Well, this week I got back to work on my WIP. I know Christmas seems like a long time ago now, but the kids didn't go back to school until Monday. To be honest, I hadn't thought that much about the story during the break. I know when writing a novel that it's usually ticking over in our heads all the time, but I find when away from the actual physical writing for even a week, I tend to disengage somewhat. Instead, I've been coming up with completely unrelated ideas. That's all well and good, but how to reacquaint myself with my novel?
Well, I'm going to share what I did, and what I could have done differently and more effectively, in the hope that this will help anyone else with the same problem.
I was very impatient to get back on with it, feeling I should make up for lost time, and only gave the last few hundred words a brief scan before ploughing back in. Well, that was obviously a mistake, but as I'm still writing very last thing at night I just wanted to get something done and get to sleep. It was counterproductive as I actually got little done (1000 words for the week, and not the best I've done).
If you're meeting up with old friends after a long time apart, you obviously have to spend a bit of time catching up first before moving on to other matters. This is what I failed to do. If you give your manuscript a good read through after a break (preferably with a red pen on hand), you will probably pick up on nuances that will guide you in the way forward, even re-absorb information that you might have forgotten. My WIP was only 14000 words when I left it, but there's still quite a lot contained there. Often we hear advice to live through your characters, see what they see, hear what they hear, smell what they smell. So you need to become immersed again in their world. It must have been a combination of impatience and arrogance that made me think I could just pick up where I left off. I never did this after the numerous breaks that happened when writing my first novel, but at that point I really had no idea if my writing was any good as no one had read it. Since then, I have had a few compliments. Lessons learned - mustn't let ego get too big!
Here's another approach that may work if in this situation. Real people's lives don't have a break, so you've essentially put your characters in limbo while you're away from the book. As you read through what you've written so far, imagine that the protagonist is telling the story directly to you, and when you reach the end of what's printed on the screen, just let them carry on, taking notes as they do. If their story is compelling and dramatic enough, they'll be eager to tell you more. You can try this with more than one character, to get different perspectives.
OK, I know my advice is untested, but I'll soon have more time to devote to writing, as our three-year-old starts nursery for five mornings a week as of Thursday, so I'll put time into these strategies. I'm not saying I can't wait to get rid of her - I worry like any parent would - but there's probably no need to, based on the progress she's made at the playgroup she's been attending on her own. And I truly believe it will benefit the entire household, as I'll be less grumpy due to getting a proper night's sleep!
So do you have any tips for getting back into a WIP after time away? Or even any ideas for stealing a bit of writing time during busy holidays, so you stay in touch?