Maybe you call it meditation. Maybe you call it “the idea stage.” Either way, all authors need time to let their stories mentally develop before they put the pen to page. Some only need a couple of weeks before NaNoWriMo to stew on an idea, and then they jump in. Others, like myself, could take literally years before they feel ready to tackle an idea.
Paradisa existed in my head for four years before I sat down to write it. That is how long it took for me to figure out how the heck I was going to tell a multi-pantheon story, because I was quite stuck on the world building aspect.
I gave NaNo a try in 2014 with a story called Figments. I failed pretty miserably, giving up after 7000 words, because I know it hadn’t stewed long enough. Now that the idea has been with me for 2 years, I think I finally have a good grip on it.
Ideas are like people. They need to stick around for a while. I need to get to know them, so they’ll feel like friends instead of strangers. Likewise, manifesting these ideas is a lot like dating. If I’m going to commit to an idea, I need to know that I’ll be okay living with it for months or years. I need to know that I’ll accept it leaving dirty towels on the floor and letting the dishes stack up. That gives me time to know if the idea is a fleeting phase or if it has legs – if it’s something that defines me enough to nag me for years. That’s how I know it’s good.
Lately, my inspiration has run kind of dry. I have about 6 novel ideas that I could pursue next…but I know so little about any of them that I don’t feel ready to commit. I’ve been so buried in Paradisa for so many years that breaking free of that world and moving onto something new seems…odd. Uncharacteristic. It’s definitely welcome, as some ideas are very exciting and will allow me to stretch writer’s muscles I have not been able to show off yet (read: voice). But I still need the plot. I still need people. And right now, I pretty much only have concepts.
I haven’t had enough time to mull on any of it. I’ve been so inundated with other work this year, other projects, other metal noise, that I haven’t had time to meditate on any one idea. Generally this process involves developing characters and relationships, listening to music that will inspire the plot cogs in my brain to start moving, reading widely for inspiration. Or, just taking five minutes in the shower to brainstorm and let my mind wander. Inspiration is what fills the void in my brain when I have nothing else to think about. Lately, I’ve had too many things to think about – and no time to stew on what my next novel will be.
December is busy with the holidays, but I try to let it be a time of renewal and rest. And with my stadium of gel pens in hand, planning. Hopefully, I will be able to plan for mulling – because nothing delays a project more than a lack of vision.