Every writer’s process is a little different. Some writers plan everything out in advance while others fly by the seat of their pants as they draft, and you can find a writer that falls everywhere in between. Some writers edit and correct and adjust as they go. Others get the entire story out in a single draft and then go back and revise, rewrite, cut, and add. Some keep working on a single project from draft to final manuscript all in one go. Others jump from project to project.
I try to reflect on my own process periodically so that I can see what’s working and where I might need to try something new. Sometimes it’s worth moving yourself along any of the various process spectrums until you’re in a little different place. Sometimes, this is a disaster and doesn’t help anything. Sometimes it’s miraculous and suddenly increases your productivity. And sometimes, you just have to do what you have to do.
I tend to write the whole draft in one go with only a vague idea of the plot. Sometimes I have a lot of character or setting details planned out. Sometimes I have nothing but a vague idea of the conflict and a couple main characters. I tend not to edit until I’m done with the whole draft. I will sometimes re-read which leads to a few minor changes, but usually nothing major. I also tend to rotate through my projects. I’ll finish a draft, then let it sit for a while before coming back to do the first revision. I tend to let projects set between revisions as well. Partially, I do this so I can have a little distance from the piece. It’s hard to edit when you’re too close and wrapped up in the characters and the story. Partially, I do this to prevent burn out.
I recently spent more than three months working through a major revision of the next book in the Swords and Shields series. I don’t normally spend that long on one project. This revision was rough. I had to cut a lot and rewrite a lot and take a really hard look at what I was doing. It’s probably the most intensive revision I’ve ever needed to do. By the end of it, I was exhausted. I didn’t want to work on anything.
Thankfully, Camp NaNoWriMo was coming up. I didn’t complete my goal in the April session (40 hours of editing), so I’m determined to make my goal in July. And I can draft something new. When I’ve spent so much time revising, I like to take some time to recharge with a little drafting. I need to remind myself why I write in the first place and what I love about it. This is one of the big reasons that I rotate projects.
Another reason to rotate through projects is to get unstuck on something. When I get to a dead end on a draft and just can’t figure out how to get past it, I’ll go work on something else for a while. Nine times out of ten, when I come back to the first project, I’ll have an idea for getting around the issue that was stumping me before. It’s like getting my mind focused on something else frees up my imagination to work in the background on the original problem.
This might not work for everyone. No one process possibly could, but I find rotating between projects to be very helpful. It lets me keep working even when I need a break from any one project. Because the most important part of being a writer, is putting your butt in the chair and getting to work.