What To Do with That Unfinished Manuscript?

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If you’re a writer who’s been at your craft for a while, chances are you have several manuscripts that are unfinished. To date, I have several Manuscripts in some sort of “process.”

By that I mean, several are completed, as in they have a beginning, middle and ending. But they’ve never been professionally edited (can’t afford it), so they sit waiting “to be discovered.”

But then there are those “other manuscripts.” I have at least 4 of them that are around 7000 words, but they ran out of steam, each for different reasons. And you probably have some of those too.

Before you consider the paper shredder or having a bonfire, try something else.

Idea #1 – set it aside for a few months – Reread it, and maybe the flaw will come jumping out at you. Maybe you’ll realize that Robert couldn’t possibly be the murderer, because you forgot that Sheila murdered him in Chapter 3.

Idea #2 – Pull it apart – Maybe you have one really strong character and the rest are boring and uninspired. Maybe it was a mistake to place Amara the Elf in the same story as Arabella the English House Maid? Hey, it could happen. Maybe Amara is just in the wrong story?

Idea #3 – Research. Reasearch. Research – Maybe you haven’t done enough research on the topic you’ve chosen to write about? Maybe you don’t know as much about ancient basket weaving as you thought you did?

Idea #4 – Setting  – Change the setting. Maybe your lovers shouldn’t meet in the middle of a Western bar fight? Or maybe they should, but maybe they shouldn’t be lovers at all. Maybe they should be long lost siblings?

Idea #5 – Conflict – Maybe there’s too much? Maybe there’s not enough? Maybe the conflict is passive? Maybe you’re being too nice to your main character. Maybe she needs to fall off a cliff, get hit by a car, get thrown in jail, or all three at the same time?

Idea #6 – Dig deeper – Maybe your story isn’t working because you don’t care enough about your main character? Maybe you don’t know her as well as you thought you did. Maybe you need to work on her back story a little more. Maybe you need to find her Achilles heel and kick her in it…hard. Make her bleed (figuratively or literally depending on your genre) for something, or for someone. If you don’t feel her pain, your audience won’t either.

Idea #6 – Last resort – Shred it – It’s extreme and it’s painful, but maybe it needs to be done (though I don’t recommend it). Maybe the story isn’t working, because there is no story there? Maybe it really is just an “idea?” Maybe you just have the bones of a story, but there’s no meat on them. It’s hard to admit, but it happens.

 

Whatever the case may be, I would only resort to Idea #6 if you have a strong constitution. I don’t think I could ever destroy my work, not matter how cheesy it is. There’s an audience for it somewhere. Maybe you could include it in your biography when you’re rich and famous? Or maybe an MFA program would want it for a “What NOT to Do…” course?

I’m not a professional, and I’m not a published novelist (yet). This post was for me as much as it was for others. Maybe we could learn together. Feel free to share any hints that have helped you get back on track with your dormant manuscripts.

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4 thoughts on “What To Do with That Unfinished Manuscript?

  1. Fun post, Lisa. Great suggestions for things to look at too. I’m finding that mine need some rewriting with more, deeper emotion. Sometimes, my conflict isn’t enough, and I need to figure out how to make things worse for my darlings. One author I know says, if you need something to happen, shoot someone (she writes historical westerns). That works for her. 🙂

    Like

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