First thing’s first: How do you know if your manuscript needs major surgery.There are a few clues.
One of the biggest clues is what people often refer to as “writer’s block.”When you’re staring at your ms and your set goal is just not flowing, something’s wrong. It could be that you’ve been staring at the page for so long words no longer make sense. If that’s the case, take a walk or do something else to give your brain the time to reboot. If that doesn’t work, you may have written yourself into a wall that just can’t be scaled.
Another clue is that the book has stopped making sense.You’re subplots are tripping up the main plot or they’ve gotten out of control like a patch of Himalayan blackberries. The tract of Plot A doesn’t mesh with subplots a and b anymore, but c might still work. Maybe. It’s possible that you can tweak those plots and herd them back in the right direction, but it might be too late for that.
There are lots of other ways to discover you’ve got to take a scalpel to a book before it will work, but you’re going to be the best qualified to know what went wrong.
Secondly, determine how much surgery you’re going to need.Is this an appendectomy? Or a full amputation?
Maybe all you need to get back on track is to go through, figure out what happened where and make some minor adjustments. Maybe you need to go in and delete thirty-thousand words. The phrase “kill your darlings” is apt in this situation. Clearly if you’re in this situation, you need to get rid of the things that don’t work. Sometimes, those things are great scenes. They’re just wrong for your book. Evaluation of your plot and how each scene works into that is KEY.
And last, but not least, you have to “get your hands dirty.”There’s no way to fix a broken manuscript other than to buckle down and just do it. It’s going to be painful and annoying and time consuming and hard…. But it needs to be done. So get out those pens or fire up track changes and dig in.