Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Do you believe in magic?

"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!

24 comments:

  1. YES, I believe in Magic.
    I've been watching America's Got Talent. We have several magicians on the show and the good magicians AWE and AMAZE You. The same feelings that I get when I pick up some of my favorite authors books and short stories. Normally, when I get to a good part and I get all WOW!!! sort of excited and my Toes start to Tingle. And I pump my Fist in the Air YES!!! Cheryl, your books have Awed and Amazed me and have given me those toe tingling moments many times. The first magic moment the toes started tingling was on pages 12, 13 of "Warrior" and I knew then that I had found a new series that I would be loving and a crazy new author with a exciting new world of Super Sexy Alien Heros. The magic happened for me at that moment. And it's still magic and I look forward to many Awe and Amazing Magic Moments to come.
    W/V:CATIN

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  2. Cheryl, I know exactly what you mean. That's all I can say about it. I know what you mean.

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  3. Donna,
    I went back and re-read pages 12 & 13 of Warrior, and, yes, those moments of discovery for a woman with a Zetithian can be quite magical, can't they?
    I hope I can keep the magic moments for you throughout the entire series!
    Thanks!

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  4. I belieeeeve! (waving my arms in the air!)

    It is exactly the same for me. I will have my back against the wall, will walk away from the WIP in dejection, and then poof! I'll be in the middle of doing the dishes or bathing the cat (the best ideas always come when my hands are wet and I can't write anything down) and I'll just know why I planted that teeny tiny detail earlier in the book!

    Magic. Or the mysterious workings of a writer's brain.

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  5. timely post, given my next series. :) I love magic, and especially that writing magic!

    Love hearing about your synopses - I can relate.

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  6. Donna Lea,
    Isn't it great when everything comes together like that? It really is magic--or it could just be our brains...

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  7. Judi,
    For me, synopsis writing is right up there with thumbscrews. TORTURE!!!

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  8. Totally, Cheryl. Synopses are the bane of my existence! Writing for me is like joyriding blindfolded:-)
    Sometimes terrifying, sometimes exhilirating, and very often inappropriately fun! Great post.

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  9. Cheryl,
    What MM said. I get it. I do it the same way. The magic you refer to keeps me coming back for more. I had to write a synopsis for the WIP and haven't looked at it once since I wrote it. It's out there floating somewhere but I am certainly not feeling the need to stick to it like glue. I can't imagine ever intricately plotting a book in advance and then sticking to that plan. One, I'd lose the magic, and two, me being me, I'd lose interest because I'd know too much about what was going to happen! Great post!

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  10. Grrr... synopses! An evil invented by editors to torture writers.

    If we thought our novel could be boiled down to four pages, we'd write a short story!

    They are just so weird... especially having to write in the present tense. Weird.

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  11. Kendra,
    Joyriding blindfolded? Sounds pretty scary, but thrilling at the same time--and you certainly don't get that from writing a synopsis!

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  12. Marie,
    That's what I mean when I say I like to write the way I read. There are those precious moments of discovery that keep us enthralled. Love it!

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  13. I SOOOO agree with you Donna! And, yeah, the present tense thing. What's with that?
    I once wrote a book where the heroine had this horrendous first name, with the result that she had a ton of nicknames. The reader wouldn't have known what her name was until the very last page since it was written in first person. However, when I wrote the synopsis, her awful name was all over the page. No wonder no one wanted to publish it!

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  14. Whatever you're doing, just keep doing it, because obviously it works! The whole Zetithian world is magical to me and I will continue to visit over and over again...you just keep writing about them. :)

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  15. For me it's a big definite.

    And probably why I'm convinced the witches know better what to do than I do. :}

    Linda

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  16. Thanks, Lisa! I'll try to keep it coming!

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  17. I never had any doubts about you, Linda. It was a given that you'd believe.

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  18. I've never been a plotter, and always felt a sort of sinking feeling when people advise me to plot. You've shown me where the sinking feeling comes from. I need those Ah-ha moments. It's the magic. It's why I want to write.

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  19. YES! YES!! YES!!! Cheryl, that lil spark of magic makes it all worthwhile for me too.

    And Synopses -- UGH!!! They are evil incarnate. My CPs and I call them POSS (piece o sh*t synopsis) because that's what mine (and usually theirs too) are. :-P Writing one before the book is pure torture and I don't think I've ever stuck with one yet.

    AC

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  20. Yes, Sheila. I know that sinking feeling, too. It's when I hear I'm doing this all wrong and should start over again from square one.
    But I can't do it. I do a lot of plotting in my head, and sometimes, like Donna, my hands are wet (or on the steering wheel) and I forget them before I get the chance to write them down. However, they usually come back to me, and sometimes even better than before.

    Then there are those times when I get up in the middle of the night to scribble something down and can't figure out what I meant in the morning!

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  21. LOL on the POSS, AC!
    It seems we all agree that a synopsis is the bane of a writer's existence, but I guess the magic moments make up for it!

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