Posted in Writing Tips

Diagnosing Your Manuscript’s Problems: Talking It Out

I’ve been through about seven drafts of my current WIP. It’s passed through the hands of multiple critique partners in various stages, and I’ve invested in printing the whole thing out so I can edit on paper. However, it still wasn’t perfect. There were still kinks littered between the lines that I just couldn’t decipher. I knew something wasn’t working. I just couldn’t figure out why.

So I handed the first chapter off to two other people—people I trust—and asked them to read it while I sat there. One had read the entire manuscript already. One had never read a single sentence. They paused every few lines and told me their train of thought as they read. Sentences that didn’t work. Dialogue that didn’t flow. Character’s decisions that didn’t make sense. My first chapter is only five pages at this point, but we sat there for over an hour, discussing what didn’t work, why it didn’t work, and planning how to fix it.

The person who had already read the entire novel had a very different perspective than the person who was reading it for the first time. So I had valuable insight from someone who was familiar with the plot, and someone who was not.

Now this is a very different process than when I get notes emailed to me from my critique partner. I watched the reader’s face as they read my words, watched their reactions, and had extensive discussion on every component of that first chapter. And after brainstorming and talking it out, I’ve finally figured out why the opening doesn’t work.

If you’re struggling with your manuscript, I’d highly suggest carving an hour out of your schedule and sitting down with someone else. Talking through it aloud helped me more than I ever would have thought.

How do you work out the kinks when you’re putting on the finishing touches? Let me know in the comments 🙂



Hello! My name is Katie and I like to write. If I'm not writing, I'm probably reading, running, playing with my dogs, or eating peanut butter ;)

5 thoughts on “Diagnosing Your Manuscript’s Problems: Talking It Out

  1. Knowing what to take out and when is one of the best lessons any writer can learn, but be wary of over-editing. Sometimes you get so wrapped up trying to make things “perfect” you end up taking out more than you need.


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