Below, Molly writes into Ask the Inkpot about how to get into a story again after putting it down for awhile. It’s a great question, and something everyone struggles with. There was a time in my life when I could sit down and binge write a novel–getting out a draft in two or three months by writing every day, all day, and then doing the same thing with the rewrites. That was before the child, cats who need diapers, cats who need t-shirts, and the trail of dead mice that lead from my apartment to the funny farm.
I depended on that momentum, on living in the headspace created by working on a book every day; it propelled me through a book. This was how I wrote. To be honest, I’m still figuring out how to write in the real world. I’m a writer precisely so I don’t have to deal with the real world.
I think one way to approach it is like approaching revisions–start small, low expectations, just try to get back in the book. So much of writing is finding ways to trick yourself, after all. Take a chapter (or several) that you have done already and type them back into your document–you’ll probably start changing things here and there, and you’ll get yourself back into the rhythms and voice of the book. If that’s not enough, start actually doing broader revisions on the part you have–character, theme, plot–look at all your narrative threads and work on bringing them out. Write a summary of each scene and what it accomplishes, both in terms of plot and in terms of the development of the relationships between the characters and the character growth. Your job is to insert yourself back in the world of the book, to remind yourself where you were so you can go forward.
Of course, these are just ideas. Anyone else?
After I had set my book aside for six months, I was stuck on it. I had ideas for things I thought would happen in future chapters, but I couldn't begin the next page. I gathered a pile of blank 3 x 5 cards, and on each card I wrote a sentence or two to describe a scene I thought would come up soon in the story. It was a quick and easy way to get my mind back into it. Before long, I had a stack of cards and the ideas were flowing again. I laid the cards out to see what sequence seemed best and what would come between the scenes. After a short time of juggling them, I was impatient with the process and eager to get back to writing. As Anne said, it was mostly a trick to get my mind back into it.
Hope it works for you, Molly.
An idea I've borrowed from Jackie is to make a visual kind of collage or poster or map of what I know about a story so far. I cut out pictures from magazines or copy them from books, write lines of what I might or might not know. The combination of doing something physical and visual seems to help me enter or re-enter a world that is still taking shape. And I have fun doing it.
Thank you for these ideas…now to the implementation!
Another way to get back into the groove is to create a playlist for the book. Listen to it whenever you write to transport you from the now to the world of the book.
Good luck, Molly!