Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Coloring Outside the Lines

Okay, I’m finally getting to this. It’s always been delayed by other things getting in the way, or computers breaking, or just plain laziness. But now. It’s finally time. Unless right after I type this, something else catastrophic happens, and honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised.

I do a lot of things during my editing process. I use CTRL+F to hunt down overused word (manage, 42 times…I cut it down to six, because that’s how many times it wasn’t extraneous). I do a read aloud to make sure it reads okay when it’s not just my internal monologue. I also do a color partition to break apart the entire MS by what each part does. I got the idea from another blogger several years ago (unfortunately I can’t remember which one…I think it was an agent blog, though) and adapted it for my own process. It helps a lot because I’m looking at the blog in chunks that I can make sure fit together, as well as do what they’re supposed to.

Here’s an overview of the completely colorized draft.

Aw, I took this on my old computer...now I'm getting all teary-eyed...
And long distance is all you’re getting because it’s still in the rough stage and anything closer might burn your eyes out.

Now, as to how I divide things:

Yellow, the most common color, is for action and description. It either describes what’s happening, or the setting.

Purple is also common. I use it for dialogue. Not much more to say about that. If it’s in quotes, it’s in purple.

Gray is more common than I’d like, as it’s either memories, the protagonist talking to herself, or just plain telling.

Red is for external conflict, basically any action that the protagonist has to directly deal with.

Blue is the opposite of red in that it’s for internal conflict, things like emotions and problems that needed to be dealt with mentally before they’re dealt with physical.

Green is the last color I use. It highlights action and decisions resulting from conflict. So after most red or blue pieces, there will be a green spot (not always, as sometimes problems are not resolved directly).

When I’ve finished coloring everything, I look at it from a distance…well, from a really small zoom scale like the pic above. Too much of one color is generally a bad thing. If it’s all purple, the reader will get lost in all the dialogue. A lot of purple is just description or things happening that don’t incite conflict. Grey should only appear in small bits, as it’s telling-heavy and that’s just dull to read. And of course, ending chapters in red and blue, unresolved conflict, is a good way to hook readers.

So, at long last, this is it. What do you think of my color partitions? Any suggestions? Do you think it would work with your editing process?


  1. That's a lot of work, but it does give you a good breakdown of your manuscript.

  2. Wow! I never thought of doing anything like that. Whatever helps your make your book better….

  3. If you do that during one pass of the editing phase it wouldn't be that difficult to do.

  4. That really is a lot of work, but it seems worthwhile!

  5. Interesting. And this helps you edit? I'll have to ponder this for a bit.

  6. I haven't done this to an entire manuscript, but I have color coded a chapter-by-chapter outline of a completed manuscript to guide revisions. The main plot and each sub-plot, including the romance, gets its own color. The idea is similar to yours -- to make sure no plot overwhelms the others and nothing is neglected for too long.

  7. Oh wow - this is such a unique idea :) I love it!!

  8. Never done the color edit, although I've done things similar. (The plot/character progression flow chart.) I love how at-a-glance this is.

  9. I do tons of notes but I've never done something that involved. It's impressive.

  10. That is a process! With what little time I have I don't know if I can color code all the parts, but it never hurts to keep what's happening in mind. There is no right way to write. :)

  11. YAY!! I'm so glad you finally posted this!! This is really cool. An editor I worked with had me do a simplified version of this, to color exposition vs action vs dialogue. I think she was trying to get me to see how much uninterrupted damn exposition I had! It's a great idea; it really helped me cut and organize.


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