It’s often said that no one can be a harsher critic of a writer’s work than the writer themself.
Not only are we the first readers, judges, and fans of our work, but we’re also the ones that tell ourselves that it sucks.
Most of the time that’s right after we’ve typed “The End” and are convinced we’ve just wasted the last few weeks/months/years of our life on something no one else will want to read.
It’s all part of the fickleness and fun of being a creative writer, and like self-doubt, it’s most likely not true.
3 Essential Reminders For When (You Think) Your Manuscript Sucks
1. The Whole Thing Isn’t Crap
Unless you’ve written something so truly bad that every sentence can’t be saved, there is no way the whole of your MS is crap.
It might feel that way to you, and I’m sure the writer’s doubt that has raised its voice and whispered in your ear is very persuasive, but the likelihood that what you’ve written can’t be polished into something readable isn’t possible.
Go through every chapter and focus on the parts you do like. Note them down and use them to remind yourself of what you can do when your writing works.
Next, highlight the parts you don’t like and brainstorm how you’re going to fix them.
Is your MC unlikable? What can you change about the way you’ve written them or the way they act in the story?
Look into ways to master the basics of writing and read every craft book you can. The only way we improve as writers is by learning and by writing. You are capable of both to get your MS into the shape it needs to be.
2. It Can Be Re-written
Just because you aren’t happy with the way your MS turned out, it doesn’t mean you have to put up with it.
Sometimes we get so stuck on an idea, the way we’ve structured our plot, or what has happened between characters that we forget we can change those things.
If you think your book sucks because something isn’t working, re-write it!
While you might not like that suggestion, and it may mean months of more work, if it helps you to achieve the story you want, isn’t it worth it?
Decide what needs to be re-written. It could be the whole thing (I’ve been there, twice for the same MS!) or it could only be parts of your MS. You never know if just one simple deletion of a character, or a restructuring of a key event, can transform your MS from something that sucks into something that works!
Don’t balk at re-writing. It might be just what you need to create the book you intended when you started that first sentence.
3. You Know It Too Well
When writers sit down with the finished version of our story, we don’t have the same advantage as first-time readers.
The words aren’t new to us, the plot twists aren’t surprising, and the character arcs have already been set in motion and completed in our minds. We know the story so well that by the time you get to the final draft of an MS, it’s so easy to think it’s bad.
The struggle to invent a decent plot, the poor descriptions, the ideas that didn’t pan out, the scenes that felt like getting blood from a stone to write, are too fresh in your mind.
It taints how you feel about your own words, but none of it is true. If you didn’t know the story so well, you would see that it’s interesting and exciting. You would see it as a new reader does.
Try to keep that in mind as you prepare your manuscript for betas, submissions, or publication. Along with re-writing what’s not working and learning all the writing tricks you can, you’ll realize that your manuscript doesn’t really suck. Or at least, not nearly as much as you think.
— K.M. Allan