Restarting after a sabbatical

Here’s what I’m hoping to achieve!

Recently I realised that my Work-in-Progress – my beloved second novel – has not advanced a word in about seven months. This hasn’t been by choice. A bout of illness left me exhausted, struggling to just get through a normal day, never mind keeping up with writing in my spare time. I love my WIP. I love my main character – well, he’s been in my life for just over two years so I’d have to – and the plot is coming together. Plus I’ve written more than 60,000 words on it so giving up is simply not an option.But how do you restart a project when you’ve had so much time away from it that you can’t remember what you were going to say next? I have a few ideas as to how I’m going to do it:

1. Carve out writing time in your week – I can’t write every day, I know this for a fact, my body simply will not allow it. But if you make a writing date with yourself twice a week for up to an hour at a time that seems manageable and will help you to get started.

2. Printing out and reading the story so far – usually you only do this once you have a completed manuscript but if you can resist editing as you go it will give you a chance to get reacquainted with the story and the characters and you’ll probably get a clear idea of where you were planning to go.

3. Pace yourself – remember you’re just getting back into the project, Don’t beat yourself up if it seems like rubbish and it takes a while to get going – that’s what the editing phase is for. Also, don’t throw yourself into the project and start spending every hour God sends on it. You’ll just wear yourself out and end up back to square one.

4. Be prepared for setbacks – no plan is ever carried out without a few slip-ups and alterations being required. Keep your long-term goal in mind, but be prepared to be flexible in how you approach your return to writing. Always remember the story of the hare and the tortoise – slow and steady wins the game!

So, this is the plan I’ll be following over the coming months. I predict that within a week or two I’ll be moving things around to allow for more writing time, and if I were feeling really confident I’d set a date by which I should complete my WIP. But, looking back at point 4, I’m reminded that I’m supposed to be enjoying a return to writing and not setting myself unnecessary deadlines. I know I’ll finish the novel, because I’ve finished one before, so I just have to be patient and wait for the writing bug to bite me again. I’ll keep you posted! Wish me luck!

What’s the longest period you’ve gone without writing? Did you have any tricks for getting yourself back in the habit? Please share them below in the comments section.

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4 thoughts on “Restarting after a sabbatical

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  1. It sounds like you have set some solid goals for yourself. I see a lot of writers like to keep a schedule and it seems to help them. I’ve tried to do that, but it never works for me. For whatever reason, I write in bursts. Weeks can go by with nothing, then I get 20k words in just a few days. Several times I’ve gotten 40-50k words in less than a month. If I try to force it, though, nothing comes. I think each writer has to know what works best for them.

    Good luck on getting back into your MS. Hope your health improves enough that you are able to be as productive as you need to be. It’s tough getting back in the game after an absence, but seeing the story come together makes it all worth it.

    1. Hi Susan, thanks for the comment. I find setting goals does help me, because I’m that kind of person, but I know for others it would turn them off entirely. I think the key is to find the way that works for you and stick with it. Whatever gets the words on the page!
      Hope to hear from you again soon!

  2. Sorry to hear you’ve been so ill. I hope you’re now on the mend? 🙂
    It’s interesting that you say giving up is not an option because you’ve already written 60,000 words…. giving up is ALWAYS an option, theoretically. But if you want to finish it, you will finish it. If you don’t, you can let it go. I deleted a novel of 50,000 words once. It was the best thing I could have done with it!
    Anyway, it’s good that you’re not giving yourself too many hard rules about getting back into it. It’s meant to be an enjoyable process. I’m like Susan A, when it comes to writing fiction I just can’t do it to schedule.
    You know, I’m not so sure it would be a bad idea to edit it as you read through it. It might help you get sucked back into the story?
    I don’t really have any tricks as such. I have had long periods of time when I haven’t written much. Months at a time, sometimes. But I know when I’m ready to start again because the story just insists on being written! 🙂
    Hope you enjoy getting back into your project! 😀 Thanks for sharing! x

    1. Hi JC, thanks for the comment. I’m feeling much better, thank you. It’s been an uphill struggle (and still is some days!) but I’m getting there. I don’t think I could give up on the book because it’s come such a long way, and I still love the characters and the story – however mixed up it may be getting! I very much agree on the story ‘insisting’ on being written. I’m almost at that point now. Here’s to some lovely writing days to come!
      Look forward to hearing from you soon!

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