and I’m either not doing it well, or it simply isn’t enough. I’m a four, so maybe learning to infuse my settings with more emotion will help me eke out a few more details.

    Thank you for answering my question!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Sounds like you’ve already got lots of interesting strategies to explore! Thanks for inspiring the post.

    • If you are a 4, try to think of a setting with which you have a positive emotional connection. I’m also a 4, and I noticed I enjoy writing coffee shop scenery because of the positive associations it gives me

  7. These are great tips! I’ve been having trouble with a story, and it absolutely helps to go beyond asking what the problem is and asking why is it a problem. It also helps to be honest and open to whatever the answer may be. It’s the quickest way I know to move forward.

  8. Jade Ankh says

    My “don’t want to go there” has road blocked the editing of an entire book!

    It’s the chapters from the villain’s perspective (first person) that stump me because the person is subversive and creepy (but not graphic). Throughout the book the tension builds around who they are and what they are going to do and eventually results in tbe abduction of a child. I toyed with the idea of cutting it but it really is the catalyst for every other viewpoint characters climax.

    So, what is your advice for a road block of “this person’s headspace makes me feel deeply uncomfortable and I don’t want to go back in there and edit it”?

  9. Rod Schmidt says

    When this sense of dislike or resistance is triggered, Stuart Lichtman would call that a Blocker, and would suggest resolving it using his Base Reframing Process.

    I recommend his 2022 book, “Make Your Life a 10,” available thru amazon

    Rod

  10. Cheryl Gorman says

    The hardest thing for me has been and still is understanding and applying natural progression in my stories. I know that all scenes must have a goal, motivation, conflict, and disaster and they must relate to the plot. Sequel is Reaction, Dilemma and Decision. The Decision is supposed to be the goal, motivation, conflict for the next scene and you keep doing that until you get to the end of the story–like puzzle pieces fitting together. I am constantly asking myself “What happens next?” and the answer is usually “I don’t know.” I read a ton and am constantly analyzing plots but I’m still not getting it. Consequently, I am frustrated and totally blocked. Any suggestions? Thank you.

  11. Hi Katie, I run into this problem a lot. Sometimes it’s because I haven’t done enough research or worldbuilding, other times it’s because I want to skip to the exciting part without building up to it. In my WIP, I was putting off writing for several weeks, possibly a month, just because I wanted to get to the climax so much. But I was a chapter away, and I knew that if I didn’t write I would take longer to get there; at the same time, I didn’t want to write because I wanted to jump ahead. Over that month, I wrote a sentence or two here and there, but last week I pushed through and finished the chapter. Now, I’m almost done writing the climax, and it’s been amazing! It takes perseverance. Thanks for this post, reminding me that it is possible to write through the parts I don’t like!

    Recently, I was thinking through my previous books while planning my next one, and realized all my main characters are so similar. They have similar personalities, similar likes and dislikes, similar traits. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, and there’s lots of diversity between them all, but I was wondering, how do you write about people who are really different than you? I know about the Enneagram and Myers-Briggs (I’m a big personality geek; I’d be a psychologist if I wasn’t a writer. Wait, maybe that’s one reason I write, haha!), but how do you apply them to crafting characters? And, as an ENFP and a 4,6,9, I have THE HARDEST TIME making “bad” characters. How do you make my bad characters truly bad, without making it feel unrealistic?

  12. Victoria C Leo says

    I bribe myself to do ALL the tasks of life I hate! How do you think I ended up with 127 stuffed animals and 150 jigsaws? Love ’em all. And if what I want involves hubby (no, not that), I know that he can rely on me for bribe-material as well. Bribing myself never gets old.

    The one novel I just didn’t want to do (because of the theme of spies and espionage), I used all your techniques, managed to get it done, reviewers like it the least, but the journey was essential to the overall series arc cuz the protagonist had to go thru some inner-journey things. I prayed so hard that it was good enough and the readers liked the earlier books well enough to keep going to book 7, the end..

    LOVED this post!! My other hate, after certain content, is keeping the details straight. I have planets, species, ships, people, and words in alien languages and I simultaneously love it and hate keeping track of it. Started using less, for my readers and my editor and me. I’m learning…

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I hear you. I’m not one of those authors who start with the world-building and end up with anthologies of facts. There are pros and cons to that. 😉

  13. Heidi Ferber says

    When reading your blog and am suddenly interrupted by an annoying pop-up, it makes me want to move on. Is there something else you could do rather than have a distracting pop-up? It’s a turn-off.

  14. Mary Catelli says

    The big thing to remember on description is — what would your point-of-view character notice?

    I was deeply frustrated in one book because two characters who, in the book before had fought in a war, were traveling together for safety, and neither one showed any situational awareness — that this part held the danger of ambush, and that one gave them no place where they could take refuge in event of attack.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Yes, that’s especially annoying when it turns how to be a plot contrivance that *allows* them to be attacked.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.