I would say that in high school I was a fairly prolific writer of terrible prose. Two and a half manuscripts were completed between my sophomore and senior years – and none of it was worth sharing (though I did share with one of my college friends, including the disclaimer that it was very poorly written and very girly). And so, last week when I had the inexplicable urge to pull out one of the manuscripts and work on it, I didn’t know what to think.
Reading the first few pages, I was speechless. The adverbs were killing me. The characterizations were alright, though overstated. And there was line after line of worthless writing that did not advance the plot or add anything to the story. Not that the story had much to begin with. And this was a “first book” in a series of eight!
I cringe, I wince, and I almost quit then and there. Nothing could be done to save that mess I’d made.
Then I stopped, took a deep breath, and thought again.
Okay, so the story was drawn out and overly-dramatic. Things that I could do to fix it? Cut out the other seven books. Condense several of those plot points into one book. Write notecards with the plot points. Arrange and rearrange those notecards into a workable plot. Rework the characters – give them flaws and contradictions and secrets. Give them new names.
So, this is how I started salvaging a manuscript that I thought would never be worth anything except a lesson in how bad my writing can be. It’s a challenge, but I like challenges.* So wish me luck in my salvage operation! And if you are struggling to salvage a plot, idea, or entire manuscript, I wish you luck!
Take care, fellow travelers.
*This might be part of the reason I haven’t been working on QFS lately – I have the plot all done and the rewrite is just about making it flow better – no real challenge there. 😦 I’ll get back to it come spring.
- The Kingmaker: Why Beta Readers Are Awesome (kingmakersaga.wordpress.com)
- Four Common Manuscript Mistakes (wordplaywritersforum.com)
- Editing: We Need to Talk About Your Plot (paigereiring.com)