How long does it take to develop a story idea?

Capua 028_smI’ve been asked many times how I came to think up Roma Nova and the thriller story behind INCEPTIO. When I mention it started when I was memerised by a Roman mosaic at the age of eleven, people are surprised to say the least.
The full story is here in a guest post I wrote for Women Writers

But how long do you need to let a story mature in your head before writing it? It could be any of three:

Sometimes it’s there, fully formed, ready to spring out like a firework on 5th November. Fine, but you may need to do considerable revision once you’ve written the first draft, even to the extent of rewriting.

Sometimes the idea is like a tiny worm you don’t know is there and grows slowly but steadily into a huge dragon that has to be tamed

Sometimes it takes over your head in intermittent spasms and then disappears for ten years.

I’ve experienced all three, but the best for me has been the combination of the long slow burn with intermittent flashes. Roma Nova has been through many incarnations in my head, the characters have changed and morphed in ways too terrible to describe. But the long maturation  was worth it as I had the setting, story arc, characters and plot all ready to go when the novel-writing trigger went “click”.

How do your ideas start? Are you a long-burner or a firework head?


Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers, INCEPTIO, and PERFIDITAS. Third in series, SUCCESSIO, is out now.

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