Help! My Novel Sucks

I’ve just read about saving a failed novel and on the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America website.

In short it talks about finding opportunity in a ‘failed’ project. Go and have a read about how you can save a project from the abyss.

What inspired me about this post is how I’m currently a little stuck with my latest book. But over the years I’ve discovered a way to plough on. It might help some people if they also get stuck.

Because the scale of a novel is so vast and difficult to hold in entirety in ones head, I revert to the micro, rather than the macro: I focus on the 1 chapter in front of me.

I look at (whatever) chapter I’m working on, and consider how I could turn that chapter into a short story. I think about the ending: how could I make an impact with the reader? I search for (or plan fresh) a crisis for that chapter: what could throw my protagonist into the depths of peril? What is their worst nightmare? Then,  with these two plot points (maybe the ending has to be reworked because of the crisis), I think about how could I set up the beginning to sensibly reach the crisis point, and therefore the climactic ending? The ending should never be easy to reach, so the middle of the chapter is full of hurdles my protagonist needs to get over.

In short, my chapter is converted from a generic (must have) for my huge plot in a lengthy book, to a singular moment which almost stands alone. One where I can see the stages characters must think about, and do, in order to reach an essential point at the end of it.

This invigorates the chapter. It makes the chapter feel new again, and powerful, and therefore I am excited to write the scenes again.

Obviously, my bigger story is always in mind, and my new chapter may need some working afterwards, but it’s enough to get me going.

I need to work this way because I can’t bear to hack my story up, covert it into a new genre, turn it into a short story, or any of the other things mentioned in the Story Salvage article. For me, this would be soul crushing. Even the thought of having to abandon a story kicks me into the above rescue mode.

If you want to ensure your first draft is finished, I recommend seeing my Get Story page. I lay out the foundational structure of a great first draft and ensure your writing is on-track throughout. I’ve also got a great Story Planning Notebook for you to scribble all over as well.

What do you think? Do you have a different approach to saving a doomed manuscript? I’d love to hear in the comments (which is the best way to increase your organic SEO btw!).



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15 yrs of time travel!