Tuesday, July 24, 2012

We might be incubating

Like baby chickens encased in the shells of warm eggs, we writers go through times of incubation. The process is also like seeds buried deep in the ground. Nobody can see anything visible happening, yet our minds are rife with energy, ticking away on something great that might not come into being for a long time.

I had my idea for an amnesia story way back in 2000 when I'd finished writing my first draft of another novel, Picking up the Pieces. I found the new idea intriguing and fully intended to get stuck straight into it. I even wrote several chapters and phoned a friend in the police force to quiz him for several details I'd need to know for my plot, especially how they set about discovering the identities of people who don't know who they are. Even though I devoted a few months to this book at the time, I finished up putting it aside. For some reason, it wasn't gripping me as much another sudden new idea to write a young adult trilogy entitled Quenarden. When I finished work on those three books, I re-wrote The Risky Way Home, the first book I'd ever written. Then I had an idea about combining two of my contemporary romances into a sequel, which became A Design of Gold. When I'd almost finished writing that, this amnesia idea suddenly bobbed up in my consciousness again. After eight years of being pushed to the back burner, my enthusiasm to work on it was brimming again.

I knew its time was right. The details about an antique shop background were clearer in my head and characters motivations were falling into place, while they had been strained all that time ago. It was as if the fruit had taken eight years to ripen in my subconscious mind. I went through those old chapters I'd written and found lots of waffle that could be deleted. Better still, I'd learned some extra skills as a writer which the experience of five extra books had taught me. And best of all, my kids had grown up a bit and real life experience had taught me my hero's lesson - that our thoughts shape our world and what we choose to focus on grows in our outer worlds. I'm sure I wouldn't have been as well-equipped to write that eight years earlier. The book ended up being called Best Forgotten.

I am incubating a few other ideas which will require some scientific research while I'm working on something that I'd been incubating while I wrote Best Forgotten. There are also ideas knocking each other around in my brain about a book of reflections to encourage fellow writers. I like the way Madeleine L'Engle expressed this incubation process in her reflective book, Walking on Water, in which she likened her creative process to having several pots bubbling away on the stove's hot plates at once. She sprinkles and stirs ingredients into each of them as they occur to her, and eventually the one which becomes complete in her mind and enthusiasm first gets taken off and worked on while the others continue to simmer.

Are any of you being incubators at the moment? I wonder what invisible germs of wonderful books are already simmering among us.

Paula Vince is a homeschooling mother and award winning author who live in the beautiful Adelaide Hills of South Australia. She writes mostly contemporary drama/romances with elements of mystery and suspense.


  1. Yes, I'm incubating a new idea at the moment. Each time my thoughts drift to it, when I'm driving usually, the characters develop a little bit more in my head, like I'm getting to know them. I love this process! :)

  2. Hi Amanda,
    That's great. I know what you mean. There is no pressure involved in this part of the process but just a lot of creative fun.

  3. Like most of you I guess, I have one simmering away but still working on another ms first. Doesn't stop the brain transferring thoughts to the other one at times. Walking on Water is one of my favourite books.

  4. I agree, Paula, the incubating process is a necessary part of writing. I have several books that are simmering away in my subconscious with notebooks on all of them. Finally, one will push forward wanting to be released and it usually happens toward the end of a project nearing completion.

  5. Hi Dale,
    Yes, I agree, it's a great book to be read slowly and in a pondering state of mind.

  6. Hi Laura,
    Toward the end of the last project is when one usually pushes forward to me too. It's a great time to have it happen.