How to start back on a novel after a hiatus
About two years ago, I started the novel APOCALYPTIA, and 8 months in, I quit writing to focus on finishing high school and starting college. Approximately four months ago, I picked the unfinished MS back up and started on it again. Now, the MS will be published in December, after I thought it would just fade away to never be worked on again. It was, and still is a tough process to reorient myself with characters I haven’t traveled with in a long time. So, after finally completing the journey, bumps, flubs, and all, I have created my ever-present list. Grab your dusty pitchforks, raise them to the sky, and scream HUZZAH! as we go on another writerly journey. Onward to the list.
- NEVER THROW AWAY AN OLD MS
This is rule numero uno, even if you think you’ll never pick up and restart the MS. Keep it! Use it as a reference later on. Your writing will always change, grow, and evolve, so keep those old MSs to look back on. See what you did wrong. See what you did right. Maybe you lost something that you once liked in your old style, or maybe you’re seeing mistakes that you still make today. Fix, integrate, and move on. Who knows? Maybe you’ll find a way to salvage that half-crafted tale.
- REREAD WHAT YOU WROTE
This is common sense, and it doesn’t count toward the old rule to, “not edit before you finish the MS.” Reread it, get reacquainted with the characters and the plot, fix small mistakes, but try to save most of the developmental edits until the end. You haven’t finished the first draft, so the plot line is far from complete. Save all your big rewrites for the end.
- START WHERE YOU LEFT OFF
Go. Just go. I don’t think I need to explain this anymore than that.
- YOU MUST REWRITE THE FIRST DRAFT
A lot of people say they can get away with writing the first draft, then just do simple and developmental edits without rewriting the draft. Good for them, but most of those people have been working on one MS for months without stop. They could probably still do with some rewriting, honestly. The reason for this? Like I said before, your writing is constantly evolving, and with that big of a gap in between, there will probably be huge amounts of inconsistencies. Rewrite it from beginning to end, and be proud of all the progress you’ve made! Congratulations.
- IF YOU CAN’T SEEM TO FINISH IT, THEN IT MIGHT NOT BE MEANT TO BE
Some stories just may not want to come out, but that’s okay. Don’t be discouraged, just don’t waste your time on an MS you know you’re not going to fall in love with. If it doesn’t make you happy, then it probably won’t make anyone else happy. Put it away. You’ve got plenty of other stories to share. One left unfinished won’t kill you. But don’t throw it away. Don’t forget that first bullet point.
There comes a time in life where you either forge forward or bow out. There connotations placed on both of those, negative and positive, while I believe both to be positive when it comes to writing.
Forging ahead? You’re getting a story out. You’re finishing those characters’ path. You’re taking the time to show love and dedication to a long-term project. Congratulations.
Bowing out? You’re letting a story go. It’s not the story for you, though it might have been at one point in your life. You got what words you wanted out, and that is an accomplishment. You’re willing to let go and start on something new. Congratulations.
Thanks for reading.
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