Last November, I planned to take part in National Novel Writing Month and go to town on the new book that has since become The Durand Cousins. I got a little sidetracked by The Cybils, but the two things--my work as a sci-fi committee panelist and my work on the new book--came together.
I was reading all this fantasy/scifi and thinking about it and thinking about an initial and very fundamental problem I was having with the new book, which has some scifi elements. Then one day I was driving along, doing nothin', and I had one of those breakout experiences I'm always talking about.
I realized I could use the set-up from a book I'd started back after I got out of college and never finished.
So I'm still working on the same manuscript, though things are going much better now. (Except for this week. This week is going to be a bust.) I was out for a walk a couple of days ago, in the morning, I think, when I realized right out of the blue that with the direction I was going in now (with the manuscript, not the walk), I could use some material from a short story for adults that I'd written a number of years ago and never published. Or, at least, I could use the setting. The sensibility, if you follow that.
My point being, people, nothing is ever wasted.
More seriously, though, I find that if you can get deeply immersed in a writing project, material comes to you. It's all very mystical and mysterious.