"Just when I think I don't know where a story is headed, some tiny detail comes back to me, and it takes on a life of its own."
If anyone was ever going to quote me on something, that would be the quote I'd like for them to use because it describes my writing process to a T.
How often have I given a character a particular skill or talent that I had no particular plans for, but just when I think I've lost my way, I suddenly remember that trait and, voila! the answer pops into my head. It's as though the secret to the saving of the day was there all along, just biding its time, waiting for me to see it. When that happens, the rest of the tale simply clicks into place and all I have to do is write it.
That's happened to me several times during the writing of Hero, my current WIP. Sometimes I get stuck and I have to leave it for a few days, but during that time, my brain has been chipping away at the problem so that when I come back to it, the answer is right there in front of me.
Those who plot out a story and outline it in detail may not get those "AH HA!" moments very often, but we who fly by the seat of our pants experience it frequently. I start out with a vague idea of "H & H will go here and do this and then something will happen." That's about as detailed as my synopses are if I write them before I write the book. Very vague! Our editor, Deb Werksman, probably hates that. I always warn her that if I send her a synopsis before I write the book, it will most assuredly change by the time the book is finished. I can't come up with all the details until I'm actually into the story, but those moments when the key elements just fall into place--even though I never intended it that way--are magic.
The magic is what keeps me writing. If those things didn't happen from time to time, I'm not sure I could keep going. It would take all of the fun out of it for me to have no moments of discovery. The way I write a book is more like the way I read a book. I'm looking for those moments of "Oh, now, THAT'S cool!" whether I'm the one who's written them or not. Sometimes I find them and sometimes I don't, but if I do, I keep reading (or writing!)
Another thing I enjoy in a book are those parts that give me goose bumps. Not the "I'm terrified and I know something horrible is going to happen" moments, but those passages that literally give me a thrill. They don't have to be scary or exciting, they just have to give me that feeling. There are places in some of my books that do that to me every time I read them, and if another author's work affects me the same way, I keep reading their books over and over again. When I'm writing something and the goose bumps hit, I stop and let the wave pass over me. Then I'm doing the cha-ching! thing because that's the kind of reading experience I'm looking for. It's not something I can plan, either. It just happens and when it does, I know I've done what I set out to do, which is to make my readers feel the emotions of the characters and get right into the story with them.
And, to me, that's magic!