Cycling and Recycling Through Story

As I write my thirteenth book, I find myself cycling and recycling through the story. As a part of editing but also as a part of finding the larger story.


Actually, cycling is not all that unusual for me. In fact, I tend to write new work one day and then the next day cycle back down from a previous point, editing, and cycling and recycling as I go. I cycle as a part of self-editing.Let me try to explain what I mean when I say, 'cycling and recycling?' Cycling and recycling happens the day after any day of new writing. I usually cycle and recycle by going through the previous day's new work, editing for grammar and punctuation, word choice and sentence structure, and finally setting and characterization.But also, cycling and recycling gets me back into the story where I left off. And after cycling through the previous day's new work, I begin writing the current day's new work. During this process, it never fails that my subconscious leads me into a situation that I need to resolve from earlier work.


Recycling is the term I use when I need to make adjustments to previous work. For instance, in my latest apocalyptic thriller, I wrote a scene where I put someone in danger. I've tasked those characters with setting out to help the imperiled character but instead of helping him, they lose him. At that point, I ask, "Now, how on earth could they lose sight of him? Did he just disappear?" To which, I say, "No, he doesn't just disappear. That feels too much like deus ex machina--it's too convenient, too trite." And although this novel holds within it a bit of fantasy, at this point in the story, a disappearance doesn't work for me, therefore, it won't work. So, now I ask, "Was the imperiled character somehow obscured and, if so, by what?" "Aha!" I say. After which, the scene explodes in full detail.


I asked another author friend of mine if he does the same thing or something similar. He said he does. I'm not sure if other authors work in a similar fashion but I find cycling and recycling good practice so I can clean up my manuscript and also so that I can reacquaint myself with the story where I left it the day before.Cycling and recycling is also a good way to see if you skip over parts that you find boring or don't care about. Think on that for a second...If you're getting bored with your story, even when you know what you've written, then your readers will get bored as well. If you find you want to hopscotch over parts of your story, look at them with the stink-eye. Consider chopping those parts out or rewriting them drastically. Again, because if you want to skim those parts so will your readers.So, here's my question for you... how do you go about writing? It seems there are more than one way to write the novel. <wink>


Inspired Reading Equals Inspired Writing

Inspired reading equals inspired writing, from reading about scene-setting to characterization.

I've been reading some great authors lately. What I enjoy is how each time I learn something helpful for my own writing. One writer will have an interesting nuance about how she links characterization to scene, how she gets to the heart of sensuous detail--the quiver of a raindrop on a red plum leaf--and how the character feels about the raindrop. Does the drop remind her of her baby's tear? Or, of her husband's as they walk away from their child's grave?Not all scene-setting must relate back to the character but when it does, what a spectacular experience the setting builds for the reader. Conversely, all experiences should be written from the main character's perspective, so if you are not relating setting to the characterization, you must ask yourself, why? And if the reasons don't hold up, either add characterization or cut the setting.

Like when after a year of your mother's death, hospice bereavement calls to check in. Mind you, they haven't checked in since but who the hell cares, right? They might've called a month, or two month's after your mother died but, no, they seemed to think a year, your mother's death anniversary would be a fitting time to call. Then! They don't want to get off the phone and all you can do is hold your breath and not tell them to bite it, to call someone who cares what they have to say. To go jump in the Sound. But you don't. You wait for that telling pause and say, "Thank you so much for the call," in a way that they know this is the end of the call and, hopefully, not to call back.You look out the window and see how gray the day is and wonder if the day was gray like this last year, on the day she died. But remember it was snowing and you wish it would snow, snow to honor your mom. That their stupid call makes you sadder than what you've been planning, to put up lights on your mom's house, to put a Christmas tree in her living room because you want to look out a window at her house and see it lit up and shining because you know that your mom would love that. You remember how much she loved it the last time you put up blue lights. That was before she had to move in with you, before you knew how bad her Alzheimer's really was. Before you knew how sick your mom had gotten because she was expert at masking. So you curse the hospice worker who just called and wish like hell she'd get laryngitis so she couldn't call the next person on the list of calls she has to make today.Then you remember that someone needs your help. And you drop-kick the phone call into "before" because "before" doesn't matter two minutes out. You plan on praying after you let the dogs out and after you go to the bathroom to wash your face of tears. You can't look the way you look because the tile guys are here and you don't them to see you crying. Again. And the wind picks up and you wish it would blow the phone lines dead. You hope for a power outage because then the stupid hospice worker could not have called you, assuming you could spin time backward before the phone rang.You get up and notice the burnt coffee smell in the kitchen and you think of mom's ashes, the ones you will scatter tomorrow at her house--into her bushes, on the grass, out back past the kitchen window where she used to stand and wash her coffee cup. You saw that very cup in the dishwasher last week when you finally built up enough courage to go back to her place and clean. Three years of dirty dishes in the dishwasher and it took one, single hour to wash a ring of coffee out of her mug. And is that how life ends? Our memories washed clean until someone calls to remind you that someone once lived near you that you'd never forget on purpose but for that single moment, between planning Christmas lights and a tree, you pick up the phone, and wish like crazy that you'd let it ring and ring and ring.
That's how inspired reading will create in you inspired writing. You let the character tell you how she feels. You sprinkle in setting to affect your character because your character has genuine feelings about the place she is at any given moment and if she doesn't, then why is she there at all, and why did you include it in your writing?


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