Getting Back Into an Old Character’s Voice

It’s always a good idea to give yourself space in between finishing a draft and beginning revisions. That way when you get started, you can look at it with completely fresh eyes and notice problems you might otherwise gloss over because you’re in the end-of-draft-honeymoon-phase. For lots of people that kind of wait is as little as a few days or a week. Because it’s not infrequently that I take a few days off in the actual drafting phase, I tend to take a month or two away from an MS before tackling revisions.

I’m doing some pretty drastic revisions on the novel that I’m querying based on feedback I got from some agents, and it’s been a long time since I seriously looked at this book. Probably five or six months.

It can be hard to get back into the mindset of a character that you’ve been distanced from. Here’s a few things that I’m doing to help, though. Maybe they’ll work for you, too!

  1. Read through the manuscript–even if you just skim it, it’s amazing how much this part alone can help. Even though a lot of times revisions can be daunting, I always leave a read through feeling stoked to get started, because I notice the parts that I really loved about the book. My favorite lines, plot points, and characters fuel me and help me get back into that mindset.
  2. Listen to music you listened to while drafting–this can trigger the same emotions you were feeling when you wrote the book the first time around.
  3. Check out any idea boards you made for the book–I love making a pinterest board for my stories. Even though I don’t fancast my characters so much anymore, the images I pin always get me in a certain mood (usually dark and creepy, or in the case of this MS dark and creepy and colorful).
  4. Research agents you could send your MS to–this one you have to be careful with, because it can be a time suck and make you reeeeeally want to send out your book before it is ready. But having a list of agents who I know are looking for work like mine is so encouraging. It makes me want to get the work done so that I can send out more queries! And that enthusiasm bleeds over to the book itself, resulting in smoother returns to the main character’s voice.
    • Just don’t send out any queries until you are completely finished with revisions! IT IS A TERRIBLE IDEA TO SEND OUT QUERIES BEFORE YOU ARE DONE. Agents can tell. When I read for a literary agency, it was super obvious when people’s novels had been sent out earlier than they should have been. They read like they’re stitched together with duct tape, rather than sewn so cleanly that you can’t see the stitching. And that sucks, because if you send your book too soon, you’ve officially thrown away your shot with those agents. You can’t query them again!

What do you do to get back into the voice of your past characters?

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