How to Slip Back into Your WIP

Whether you’re working on a series, giving an abandoned project another chance, or returning after chasing around a shiny new idea (or two… or three…), it is often difficult to step back into the mental space you need to be in order to continue with the plot, setting, or characters that you started. This is especially true if a long time has passed, life circumstances have changed, or if the genre of your other projects is significantly different from the original project.

This is what I’m struggling with now: My first novels are serial killer thrillers, the Run Rabbit Run series: COLOSSUS and Two Guns, accompanied by traumatic family dramas to provide the killer’s backstory, the Phoenix Rising novellas. After Two Gun‘s release last November, though, I’ve been spending time in Romancelandia and building the brand for my romance pen name. Now it’s time to return to write the third book of the Run Rabbit Run series, RUIN, and while the romances have their fill of suspense and murder, they pale in comparison to the trauma and torture of my thrillers. Not only that, but I bought a house and moved back to Georgia! I am literally in a completely different state than I was when I was last writing serial killers.


It’s difficult to step back into the shoes of a serial killer and a victim of violent sexual assault!

Fortunately, there are ways to recover the state of mind after being away for so long, some of them even easy and entertaining:

  1. Return to what originally inspired you to write this project.
    • What lit the original spark that snowballed into this idea? A newspaper article? A line from a song? A character in a movie? Pull whatever it was back up and saturate yourself in it for a bit. If you have multiple sources of inspiration, even better! Give each one your attention.
    • Also immerse yourself in comp titles. Do you know of any TV series, movies, or books comparable to yours? A tone you’d like to imitate? A character trait you’d like to capture? Watch it and study it with a writer’s eye.
      • For me, this means re-watching HBO’s Rome. Although the Run Rabbit Run novels are set in 2006, my serial killer, Avery Rhodes, was inspired by the morally-complicated and Hedonistic Marc Antony and modelled after the actor who portrayed him (who plays other characters who are just as brutal and complex).
  2. Re-read your previous works or drafts.
    • If you’re picking up the next book in a series, go back and re-read or at least skim the previous books. Not only will this help you get back in the mind-set, but you can also jot down little details that you might not otherwise remember. What color is your MC’s eyes? What rank is the police officer you introduced in chapter seven?
    • If you’re diving back into a manuscript that you started and set aside for one reason or another, re-read what you already have. Skim back over your notes. Remember where you were and where you were going, HOWEVER don’t feel tethered to that original plan. Allow the plan to mature along with you, and feel free to rewrite or revise to make your story fit where you are mentally.
      • I’m doing both of these, tackling the third book in my series, diving back into a draft that I’m already 25k words into. I already know that I’m going to delete a good chunk of it. I’m going to rewrite it when I’m done with the first draft anyway.
  3. Listen to your #amwriting playlist.
    • I make playlists for several of my writing projects, especially if I’m going to devote so much time and energy to them. If you have a playlist, crank it up while you’re reviewing your notes or following the next few steps.
    • If you don’t have a soundtrack, make one!
      • You can read my soundtrack for COLOSSUS here.
  4. Tweak your outline.
    • Chances are you are in a slightly–or even very–different place as a writer than when you originally tackled the project you are returning to. I know I am! So that outline you wrote for your original plan might not work anymore. That’s OK! Go ahead and tweak it. Make notes. Let it evolve. Not only that, but do this throughout the writing process. Let the story determine the outline, not the other way around.
    • You don’t have an outline? That’s OK too! If you’re a die-hard pantser, tinker with the concept you had in mind originally. But if you’re willing, I highly recommend writing down at least the main points you have planned for your story.
      • While I was off in Romancelandia, I would mentally pick at my ideas for RUIN, knowing that I would have to dive back into it for my October release. I couldn’t remember the outline I had originally constructed, but I remember there were some places I didn’t know where to go, the narrative was confusing, or there wasn’t enough action or tension, and I’ve decided there are some concepts I just need to scrap.
  5. Write out the strongest scenes.
    • Sometimes you just need to dive into the writing. If you have a scene or a character appearing vividly in your mind, sit down and write out what you see. Nothing will get you back into writing like actually writing.
      • This entire blog post is brought to you by me needing to rush out of the shower to write an exchange that popped into my head.
  6. Make a plan.
    • Once you’ve pulled out and sifted through all of your previous work, make an action plan. Do you know when you want this project to be finished? What form will it take? About how many words will it be? Set a daily or weekly word count goal that will help you reach your deadline. Remember to give yourself wiggle room! You can go as far as structuring your day around getting those words in. You may not stick to it, but writing it down will help!
      • Since I have a hard deadline to publish RUIN on Halloween, I need to allot time to write, send it to beta readers, rewrite/revise, send it to my editor, revise, copy edit, and format. (Damn, I haven’t given myself much time…)
      • COLOSSUS and Two Guns were between 75 and 80k words, so RUIN should fall somewhere in there. I’m going to make my target date for my first draft June 22, which gives me 31 days from my intended start date, May 21st. That would make my daily word goal 2k, which isn’t outrageous, but it is more than I’m generally comfortable with. However, I already have 25k of the draft written, so my daily target is really around 1500 words, only slightly over my average.
      • To make this plan work, I’m going to tell everyone, especially my readers who are chomping at the bit for book three. I will ask them to keep me accountable for my word count.


I hope you enjoyed my suggestions and took a few to heart! Do you have or have you heard of any useful methods I didn’t mention above? Post them in the comments below!

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