We’ve all been there: typing the last line of our WIP.
It should be a victory, right?
Sometimes, not so much. Sometimes, it’s a disappointment. Or a nagging feeling in your gut. You didn’t wind up where you wanted to with this manuscript. And not in a pleasantly surprised way, either.
The manuscript isn’t working. You know it.
The worst part is, you don’t know how to fix it.
I think in this case, the best thing you can do is stop looking at your own work. Go back to the very beginning of it all: with genre.
GOOGLE IT. I don’t care if you’re a lifelong reader of the genre you’re working in, either. Google the genre. Read the most basic definition of it. Read more technical definitions. Take notes. Every romance, for example, needs a HEA or HFN (happily ever after or happy for now). What does your manuscript absolutely have to have to make sure it fits the genre?
HIT YOUR BOOKSHELF. Nobody writes in genres they don’t like. Even if you’re a new(ish) reader of the genre you’re tackling, you’ve got titles on your shelf. Books you loved, that made you think you could write a (thriller, children’s book, etc.) of your own. Go back to them. Again, take notes. What made you love this book?
READ REVIEWS. That means trade reviews and Goodreads or Amazon reviews. What did other readers say about the titles you pulled from your bookshelf? Where did the author succeed? Where did they fall short? Again, take notes.
Okay, now you should have amassed a checklist of what your book—or, really, ANY book in your chosen genre—should accomplish. Break out your manuscript. Where does your manuscript fall in line with other books in its category? Of course every book is allowed to break a few rules, chart new territory, etc., but they do so after they’ve fulfilled their basic duties to the genre they’re written in.
Of course, this strategy might not always leave you with a definite plan for revision. But what it does do is help you pinpoint the areas that do need to be worked on. And that’s always step one in devising your action plan.