Do your ideas always have to ferment in your brain for a while (a few years) before you cork them open and start to write? Or are you someone who always has to get the thing down straight away before it starts to turn putrid? Me, I always thought I was the former camp, until I got an idea a couple of days ago that seems to beg page space NOW. Maybe all the things I've written so far, which I thought were nicely fermented, were actually pretty putrid? Then again, maybe putridity ain't so bad?

So, are you are a beaujolais nouveau or a vintage Bollinger?

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And I'm the exact opposite. Short stories must simmer for a while, but novels usually demand my attention NOW and deny me life until they're done.

Which is really hard on your personal life, sleep schedule, exercise routine...
Kim, this is what happens to me with short stories. I had one erupt this weekend that played merry hell with what I was trying to get done with the novel.
Mostly I let things stew a while. Sometimes an idea just starts with a voice (you get those in your head too, right?) and it prattles on at me for a while until something a bit more concrete comes together. I've learned to note down any potentially useful wee snippet that comes through before it fades out, though. Heaven help me if anybody ever reads my notebook. It's enough to get me sectioned.

If something's banging on the inside of your head wanting out, then go with it. If it's that persistent, you'll get no rest until you do. (And that smell isn't putridity - it's just that Blakey's taken his shoes off.)
Some shoes are meant to never be taken off!
Prattles. What a cool word. Although the word is a new one for me, you've used it so well I'm not going to take a peek inside my handy-dandy-always-within reach-dictionary. I'm just going to use it. Thanks! You've got a notebook???? What I have are drawers filled with Post-its that I've written across, up, and over as to not lose the thought. The line about the banging. I don't hear it because I'm asleep while its happening. How do I know its been banging? It's evidenced by the wee snippets that I find smooshed between me and my pillow each morning, or afternoon, depending on how far into the A.M. I've ventured, glued to my chair, eyes riveted to my laptop. Cheers!
Like Kim, for me short stories tend to come, and get written, and be done with. Longer pieces though, need to ferment. Or maybe it's decompose. I'm not sure which. Bits of characterisation and setting and theme and set-piece scenes float around for a while, until the relationships between them start to take shape, and from those relationships, a story emerges, and then it has to get written.

So, I'm more of a homebrewed parsnip wine that's been left at the back of the cupboard and forgotten about until the sediment starts to settle and it starts to make noises like it's going to explode.
A bit of both. I let the idea ferment but keep a few notes until I think it is the right time to start work. Most of the ideas then flow once I am into the story proper.
I use my notebook to jot down the ideas that need to be expressed now, usually because I need a couple of ideas to come together to make a story. I've had ideas simmering on the back burner for years that only come to life when I join them up with that flash of inspiration I had while walking past the tampon aisle in my local supermarket.

I guess I find it a bit like playing with Lego. If you've got all the bricks handy, your spaceship-cum-battletank-cum-hairdryer can be readily assembled. Other times, you may have everything you need for the fuselage, but you need to wait a while until your little brother shits out the bricks he ate earlier in order to build the cockpit.
That's a beautiful analogy, Vincent. A fine description of the creative process.

My claim to shame is that I once had something finally triggered by an item on the shopping channel. (No bugger seems to want it, mind... note to self...)
One thing I've noticed, having thought about this for a few days, is that I rarely get a new idea. And I don't mean that in a negative way. It's the same as a musician who gets a tune or rhythm in their head and it sounds fresh and new, but it probably isn't. It's fresh and new to them, which is all that counts. There's very little new, only new ways of delivery. It's all about angles and spins. You ask any cricketer.

But anyway, what I wanted to say was that this supposedly new idea I had the other day has very quickly been absorbed into the primordial soup of ideas that is always there in my brain, some nuggets of which have been floating around for decades. So the new idea quickly gets buffed up and knocked around and branded as a recogniseable one, rather than this new upstart that seemed to pose so much threat to the status quo*. Already it doesn't seem like a new and spiky idea, but one I can work with. It links up with that old one, and fits in with the grand scheme of things. Strange how it works.

* They're playing in Worcester this summer! Not that I'm bothered, of course.
In his books, Edward DeBono repeatedly says that the human brain works by identifying patterns. It's why we see pictures in the clouds or figure out a partner is cheating by their constant late nights at work, mysterious text messages and strange women hiding in the wardrobe. The pattern of a story similarly comes together by collecting the pieces of its jigsaw.

One of the creative exercises DeBono recommends is picking a random word from the dictionary. Say you're stuck on the climax of your book. The hero's facing off against the villain, but you need something else to make the scene fly. I just found a random word generator on the web and it came up with: conductor.

Okay, climactic confrontation and conductor. Lighting conductor? The hero gets strapped to a lightning conductor? They're on the roof and the villain snaps off the lightning conductor and comes at your hero brandishing it like a sword. Bus conductor? They're on a bus, throwing punches as they careen down the aisle of the number 43, the bus conductor demanding their tickets. Or maybe it's the last night of the proms and they're shooting it out across the orchestra and the conductor gets his brains blown out by a stray round at the climax of Jerusalem.

The brain can find patterns in anything. What's the connection between the random words 'cycles' and 'quibble'? I don't know, but I bet everyone can think of some way to link them together.

As an aside, I think this is why writing can become such an addiction/affliction. Once your brain gets into the habit of assembling stories from the experiences of day-to-day life it's nigh on impossible to stop.
I do a little of both. The ones that stew for a bit tend to be better written, more thoughtful and deliberately paced, but they rarely see the light of day. Whereas the ideas that run like lightening onto the keyboard are very fast paced and usually find their way to someone's hands other than my own.


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