Often it’s hard for writers to commit to the long project, the novel — ‘The End’. There are just so many blank pages, so much story… so much doubt.
For me, passion is the secret ingredient that makes all things possible in writing. In fact, I like to develop my ideas over months or years — when possible — not weeks or days, and passion is sort of the ‘bootcamp’ where a lot of story ideas never make it to an actual ‘Page 1’.
The idea has to excite you, then the characters, the plot, and the world. I believe in the possibility of every idea and some continue to percolate over years as I wait to see if eventually they will become a robust brew.
Because if you pick the right idea, the best idea, the one that has obsessed your soul — then suddenly you’ve got fuel and a much better chance of staying interested and dedicated through the writing, rewriting, re-rewriting (!), and publishing process.
For my new book, Society & Civility, I brought my love of novels like Pride & Prejudice and combined it with the story of a girl raised on the best principles but far away from the hubbub of ‘London society’. This fish-out-of-water tale totally excited me and my enjoyment of the story and characters brought me through many drafts, including rewriting the entire second half based on beta reader feedback, all the way to self publishing it in October 2022.
Below are a few tips to help you find the ‘passion project’ that you can follow all the way to the end of the line.
- Think of the cool thing that you wish existed but doesn’t. I didn’t find the exact ‘next’ Jane Austen-like novel I wanted to read, so I really felt like I had to invent what I wanted — just so I could ‘read’ it! It could be a game, book, invention — if you miss its existence, you should make it manifest in this world.
- Combine ideas. As much as you love something, avoid just making a copy of your favorite authors’ and creators’ styles. Take different genres, mediums, and concepts and moosh them together into something dynamic and new.
- Be weird. The more you can lean into your crazy, fantastic viewpoint, the more your project will seem worthwhile and exciting to you.
- Outline your awesome. A big project is absolutely a marathon, and you need the right plan and equipment to go the distance. A key tool is an outline, both for the project and the creative work itself. After visualization / dreaming / research comes planning. For the project, decide on a reasonable (but slightly short) timeframe and then decide how much work to do each month and week to hit your goal (i.e. each week schedule ten hours for writing or write one chapter). For the work, a two page, single spaced document outlining your novel’s story (like you were telling the whole plot to a friend) might be enough — and you can always alter it. But a good outline will allow you keep going when you feel lost.
- “If you get tired learn to rest, not to quit.” – Banksy. I once heard a great story (in Reader’s Digest) about a wife who said she wished she’d never mentioned divorce while going through a rough patch with her husband. Once it was ‘out there’ it was so much tougher for them to do the hard work of improving their marriage with the specter of ‘We could just quit,’ hanging over them. In the same way, approach the finishing of your project as an absolute certainty — when, not if — and know that even if it takes extra time, even if life gets in the way, even if you decide to rewrite it a dozen times (as I did with my first novel, Other Gods), you will get there. Eventually you’ll — without a doubt — have the completed book in your hands with its beautiful cover and you’ll be so proud and know that every every step in this journey was worth it… a hundred times over.
Happy writing! And now, upwards and onward to the next project!
My desire to read ‘just one more’ Jane Austen novel led to my own Regency love story — and the best novel I’ve written yet.
Ann Marshal has spent the first nineteen years of her life happily living in a small village with her father, country gentleman Julian. Her idyllic existence is upended, however, when she discovers she must spend six months in London, learning the one lesson her father has never been able to teach her: how to be a society lady.
Before long Ann learns a shocking secret: Julian is not her father, only her guardian. Instead, she is heir to an enormous fortune and the ‘belle of London’ — with beaus aplenty seeking her hand and her fortune.
As Ann navigates this new world, she discovers how to sidestep both conventionality and momentary infatuation, and ultimately bet all her heart on a greater love that could actually last a lifetime.
More than just a fulfilling love story, Society & Civility examines identity and how we can grow to become people worthy of the love we so ardently desire.
As always, drop me a line at Katherinecerulean@gmail.com if you have any questions at all about novel writing, screenwriting, or self improvement. Allons-y!