You can end up in this situation if your commitment fails, you are working from a collection of notes that came together while you were dedicated to another work, or life gets in the way. For me, it usually happens when I am forced to redirect because of a deadline on another work. But whatever has taken you away from a work in progress and allowed it to grow cold, there are things you can do.
- Read it aloud to get the sound of the story in your head again. (It is best to do this the day before.)
- Write a list of ten things you love about your story. These can be about any element that appeals to you, but the ones that get your pulse going (twist endings, witty characters, heartbreaks) are more likely to help you reenter the story world than the practical ones (high concepts, saleability, editorial interest).
- Interview your villain. (You can interview your protagonist, too, but the villain is more likely to be chatty and engaging at the draft stage.) Be sure to ask rude questions.
- Write a pastiche of a scene in your story. It can be one that is already written. I once did this for a story of mine, recreating a favorite scene in the styles of Stephen King, Harlan Ellison, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Mark Twain. It got my engines going again, and it started a flood of ideas for new scenes.
What do you do to get back into a story that has gone cold?