When I write, I like to move around in the story and pull everything together as I go along. Dean Wesley Smith calls it cycling.
What it isn’t: Revision. I’m not tweaking words or sentences (though I fix those darn typos). I’m also not throwing out scenes because I don’t like them or I think they’re no good.
Because I’m not outlining, the story is evolving organically. Something may come in much later in the story that changes something in an earlier chapter. If I don’t fix it, it keeps nagging at me because it feels out of alignment, and eventually, if I ignore it completely, it will wreck entire the story. At one point, I’d heard that it wasn’t a good idea to cycle (then I was calling it revising as I wrote), so I didn’t, and I was shocked at how twisted the story got. It went from a ten car pileup to a plane crash took out a whole city.
Yes, it was that bad.
Right now, I’ve returned to Chapter 1. My creative brain finally said it was time to fix a couple of issues. One is that I did a little research on the setting, which is a captain’s cabin (on a spaceship, in my case). Cool military picture alert! I had fun looking at the pictures and trying to figure out what my skipper character would have, and how the main character would react to it.
The skipper’s characterization also changed from that early chapter. It was something that came in much later in the story, and my creative brain started to fuss at me about it. So now I’m going back in time to bring some of those elements in.
It’s kind of fun because it’s like seeding treasure everywhere.