We notice new ideas when they float to the surface of our consciousness. Sometimes these arrive fully mapped out in the form of a distinct character, a particular conflict or plot. J. K. Rowling said the concept for Harry Potter fell into her head during a train journey.
Some writers formulate their plans as they write but often those seeds need to be nurtured and given space to grow. One practice many novelists use as a catalyst for maturing concepts is to do something unconnected with writing, and often choose a recreational activity. For example, Martin Amis played darts, while Kurt Vonnegut played patience.
Frank Smith in Writing and the Writer said 'Composition is not enhanced by grim determination'. By giving yourself freedom from pressure you allow your subconscious to process important ideas. Scheduling time out, and doing something different doesn't mean your brain has stopped working, and you might choose to catch up on any of the innumerable jobs that pile up while you’re absorbed in your work, but picking something you enjoy works best.
During this period, thoughts may arrive at odd moments, and change, alter or expand your original concept. Write them down and let go of any attachment you have to older plans as they are superseded by newer ones. When the incubation period ends, you’re likely to be flooded with inspiration as the gates to creativity open.
The way this nurturing process operates for me is I tell myself what I want, hand it over to my subconscious, and then get on with life without unduly worrying about it. I call it the sleep-on-it method. How long does it take for an idea to incubate and come to fruition? The Roman poet, Horace, thought writers should wait for nine years—a tad longer than most of us can spare these days. But like everything else in writing fiction, the incubation period varies from one individual to another. And there is no right or wrong, there is only what works.
target the goal posts reveal
a new horizon
To all story lovers out there, good reading, and to those of you who write, good writing.