3 Essential Reminders For When (You Think) Your Manuscript Sucks

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?

Do your action scenes lack punch? Is your romance luke-warm instead of red-hot? Are your descriptions boring? These elements can be fixed with research and practice.

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

Find me on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

31 thoughts on “3 Essential Reminders For When (You Think) Your Manuscript Sucks

  1. Oh yeah, being too familiar with my work by the time I’m done writing and editing can definitely affect the way I see it. In fact, I’d be so done with a certain manuscript that I won’t even want to read it anymore. That’s a very real struggle, but it’s definitely all mental too. Thanks for another great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I get that way when I’ve been editing for a long time too. I’m trying to approach my current WIP in a different way so I don’t hate it when it’s published 🤣. Thanks for reading, Stuart!

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  2. I definitely got stuck at number 1 for a while after finishing my first draft (and still do periodically while editing draft 4!). This is useful advice. I just need to keep reminding myself WHY I write – luckily it’s not for the fame and fortune!!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Annie Chiappetta

    Hey, great post. I wrote two poetry books and a memoir and none were as tough as the novel I just released. It underwent two major rewrites, first changing the POV from first person to theirfd person, then I cut the first three chapters and made all the characters older. I also rewrote the ending three times. It was all worth it.

    Ann M. Chiappetta

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This also doesn’t end by publishing the book – I know I’ll return to them a lot when I check continuity for sequels. I’ve, in fact, looked at a couple of random chapters as I was waiting for a delivery – and it took me just three paragraphs to think “I should’ve worded this sentence better”… I guess a writer won’t ever be satisfied with his work.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. This is why I’ve avoided reading my published books again 🤣. I know in the two years they’ve been published that I’ve evolved as a writer and definitely would have worded things differently. I’ll be starting work on the 4th and final book soon, however, so I will need to look at them again to ensure I’ve covered everything. I’m both dreading it and excited about it. It’s so true that we’re never satisfied.

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  5. Grant at Tame Your Book!

    Excellent post! Encouraging and inspiring! Writers feel the tug-o-war between perfection and excellence. We shun perfection because, by definition, it’s an unattainable goal. Excellence serves as a beacon, guiding us toward what can become a practical yet fun adventure of constant improvement, progressing from good to better while guided by best.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re welcome! Thanks for reading and best of luck with your restart! I’m coming to the end of my second major re-write of a project. It’s been hard at times, but I’m glad I did it. I hope your project ends up stronger for the effort too.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Glad to hear it’s going well! It’s funny the things we catch. One of my last editing options is listening to the book using a text-to-speech app. The last time I did it on an MS I thought was ready, I heard a typo in the opening paragraph 🤣. I’d read it so many times at the point, I couldn’t even see such an obvious and early mistake.

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      2. Haha, nice example! We can definitely get blind to our work in certain ways. An obvious one I caught today was a character saying “Be honest and tell me the truth” … Um, they’re the same thing! How did that make the cut the first time 😂

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Great post! For the second draft of my WIP most chapters are getting major rewrites. I certainly didn’t like the idea of it at first. Now seeing how it flows so much better than originally, I can’t be mad. Rewrites are needed at times of adding/subtracting plot points or world building.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks! I’m very close to finishing the same process, majorly re-writing more than half of my chapters. It’s been a long process, but well worth it. Good luck with your changes and your second draft 😊.

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  7. Right on the money, Kate! If you are squeamish about making changes, do what I do – make a copy of the MS before making a single alteration. (I see it as something of a safety net.) That way, you can play around with the text as much as you want and still have the original for comparison or to cannibalize the good parts! As you said above, the whole thing isn’t crap. Great advice!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. petespringerauthor

    I think well-timed breaks work for me. It’s not surprising what a fresh mind and eyes can do when I return to a project. Finding a different project or type of writing can be energizing for a short break.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. It can be hard realising just how much we know our story – and that can lead us to missing important things that readers need to know. But you’re right that just knowing it too well, can make us think it’s just not that good. I love going back to a project I left for a while and being surprised at some of the things I wrote. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Great post and tips, as always! It’s so easy for us writers with a little imposter syndrome going on to feel like it’s all crap. But you’re right, it’s impossible it’s all crap. Novelist Matt Bell recently wrote a craft book about revision that I need to get my hands on. Somebody quoted a portion that really struck me as useful. He said that in revising a piece of writing with problems, go to where the energy is, to revise first places that you’re interested in and that you want to explore further. I think that can keep the confidence up enough to actually finish a revision (and start the next one!).

    Liked by 1 person

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