Oftentimes as authors, the idea for a book comes to us like a bolt of lightning, and we’re exuberant and excited to see where it may lead. We might write the first draft in a few weeks or months, but sometimes it can take us years to complete a manuscript as we’ve envisioned it. Everyone’s pace and schedule is different (and most authors who’ve achieved success began writing their books as a hobby while they worked fulltime to pay the bills!), and the act of completing a manuscript at all is an enormous feat and one to be incredibly proud of. However, Midnight Publishing wants to explore the conundrum of deciding whether to tinker with an existing manuscript or deciding whether to scrap it and start with a fresh draft.
Midnight Publishing is a company of editors and award-winning writers based out of Phoenix, Arizona, and we know how it feels to love a manuscript and want to see it soar (they don’t call them “book babies” for nothing!). But as your guides in the writing and publishing industry, it’s important that we encourage you to ask yourself some questions about a manuscript’s potential before you invest more time (and money) in it.
Below are Midnight Publishing’s top three questions when it comes to evaluating a manuscript’s potential for editing, revision, and publication (either with self-publishing or pursuing a traditional contract):
1. Are There any Glaring Plot Holes? If so, Are They Patchable?
A plot hole is an inexplicable happenstance or a loose end in a storyline that has no explanation. A rule of thumb is that the events in your book and the behaviors of your characters can be as outrageous as you want, as long as they have a logical foundation. Someone who is a villain can (and should!) help a little old lady across the street because she’s old and frail and reminds them of their grandmother. However, that same villain cannot for no reason suddenly decide to abandon all of their dark plans and become the hero without plausible reason for it. They are certainly allowed to and justified in changing their minds, as long as you’ve planted the realistic seeds beforehand that they were experiencing doubts about their villainous plans.
Now that you know what a plot hole is, you must examine whether your story has some, and if so, how many. Plot holes can vary in size, ranging from an easy character behavior to adjust to a full-scale world building inconsistency. If you find that your manuscript has several large scale plot holes that you either don’t know how to fix or that would take an exorbitant amount of time to revise, then it may be better to step away from the manuscript, let your imagination explore new angles, and start fresh with a new and drastically different draft.
2. Are There Any Tropes Included in the Manuscripts? If so, are They Appropriate for the Genre or Would They be Perceived as Clichéd or Too Similar to Another Popular Book/Series?
Tropes are defined as plotlines or a combination of personality traits that have been overused in fiction. Examples could be a love triangle (most often between two men vying for a woman’s affections), the “mysterious bad boy with a sensitive side” character, the beautiful blonde or the tortured antihero. Tropes aren’t necessarily a bad thing; they’re popular and widely used for a reason. But it’s important to recognize that in certain genres tropes are welcomed and even expected, while in others they can be perceived as amateur, clichéd, and lazy. If you find after some reader feedback and personal examination that your characters are one-dimensional (flat, not a lot of justifiable background information or character building), and/or that the storyline falls into trope territory, you may once again want to go back to the drawing board and start over as opposed to revising the existing manuscript.
3. What Have Early Beta Readers and/or Editors Said in Regards to the Overall Storyline? How Large are the Proposed Changes?
One of the best ways to “check the temperature” on a manuscript is to hire an editor, like Midnight Publishing, to perform a developmental/structural edit or provide an editorial review. Midnight Publishing offers a variety of levels in editing, and when we work with a client we send a detailed summary regarding our overall thoughts on the manuscript, its strengths and weaknesses, and any proposed changes and/or ideas. Once you’ve received that feedback, it may be most beneficial to begin again with a fresh draft, taking into account all that your editors and/or early readers (also known as beta readers) have suggested to make the writing and storyline stronger.
Keep in mind that we’re not saying the entire idea must be scrapped—merely that beginning a new draft while retaining the overall world, characters, and storyline could save more time and result in a stronger manuscript than attempting to revise the current one.
Midnight Publishing has been assisting writers for nearly a decade in Phoenix, Arizona and internationally. We’ve been trusted with over five million words since our inception. Contact us today to find out why!