Writing Cycles

This is something I’ve been thinking about off and on for years, and the past few weeks have made me think about it again. 

I’ve talked before about the writer’s journey — how each day can begin with a call to adventure, is fraught with peril, and yes, most of the time, requires passage through the Inner Cave. 

But there’s another cycle I’m thinking about now, more like a life cycle, specifically for a computer program (my Evil Day job).  There are stages of coding, just as there are stages of writing.  I might spend weeks on a design, meeting with the business area to hash out the requirements and then building an outline or “synopsis” of the solution I’m going to deliver.  The longer we spend on business requirements and design, the better the final product will be.

Granted, not all projects — or books — require detailed analysis and design.  But for large, complex projects, a solid design is crucial.  Typically, the person writing the design may not even be the final programmer.  Components may get handed off to others to code, and they need to be able to read the design document and understand how their piece fits into the cog.

For some projects, the requirements and design stage goes on and on and on.  Lord, I just want to CODE, I need to go go go!  I’m tired of the endless meetings and reviewing spreadsheets.  Let’s do something.  Anything.  Go!

That’s the stage I was at when I started Vicki, even though I hadn’t done any of the normal “business requirements and design” that I normally do for a book.  After heavy revisions in January, I needed to just sit down and write.  Just go.  Grab the words, write freely, don’t worry about spreadsheets.  Just go!!

And it was fun — while it lasted.

That’s really the point I originally started with.  Like moon phases and hormones, I think there can be cycles for a writer too where we just naturally do one stage of the process better than others.  Sometimes, I can write 1K, 2K a day, for weeks, and feel energized at the end of each day.  Other times — even though I love the story as much as any of them — I can’t get but a paragraph, and it’s agonizing.  I can’t concentrate.  I don’t WANT to concentrate.  I’d rather clean toilets or fold laundry — anything! — than write, even though I love to write, I need to write.

But if I’m paying attention, a different cycle of the writing process is usually sparking.  e.g. if I don’t feel the words coming fast and strong, maybe it’s a good time to plot.  Or brainstorm. 

Or maybe I just need a break before all circuits melt.  :-)

I’m still sitting in a pretty good position for this year.  I have three contracted works in various stages of production.  That kind of work takes very different muscles from simply wallowing in a lovely draft, where the words are mine and mine alone.  When I get the editor’s file, it’ll be a drop everything and MOVE sort of push to get that work done and returned as quickly as possible.

Not a good time to be writing deep in the zone on a new book.  That’s what really started the sputtering on Vicki–I received revisions on The Bloodgate Guardian, and I just never got my flow back.

As much as I want to be writing new words right now and finishing Vicki, it’s just not happening.  Because I didn’t do a thorough design (plot) at the beginning, I don’t have much story left, and the book hasn’t broken 30K yet.  I’ve discovered some wonderful things, but they need work.  Lots of work. 

So last night, I sat down, opened Vicki’s file (the first time in days, honestly), and typed out every note and dream I’ve had in synopsis (telling) form.  It was a brain dump.  Even writing about the scenes I envisioned, I did not get the burn to write.  I didn’t slip into story (showing) mode once.  That tells me more than anything that it’s time to set Vicki aside for awhile.

Don’t worry – that seems to be my process for writing contemporary erotic.  I did the exact same thing for Conn and even Victor’s books.  I had about 15K written in loose chunks for Victor long before I sat down last year to write his complete draft.  I have a good start for Vicki in a few months, after I let her story stew just a bit longer on the back burner.

So what’s on the writing plate this month?  Honestly, I’m not sure.  I seem to be in an idea-generating cycle.  I’m hearing voices of characters, very very clearly, who have no business talking right now. 

e.g. Shannari was really blaring in my head yesterday.  I’m like, hey, your story is DONE.  Why are you bothering me?  But she just kept talking about the dream, how real it was, how easy it would be to slip there and never come out, because HE’S there.  Of course, I thought she was talking about Gregar, but then…

I got the chills on my arms that told me maybe she wasn’t talking about herself after all.  Maybe she’s trying to help me understand someone else.  *shivers*

Anyway, if I seem disjointed this month and jumping around like a duck after a June bug, that’s why.  The ideas are coming hard and fast — so I’ll be jotting them, brainstorming, while I wait for the editor revisions to come.

5 thoughts on “Writing Cycles

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Joely Sue Burkhart » Writing Cycles -- Topsy.com

  2. Writing is a little like schizophrenia, isn’t it? One minute, one charaacter is screaming for birth. The next, another character is whispering seductively in your ear. The next, someone new walks by and catches your eye with nothing more than a wink before you realize he’s not there at all and you have to put him there.

    It’s a crazy kind of horrible wonderful, isn’t it?

  3. Those stages of writing can be annoying, can’t they? Why can’t we turn certain phases on or off at will? It would be nice.

    I had similar problems with the steampunk novella. Just couldn’t get the darn thing started. The story was there, but it was pulling teeth to get anything on the page. By the end the words were flowing better, but I was out of plot… Argh.

  4. It is crazy wonderful, Sis. Right now, I’ve got people talking to me, but I can’t find the right gear to put those words onto the page in STORY. I can make notes all day. Gather research. So…that’s what I’m going to do! Hopefully the writing gear will be ready for work in May.

    Nicole, I definitely wish we could just turn the phase on or off!!

  5. You are totally right. I just wish I could get out of the ‘rather fold laundry and scrub toilets – or, in my case, sew – phase. {{huggs}}

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