Muddling through a Manuscript?

Daniella Cressman

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I would venture to say that most writers have about a hundred pages of a rough draft buried somewhere in the bottom drawer of their desk.

Maybe they started it years ago.

Maybe they started it a month ago.

You have probably buried your work deep within the recesses of your cluttered home because you got to the notorious middle: The part of the journey where nearly every writer is tempted to give up and throw their whole damn project in the waste-paper basket!

I am nearing the middle of my mystery novel, hence, I have quit at precisely the wrong moment, thinking I might not continue writing fiction after plotting the whole thing to death, but I secretly still want to get back to it.

Maybe you’re in the same boat.

1. GAIN DISTANCE

If you’re like me, you probably vacillate between total narcissism and crippling self-doubt when it comes to your writing on a daily basis.

That’s okay: We’re creatives! 😉

Anyway, you might want to take some time away from your manuscript and focus on other things for a while.

This can help you detach from you precious manuscript and return to it with fresh eyes.

2. REVISIT THE STRUCTURE OF THE PLOT

Take another look at your work. Examine the outline if you’ve created one, and considering implementing changes that might improve your story: Maybe the villain is shitty enough even if he isn’t a murderer, and perhaps setting everything in an empty manor is more enticing than following everyone through the streets of a small town.

It’s okay to prune and pluck your manuscript until your words practically jump off of the page, grabbing the reader by the neck and viscerally pulling them into the world you have created.

3. CHECK IN WITH YOURSELF EMOTIONALLY

Some manuscripts are dead in the water.

It happens to us all: Even if you’ve been chipping away at the thing for years, it might simply be time to let it go, especially if there are a million different threads and you feel like you’re being pulled in five directions at once, and you are completely lost when it comes to organizing your thoughts into a cohesive narrative.

If scraping your rough draft is a massive relief, it’s time to move on: You should feel some semblance of joy, anticipation, and excitement when you are working on your creative projects!

4. EXAMINE YOUR CHARACTERS

There are so many fictional personalities that people love to hate: Umbridge and Snape come to mind.

Perhaps your characters are not fully formed — Maybe someone is malicious to others but you haven’t included his backstory.

Perhaps a woman is overwhelmed as she’s raising five children but she’s overly likable and patient all the time…

It’s essential to make your fiction as believable as possible, what with all the visual media surrounding us and distracting people from having their noses in a book all the time.

Anyway, if you aren’t satisfied with any of your characters and you feel like it’s too much work to rewrite them, it may simply be time to move on.

If you think the people in the story you’ve spent your midnights toiling away creating are worth revitalizing, you could have a bestseller on your hands!

5. DECIDE IF YOUR NOVEL IS WORTH THE EFFORT AND THE SACRIFICE

I’ve scrapped about five novels.

I was only remotely satisfied with two of my projects, and I still felt like they needed work.

Even now, it seems like there are endless typos and tweaks I could correct, but I’m ultimately thrilled that I had the courage to publish each one, and I’m immensely proud of the story-lines and characters I’ve created.

I also pray that there aren’t too many typos on a daily basis because I went through each one about five times and caught every one that I could!

If you are passionate about the tale you are telling and you want to get to the finish line, it might be a great idea to keep going.

On the other hand, you could become dismayed, feeling that nothing is working and dreading each word as you’re typing.

If the process is far too miserable and overwhelming for your taste, it’s probably time to let it go and work on something else: You’ll come back to it if you’re supposed to — writers always do.

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Canadian-American author writing about local politics, personal finance, & dining in Albuquerque.

Albuquerque, NM
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