Getting your brain in the book after a long break

Recently, I’ve been working on Fallen Isles 2, trying to get the first draft finished before the end of the year. But I’ve had to put it aside a few times, thanks to more immediate deadlines, travel, and other authoring things.

One of the things I hadn’t realized before I started writing professionally was how many times I’d have to put aside a draft and come back to it. Maybe an edit letter comes in for the previous book, or copyedits, or promotion . . . there’s a lot of needing to do other things in the middle of writing a book. (Unless you’re just super fast and can knock out a draft in a few weeks. Maybe then you can stay in it 100%. Siiiigh.)

The Fallen Isles books have been particularly challenging for me, so getting back into the story can be difficult. But now that I’m several books into my career, I’ve finally figured out a few ways to make this part easier.

1. Planning ahead.

Since I know I’ll have to put the first draft aside at least a couple of times, I plan. A lot. I make notes. My synopses are filled with emotional beats, actions happening off screen, and worldbuilding ideas I want to make sure fit somewhere into the story. I also don’t stop myself when I’m inspired to write a scene out of order, even though I know it will probably change drastically by the time I actually reach it. Better to have it on the page than wonder what the heck I was going to do in chapter seventeen.

2. Leave in an emotional part.

This last time, I left my characters in an exciting and emotional part of the story. Every time I thought about the book while I was working on something else, I thought about that part and how emotional it was for the characters. I thought about how I couldn’t wait to save them from the situation . . . and drop them into another terrible one.

2. Rereading.

Sometimes, all it takes is reading the last few lines to get me back into the book, but sometimes I need a more serious immersion to get my focus where it needs to be. The last time I had to come back to the book, I reread everything I had written, taking the time to do a reasonably solid revision. By the time I reached where I’d left off, I couldn’t wait to find out what happened next in the book (even though I totally knew, because I’m writing it).

So I’m about to hop back into my draft after almost a month away from it. But you know, the other day I had a chance to pull it up, and I immediately wrote a couple hundred words, even though I wasn’t intending to actually write. Crossing fingers that excitement leads to a finished draft by the end of the year!

What about you? Any tricks to fitting your head back into a story after some time away?


2 Responses to Getting your brain in the book after a long break

  1. Anna Jordan Nov 2 2016 at 7:51 am #

    This is perfect post for me this week. My NaNo project is a manuscript to which I’m returning. I just finished a reread and I’m diving in. I’m a little nervous about finding the same voice but happy to be back in that world.

  2. Ann Faison Nov 2 2016 at 12:12 pm #

    So glad this showed up in my feed this morning. Just the right reminder that even though I’ve been pulled away from my novel for the last few weeks, today I need to carve out an hour (maybe two!) and focus on it. I signed up for a solo performance acting class which, it turns out, requires a lot of writing! I’m basically writing a short solo play, which I’ve never done before. Originally, I thought I would take a difficult scene from the book and explore it as a play, but I ended up writing an autobiographical piece instead. It has been a great experience, and in many ways the novel and the short play are about the same things (the multi-faceted nature of adolescent grief), but I after weeks of writing and memorizing the play, I am dying to weave some of the insights I’ve gained back into the novel. For me, expressing myself in different forms, especially art forms I’m not very experienced in, is a great way to energize the writing with fresh energy, new vocabulary, and deeper meaning.

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