Thursday, October 22, 2009

When a New Idea Percolates

So I'm supposedly taking a break after handing in my revised wip to the agent. Taking a break means no writing for two weeks while the new idea percolates. I've heard that term used quite a lot with writers. Percolate. Great word. But what does it mean? I mean, I know what it means, but it's so different for every writer, ya' know?

My version of Webster's Dictionary explains that Percolate is derived from the Latin percolare, fr. per - through + colare - to sieve. It defines it as follows:
A) to cause to pass through a permeable substance (as a powdered drug) especially for extracting a soluble constituent
B) to prepare in a perculator
C) to be diffused through
D) to ooze or trickle through a permeable substance
E) to become lively or effervescent
F) to spread gradually

Yes. To all those things.

A new idea - for me - needs to pass through my brain (is that the permeable substance?) like a drug - I can't get enough of it at first - in order to extract the soluable (loosened or dissolved) constituent (the writing). But in order to loosen that constituent it first has to be prepared, diffused, before it can ooze and trickle through my brain onto the page becoming, hopefully, a lively and effervescent story that will spread gradually to many, many readers.

So now that I'm done revising the WIP the new idea which has sat in a corner of my permeable brain for awhile, percolating away, can now take over. There is room for it to really simmer now, for me to lie in bed at night and actually not be able to fall asleep very quickly because I'm thinking about the opening, the characters, the ending, the bits and pieces that will make it into the story, the others that I'm not sure about - everything that can make this new idea work. Percolating is absolutely essential for me to be able to write a good story.

But while percolating is a good and necessary thing, there is also a dark side. Percolating also involves thinking about the fears and the questions. Will I do the idea justice? The story should probably be in third person not first - hmm. haven't written in third for a while so how creaky will I be? POV will be primarily a teenage boy - will I screw that up?

As part of the percolating, I may write down a few things, may even outline the first part of the book in detail. Or I may decide to pants it with only the ideas rattling around in my head to guide me. More likely it will probably be a combination of both processess. But the trick is to start while the idea is still fresh enough to be fun (don't overthink it too much or the idea may get stale) and when anticipating the fears of failure haven't overtaken you to the point where you get too paralyzed to even start.

I've given myself two weeks before I put pen to paper again. But I can't be too prescriptive about it. It might be sooner. The urge to write the new story will build. Soon it won't be enough to just be thinking about it anymore. Only when I start it will I know if it will work. When I can see if my percolating idea can eventually become a 'lively" and "effervescent" story.

Until then, I don't think I'll be falling asleep very easily.

1 comment:

  1. I'd equate "percolating" and "obsessing" for me. I think about the book much more constantly before I start writing than while I'm writing. But if I start putting pen to paper before the voice and first lines are in my head, it never works.