Repairing a ‘broken’ manuscript

Your manuscript needs serious revisions.

Your manuscript has gone through so many revisions you aren’t sure which end is up.

Your manuscript isn’t accomplishing what you set out to do.

MarkupsSound familiar? You’re not alone. Part of being a writer is following a plot or characters not knowing where it will take you. Sometimes it’s fruitful, sometimes you write 10s of thousands of words that end up in the trash can. It’s never a waste of time, but it can feel like a waste of energy.

If you think you have something salvageable (if you’re not sure, read this) you need to strip off the paint to a blank canvas and layering it again.

What to focus on as you repair:

  • What are the stakes for my main character? How can I increase them?
  • Are all of my scenes moving the plot forward?
  • How can the setting be a character in itself?
  • Can I simplify my plot into a storyboard? Does it still make sense that way?
  • Does what’s on the page reflect what’s in my head?

It’s hard for me to make a generic list when everyone has specific issues, but the most important thing is knowing that you still have the passion for it–even when it’s ‘broken.’ No one said writing (and inherently editing is part of writing) was going to be easy.

You can rebuild it. But you have to know you still have the tools: original premise, plot full of conflict, and a main character that is interesting enough to carry it. 


“The more you leave out, the more you highlight what you leave in.”  ― Henry Green

Published by Carly Watters

Carly Watters is a SVP, senior literary agent and director of literary branding with the P.S. Literary Agency. She is a hands-on agent that develops proposals and manuscripts with attention to detail and the relevant markets. PSLA’s mission is to manage authors’ literary brands for their entire career. Never without a book on hand she reads across categories which is reflected in the genres she represents and is actively seeking new authors in including women’s fiction, commercial and upmarket fiction, select literary fiction, platform-driven non fiction and select memoir. She occasionally represents children's book projects. Carly is drawn to emotional, well-paced narratives, with a great voice and characters that readers can get invested in.

7 thoughts on “Repairing a ‘broken’ manuscript

  1. Great post! I’m going through a bit of this right now, in the sense that I’m not sure where to go from where I am. I don’t want to say I’ve written myself into a corner, but I’m definitely not sure how my main character is going to get out of the jam he’s in. I guess I’ll figure it out when he does!


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