Don’t delete your manuscript

Sometimes your manuscript is just not working. You might feel like deleting your file and beginning from scratch. Don’t. Your manuscript already has a lot working in it, but you might not know how to find it. Here are some alternatives to scrapping your draft and starting over.

  1. Take a break from your manuscript. Go for a walk, sleep on it, put it in the metaphorical drawer for a while. Sometimes the ideas need to percolate a bit so you can find a new way to connect or undo them. How long of a break depends on life, deadlines, and annoyance with the work 😉
  2. If you’re writing fiction, the problem might be your plot. Are you overemphasizing what happens at the expense of where it happens, and to whom? Dig into describing the setting and characters’ back stories and see how these mini exercises strengthen the world around the plot. It might be that fewer things need to happen. Less is more, small is beautiful, etc.
  3. Select one chapter and cut it by half. Then do it again. Be amazed by the results.
  4. Do a reverse outline, also called a 3D outline. Most outlines write forward: what the book will be about, and its components. A reverse outline considers what’s there and whether it should remain. Run through your manuscript and map out the elements, chapter by chapter. Do this work by hand, one line per subtopic. It’s a useful way of seeing what belongs and what doesn’t. Then group those subtopics into topics and write them on index cards you can reorganize. (I’ll go deeper into this method in a future post.)
  5. Talk through your manuscript with a trusted friend or writing group. They might see a solution you haven’t considered.
  6. Hire an editor for a manuscript consultation. A manuscript consultation results in a memo that outlines the pros and cons of the manuscript, with suggestions for revision. It’s a budget-friendly alternative to a full edit and a useful way to build your idea within the parameters of your draft.

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