I'm back! And I'm alive! Barely. The move involved two sick kids (including one with pneumonia), one sick parent (me), another sleep-deprived parent, two trips to the doctor, one trip to the emergency room, and some very dedicated friends and family. But we're finally all healthy, and I have only a few boxes left to get rid of. Phew.
Percolation-- letting your story diffuse through your brain, sifting through ideas-- is a process that I think doesn't get enough credit. We practically never talk about it when we bring up writing advice, or mention our writing process. For me, without this process, my stories would be a heck of a lot dumber.
Sometimes, I have story elements that simmer in my head for years. That's what happened with TUGL. I'd had general ideas bubbling in my head since literally the fourth grade, when I first read The Giver. Then, a few new ideas combined with old ones. But even though I had a burst of insight that formed the basic concept, it took weeks of the story rolling around in my head before I could pull it together and actually start a draft. Then, all through the writing process, even when I'm not actively writing, the idea pulls things out of my brain and my daily life. Things get deeper and more complex.
Same thing with my current story. Certain concepts I've been mulling over for a year finally started coming together. I have a certain trick to make sure I get enough "percolation time." When my current project is out with beta readers, I start the mulling process. I have a document I call an "idea dump," and just throw down any idea that comes to me (usually relating to a certain idea or concept). A lot of it gets thrown out, but in the end, I've had a couple of weeks to get a story idea somewhat ready.
Then, it's usually back to revisions on a current draft, but that that point, the new story has started percolating in the back of my mind. I'll stumble across pictures, songs, or ideas that I throw into a file for the new story. And gradually, even though I'm working on another project, the new story starts to take shape in my mind. Then, by the time I'm actually done with my current project, my new story is ready for real development and drafting.
So in a way, all this break time for me has still been productive. I've got more of an idea where to take my plot, how things work in my world (which, I have to say, is SO DANG COOL and I wish I lived there...kinda), who my characters are...it's been great.
So, my friends, do you have a percolation process? Does it happen only while you write? Only before you write? A combination? How much percolation time do you need? I'm curious how other writers develop their stories.