Bicycling in and out of the story

I’ve found it curious that anything that works really well for a pantser (person who doesn’t outline) is often deemed by the writing community as a “Do not” and a “Really Bad Idea.”

Like moving around in the story as you writing and making changes.  It’s called cycling.

It’s not editing or revising as you write, because I’m still creating the story.  Unless a sentence is making me go “huh” I don’t fix at the sentence level.  Well, except for typos.  They’re fair game.  I add more description, foreshadowing, maybe whole scenes that I realize I need.

But I have some set guidelines too.  I don’t need to them any longer, really.  But the major two:

  1. Don’t move around when I’m stuck, since it can turn into a procrastination tool.  On my first novel in the Dark Ages, I’d get stuck and cycle back and start actual revision—changing big things.
  2. Don’t change sentences because they have to be perfect. I used to work with a cowriter, and he was always trying to change the individual words because the thought if we used happy instead of glad, it might be less marketable.

Knowing these helped me resist temptation to fix something that didn’t need fixing and focus on the story instead.


Not Fixing it on the Revision

One of the “rules” I’ve seen around is not to edit or revise as your write.  It leaves writers to race through the draft and deal with a more worse problem:

I’ll fix it on the revision.

Last week, I hit about 10K on my science fiction novel Sinhollow, and I realized I had a problem.  One of the characters wasn’t working.  I included her initially because I wanted to make sure I have enough women characters.  I didn’t want my heroine to be the only woman.

My choices were to leave the character in and deal with it on the revision, but I know that’s a way that leads to a whole lot of unnecessary work (having gone down that path before).  I spent about an afternoon pulling her from the scenes and adding new dialogue.  Wasn’t all that hard to do.  But if I’d waited until the story was done, a lot more would have been tangled up, and each change would have rippled into other changes that would have in turn caused other changes.

And it made me think about the character, because I didn’t want to get rid of her.  So she has a new role, and I’m going back to add scenes.

Not revision.  No editing.  It’s creating.