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>


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