From New York Times bestselling author Dave Farland:
A couple of minutes ago I had an idea for a great scene for the novel I’m currently working on. I’m going to go begin writing it within the hour.
Twenty years ago, I would have taken a different tact. I would have waited for the idea to “ferment,” to age like a fine wine. The idea being that when you have a new idea for a scene, very often it isn’t easily integrated into a novel, and so you would want to think about it, let everything settle, and then begin to compose.
For example, let’s say that you have an idea for a story. It’s about a loving mother who becomes depressed about her life. Her mother passed away when she was a child, and she has often felt so cast adrift that she has wondered if she should have died instead. Now, at age 33, she is a young single mother who has been diagnosed with heart failure, and she realizes that her two children, ages two and four, are most likely going to repeat the cycle. So she decides that she is going to take her children and throw them off a bridge, then jump off and drown with them.
Okay, so you think about that big climactic suicide scene and the things that could possibly happen, and each time that you think about this novel, that one big climax seems to loom in the foreground of your imagination. It’s like an old record that is skipping, replaying the same fragment of song over and over.
Meanwhile, there are dozens of other minor scenes begging for your attention.
. . . .
But as you try to populate your story with various scenes, you realize that each one will affect what happens in your climax.
. . . .
So, I used to wait. I’d try to populate the story with minor scenes, then wrap everything up in one round. But I’ve found that if I wait, I might spend an awful long time trying to develop those few key scenes. Each novel needs between 70 and 100 scenes, but I’d find myself going over half a dozen of the biggest ones, unable to progress. My creative energy got spent rehashing the same scene over and over, often with very minor twists.
So now I recommend that you write out those big scenes early. Once you do, your creative mind is free to focus on those minor scenes.
Link to the rest at David Farland