How to Revive an Old Story in Your Backlist by Marie Lavender

 How to Revive an Old Story in Your Backlist

by Marie Lavender


Let’s say you’ve been eyeing a project for a while, one which has been sitting in a folder on your flash drive or in a remote storage app for a long time. At one point, you were nearly finished with it, but lost interest along the way. Or perhaps there’s a tale from your published backlist which could use a boost. Maybe you would like to try merging it into an anthology with other authors’ works, or even amidst your own collection of a few stories. It’s also possible you’d prefer to make a shorter tale much longer, into an entire novel. Whatever the case, if it has potential – and you believe some of the content is worth saving – I say go for it.

It’s never a bad idea to refresh your work now and then. Who knows? Maybe it’s a manuscript you’ve struggled with, receiving numerous rejections in the past. Giving it a facelift could capture the attention of a literary agent or publisher…at least after you’ve taken the story through a much-needed makeover.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash


But, what steps should you take? These are some methods to rejuvenate an old writing project…

1.      Add new scenes.

Take that tucked-away file and start brainstorming again. Maybe it would behoove you to change up the synopsis, to cut unnecessary sections and add more exciting events. Play around with the storyline until it sounds right.

2.      Update/modernize your dialogue, or adjust the verbiage in the descriptions.

A contemporary short story shouldn’t include outdated pop culture references or mentions of technology no one even uses anymore. Vice versa, a historical tale wouldn’t contain a lot of current vernacular. When in doubt, try searching the phrase in a word origins resource, such as the Online Etymology Dictionary. Moreover, we’re always evolving as writers, and your grasp of how true conversations unfold in the real world will change. 


Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash


What adjustments can you make to your story’s dialogue without losing the character’s unique voice?

3.      Do more detailed research to enhance authenticity.

The importance of research should never be overlooked. You won’t end up adding all the information that you’ve gathered, but it will help to make the story feel real.

4.      Delve further into your characters.

Update the personalities and backgrounds of the main characters. Perhaps you’ll learn something new, or even discover a recurring theme for the story. Do your best to flesh out your characters in diverse ways so that the audience will better identify with the protagonist.

5.      Consider a title adjustment.

Although you might believe this is a tricky move to put on readers, your book title may actually be hurting your chances of reaching the right audience. Grab your bibliophile hat for a moment. I know, it’s not a difficult feat for a lot of writers. But, really put yourself in the mindset of your readers, and think about what you like or dislike as a book lover. Does the title grab you right away? Think of your favorite books and what might’ve led you to purchase them. A great book title is often a worthy selling point. A nice blurb and cover will take a reader on the lookout for a decent book the rest of the way, but that title could also make or break a potential sale. One which is too long would exhaust anyone. And a short title that doesn’t appear to connect to the actual storyline could cause some confusion.

Would your title turn someone off? It’s a subject worth contemplating.  

6.      Be prepared for major edits or revisions.

But always, always strive to be true to your original vision for the story – certainly, the version you’ve grown passionate about once more. Some details might’ve changed. A character could still surprise you.

In the end, however, return to why you write in the first place. Because you live for this – even with the inability to sleep right away. As a new idea for a scene plays out in your head, you know it’s your purpose. 

Photo by Tyler Nix on Unsplash


You enjoy telling a story in the best way you know how. Plus, if you’ve reached this step in the process, then you have come a long way. And it goes without saying that a new cover is also a fantastic way to help you rebrand a former book.

So, congratulations on this daunting task! I bet you never realized you’d have any use for that project of yours again, did you?

Here is a list of works I’ve revived from a backlist (some are future book releases):

Keep writing, my friends…and, as always, happy reading! 😊


Blogger Bio

Multi-genre author of Victorian maritime romance/family saga, Heiresses in Love, and 18 other books. Marie Lavender lives in the Midwest with her family and two cats. She has been writing for a little over twenty-five years. She has more works in progress than she can count on two hands. Since 2010, Marie has published 21 books in the genres of historical romance, contemporary romance, romantic suspense, paranormal romance, romantic comedy, dramatic fiction, fantasy, science fiction, mystery/thriller, literary fiction and poetry. An avid blogger on the side, she writes adult fiction, as well as occasional stories for children, and has recently started some young adult fiction. She also contributed to several anthologies. Though Marie has standalone titles on the market, her current published series are The Eternal Hearts Series, The Magick Series, The Code of Endhivar Series, The Misfits Series, The Blood at First Sight Series, and The Heiresses in Love Series. but she has many others planned. Her Victorian maritime romance sequels are returning, and the second editions of the trilogy will be released soon under her new publisher, Foundations Books. Discover more about her and her work at the following links.


List of Links:


Marie’s Books:



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