Writing Done Right
Fixing a Bad Start
Summary: This article gives you five tips to fix a bad start on your draft.

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Sometimes we start writing and look up a while later to find that our scribbling seems to make no sense. I looked down at my latest essay to realize it started meandering into strange, confusing places, so I thought of the steps I would need to accomplish to fix it.

Here are my five tips to get a bad start back on the right track.

Two Steps of Motivation

My first two steps are tips of motivation. I like to find a place to be still, free of distraction, and outdoors if possible. In my case, I have a few parks that I like to visit that have picnic tables, trails, and pavilions. This gives me a chance to clear my mind before sitting down to get some writing done. I usually bring a nice fresh cup of coffee and work until that runs dry. So my first two tips are these:

  • Find a Good Working Environment
  • Clear Your Mind for Work

Three Steps of Writing

If I notice that my manuscript is off, it is usually a matter of planning (if I am plotting the thing out) or losing my focus while writing (in a case of flying by the seat of my pants). In any case, I will do a few steps to help me figure out the best plan of action. Any plan starts with knowing what I am working with. I will take the time to read carefully through everything I have and decide what is good and what is not. I usually find a single point of failure where the story became derailed. With that point identified, I like to see where things went wrong, and more importantly, how to bring things back on track. For the plotters out there, that probably means correcting some errors in the plan. For the pantsers, it might mean you lost focus. Start by thinking about where the story should go, and start attaching that to the last-known-good part of the manuscript. So my three writing steps are:

  • Assess What You Have
  • Figure Out What Went Wrong
  • Restructure and Re-engage

With these steps, your bad start can turn into a good story, and you will be off to your next story before you know it!