Reviving An Old Project


A book can get shelved before it’s finished, but not in the good way.

Creative work can get pushed to the bottom of the to-do list when priorities shift or you lose interest for the latest shiny new idea.

This doesn’t mean the idea isn’t worthwhile. You just have to be armed with the right tools to get it back up and running when you’re ready to tackle its problems again.


Read it

Read everything you’ve written so far. Everyone has their own approach, so here are a few things to make it easier.

If you have an outline, look at that first. If you follow the “premise, blurb, synopsis” approach, read those. Get into those sheets of prewriting material.

If you have a record of when you wrote them, notice which of the notes are the most current so you don’t spin your wheels on ideas discarded for good reason.

You might consider having some pens handy during your read-through. If you’re returning to an already drafted project, mark the beginning and end of each scene. Mark where you notice inconsistencies or places that need work. The point here isn’t a full-on edit. Marking up your draft is a way of engaging with it more actively than just a read-through.


Write it

Play with what you have. If you have a draft already, read it through then tweak things around until inspiration strikes.

Reacquaint yourself with the characters using prewriting exercises.

Write up a scene that stood out to you in your outline, or rewrite one that stood out in the draft.

Whatever it takes, rekindle that flame of inspiration. This advice, of course, comes from the philosophy that motivation tends to come after you’ve begun.


The Muse of Painting
John La Farge – 1870

Relive it

Not all writers are work-until-it-happens people. Others are have-to-have-the-vision people. If it’s been awhile for your project and you just don’t feel like you’ve got a grasp of the project’s soul, take a turn inward.

Review the essential elements of the story – character, premise, major plot points, etc. Take the necessary time to give them your full attention.

Meditate on them however works best for you. Walking meditation can help, taking a stroll down a familiar path. Seated meditation may work better for you.

Those with multiple creative outlets may find drawing, playing music, cooking, or whatever non-writing pursuit may find using that other part of the brain while thinking about the project can jump-start inspiration or provide the necessary new outlook.


These aren’t the only ways to get back to work on an old project. How do you go about it?


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