Fiction,  Writing

How To Get Your Manuscript Back On Track

When you started writing your novel, you had a vision for what you wanted your book to be. You went along as your characters took you on a journey, but now you realize you are completely off track from where you “wanted” to be.  You can’t seem to find your way back.  Today, I’m sharing three steps you can take to get back on track when you’ve gotten completely off the rails. 


Stop & Assess

You can do this in a couple of different ways. You can reread what you’ve already written and write down bullet points of what has happened so far.  You can just think about what you’ve written so far and jot down some ideas and thoughts.  Or you can take an assessment of how you are feeling about what you’ve written.  How do you feel about where you are now? How do you feel about where you were trying to go originally?

As you’re assessing, I want you to think about three focal points.

  1. What has already happened in your novel
  2. Where you thought you were going
  3. Your ending


Gather Information

Let’s talk about that second point – how far off track are you actually?  A little bit, maybe can fix things in a few chapters or are you so off the mark you can’t even see any original plans? How much work is it going to take to get back on track and do you even want to get back to your original plans? Do you like where you are?

There are no wrong answers here, just how you are feeling about your novel, your story, your characters. 


Think About Your Ending

Now that you have all of this information, I want you to look at that third focal point – your ending.  Do you like where you are headed? Or do you like what you originally planned? Or do you hate everything and want to create something else? Take a few writing sessions and figure out an ending point, even if it’s a vague idea or one sentence on an index card.


Point A to Point B

Ok, take a big picture view and start plotting out, using bullet points, to get you from Point A – where you are right now – to Point B – your ending.  I’m not talking about big detailed outlines here, just bullet points. Stepping stones upon a path to get you back on track. 

For some fun examples watch the video!!

Notes To Future You

You’re probably asking yourself at this point, Jennifer, that’s great and all but what do I do now that I’m off track, how do I start writing when nothing makes sense? This is the beauty step, this is how you’re going to get back on track in 1-2 writing sessions feeling so much better about your book, ready?


Change your font, I like to just bold mine, but you could completely change the font size, type or color, and write – Notes for Future Writer Here – and start writing all of the things that should have happened to make your ending possible.  Write out everything in either bullets, paragraphs, fragments of ideas – whatever you need to get you on track to keep going.   Let’s say you decide your main character gets pregnant but you haven’t established a boyfriend or male type character into her life, write that down – I need to have her hook up with Dean sometime around chapter five.  And then figure out events both before and after that, those things that need to happen, those things you will add when you start revisions.


And finally, I have a tip for you as you’re writing too. As you’re moving along back on track, things are going to come up. New ideas are going to spur things that you needed to have done earlier, this is where in-document author notes come in.  Again, I use a bold font and usually brackets and I’ll just write them directly into my document right where I am, but you could separate this all out into a separate document – whatever works for you.  These are more notes for the future writer to work with during revisions and edits. 


They’re gonna be so helpful when you’re redesigning your draft.  Remember first drafts are messy, they aren’t going to be linear, they might not make much sense at times, but doing this prevents you from stopping and rewriting the first 5-10 chapters over again and never getting to the middle or the end. 


Take the time to make the assessments, gather your info, figure out your focal points and map out a new journey.  At least you’ll stay in the world of your novel, stay connected to your characters, and get back on track faster than if you just stopped all together.  


And if you found this helpful, I would love for you to check out my Muddy Middle to Manuscript coaching package where I will walk you through a process of getting very clear on your Big Why, becoming friends with your characters, and we will fix your outline so you can type The End all with a smile on your face.