I’m sure you’ve heard it advised that aspiring authors should write multiple books along their journey toward publication. I don’t necessarily disagree with this. But what if the book you’re working on is the one you long to share with others and isn’t simply a “practice novel”?
That’s what happened with my latest release, UNWRITTEN MELODY. I first brainstormed the story idea at seventeen-years-old, and I fell in love with the story while I wrote it. I didn’t feel like it should remain for my eyes only. The passion I had for it is what drove me to not only complete it, but also to continue to grow as a writer and learn how to better unveil the story.
Finally, it came time to receive the edit letter from my literary agent. The feedback she gave wasn’t what I had expected. While many of her comments were encouraging, she also highlighted on the flaws of the story—plot errors that seemed far too complicated to fix.
She presented me with two options: Rewrite the story from scratch, or begin a new project.
I went for the second option.
Perhaps UNWRITTEN MELODY was destined to remain a practice novel, I started to think. Besides, I had grown tremendously as a writer over the years of writing and editing the manuscript. Authors have to start somewhere, right?
So, I opened a new Word Document and set off on a new project. But it wasn’t long until the main characters in UNWRITTEN MELODY started tugging my heart back to them. Their stories weren’t finished, and I knew they wouldn’t stop nagging me until I returned.
As I read over the manuscript, I knew my agent was right; the story didn’t live up to its potential, nor did it match the story I had brainstormed all those years ago.
But it wasn’t too late to change that.
So, I spent about 2 - 3 months locked in my writing cave. Using the original manuscript as reference, I created a new plot structure, wrote a brief outline, set tight deadlines, and began rewriting UNWRITTEN MELODY from scratch.
It was the most fun, draining, and exhilarating time I’ve ever spent with a project. I had the opportunity to watch the story in my imagination come to life. The book I had originally envisioned was taking shape, living and breathing, and I knew the hard work would pay off.
If you believe your work-in-progress (WIP), the story of your heart, is too “broken beyond repair”, let me encourage you: Don’t give up on it too soon. Sure, it might be easier to start fresh with a new project—but if you have a burning passion to share your WIP with others, perhaps it’s for a reason. As long as it’s your current WIP then it’ll remain just that. A work in progress. If you abandon it, though, then it’ll never be complete, and you’ll never know how it could have resonated with readers.
So how can you tell if your WIP is the “story of your heart”?
1) You’re passionate about every aspect of it—the theme, characters, setting, genre, etc.
2) Any time you try to begin a new project, you find yourself returning to this one.
3) You can’t stand the time in between your writing sessions.
4) You hardly ever have to force yourself to write. You feel an exhilarating rush as you write, and your passion gives you perseverance to see it through to completion.
5) It’s the kind of story you would love to read if it were already on the shelves.
If the story of your heart is in need of an overhaul, don’t be discouraged! Allow it to evolve as you continue to grow and learn. Use feedback and criticism as a launching pad to help you better tell the story of your heart. Also keep up with the trends of the industry so you can see how, and if, your book fits in with the current trends of the marketplace.
If you believe your WIP is the story of your heart, yet you also realize it’s in need of a rewrite, here are steps you can take to begin:
1) Ask others to read it. Preferably find trustworthy beta readers/critique partners online. (The Go Teen Writers Facebook group is a great place to search for potential readers.)
2) Read your book from beginning to end and keep a running list of content flaws. Ignore how much you love the story during this stage and instead view it from an objective standpoint.
3) Keep your notes, feedback from your readers, and your original manuscript on hand as you write.
4) Create a rough outline and brainstorm how you’ll fix content issues.
5) Set goals and carve out a certain amount of time each day/week to work.
6) Once you’ve finished writing, I’d advise putting it aside for a couple weeks. When you come back to the manuscript, read through your original edit notes and see if you were able to fix the content issues.
8) Send to beta readers and critique partners.
9) Revise based on their feedback.
10) Wash, rinse, and repeat until necessary!
The process of writing a book can take several years—and the publication process is often even longer. Why not choose a project you’re passionate about? One that will make it nearly impossible for you to give up on?
If you do, your passion will drip onto every page and potentially connect with readers and tug on their hearts. Sure, you might have to hang with your characters for several years as you transcribe their journey. But the passion you have for sharing their story will make it all worthwhile in the end.
Is the WIP you’re working on now the story of your heart? Have you been tempted to throw it away and begin a new project? Share in the comments below!