They did say that we must strike when the iron is hot, however, for writers, what can we do about a story that we shelved a long time ago and decided to pick it up again to continue writing?
When it comes to writing, I have a preference for getting it all done in one go. However, for large projects, such as novels, sitting down and finishing it all in one session is near impossible.
I have a problem with shelving ideas and writing. Either I completely forgot the original direction I was going on with the project, or I just lost interest.
However, for the rare gems where the story idea still managed to stick around after months, or dare I say, even years of neglect, how can a writer pick it up, dust it off and get back to working on it again?
Here are some tips to think on. Now, I understand that we all have our own processes and procedures, and what I have here is the process I use. Whatever works, right?
This post is part of a monthly project by Raimey Gallant, the #AuthorToolBoxBlogHop. While I am not much of an author, I hope I can somehow be of help to the community. Most of the writers who participate in this monthly project are leagues better than me as a writer, so I encourage you to check out the participants in this month.
Anyway, back to our main topic – How to continue writing an old, incomplete draft:
- Is it worth it?
First of all, before you decide to work on an old draft, you have to answer this question first: Is it worth it?Is the story that you dropped some time ago worth getting back into? If you could recall why you dropped it, it would probably help you a lot in the re-visiting phase. Why did you stop writing it at the time? Did you run out of ideas? Was it a change in taste? Did you not like the direction it was going?Essentially, before diving in head-first into an old project, it would be best to assess whether it would be a good idea to return to it. If the old project seemed too much or too hard to continue from where you left off, it would probably be best to restart the entire project, and recycle what you can from it – such as the characters or the general plot.Also, it is worth noting that not all incomplete drafts you dropped are worth saving.
- Read it again
This is something that you have worked on, and after some time, stopped. It is probably a good idea to read the entire thing again.
While the idea of re-reading a work which is only less than ten chapters a piece of cake, it may seem daunting to re-read a novel that was near completion, but was stopped. This is common for most of my failed NANOWRIMO attempts… It can be hard to pick up a work and continue writing on it without reading the entire thing again, unless the story is still fresh in your memory, that is.However, it is not a bad idea to read the entire thing. At least with a fresh set of eyes, you might have better ideas that could help finish the draft.
- Do not edit. Continue writing.
As with any first draft work, editing should be out of the picture. When re-reading to refresh your memory of the events taking place in the old world you built, try not to be an editor.Should there be things you encounter in your refresher run that you seemed needed some improvements, highlight the section and make a note for yourself to give special attention to it later when you edit. Leave it alone for now.Once you have refreshed yourself of the events going on, continue writing from there.
- Notes are your friends.
Do you write notes for your work? Character sheets, outlines, plot and event tables? If yes, then it would make the re-visiting of the work easier and faster. You could browse over your old notes and see what you can use. Say, if your hero was on a quest to save the kingdom from a horde of marauding rabid monkeys – what were the steps he has already done, and what were the steps that you have planned and have not written in the story yet. It would make things easier for you instead of having to think up of new ideas… but, sometimes thinking up new ideas might be better for your story. That note you wrote years ago might no longer be feasible and new ideas might be in order.What if I don’t have any notes? Not a problem. I did not use notes in my early years, too. However, it might help with consistency. Character notes, for example, may remind you that your main character does not like spicy foods. If this was something you wrote in your story really early on, and you forgot about it, well, inconsistency issues might pop up. Hopefully, this will get caught in the editing process.Like I said, while notes are your friends, it is not necessarily an essential thing, and you may write with or without it.
In conclusion, whether you decided to continue an old story you have written from where you left off, or simply recycled majority of an old story’s idea, it is worth noting that what you are doing is still considered as a draft. Do not expect it to be polished and ready, and expect a lot of changes to be done later on.
Remember – the goal here is finishing the story. Write it up, and see where you would like to go from there.
I am terrible with finishing my stories, most specially with the really long ones. I can write up a short story easily, but when it comes to novel-like magnitudes, I guess I need more work and practice. I am trying to change and improve, and the above-mentioned process is my rough method for picking up and continuing a project that I have set down.
What kind of writer are you? Are you the one that manages to finish everything in one go? Or do you take the time? Or are you the type who manages to work on more than one story at a time?
Anyway, here’s to us, writers, to finishing that story, and hope that it be a marvelous jewel.
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