Trying to pick up one of your old story ideas? Having trouble reviving a story you gave up on? These simple steps may help you get back on track with your writing.
As a writer and lifelong procrastinator, I have a lot of in-progress stories I’ve never finished.
If I got too busy to write, or got distracted by another idea, it would become difficult to return to my story.
I’ve lost many wonderful ideas this way.
You’ll often find that ideas can get away from you if you wait too long to write them. Once you let go of a story, it may be difficult to get it back. Difficult, but not impossible.
Here are some tips to help you breathe life back into your old ideas and get back on track with your writing.
Assess what you had before you stopped writing
Read all your old drafts before you to start writing again.
If you’ve got any old character ideas or drawings, collect those too. These will help refresh your memory.
Also, seeing the progress you’ve already made may inspire you to continue working on them.
If you’re writing fiction, it may help to begin by writing a new list of any ideas you already had.
Try writing short bios for each character and summarizing their relationships. Draw a map of the setting or make a plot timeline.
This will help you keep track of what you want to keep and what you might want to change. It can also serve as a brain-stimulating exercise to help you get back into your writing self.
Consider why you couldn’t finish the story in the first place
If you stopped writing because you were too busy, then this won’t apply. But maybe you abandoned the story because you lost interest or got frustrated with it. In this case, start by examining why you couldn’t finish it.
Got stuck at a certain scene? Is writing a certain character more difficult than it should be? Maybe you need to power through and finish writing it.
Every writer has scenes they have to drudge through before they can start writing the fun parts.
Or maybe there’s something about that scene that made you want to avoid it. Writing fiction can be very personal. There could be something about this idea that is too unfamiliar or too close to home.
If you can find what it is, it may be easier to confront it in your writing. You can even use that discomfort to your advantage. Sometimes, that fear and discomfort is where we get our best ideas.
Start writing at a different point in the story
In On Writing, Stephen King compares fiction writing to archaeology. The ideas are already there, yet remain hidden like fossils.
It’s your job as a writer to unearth them. It’s possible that you were digging a few feet away from your fossil this whole time.
If you’re having trouble beginning an old story, try writing in medias res. Or start with a scene that you were planning to keep offscreen.
These parts don’t make it to the final draft. But they might give you a chance to stretch out your writing muscles and get a feel for the story again.
You also might find some new ideas in these parts that you wouldn’t have found otherwise.
Try writing from a different perspective
Stories tend to change over rewrites, and so do characters. Sometimes sidekicks become protagonists. Love interests become villains. The hero marries the plucky comic relief. These things happen.
Once again, this might be a case of the fossil problem. The ideas are in there somewhere, but you might be approaching it from the wrong angle.
If you can’t relate to your old protagonist, try writing from the perspective of a different character.
You might like the view better that way – and you could learn something about the story.
Try to re-establish your writing habit
Remember, when they say you should write every day, that doesn’t mean that you need to be producing publishable content every single day. Writing is a skill, and like any skill, it’s important to practice consistently.
The more you write, the easier writing will become. Start by writing small bits. Generate new ideas for the old plot and get back in touch with the characters and the world you created. Try writing a short story or two before diving back into the main story.
Your story may take time to write, but you’ll get there.