Getting Back into a Story

Recently there was a rather distracting holiday—you might have noticed it—which meant that I was busy finishing up costumes and decorations and lots of other things that were just not writing. And then, after it was all over and I’d recovered somewhat from the sugar overload, it was time to dive back into my manuscript.

Only the diving in didn’t really happen. The whole idea of working on my WIP seemed completely overwhelming.


See, after a couple weeks of dealing with other things, I was completely out of my story and I needed to do something—and preferably something fast—in order to get myself back into it. Here are some things I’ve found that help get me back into writing, even if the break has only been from one day to the next.

1. Read over what you have already written.

I do this almost every time I sit down with my manuscript, even if it’s only been a day since I last worked on it. But even just briefly skimming over the last few paragraphs I wrote can help get me back into the story.

2. Print it out what you’ve written and retype it.

Retyping is a pain, yes, but having those words pass through my fingers again does a lot to help me get back into the story, especially if it’s been a while. There is also something about seeing my words on paper instead of a screen that gives me a new perspective on it.

3. Write up summaries of what happens next.

Sometimes writing the actual scenes can be really intimidating for me when I’m getting back into a story. But writing up what I want to have happen next is much less so. After all, I don’t expect the summaries to be elegant or well-written or anything like that. But by writing up a summary, it often gets me excited to write the actual scene and that excitement makes it easier to actually do the writing.

4. Give yourself time to sulk.

This is actually a big one for me. If life has prevented me from writing for a few weeks, even if I have been thinking about the story and mentally working through complications, I still have a hard time transitioning back, no matter how much I love the story. By acknowledging that fact and giving myself time to sulk and whine about it—preferably time with a deadline so I don’t sulk forever—I tend to get over it faster.

5. Bribery.

If all else fails, I sometimes have to resort to bribery. Sometimes it’s things like I can’t eat lunch until I’ve written a certain number of words. Other days, when it’s really bad and even housework sounds more appealing, I’ve told myself I can fold laundry (and watch TV while I’m folding) after a certain number of words or pages or even paragraphs. The whole point is to trick myself into actually starting.

But what about you? What’s your process for getting back into a story? Have you found anything that helps you transition back in after a break?


Jenilyn Collings loves to read and write things that are humorous or romantic (preferably both). She has worked as a dental researcher, a florist, a martial arts instructor, and a tracker at an alternative high school (she’ll leave it to your imagination what that entailed), but she’s now focused on writing and child wrangling. A long time resident of the Mountain West, she recently moved to New England with her family where she is gaining an appreciation for umbrellas, fall colors, and turning lanes while driving.