City  Tavern Ghost Tour

The historic City Tavern in Philadelphia, second stop on Philly’s Ghost Tour ~ photograph by Bob Salerni

It’s been three weeks since I added any new words to my WIP. This is due to a number of reasons: teaching a writing class at a college, the recent death of my grandfather and the subsequent need to help my mom clean out his house, an editorial deadline, and hosting our delightful French exchange student — which includes taking her to local tourist attractions we rarely visit ourselves. (Longwood Gardens, the Amish Village, a Philadelphia “Ghost Tour,” etc.)

Yesterday, I opened this manuscript with a little trepidation, considering how long it’s been, and used the Document Map to jump to where I’d left off: the end of Chapter 33.

To my relief, I discovered that the opening two paragraphs of the next chapter, Chapter 34, were already written. I thought I had done this, but with everything going on in my life lately, I hadn’t remembered for sure. However, as it turns out, before I closed this manuscript three weeks ago, I followed my usual procedure of writing the opening sentences of the next chapter.

The point was to make sure that whenever I opened the document again, I wasn’t facing a blank page.

Psychologically, this makes a big difference for me. Most of the time those few sentences are exactly what I need to get back to work – a jumping off point. I read my words and nodded. Yes, this is still how I need to start this chapter.

Although … one of the sentences was awkward. So I revised it.

Then I added one.

A little while later, I added a paragraph.

Then 950 more words …

Leaving myself something to start with has helped me on numerous occasions. What strategies do you have for getting back into a manuscript after time away from it – or even just facing the next chapter when you’re struggling and unsure about your story?


P.S. – The photo above has nothing to do with this post. I just thought it was really cool. Our visiting student has an interest in haunted places. Did she land with the right family or what? Later this week: The Psychic Theater at the Harry Houdini Museum in Scranton, PA!