There are many reasons you may have taken a break from your future novel: You’re waiting to hear back from prospective agents. You’re transitioning after a major life event. You were simply too in the weeds and needed to take a step back. But once you step away, it can be hard to figure out how to start writing your book . . . again.

How to Start Writing Your Book Again After a Long Break

3 Tips to Return to Your Book

Depending on how long a break you took, returning to your manuscript can seem overwhelming. Here are three tips for how to start writing again, get past those initial barriers, and get back into a groove:

1. Reread What You Wrote

You probably know your story inside out. After all, you spent hour upon hour writing and editing the darn thing! Still, the first step toward making a serious return to your work after an extended break is rereading what you already wrote.

Whether it’s been six months or six years, your perspective has changed. Things have happened to you, you’ve grown. Fresh eyes will help you see more clearly whether your words are doing what you wanted them to do and, if not, what you need to work on. In other words, rereading will give you an idea about where to start (or restart).

2. Spend Some Time With Your Characters

Fiction writers are often told to take steps to understand their characters before diving into writing. Terry McMillan, for example, fills out job applications for her characters. Another idea is to fill out dating profiles for them.

But this technique doesn’t only have to occur at the beginning of your novel-writing journey. Re-familiarizing yourself with your characters in the middle of the process can actually be useful in figuring out the direction the story should go.

Take some time to remember the core of each of your main characters. What is her favorite song? Biggest pet peeve? What is his favorite thing about himself? What is the one thing she always felt was missing from her life? Get deep. Remember why your characters do what they do.

By reorienting yourself with your characters’ core motivations, you will be able to review your manuscript more critically. You will be better equipped to determine whether their actions make sense or if something needs to be changed. Also, while engaging in this process, you may just find your characters giving you the inspiration you need to dive back in.

3. Begin a Daily Routine (and Remember Other Advice That Worked the First Time)

When you first sat down to write a manuscript, you were probably told to write every day. It’s the advice I’ve heard (and maybe given) the most frequently—because it works! I made the most progress on my novel when I committed to working on it for at least an hour every day. Unsurprisingly, the tactic that worked the first time also worked really well for me when it was time to get focused again.

You probably read a book, browsed writing blogs, or spoke to fellow writers to help you finish the first 100 pages or maybe even a full draft. Think about which advice worked for you then and try applying it again now. What worked in the past is probably your best bet.

Pick Up Those Old Projects

It can be tough to return to a project after you’ve taken a break from it for a while. Take some time to get your mind back in the space of that story, re-familiarizing yourself with the ideas and characters you’ve already developed.

Sure, it’s not easy to figure out how to start writing again. But your stories are worth the work. And soon enough, you’ll be back in the groove—and finishing your book.

How do you get back into a writing groove? Let us know in the comments.

PRACTICE

Writing fiction? Take fifteen minutes to write a dating profile or answer a job application for your character.

Or, write a summary of a writing project that’s currently on the back burner, but that you fully intend to return to.

When you’re done, share in the comments below! Be sure to leave feedback for your fellow writers—you just might spark a fantastic new idea to get us writing again.

Monica M. Clark
Monica M. Clark
Monica is a lawyer trying to knock out her first novel. She lives in D.C. but is still a New Yorker. You can follow her on her blog or on Twitter (@monicamclark).