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-- the fearless type --
Sometimes, nothing seems to work. You've read all the how-to-write posts, you planned with care, you had a perfect outline-- and then, your passion project fell flat. It just wouldn't come. Or you started it and then everything sort of died out. Suddenly, the book you're so invested in has simply... gone wrong.
You'll find lots of posts out there telling you two different things.
I believe, though, that passion projects gone wrong CAN be saved. They should be!
So we've covered three basic principles on why you should want to save your passion project. But how do we salvage it when it has gone very, very wrong?
First of all, take a step back and don't freak out. While it can be very overwhelming to realize your passion project is not working out the way you hoped, take a moment to remind yourself that this is just part of the writing game and you'll work it out just fine. You might need to set aside your project for a little bit-- I suggest at least a week. When you're right in the middle of something, every problem is magnified and it's hard to see things objectively.
After some time, reevaluate your book. Now is the time to reread what you already have done-- whether that's a full novel, a handful of scenes, or scraps of notes, research, and outlines. Taking the time away from it before doing this step will help you look at it with fresh eyes. Ask yourself these questions:
Now is the time to get feedback. Sometimes, even after reevaluation, it can be hard to pinpoint what exactly isn't working for your novel. And even if you think you know what the problem might be, getting another opinion is a good idea. Remember how I said fresh eyes to look at your project is good? That includes eyes who have the ability to look in from the outside. Especially with passion projects, it's important to have someone who isn't as attached as you give you honest feedback. But who do you get to give you some constructive thoughts?
Decide whether it is time to write your book or not. The truth is, sometimes it's you that's holding the book back. Don't misunderstand me. There's NOTHING wrong with this. Sometimes, though, the topics talked about, the writing required, or the soul that the book needs is something you just can't give yet. That's ok. Give yourself time to learn and grow as a writer, and allow yourself the grace to put it in the vault for a while until you're ready to write it. There's many reasons it might not be the time to write your passion project.
You might be thinking, "But wait a minute, I thought you were saying that you shouldn't abandon your book?". That's exactly right. I don't think you should abandon it. Sometimes, though, you need to allow time to pass in order to be able to write the best book you can.
As time passes, revisit your novel from time to time and go through the questions I listed above again. Let yourself mull over the story as you continue writing in other things. Don't just push it out of your mind and ignore it-- think about it. While you're at it, we offer a great workbook on how to take a productive writing break. The best part is, it's free! Just use the sign-up form below and you'll instantly have access to this and more.
How about you? Do you have a passion project that just seemed to go all wrong? What did you do about it?
This has been one of my more popular posts and is also one of my most useful techniques, so it's high time I share it with you all on here! What exactly am I talking about?
We're going to be diving into Color-Coded Editing today!
This is a process I use during the revision stages of editing, all the way through the first phase of line-by-line editing.
For some background, my basic routine usually goes something like this:
To preface: I first read something similar to this in the "Now What?" stages of the National Novel Writing Month blog years ago. However, I've tweaked it a lot and so it's quite different from what first gave me the idea. I'm not a huge fan of editing--but this method makes me actually look forward to it.
It's broken up into simple steps with different colors for each one. I use colored pens and underline or circle sections, using a pencil or a regular black pen to write notes in the margins or on sticky notes that I attach to the paper. But if you're a highlighter kind of person, you could definitely use that instead, and of course, feel free to switch up the colors. I just use what I have on hand, and have a personal system for what color goes to what editing step, but you can, of course, adapt it.
Step Two: By this time, you probably have an idea of what you got right and what you got wrong in your draft. But as I said, don't randomly attack the thing with scribbled-y red ink. If you go back to the beginning, grab an aqua pen. You're going to read through the book again, this time focusing on emotions/tension/reactions, etc. What places make you laugh? cry? feel suspense? Are there no emotions when there should be? Or maybe the wrong ones? Did your character act or say something out of their norm? Is their behavior too melodramatic? Too stoic? This is the time to go through and mark with your aqua pen all the feels (or where there should be some). Make sure that you're following what your character's responses would be, not what yours would be.
Step Three: Grab an orange pen, and this time you're going to read through it again, looking for places where you're bored, confused, there are plot holes or inconsistencies. If you need to fact-check various things in your book, this is the time to put a little asterisk or something besides those things to check later.
Step Five: Take a purple pen and read through your manuscript, this time searching out your descriptions. Not enough? Purple pen to the rescue. Too much? Cross some out. Not written to your satisfaction? Melodramatic? Cliche? Cheesy? Purple pen. Anything that has to do with descriptions tackle now.
Step Six: This time, with a pink pen, check your dialogue. Mark the passages with too little dialogue, and the places with an overabundance. Mark where you lose track of who's speaking, or if too many sentences start with "I". All your dialogue problems should be fixed in this step.
Step Seven: Read through your book again, this time with a green pen. You're going to check now for places where you could use 1 word in place of 10, where words are repeated too closely together, where you use the word in the wrong context and that sort of thing. This is getting more into the details, and by now you probably have a rainbow-inked manuscript, but don't worry--you're close to the end!
Once you finish Step Seven, you're going to have a book full of different colored markings, sticky notes, and scribbled memos. This is the time now to go through your novel on the computer, fixing all the things you marked in the manuscript. By the time you're done, your book will be much better and should be ready for the line-by-line editing stage.
Don't worry if this color-coded editing process takes a long time. That's ok, as long as you don't stop for months in-between stages. (That can make you forget things about the book that you need to keep in mind while editing). Each step may take anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of weeks, depending on how much you need to fix, how long the book is, how much time you have to work on it at once, etc. That's the beauty of this method though-- because it is smaller steps covering the whole novel, rather than trying to remember everything to look out for and crawling through the book, it is super adaptable to whatever schedule works for you. It not only gets editing done in logical steps, but you won't have to worry that you've forgotten important details from chapter two when you're trying to edit chapter forty-seven.
If you use this technique, I would love to see it! Post your colorful manuscript on your Instagram with the hashtag #fearlesscolorcodedediting for a chance to be featured on our IG story spotlights!
When I first started writing, I had never read anything about how to write. I just did it. In fact I really didn't start reading a lot about writing at all till I was a teenager. After several years of soaking in a ton of articles, processing writing styles, and learning "the rules", though, I started to notice that my thinking towards writing had changed just a little.
I felt like I needed to write like "they" said. I hadn't given up my own thoughts or ideas or anything at all...but there was just that pressure to fit in, to follow the rules, to cozy up in the established mold for writing.
That's when I started really thinking in depth about unique voices in writing. I'm not talking about your novel's point of view, or the narrator's voice, or your character's voice, or any of that.
I'm talking about your voice as an author. Because even though your own books will all have varying "narrators" telling the story it's always going to be your own style. Sure, your style will change and develop as you grow as a writer. And of course you would write a mystery differently then you would a children's coming-of-age novel. But there's still a commonality between the books, because you're writing about what is important to you, from your own world view, and with your own personality.
Think about some of your favorite authors who have multiple books.
Even "similar" authors have different styles. Take a look at Lucille M. Montgomery and Lousia M. Alcott for an example. They both wrote lighter stories, often had a female protagonist, tended towards coming-of-age books that were set in smaller towns or within a unique circles of friends...and I could go on. But everyone who has read both authors know that they have very distinct styles. Lucille M. Montgomery, (author of the Anne of Green Gables books and more) tends to write romantically, with an emphasis on strong-spirited and deeply emotional characters. Even her slightly darker stories usually have a sweetness to them. She uses vivid word pictures and is always talking about the magnificent settings. Louisa M. Alcott of Little Women fame wrote realistic, amiable books with wonderfully natural dialogue. Her stories feature siblings frequently, and she really highlights strong bonds between family and friends. While they both wrote about characters in an ordinary life, Lucille M. Montgomery romanticized it, and Louisa M. Alcott praised the everyday.
So obviously your voice is unique and special--and there are dozens of posts out there on how you should define your own. But it gets a little tricky to focus on that when you have all these other things saying "write like this" or "write like that". Who do you listen to? What rules do you follow? How do you know what works for you and your unique author voice? Here is a process I like to do to get me back in the right "voice" for myself! :)
- Free-write for 20 minutes. Free-writing is when you just sit down at your computer or with a notebook and just start writing. It can be a story if it pops in your head, or just a continuous train of thought. The main point here is to simply write without thinking too hard about things. Don't worry if you're using too many dashes or if your story rambles on without much plot structure. Just write. It can be hard at first, especially if you're a perfectionist, but try it. Try to get a good amount written. Or maybe you even do this exercise a few different times and collect the pieces together.
- Read over what you wrote. Once you finish, go back and read over what you wrote. You can even set it aside for a day or so and come back to it later to have a completely fresh outlook.
- Make notes. As you read, make notes--mental or on paper-- on what you're seeing. Do you fall into poetic lines? Do you use big, intelligent sounding words? Does it sound like you're just talking to a friend? Do you have a flair for drama? Are the word pictures you're conjuring up dreamy and sweet? What type of words are you using? Are your sentences long and complex or short and brisk?
- Remember. Once you finish you're going to have a pretty good idea of the style of that piece of free-writing. If you want to, you can repeat the above process a few more times over a month or two and then compare notes. See what is panning out to be the normal for you personally. That's going to be what you're most comfortable with and what you have the knack for. Try to trim down all the things you found into a couple-sentence description of your writing voice. Now, keep those things in mind when writing. ;)
Once you have figured out and defined exactly what your writing voice is, it's a lot easier to stay natural in your tone and write like yourself. This isn't saying don't try out other styles--you might find they blend right in with your current voice. But don't be afraid to stick with what you know is your voice too, even if it's not the popular way to write, or someone else doesn't like it.
If you find yourself getting in a funk and you're having trouble writing or recognizing your own pieces, just free-write for a while. It always helps.
What do you think your unique writer's voice is like? Let me know in the comments below!
Before you leave, I have just added two different themes of the writer's planner on the Resource page. These are newly updated, insanely practical pages for any writer out there! Be sure to check them out!