Monday, 20 September 2021

How to Recycle Your Words - guest post from Annalisa Crawford

Welcome to Monday and to a guest I'm delighted to host on the blog, my good friend and critique partner, Annalisa Crawford. She recently launched her new book, Small Forgotten Moments. Perhaps you've read it or added it on to your TBR list, but what you might not know is it was revived from a much older draft. Annalisa's here to talk a bit about that process and how to make it work. Let's hand it over to her.

I have a skirt in my wardrobe which I’ve had since I was seventeen, and I’m lucky enough that it still fits. I still have my first teddy bear, and the posy of silk flowers I carried at my sister’s wedding are proudly displayed in a vase in my bedroom.

I’m not a hoarder – there are just some things I don’t  want to get rid of. Like words. As with most writers, I’ve kept old notebooks containing scribbled descriptions which were too perfect not to jot down and those random idea which hit you in the queue for the post office; I’ve kept abandoned short stories and completed novels which when I considered submitting were suddenly the worst things I’ve ever written.

But I can’t let them go. Some of those plots or characters clawed themselves back into my head until I had no choice but to resuscitate them. This happened with both my current novel, Small Forgotten Moments, and with Grace & Serenity before that. Both were at least ten years old when I dusted them off and began to figure out what exactly was wrong with them.

Obviously, this process has worked out quite well for me, so here are some tips for resurrecting your old stories.

1.      Figure out why the story didn’t work before, and be completely honest with yourself. Was it the characters, plot, theme, premise, genre, or something else entirely?

2.      Decide what was good about it. Why exactly are you thinking about working on it again?

3.      Be ruthless. Take a black marker pen to a printed out copy or delete words on the screen if they don’t conform to your new vision – subplots, characters, tangents. If they stop you in your tracks, get rid of them (or save them for another project!)

4.      But don’t forget to highlight the really fantastic bits. Those paragraphs or sentences will be the foundations to carry the project forward.

5.      Re-write from scratch. Don’t be tempted to simply edit or add a couple of scenes – your writing style might have changed in the months or years since you last picked it up, technology might have made some plot points obsolete unless you choose to retain the previous time setting, world events may add an additional dimension. Treat your current manuscript as an elaborate plan.

6.      Good luck!

If this has inspired you to take another look at an abandoned project, I’d love to know.

You can read more about Small Forgotten Moments at or go direct to my publisher’s website for all purchase options

About Annalisa Crawford

Annalisa Crawford lives in Cornwall, UK, with a good supply of moorland and beaches to keep her inspired. She lives with her husband, two sons, and canine writing partner, Artoo. She is the author of four short story collections, and two novels.


Natalie Aguirre said...

I have an old manuscript that I can't give up on too. Thanks for the tips on how to make it work. Congrats on your new book, Annalesa! It's awesome that you and Nick are critique partners.

Annalisa Crawford said...

Thank you so much for featuring me today, Nick 😊

Natalie - Nick and I write in different genres, but we seem to gel well as critique partners. I very much appreciated his help with Small Forgotten Moments.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I took a story that was nearly thirty years old and completely rewrote it, saving one scene and the two main characters. It became my first published book.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Nick and Annalisa - great to see you promoting Annalisa's book today, as well as getting some tips on how to resurrect those early drafts ... I must say I loved Small Forgotten Moments - and I highly recommend it.

Great to see how Annalisa has crafted this book from an earlier draft - well done ... and I highly recommend her book - cheers to you both - Hilary

Liz A. said...

I have a few trunked novels that will see the light of day someday. Not soon, though. This is good advice.

Elizabeth Seckman said...

I do the same thing with my notebooks and various scrap notes. I highlight what I think are the keepers.

I have a pair of earrings from high school that still fit. :)

Denise Covey said...

A great post. Once I get all my new books published, I'm going to look at some old mss, some stories I like, but couldn't tell at the time.

Annalisa Crawford said...

My story was almost as old!

Annalisa Crawford said...

Thank you Hilary x

Annalisa Crawford said...

It's great your old words didn't go to waste.

Annalisa Crawford said...

It's always worth looking back, although not everything is suitable. I've got plenty I've left alone 😅

Annalisa Crawford said...

Distance from the work really helps to sort the good from the not so good.

cleemckenzie said...

I liked your use of the word, resuscitate. That was perfect. So glad you were able to do that for your characters.