No, not coffee (though as a Seattleite, I have my opinions on that, too). Mental percolation.
Today, I pulled out my pen and pad, and read through the last bit I wrote yesterday. As I was reading I realized that I didn’t know where I had been taking the scene. Going further back, I read more. Still, no clue as to where I was going.
You might think that, after yesterday’s post about outlining techniques, I have it all down on paper, but even a detailed outline won’t tell you everything about a scene. I may have a five-page outline for this FC:V, with chapter breaks and notes on POVs, but there’s still a world of difference between that and the words and action in an actual chapter. The outline gives me the plot, but it doesn’t give me the subplots, the little “side trips,” or the variations from the original that pop up while I write a novel. It will give me the main characters and their general thoughts, but it won’t give me those subtle interactions or the conversational threads that are the fabric of the book.
In short, I knew where I was going, but didn’t know what road I had been paving to get there.
Today, therefore, is a “percolation” day.
A percolation day is a day with more thinking than writing, where I remind myself throughout the day of where I want to go, and let my subconscious mull on the exact path I want to take.
It’s a strong tool. I use it to retrieve old memories (What’s that actors name?), figure out the answer to a question (Where are my keys?), or solve a problem (What is really happening in this scene?) It’s also a useful tool when I’m just starting to flesh out a story idea; percolation taps into creative processes that work best in the background, where the noise of language and logic is silenced, and where symbols and concepts can be swapped freely.
So, the pen and paper went away, and I pulled out my outline. I’ve changed a lot, as I’ve been writing Beneath a Wounded Sky, and have deviated from the outline at several points, but re-reading the original outline is still helpful. The original outline still has the excitement of that new idea, and the purest rendition of the roadmap I envisioned, so even after I hare off on a wild tangent, I can use that original outline to course-correct back toward the goal.
I’ll keep that outline at hand, today, and use it to keep the problem fresh in my mind. By this evening, then, I’m pretty sure I’ll know how I want to finish off this scene and close the chapter.