Writing a novel is a tough gig. Getting back into one that’s been languishing may be even tougher.
Where do you even start?
You need a plan.
If you don’t have one, here’s one I prepared earlier that might just do the trick.
- If your chapters are separate files, shuffle them together into one document. Don’t worry if there are gaps, this is going to give you an overview of what work needs doing.
- Format your manuscript with generous margins and at least 1.5 spacing, then print it out. (If you don’t have a printer, invest the $15 or so to print it at your local stationers, it’ll be worth it.)
- Set aside a good chunk of time – at least one and a half hours – to start reading it. Chose a quiet comfortable place where you won’t be interrupted (bed, the library, the park). Turn off your phone.
- Read it with a pencil in hand (not a pen, a pen is too harsh, trust me on this). If you find bits that need fixing, just circle them, make a note in the margin and move on. If you get a brainwave, make a note and move on. Working like this will give you an overview of your book. It’s so easy to get lost in the detail when you are working on screen; working on paper helps you see the big picture.
- Hopefully after your first session you’ll be chomping at the bit to keep reading. Even if you feel a little disheartened, if it’s not in as good a shape as you remembered, or there’s more work to do than you hoped, FOLLOW THROUGH. Read it to the end. Trust your memory and your notes; they are going to help you decide what to do next once you’ve finished your appraisal.
- When you’re finished, note down the jobs that need doing and choose which one to start with. Give yourself a break and pick the easiest one. This will help you ease back into the writing groove.
I’ve used this process a couple of times to get back into a novel after a big break (this was back before I realised my super power was helping people write novels, not writing them myself). I’ve also recommended it to writers I’ve worked with. It really helped them, and maybe it can help you too.
Why not give it a go?