I spend part of the morning watching the next workshop on Futures, this one on Opportunities.  Part of the lesson is thinking about opportunities available to me and opportunities I’ve passed on.  It’s to identify places where we have blinders, but also to think about why we either accepted or passed on opportunities.

I think about the ones I’ve passed on.  The last few years, it’s been science fiction conventions.  It’s not good when the panels veer off topic into politics.  If I spend $500 on the weekend (hotel, tickets), I want fan or writing stuff, not rants about politics.  But I revisited this and submitted panel suggestions to a media con.  I also submitted them to one I was on previously.  Crossing my fingers I stay away from politics.

I end up procrastinating on writing by submitting three stories.  One is to a call where my inner critic is saying, “You don’t qualify.”  It requires most of the writers submitting have an extensive fan base.  I’m still working on mine.  They are letting in 1-2 writers who don’t fit that requirement, so I’ll let them reject me.  Who knows? They might accept anyway.  Opportunity.

I spend the rest of the afternoon on and off, working on the story.

Onto the first Pantsing Tip….Cycling

What’s the difference between cycling and revision?

Revision is trying to fix the story after you’ve put it all together.  Like adding way too much salt to your meal and then trying to fix it you’ve cooked it.

Cycling is making changes to the story as you write it, much like a chef who tastes the cooking meal and adds more salt, tastes again.

It is very hard for writers to wrap themselves about because they’re wedded to the idea of revising.  But revision is always done by inner critic, identifying problems and fixing them, sometimes tossing out entire scenes and rewriting them. 

Cycling happens when you’re writing along and bam!  You get an idea of how to solve a problem that’s been nagging at you.  Like the one I’ve been having with the low point chapters.  I realized I needed to add something about five chapters back to tie things together.  It’s not a lot, but my creative side kept nagging at me that it needed something more.

So I move back to the chapter, read through the whole thing to remind me of what’s in it.  I might decide also to add more setting if I find any places where I didn’t quite do enough.  I’ll also fix any typos if I spot them (they breed like rabbits).  I find the spot where I need to add more.

Then I cycle through the chapters that follow, reading through them.  Do I need to add anything to tie the thread of what I’m doing through?  I find some spots, few sentences here and there.  Not a lot. Probably spend more time spotting typos!

See, if I’d written through to the end with this broken, then revised, everything following would have been broken.  My subconscious would have likely nagged at me the entire time during the writing of it that there was a problem.  I would have gotten to the ending and just felt like nothing worked.  Once I dug into the revision, I’d find the problem, and now I would be rewriting whole chapters to fix the problems.  Each of those changes would break other things.  Or, you can’t unsalt the meat once it’s been oversalted and cooked.

Keys to Cycling:

  • No tweaking.  Resist. The. Temptation.  Tweaking is your inner critic getting involved.  He’ll tell you that sentence needs to be fixed, and that one, and that one.  No.  Just leave it for later and if you see there’s a true problem, you’ll fix it then (you probably won’t even remember what was wrong).
  • If you start getting negative—you know, ‘What was I thinking?  That’s terrible!”—stop.  Take a break.  That’s your inner critic.
  • When in doubt, leave it alone

Another common use for cycling is to add more setting, more description, more five senses.  Those are huge character-building techniques, so use them often!