Motivation: what every editor wishes you knew

I’ve recently been doing a lot of structural editing, and have redrafted my own novel, The Problem With Crazy, and I feel like one slippery little sucker I keep running into is motivation. I’m not talking about overall motivation, not should-the-hobbits-destroy-the-Ring motivation, more short-term emotional kind of stuff–and I’m just as guilty at not following it through as the next person.

When it comes to romance in particular, here are my three biggest motivational issues:

-We can’t be together because … my best friend doesn’t like you/it’ll never work/I’m no good for you/I ate your mum. Sometimes, these reasons are enough, but other times, they can appear wishy-washy. You’re no good for him? So get active trying to be good. Your best friend isn’t a fan of your lover? Time to friend-date it up! You’re a vampire and you ate your lover’s mum? Get her turned, and let her live an eternal life! Well … okay, maybe that one’s a stretch. But the rest? If you really like the guy, try, don’t wallow.

-Consistency. In my book–yep, this is something I’m very much guilty of–I noticed I had a lack of motivation consistency when it came to why my two leads couldn’t be together. ‘Oh, he doesn’t like me.’ ‘No, what’s the point liking him, because we can’t be together due to circumstance.’ There was even a ‘What’s the point liking him since we can’t be together due to circumstance because he doesn’t like me.’
I’m not saying reasons can’t change, but where possible, you should keep it simple, and try for one main reason; then stick to it. Don’t beat a around the non-pornographic bush.


I want to know WHY you want to eat my brains ... Photo: Big Stock Photo

I want to know WHY you want to eat my brains …
Photo: Big Stock Photo


-When it isn’t everywhere. A common problem I see is the antagonist having no real motivation, except, say, to ruin the hero’s life and eat the hero’s brains. If we’re dealing with zombies, I’m cool with it, but other times, I want to see motivation, well thought out and completely, erm, complete, from Doris the milkshake lady and Victoria Grayson. They didn’t call the show Revenge for nothin’.

These are my top three ‘things to look out for’ when it comes to motivation. How about you? Have you been guilty of any of these? (Don’t worry; it’s a safe space).


4 thoughts on “Motivation: what every editor wishes you knew

  1. I think my last two NaNos have had issues with motivations with the characters. It’s definitely something I need to work on but hadn’t quite thought of it this way until reading your post! 🙂

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