Monday, August 20, 2012

Writing Cycles

By Jemi Fraser

This summer has been a lot of fun for me with my writing & I've realized a few things about my writing process. I do things in cycles.

I often like to jumpstart a novel with NaNo. This August I signed myself up for CampNano which has been a lot of fun (almost 40k now thank you very much). I don't need the incentive to write, but I like the camaraderie and there's something about inputting the word count into the site and watching that graph climb. Love it!

After NaNo though, I tend to put the wip aside for a while - mostly because NaNo never comes at the perfect time for me. I'm usually in the middle of revisions. So after the crazy month, I put that wip on the shelf and head back to my revisions.

Because I'm a pantster,  I think this gives my subconscious some time to work on the last part of the story. If I leave the story for a bit, it's amazing how well the subconscious can pull together those plot threads.

When I head back to the NaNo story, I read it over from the beginning - and get excited about it all over again.

I like to let the stories marinate for a while between drafts - several months is best. I have a very strong memory for words and patterns. If I don't let the story sit for a bit, it's really hard to catch some things that need changing because my memory believes the words are right - just because it's seen it before. So I trick myself. :)

Rinse and repeat. Right now I've got 3 stories on the go - although I rarely work on more than one at a time. I focus on one for a few months, let it sit. Switch to the next story.

Now I just need to break the cycle and start getting ready to send some of these stories out into the world!

Do you have cyclical patterns in your writing? Do you need to let things marinate or can you dive right back in?

Jemi Fraser is an aspiring author of romantic mysteries. She blogs and tweets while searching for those HEAs.

50 comments:

Old Kitty said...

Hi Jemi!! Lovely to read how your writerly mind works!!! I tend to pants my way out of stories too and tend to leave them aside for months on end. If I re-read and don't get excited about it, it's a goner but if I still love it then I just carry on - sloth like!

Yay for your Nano-ing. This method is totally not for me but I know so many writerly bloggie pals who love joining in! Take care
x

Rosalind Adam said...

Your cycle sounds like a healthily active one. I wish I could say that mine was as active! I'm stuck on revising some old wips with not much luck. I need to move on to new material.

Natalie Aguirre said...

Loved reading about your writing process. I do like the let things sit a bit too. You see it so much more clearly.

Jemi Fraser said...

Old Kitty - having that excitement for the story really is key, isn't it? It's awesome when you go back to a story and still love it!

Rosalind - knowing when to move on is tough! Leaving our babies behind is NOT easy!

Natalie - I agree - it helps me a lot! :)

JeffO said...

Always good to hear how others do it. I, too, tend to leave things for a bit. In terms of 'cycles', there's also the period of intense creativity while I'm drafting, where ideas just seem to keep flowing. When I move into revision mode that side of my brain quiets down a bit, though other ideas percolate in the 'back room'.

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

I never seem to leave myself any time to let the story marinate, but I do think it's a good strategy!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I've taken advantage of several NaNo events to kick my writing butt into action. I don't wait long to revise though because by the time I finish, I've forgotten how it began.

Jemi Fraser said...

Jeff - those back rooms are fun places! I had another idea last night that I don't have time for now, but it'll be there when I do!

Elizabeth - some people don't need that time - but at the moment, I definitely do! :)

ALex - NaNo definitely does that to you! you're so busy throwing down the words, there are some things you totally forget!

Tara Tyler said...

hello fellow camper! i am loving the graph too!
i dont know if i have a cycle yet, worked on wip 2 forever w/editing, and also wanted to kickstart a new novel thats been waiting patiently...it's awesome! and fresh!
tho i will read an article on querying and go work on that to take a break. breaks are like power naps - you wake up refreshed ready to work on it again!

Jemi Fraser said...

Tara - yay, another camper!! :) Great analogy - love those power naps. I love coming back to a project totally ramped up to get at it again! :)

Talli Roland said...

Hi Jemi! I love hearing more about how other people write.

I usually write my first draft quite quickly, then take a few days off. I'd like to take more time, but usually my schedule just doesn't allow it! Then I do a read-through, see how it all hangs together, and plunge in again.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I usually like to finish one thing before I start on the next, but having books with multiple publishers has forced me to work more in cycles like you do.

Jemi Fraser said...

Talli - me too! You're very busy! I know you're heading into draft 2 now. At the moment I have the luxury (?) of writing for myself with no deadlines. Hopefully that'll change one day! :)

Susan - I didn't think I'd like the cycles, but it works surprisingly well! :)

cleemckenzie said...

You got me thinking. I wonder if I have a cycle or if I just blunder through? I'll have to keep track, I guess and report back.

Good luck on the NaNo.

Jane Steen said...

I'm very cyclical in my writing. My problem is to make those cycles mesh properly now that I'm a self-published author. I need to be editing one book while planning the next and promoting the books already published--quite a feat! I'm still working on getting it right.

Jemi Fraser said...

Lee - I doubt you blunder through anything!! I didn't think about my cycle until this summer - not sure why! :)

Jane - that is tricky! There's so much to do as an independent author - you wear a lot of hats, and they all deserve your undivided attention. Good luck with it! :)

SC Author said...

With this new WIP (which I did longhand) I'm going to convert it to the computer and then I WILL give it a few months' break or something! If I don't, you get to... I don't know. Hurt me. But I realized after my first MS that I need a break to see my work clearly -- I spent about 7-8 months just editing and revising like an endless chain, and I couldn't see it objectively (that MS is on a break right now while I write my WIP). Thanks for the post! And do hurt my if I don't give my WIP a break.

A said...

How other people (especially artists) work is so interesting to me Jemi!

A said...

How other people (especially artists) work is so interesting to me Jemi!

TerryLynnJohnson said...

Great to read how others work. This seems to be working for you, and I think there's merits to letting something sit!
I tend to be an all or nothing type personality. In my writing too. Which I don't recommend!

Jemi Fraser said...

SC - love it! We can keep each other on track - making sure we each let it sit! I do need that break - focusing on another story for a bit really helps :)

Agnes - me too! I like seeing how the creative process works for everyone - it's intriguing. And I can often find hints for myself in how others do things!

Terry - too funny! Whatever you're doing, it's working really well! I kind of like having the different stories walking around in my brain - which surprises me a bit :)

Lydia Kang said...

I have cycles too. Outline; rough draft; beta read; revise; beta read again; final revision and line edits and done. There are always breaks in between, when I work on other projects or go on vacation. It can take anywhere from 4 months to 9 months!

Susanne Drazic said...

Hi, Jemi! I enjoyed reading about your writing process. I seem to be all over the place at times.

Jemi Fraser said...

Lydia - I'm not speedy at all. I didn't include my beta readers in the list, but they're in there too. Can't imagine doing it without them!! :)

Susanne - thanks! I'm slowly developing a pattern, although that's likely apt to change as life does! :)

Shelley Sly said...

I do have cycles in my writing! Write draft, let it sit while I start something new, then go back to original draft, self-edit, send to betas... then do the same with that new MS I started.

I tend to write and edit more than I submit for publication, so I have to find time to do that, too!

Great topic, thanks for sharing!

Mason Canyon said...

Jemi, I enjoy learning more about your writing process. I tend to do a lot in cycles because nothing ever quite gets done.

Mason
Thoughts in Progress

Jemi Fraser said...

Shelley - I like your pattern too - quite similar to mine. It's easy to get caught up in the writing and never take that 'next' step - scary! :)

Mason - teehee! That's true, isn't it? :) The finish step is one I need a bit of a push to work on!

Michelle said...

Yes, I find 3 months is a good break after I write NaNo. But while revising, even a week of woofing on a different project can give me fresh insight.

LD Masterson said...

I've always been a 'one story at a time' writer. maybe I should try mixing up a couple just to see what happens.

I enjoyed this post.

Jemi Fraser said...

Michelle - I'm like you - that post NaNo break works well! I think it's turning that attention to another project that helps the most! :)

Linda - Thanks! I thought I was a one story writer too! But while I focus on one at a time, I tend to have a few on the go! :)

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I write one book at a time if it's fiction. I also edit as I go and start back shortly after finishing.

Jemi Fraser said...

Diane - I'm editing more as I go - it makes the story a lot stronger. But I still like to let it sit for a bit between drafts! :)

Arlee Bird said...

I've got a lot marinating and now and then I dive into one of my works, but like you I need to wrap something up. I need to take the pizza out of the oven and deliver it.

Sorry, I've got pizza on my brain today.


Lee
Wrote By Rote

Jemi Fraser said...

Lee - it's never a bad thing to have pizza on the brain! I like pineapple and mushrooms on mine! :) There's always so much to do!! :)

Dianna Narciso said...

Yes! I have to have at least one story percolating in the subconscious.

Jemi Fraser said...

Dianna - love it! My subconscious loves to work on those ideas for me :)

Lynn Proctor said...

you pose a great question--i usually just jump in :)

Jemi Fraser said...

Lynn - thanks! I love how we all develop our stories and ideas in such different ways! :)

Charmaine Clancy said...

my memory's so bad, after a couple of weeks I can't remember my charcters' names let alone what happens, so my eyes are very fresh :) my next step is to get over my disappointment that my manuscript is no where near as good as I thought when I wrote it :)

Jemi Fraser said...

Charmaine - love it! I'd love to have fresh eyes sooner. And I bet your ms is much better than you're saying! :)

Medeia Sharif said...

I marinate, anywhere from weeks to months.

The subconscious does pull story ideas together.

Jemi Fraser said...

Medeia - I love how the subconscious helps out when we don't always know we need it. :)

Jean Oram said...

Gah! That is so me. Drives me nuts because it takes me forever to polish something. But then again, when I learn something new I always try to go and apply it to everything...

Jemi Fraser said...

Jean - exactly! I can go around in circles for a really long time! I do apply that new knowledge too - it can be very overwhelming when all those projects attack me at once though!!

Shannon Lawrence said...

I do believe I have cyclical patterns. Right now I'm in short-story writing mode, so the WIP I started in NaNo is set aside, as is the novel I need to be editing. I agree that letting it sit makes the brain work through all sorts of issues before I get back to it, though, so it isn't necessarily a bad thing.

Jemi Fraser said...

Shannon - I think so too. Getting right back into it, I sometimes miss things. Letting it sits helps me see more clearly. :)

DMS said...

What a fascinating post! I think your cycle sounds very productive. It looks like NaNo Camp has been working out! WOW!

I also write in cycles. I tend to write, revise, write some more all the way throughout a book. Then, I will take a little time away and come back and revise some more. I spend a lot of time revising and editing because that is when I usually notice words that I overused and mistakes. :)

~Jess

Jemi Fraser said...

Jess - thank you! I'm the same - I need several rounds of editing before my drafts are ready - in fact knowing I'm ready is THE hardest part for me!

Tracy Bermeo (A2Z Mommy) said...

I'm definitely a pantser too, and I also need some marinating time. I don't have cycles so much, but I do know that on Friday nights, when life settles, and my kids settle in front of the tv for a couple of hours (there's no tv during the week)my brain seems to unload and develop all kinds of ideas. That's great writing time for me. Maybe I have a Friday Night Cycle, and just didn't realize it.
Great post.
A2Z Mommy and What’s In Between

Jemi Fraser said...

Tracy - thanks! I love your Friday night cycle! The week can really eat away at creativity sometimes. It's so nice when you can just relax and let the ideas flow. Sounds like a perfect arrangement you've got going :)