My mother would sooner have gargled with toilet water than sit me down and explain the Facts of Life. But I had four older sisters, and the Trickle Down Theory of Knowledge worked for me. By age fifteen I thought I knew everything I needed to know, more or less, about the birds and the bees. I was wrong. One day a question popped into my head, and wouldn’t go away. I went to my Grandpa Gus, who was a farmer, and asked him the question that was burning a hole in my brain.
“Grandpa, how can chickens lay an egg a day? There just isn’t that much room. Where does she keep all those eggs, and wouldn’t it be very uncomfortable?”
“Here’s how it works, Slivers,” he said. (My Grandpa always called me ‘Slivers;’ I was a skinny little thing in those days.) He reached for a pencil and sketched what he called “The Egg Chain,” a string of eggs like so many beads, graduating in size from tiny to AA large. Only one is a full-sized egg; the others are smaller, but growing. They are all connected and nurtured by a single egg sack. Each day when the hen lays a mature egg, its little brothers and sisters move up one spot on the chain. The next in line has one more day in the batter’s circle before stepping up to the plate.
My book ideas grow in the same way. They say “Don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched,” but it works for me. I have a mental vision of my own writer’s egg chain, with all my chicks in a row, a half a dozen books-in-progress. The first on the egg chain is the story I am currently hatching, next comes the story I plan to tackle once that one is brought to market, and so on.
Ideas for future writing projects are added, upon conception, to the end of this writer’s egg chain. They are not so well developed as the big one, but are nurtured daily, perhaps by a conversation, a chance meeting on the street, a news story, during quiet time in the garden, or through purposeful brainstorming. Each one is a little nest egg, with its own file in my computer, in which I save all my pertaining notes on plot and character.
Every writer should have her own egg chain. Why? Because already having a work in progress is an excellent way to avoid Empty Nest Syndrome once you send off your manuscript. If you have Writer’s Block, you can work on another project guilt-free, because you’re still working on The Chain Gang. And you never have to worry about all your eggs being in one basket. So let’s get cracking.
Do you throw all your eggs into one basket, or prefer to plan several projects ahead?
Photo by Carlos Porto