How To Continue Writing an Old Draft #AuthorToolboxBlogHop

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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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

Thanks for reading. If you haven’t, please subscribe to my blog. I have more informative, helpful, and even cool things in the future. If you wish to support me in anyway, please consider checking out my Ko-Fi page, or my Patreon Page or drop by my redbubble shop.

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Have a nice day!

Author: jomz

Web Designer and Developer, Graphic Artist. Writer.

21 thoughts on “How To Continue Writing an Old Draft #AuthorToolboxBlogHop”

  1. I have partial manuscripts that stay in named folders on my laptop. Sometimes it takes years to complete them. In fact my very first NaNo novel (2009) is such an animal. I edited it, put it away numerous times until I eventually published it 2018!

  2. “Most of the writers who participate in this monthly project are leagues better than me as a writer…” NOT TRUE AT ALL! Not even a little bit. But, I love that in so many ways we are all the same. So modest and doubtful of our own brilliance! I tend to write down ideas, shelve them, and then rarely ever return to them. If I have a “good” idea it tends to flow out in one shot — just like you mentioned. But, notes are so important with those shelved thoughts for sure. Notes, Notes, Notes! The funny part is, I love when I think I wrote something brilliant and then, years later I find it and I’m in shock at how bad it is! Ha! (Happens to me more often than not!)

    1. I once saw a video where Stephen King said that a writer’s notebook is a great way to immortalize bad ideas! Hahaha…

      Thank you for reading! 😀

  3. Great tips 🙂
    I always seem to write half a first draft, shelve it because I get stuck, and come back to it later. Pretty much every time I restart the entire project when I come back to it because I need to redo the plot! Still not finished a draft, but I hope to one day ^^”

    1. Thank you for reading! It can be sometimes much easier to restart an entire project specially if it has already gone on too long, and minor tweaks would be impossible!

      1. You’re welcome 🙂 And I completely agree. Most of the time I find my half finished projects are pretty terrible, but on the plus side they always have characters and a few elements I can re-use!

  4. I definitely keep a notebook (an electronic one) for all my book ideas. I have MANY! I’m committed to finishing my current novel before I truly engage in those other ones, but whenever an idea strikes me for one of my other stories, I add it to the growing list of notes. That way, when I am ready to finally pick it up, I’ll know exactly in which direction I wanted it to go. Great tips! Thank for sharing!

    1. It’s great that you could finish your novel before you entertain other ideas. My notebook is also electronic. It’s great at keeping things somewhat organized.

      Thanks for reading!

  5. Very helpful and often overlooked topic on writing. I have so many unfinished works in progress, but there is usually a reason I stopped writing. Rereading it and coming to the point where I stopped is enlightening, sometimes I figure out how to continue and it makes me feel that I have become a better writer. Sometimes I don’t… and I let it rest some more. Taking a break and giving your work some distance can be a very good thing. Thanks!

    1. Yes, we have a lot of reasons why we sometimes drop a project and move on, yet there are times when we do manage to re-visit an old project, realize something good about it and pick it up once more. Often, though, they tend to gather dust! Hahaha…

      I guess giving some distance to our works can really be helpful!
      Thank you for reading!

    1. Someday… someday, indeed, when inspiration hits, and we are reminded that we have written something like it similar in the past. 😀

      Thanks for reading!

  6. A wise old writer told me to throw nothing away. To write a draft and move on. He said we create a body of work. Everything is open to revision. And over time, you come to these drafts, your thoughts, with fresh eyes. I completed a poem I started 30 years ago, it looks nothing like the draft, and from my current perspective, it has fresh meaning.

    1. Wow! “Everything is open to revision,” I like that mind-set. That old writer must have, indeed been wise. I will keep this in mind. Thank you.

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