How to Salvage a Manuscript

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During a recent forage through an old Writer’s Encyclopedia for blog ideas, I came across an entry entitled “How to Salvage a Manuscript.” Great topic for a writer’s tip blog, I thought. Here’s what the book recommended, and I quote.

“A manuscript that has been returned to an author wrinkled or crumpled may be salvaged from the time and expense of retyping by ironing the pages.”

Not exactly what I had in mind when I thought about salvaging a manuscript. My mind was running more along the lines of fixing the story, not limp pages. I did get a good laugh, though, because eons ago, when you sent in paper submissions, I had some work come back looking worse for the wear. Funny thing is, I would have never thought about ironing the pages.

The article goes on to state that you should not use a steam iron on the pages, and you should iron the back side of the paper to keep the ink from smearing. Apparently, ironing will also take out paper clips crinkles. Who knew?

Upon further reflection, I recalled seeing an episode from Downton Abbey where one of the housemaids ironed Lord Grantham’s London Times so the pages would be crisp for the master of the house. Heaven forbid that they should give the lord of the manor limp newsprint! I thought the action odd, but my husband seemed to feel ironing the paper made perfect sense. Must be a male thing.

Anyway, I digress from the original theme of this post—salvaging a manuscript, sans the iron. When you think there’s no hope left for the story you’re working on consider trying the following.


  • Set your manuscript aside for a few weeks. Then pick it back up and read it start to finish. This uninterrupted read will help show you where you have holes, repetitiveness, and weak places.
  • Take a hard look at your characters. Are they well-rounded and three-dimensional or are the flat, stock characters? If it’s the latter, rewrite them.
  • Check to make sure your plot is strong, not clichéd, and will carry the story throughout the book.
  • Do you have a sagging middle? Writers often know the beginning, the black moment, and the ending of their stories. The middle, where we’re tempted to just say “stuff happens”, can often be a gray area, especially for pantsers. Make sure your story stays strong in the middle so readers don’t lose interest.
  • Do a Hero’s Journey outline to be sure you’ve hit all the necessary story points. If you don’t know the Hero’s Journey, you can use another plotting device like the Snowflake Method, or Save the Cat. Failing stories can often be fixed by insuring you’ve included the right plot points.
  • Is the story told from the right POV? Make sure each scene is told from the perspective of the character who has the most at risk. Doing so will give the book necessary tension to carry the reader through to the next chapter.
  • If everything above fails to help, give the book to a beta reader and let them tear it apart. Fresh eyes see things you don’t.

Do you have a favorite way to salvage your manuscripts? I’d love to hear it.


This entry was posted in News From the Castle!, Soul Mate Publishing and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to How to Salvage a Manuscript

  1. Great post. Thanks for sharing, Catherine. Your point about POV is one I used in the past with a manuscript I was struggling with. I was in a conference workshop and the leader suggested re-writing the first couple of chapters in first person POV. The exercise helped me see what wasn’t working with the story. I stayed with third-person but I was able to clarify the plot by seeing the story through the protagonist’s eyes.

  2. Excellent tips! Thanks for sharing, Catherine 🙂

  3. Donna Patton says:

    Great tips! I was wondering what SAVE the CAT is? Never heard that one before. Great post.

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