Resurrecting your Manuscript: Rewrite, Repurpose … but Regardless, Give Grace

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By Lana Christian

Most, if not all, authors have at least one manuscript buried in a drawer.

Maybe it was the first book you wrote. Secretly, you kept rooting for that underdog, hoping it would see the light of day.

Maybe it can.

The biblical story of Samson brims with lessons about giftedness, redemption, second chances, and the fact that no one is beyond the reach of God’s never-ending grace.

Call me an optimist, but I believe no book is beyond the grace of a second chance, either.

Granted, some manuscripts may not be worth the time and effort required to resurrect them. That’s a matter of stewarding your time well. But other manuscripts can be rewritten or repurposed—retooled as a short story for an anthology or revamped to serve as a reader magnet as part of your marketing strategy.

Sidebar: A novel/novella that serves as reader magnet is a great way to increase value to readers as you promote a published book. Ensure the magnet is in or close to the same genre as the book you’re promoting.

Let’s give your shelved manuscript the benefit of the doubt and say you can resurrect it. As you do, approach the task with grace.

Give yourself grace

Maybe that “dead” manuscript was your best effort at that point in your writerly journey. Whether it was or not, avoid judging your past work. Instead, look forward to what it can become. You’re a different person now. You’ve grown since you shelved your project. And now you’re looking at it with fresh eyes.

Maybe your manuscript wasn’t half bad, but you didn’t pitch it well. You were fuzzy about its theme, plot, or target audience. You can tighten all those things.

Maybe you got discouraged from querying and racking up rejections. This is a new year! Don’t assume anything about the ever-changing publishing market.

Give your manuscript grace

You can write your book—better.

Start with the view from the top and work your way down to finer details: theme, plot, main character’s story arc, scenes.

What’s your book’s theme? Can you state it in one sentence? Does your MC’s story and character arc support the theme?

Is your main character relatable and likeable? Ask a few beta readers. Note: Even antiheroes and antagonists need relatable qualities.

Does your book need a better plot with more conflict and intrigue?

Where does the story drag? Ruthlessly eliminate info dumps, scenes and dialogue that don’t further the plot, minor characters that don’t help the MC’s story arc, and subplots that vanish in the ether.

Next, sharpen your pencil. Do you need new scenes to flesh out the story? A common problem is you’re so close to your story for so long, you know what’s supposed to happen—so you skip some vital details the readers need. Bring the readers along; keep them grounded.

IMPORTANT: Don’t be dismayed if you decide to trash half the book. That’s a sign that you know your characters better now—and you’re ready to write their story better.


These tips should serve as a compass for how and where to start. Other blogs provide great detail on how to fix plot holes, write more interesting characters, revise your plot, and more.

How can I talk about this? I’m doing the same with a book I pulled off the market almost four years ago. It’s simultaneously humbling and exciting to see what’s evolving from it. May you have great success as you exercise grace in resurrecting your shelved manuscript!

Give yourself and your manuscript grace: you can write it—better. @LanaCwrites #ACFWBlogs #writetip #critiques #ACFWCommunity Click To Tweet Don’t be dismayed if you decide to trash half the book. That’s a sign that you know your characters better now—and you’re ready to write their story better. @LanaCwrites #ACFWBlogs #writetip #critiques #ACFWCommunity Click To Tweet

Lana Christian has a dual writing career in medicine and ministry. She won numerous APEX awards for the former and ACFW awards for the latter. She loves secret staircases, third-story windows, jazz, and chai tea. She believes hiking can solve most problems, but God can solve every problem. Visit her at or Twitter: @LanaCwrites.

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