I love writing and I love reading. I also love coming up with all sorts of books/films in my head so that if I'm bored in real life, I can just dive into my imaginary book/films to entertain myself. I was kinda proud of some of the options I came up with so decided to try and write them down in a book!
It did not work . . .

Due to what my brain found entertaining, I had tweaked and perfected a wide variety of aspects of the book/films until I thought they were good enough, whilst the stuff I found less entertaining or important to change, was ignored. This meant that when I tried to write it down (even in a plot planning stage) I realised there were significant gaps and holes that I couldn't fix.
Part of my problem is I procrastinate hugely if something has even a small element of stress to it. I also have ADHD so am very bad at organising or sitting down to do something unless I'm passionate about it . . . which I am but it's a little stressful so I procrastinate. And so the circle continues.

So my questions is this; what do I do to get all of my exising ideas down, in a format that makes it easy to find plot (character, etc) holes and fix them? As well as in a way that isn't daunting or stressful.


Developed things

  • I have my protagonist's background almost entirely sorted.
  • I know her motivation, drive, what breaks her and generally who she is.
  • I have come up with a plausible world that has a few tweaks necessary but on the whole is a sound and working idea.
  • I know what my protagonist wants and therefore I have come up with ideas of how to stop her getting this.
  • There are specific scenes that are HUGELY developed and I have been able to find links to both character and plot.

Undeveloped things

  • I have the secondary protagonist and know roughly who he is but have no backstory for him. And therefore no motivation, drive or goal.
  • I have multiple ideas for villains but none are very developed, if at all.
  • I have no clue how I want the book to end. Only half-formed trash kind of ideas that I don't think would be good to use.
  • I don't know how I want the book to start; I have 2 different ideas but they are both very different and would dramatically change the vibe of the plot.
  • Similarly, I have multiple different ideas for the backstory of the book (history) but all would mean a big change for who the protag. is and what her drive is.

These are a few examples of developed and undeveloped stuff. The main problem is I don't know how the book starts or ends.

2 Answers 2


It may help to learn (or to remind yourself) that writing isn't just the business of punching words into a computer. If you have spent a day without sitting at a desk, doing that, it doesn't mean you haven't written.

Given your ADHD, this is likely a good thing to remember. It's perfectly fine to do most of the writing in your head, and to only put pen to paper (so to speak) when everything has been worked out. I often recommend that people who struggle with writing go for long walks, and do the writing in their head.

This is what you've been doing all along. So, in many ways, you've built up your own way of writing already.

Of course, if you never put pen to paper, you never finish your writing, and in the end it turns out all you did was fantasize. Given your ADHD, this is probably a real risk, so you need to manage it. One way to do this, is to make sure that when you write in your head, you write constructively. An important thing that separates fantasizing from writing is that writing is work. You have a clear goal, and you are working to attain that goal even if the process isn't pleasant. Fantasizing is just replaying things you enjoy seeing in your mind's eye.

You've already solved part of the problem here: you've sat down, failed to get words on the page, and come up with some reasons for why you failed. This may feel like you've failed to write, but you've actually done a substantial amount of writing. You can now take these isolated issues, and focus on them the next time you're distracting yourself by writing in your head.

Instead of replaying the scenes you already have, focus on the problems and the gaps. For instance, you lack villains: forget about the story for a bit, and think about what would make an interesting villain. Think about villains you liked, about real world villains, and about what it would take for one of your friends or family members to become a villain.

This can be the basic iteration of your method: write in your head, and occasionally try to get things down on the page. If you fail to get anything down, enumerate the reasons why and the things that are missing. Then go back to writing in your head, but focus on the issues you've set down. This way, it's perfectly possible to write for years without ever literally writing anything. Then when you do finally start the actual writing, odds are that everything will just pour out of you, and you can get a whole novel down in a matter of weeks.

If not, find out why you're stuck, and go back to writing in your head.


It seems to me that you're not so much in need of writing advice, but in need of help in how to deal with ADHD.

Low frustration tolerance is one of the core symptoms of ADHD, and to be able to do tasks such as writing a novel you will have to increase your ability to perform uninteresting, boring, arduous and otherwise aversive activities. Willpower can help you with that (that is, wanting to achieve certain goals with enough desperation). You can also try and break down the task into smaller steps to the point where doing them for a certain number of minutes becomes bearable. Part of the therapy of adult ADHD is finding through experimentation your personal attention span and implementing a rhythm of work and breaks according to it (e.g. using the Pomodoro technique). Consider finding a good cognitive behavioral therapist to help you with that. Also consider trying methylphenidate or another medication, if you haven't yet done so; many patients with ADHD profit from that, though not all.

If you want to avoid unpleasure at all costs, you won't be able to write a novel. Writing a novel is daunting and stressful, but eventually it becomes easier with practice.

As for how to approach your writing problem, what you need is structure. Pick any approach to wrting a novel (e.g. the Snowflake method or the Save-the-Cat beats or the Hero's Journey or whatever) and begin to structure your ideas. If you have tried that and face a specific problem, ask another question.

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