The Writer's Cycle

In partnership with the Creative Writing Incubator, Paper Nations, we have spent five years consulting hundreds of writers and creatives to explore the ways they improve and develop their craft – and their varying needs as they do so.

Writers are unique individuals, with different dreams, abilities, motivations, and temperaments. Yet, we discovered that they often experience and return to similar phases of exploration in their journeys, such as: discovery/idea generation, connection/community, crafting/authorship, and insight/transformation. In short, although every journey is unique, there are always some similar habits and patterns.

We have distilled this knowledge into a cycle, which charts the phases that many people return to when experiencing their own creative journey.

The cycle takes the form of a solar system. It is non-linear, non-prescriptive, and is adaptable to each person’s needs – because every writing life cycle is different.

This cycle underpins all our work at The Story Foundry. We hope this model will help researchers and writers to broaden and improve their research by enabling them to use the same process of exploration and writing to fuel the development of new insights.

Cultural Mapping and Surveying


In addition to the qualitative aspects of our research, we use more quantitative methods such as surveys which are issued to participants at regular intervals. The surveys are typically completed by project/workshop participants and by facilitators. They can address a range of themes, which relate directly back to our major research questions and to the objectives outlined in our underlying theory of change.

We used the data collected through the questionnaires to inform and refine our research findings. For example, we used the data to identify gaps in provision and to generate new knowledge about successful pedagogical approaches. Towards the end of the project, we used the data to gain a deeper understanding of our emerging research and creative insights, for example identifying which elements on the pedagogy were most useful to participants and to writer facilitators.

Cultural Mapping

We can also conduct broader cultural mapping exercises. Our goal here is to survey the national cultural landscape, in order to gather information about what people are doing and thinking. This method may involve a data-collecting campaign through which we ask the public to fill out a survey with examples of opportunities, events, or organisations (or anything in between) that are part of the creative writing landscape.


A variety of methods can be used to represent findings in creative ways – for example, maps, calendars, research documents, and videos.


We define co-production as the collaboration between academics and other participants with specialist skill sets and experiential knowledge to co-investigate and co-deliver projects. Co-produced action research generates new knowledge and activities, often in an attempt to address societal challenges.

Throughout all stages of our research participants involved in our local projects are offered a variety of ways to share their reflections with us. For example, participants can share experiences in the form of field notes, case studies, audio visual materials, and journals. We have also gathered information from local stakeholders and beneficiaries via knowledge sharing days. In previous projects, these have involved informal round-table forums for talking about values, approaches and challenges to creativity.

Transmedia Storytelling

At The Story Foundry, we champion nontraditional modes of research and storytelling, one of which is transmedia storytelling. Transmedia storytelling – as the name suggests – spans multiple forms of media, generating pieces such as interactive print, ambient literature, immersive soundscapes, and text-and-image installations.

From vlogs, to the ancient tradition of oral tales, to novels or magazine advice columns, stories help us decodify and understand events, experiences, and societies. Stories also exist in research, humanising data and translating it into a narrative which holds greater meaning than before.

Telling stories using multiple forms of media can enable stories to reach people who aren’t receptive to traditional modes, and help those who are receptive to understand them more fully. More stories can be told to more people, in more ways, leading to more understanding, more reflection, more captivation.

Hypermedia Ethnography

Another new means of storytelling which The Story Foundry seeks to promote is Hypermedia Ethnography. This involves using multiple types of media (written texts, films, music, spoken word, material artefacts, etc.) to record and tell a community’s stories. Contemporary ethnography is reflexive, participatory and engaged. Reflexive ethnographers often work with communities to develop a shared understanding of what’s happening in a local region and they then co-create stories about their joint findings. They also enable communities to tell their own stories, using whichever media the communities choose.

One example of hypermedia ethnography is TRACE’s Dare to Write? Atlas. Led by Bambo Soyinka and Joanna Nissel, the Dare to Write? Atlas aims to document the life of authors and readers across the South West of England. The Atlas also champions projects that enable local people to tell their own stories.