Returning to an old story

Hey all!

Have any of you decided to continue with a book you abandoned in the past? If so, what was your process? Did you rewrite it from scratch, continue where you left off, etc.?

I guess what I’m asking is how you managed to dust the rust off and get back into it after it sat for so many months/years. I’m trying to return to a book of mine that I loved but never finished, and I’m having a hard time figuring out where or how to start. It’s very hard to get back into the mindset of the characters and what still needs to happen plot-wise, especially since my writing style has changed so much in the last couple years.

So if you have any experience or advice, I’d love to hear it :star2:


This sort of thing happened to me with my first book. I got halfway through then paused for a good year. I later forced it out and completed it. I loved the story in my head but on paper it did not meet my expectations. Honestly it would have been easier to restart. To put it quite simply, at the time I was not skilled enough nor planned enough and I had set myself up to fail when I resumed the project. After so much time, I met new people, had new ideas and better skills that were no longer compatible with what I had.
I did start again even after the trouble of finishing the whole thing and it is now exceeding my expectations. It is not really starting from scratch, you can just think of what you already put down as a first draft.


I’ve been wanting to make Blood and Iron into a more complex story for a while, like if John Green was really into Clawitz, chess, and Egyptian Mythology.


I never really had to rewrite a whole book. It’s more like an editing run with extra chapters and taking parts out. The longest I left the story is maybe a year or two, so I found getting back was fairly easy.


Thank you for sharing your experience here! It’s great to hear you were able to push through and get the first draft finished, even if it wasn’t up to your tastes. That takes a lot of heart and effort!

I really think that’s one of the issues with dropping a story for so long - your skills and preferences change. Do you think it was necessary for you to complete that first draft before you tackled your second?

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When I do, I have to at least reread it, so I can get back into the heads of everyone as an observer, at least. I dont have much more method than that.


Oh wow, never? :open_mouth: So when you pick a book back up after letting it sit for a year or two, do you go through and do an editing run first before starting? Or do you skip right to writing the ending and go back to edit later?

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Oh yeah, rereading is a must! It’s awesome that’s all you need to get back into a story. Do you note take any ideas for changes/plot twists/ending changes while you reread?

This happened to me.

I have a major fantasy work I’ve been working on since I was fifteen (so eight years), but even as I was constructing it back then I knew that I needed to be a better writer when I wrote the novel and constructed the major themes. I was laying the groundwork for my future self (who was hopefully a better writer) to go back through and fix.

I stopped writing this project around seventeen years old, because I realized I needed more life experience. I had spent two entire summers constructing this book (no exaggeration, that’s literally all I did, no friends, no nothing, just writing), and I felt like I carried it as far as I could go.

I started writing it again when I was twenty-two, when I had experienced more of life than I ever intended to. After experiencing a ton of trauma, one bad event after the other, I was subject to a pointless, meaningless existence, and I was all alone.

After I barely managed to drag myself out of that hell, I realized this is it this is what was missing from my story, all those years ago.

I think what compelled me to finally return to it, what convinced me that I was ready to take on such a massive project, was the need and want to pour all of my raw emotion into something. But it was the main character who guided me towards that want–the perfect vessel for my visceral hate.

I looked back at all of my old drafts. I’d saved every single one since I was fifteen years old. There was a lot of cringey stuff, and I wasn’t exactly the best at organizing which made me want to tear my hair out sometimes.

But, I think, at the end of the day what kept me going was the idea that not only did the story deserve to be refined and finished, but I also deserved to be able to write, finish, and expel the demons inside me.

In other words: It inspired me. Once I started, I couldn’t stop.

I don’t know if this will help, but my advice is to look at your story and find that aspect that inspires you. Hang onto that and see how you can expand that throughout your story, if you can learn to enjoy the process, writing it will be a lot easier. Still difficult, but almost fun.


I have 14 I left hanging. One saga is about 5 years being in hiatus, but I always intend to give them proper closure.

Hence, my work release strategies and scheduling.

I have a TeamUP calendar where I’ve slotted story to days, which will be the focus. Whether it’ll be new content, story design or revisions.

The key thing for me when it comes to finishing hiatus works is routine and having plans and goals for them, which I can measure their success. Some days, all I do is revise the story line and do editing. Or just gather new ideas for upcoming scenes. Anything to keep the story current, present and on its way to completion.

On rewriting, I’ve done it a few times on stories where I purely pants. But it wasn’t truly rewriting, rather restructuring and giving bones with an outline. So there’s never any drastic shift and major changes to the plot.

Lately, I give up pantsing (if I try) after writing chapter 3 and end up outlining to ensure, if I ever place the story on hiatus, it’s easy to pick up where I left off.

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Its funny:

I’m a total pantser, and I don’t leave a ton of plotholes because this nutty brain just drags it back in thematically, naturally. When I DO have a plothole, I often know it before I pick it back up, before even reading it. Those type of things, when they happen, are what I work on first. If I see misspellings, bad grammar, I fix those since I’m rereading it anyway. I’d have to make notes if I didn’t do this by natural inclination, I’m sure.

What surprises me is when I write something that doesn’t make sense. Since I-like most people-write closer to the way I speak, sometimes my story reaches points where it’s like I was having a conversation with someone and I only recorded my half of the conversation. It would make total sense if I can retrace the thoughts that brought up these gibberish things: those are the dire things that I need a reread for in the first place, finished or not. It’s like assuming that everyone knows that experienced blacksmiths can tell the temperature of the metal by the color of the metal, but this is specific knowledge to me because I have a fitter-turned-manager brother, welder father, fitter grandfather, and the great-great granfather would fix his own machines, ploughs, make his own horseshoes. So it’s one of those random pieces of knowledge that is very important to my family because everyone and their mother worked with metal. I could say “the color was rust and the old man threw it back in in disgust”, but if that’s all that I say, not everyone is going to get it. You have to keep the general knowledge of the reader in mind without “talking down”, so yay for my half-conversations.

Sometimes I can’t even piece it together, so I’m throwing away a couple paragraphs.


All I really did by finishing it was confirming it had already gone off the rails. That being said, it was good practice, it was fun at times, and I learned something from it. At the time, I didn’t have an idea how to start the story on a better foundation so just went with it just so I could say I finished a book. If you have a new way to tell the story that you love you should probably go with it, it may be difficult to get passionate about the old work if it has been sitting for so long and you are uncertain about it.


I went through the story, adding ideas for changes and additions. Then I go into editing run, from the start.

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That is a very powerful realization to have about your writing! Writing really can be such a great healing experience, and I’m glad to hear that this story was a strong outlet for you.

I know my book was an outlet for me, too. The characters’ internal struggles have always been my own, and this book was always a way for me to express my emotions. I feel like I’ve left myself on a cliffhanger by not finishing it, and it’s killing me to not know what’s going to happen next, how the characters are going to grow and change to overcome my own demons. Right now, that’s what’s inspiring me to finish it. But I’m still feeling a lot of anxiety every time I try to work on it again, like I’m going to mess it up, and that’s one of the hurdles I’m facing trying to get back into it. I’m hoping that once I actually sit down, focus on the process rather than the results, and just start, I won’t be able to stop working on it, just like it was for you.

You know, that’s a really really good point. A goal and routine. I’m very much missing both of those right now, which may be one of the reasons why I’ve hard a hard time starting again. Once I send this I’m going to go and see about maybe setting some up :joy:

But wow, 15 stories? It’s really awesome how dedicated you are to writing, and how much you must enjoy it. That’s a lot of stories to close out, and I can only imagine how much time and effort and heartache (because we all know there’s going to be at least one emotional rollercoaster in each xD) will go into that. I will be wishing you the best!

So it’s like second nature to you? :open_mouth: That’s great. I’ve done that on accident sometimes :joy: but usually I have to sit and subconsciously think about it for a long time before I pick the story back up.

This is honestly really interesting! I didn’t know that, but yet it makes a lot of sense and I’d immediately believe it if I saw that referenced in a book!

Hey, that’s what writing is all about! Honestly I think that’s a mindset I need to work on a little bit, because I’m definitely putting way too much pressure on myself when it comes to this book. Writing should be fun with a dash of practice and learning from your mistakes.

Surprisingly, this is probably the only book I’ve ever written where I’ve gone back to re-read it, years later, only to realize I wouldn’t want to change a thing. 2019 me had left future me a bunch of revision notes, and I crossed all of them out when I re-read my book in August. I’ll need to update the writing style, but beyond that? Not much.

This honestly might be the way I approach this. An editing run might be a good way to pick the momentum back up!


I brought up that a character’s hands were clumsy, in the opening, and it’s a theme of the story without trying, as it becomes a part of the evidence of who she is. Just the way that story went, didn’t even notice it until I was near the end of the story. her name, as well, was made at first, and decided on the why halfway through.

Another, the first book mentions a precognition of something bad happening to the ML, and the MC shuts down that thought after a single sentence. About a year back, I’m halfway through book 4 and had decided on how I’m ending it–with something that happens to the ML that makes him missing for a good chunk of book 5. I’m talking to my spouse about it and he goes, “well that wraps up what you mentioned early in book 1”, and I’m going “WAT?!”

So I do this stuff an only figure out I did it afterwards. What I think I’m doing is writing it linearly, but my brain doesn’t process it linearly–sort of an omnipotent view of the thing. IT’s probably a part of the subject-hopping of ADHD, just like the half-informed paragraphs. So I just have a trade-off of issues from a lot of other people.

Good luck!

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Thank you!

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I get you. I think you hit the nail on the head in which hurdle you need to overcome. Hm. Maybe you could start off with facing the things that were challenging you before you decided to hang it up? Perhaps by recognizing where past frustrations/hurdles were, you can work it out now that you’ve had time away from the story?

A clear head is often an imaginative one. I think, like you said, once you sit down and become inspired/invested in your work, then it’ll be like you can’t stop.

Perhaps by introducing yourself with a challenge, and brainstorming on it, it will inspire you to go even further into editing/writing the story itself?

When in do this, I read through and mark things that make me question why they’re there, things that don’t need to be there, what I can cut out. I also note down any little questions or plot changes/what ifs that come to mind. Then you can look at those things and decide if reworking the plot is necessary. I finished two books this way after long breaks from them.

As for your writing style changing, simply doing an edit of what you’ve already written and then continuing from there should work. If it’s changed drastically, then consider rewriting it.

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