Getting Back into a Project

Figure out where you are before you try to figure out where to go.
Photo by Pouria Teymouri on

As I wait for my editor to get back to me on one project, I’m getting back into another that I haven’t had time to look at for probably three months. I optimistically added it to my weekly calendar as if I could just jump back into it. “Rewrite chapter.” But when I clicked the file open, I found myself starting at it and wondering. “Where am I? Where did I leave off.”

When you’ve set aside a project for one reason or another, be patient as you re-enter it. Don’t set to work until you’ve taken time to reread what you’ve written. I’m fairly certain that the first two chapters are Done with a capital D. But I’m going to reread them anyway. My reason is twofold.

  1. I need to reacquaint myself with the project. I don’t want to assume it is perfection when after an absence I would spot things that need to be corrected.
  2. I also have new information that I need to work into my manuscript.

As much as I want to be done with this project, not because I’m tired of it but because I want to submit it, I don’t want to declare it done prematurely. And this information definitely needs to be part of the finished project.

In addition to rereading the manuscript on my computer, I’m also going to do a mini-excavation here on my desk. I suspect I’ve got a few chapters that I marked up with comments from my critique group. Those chapters still need to be revised. Fortunately, I know they are in the stack beneath the corner of my monitor.

Last but not least, I’m going to take a tour through my e-mail inbox. I know that there are one or two critiques that I didn’t have time to take note of before I got pulled into a contract job.

Whether you are reengaging with a fiction manuscript or a nonfiction manuscript, take your time. Reread what you’ve done. Take the time to look at any notes or critiques that you might be sitting on.

Then can you get to work? Maybe. If some of the changes are big and require mental processing, take the time to do that. After all, you’ve been away for a while. Get to know this project again before you get to work. It would be a shame if you jumped in with no idea where you were or where you needed to go!