Thursday, July 28, 2011

Practical magic

The writers out there will know what I mean when I say that the creation of fiction in full flight is not a process you can pin down and understand completely- there's a certain level of indefinable magic or alchemy involved in spinning a story.

When you really hit your stride on a particular scene, when you look up and find that two hours have passed and you can't remember a minute, when you read back over your work and think, "Did that really come from me?"- those are the moments where you know there's something beyond the craft and technique that really can't be identified or explained.

For me, I'm often looking for the magic to hit before I start writing, and if it doesn't, then I feel a bit stuck on the runway. I feel like I can't get into the nuts and bolts without the alchemy occurring first.

But when it comes down to it, the nuts and bolts are necessary to begin almost any magic. Without the practical preparations, the alchemy can't commence.

Like pretty much everyone else on earth, I saw the latest Harry Potter movie last week, and I've also been watching some of the earlier films on cable. In the earlier ones, the nuts and bolts of the magic were plainly spelled out (if you'll pardon the pun). You need your spellbook, your ingredients, your wand, the right words, the right order, the right person to pull it all together, and abracadabra!

You have magic.

Which is, when you think about it, just what happens with fiction, too.

Can you conjure up the magic on a whim? Or do you need to start with the practicalities- like getting words on the actual page- before you feel yourself take flight?


  1. Hey Claire,

    Interesting comparison to spellcasting in HP - I hadn't quite thought of it that way before!

    Um, well, I think I'm still figuring out my process. But so far as I can tell, this may be another case of us being birds of a feather [g].

    I don't start a story without a spark; if I don't have passion for it, why bother? (I might write a few words, or a page or two, but if I'm not feeling it, it shows up _really fast_.) I remember the hours and the love I had to put in to my work 'before' (even if most of it was fanfiction), and the ways in which it *didn't* work if I wasn't completely invested. So no spark, no go.

    But there's something unique, to me, about the process for this WIP. The things I wrote with these earliest sparks were only sparks themselves; I thought I'd brought the WIP to life and started a nice little fire but nope, I was completely wrong, and it was only the beginning.

    I'm a little bit intimidated with something that takes on this much of a life of its own, to be honest. But I like it, too. [g] It's nice knowing that the story is limited only by my inability to stay butt-in-chair-fingers-on-keyboard.

  2. Where does the magic come from? Sometimes there's a spark, an out-of-the-blue epiphany that comes to me during the day. Sometimes there's an urge to write - like an itch that needs scratching. But most often the magic happens simply as I write. Time spent with my characters, even if I'm stuck on the runway, eventually turns productive.

    I think there's a danger in waiting for the magic to appear. It may not, and then what? For me, the magic happens when I push on and keep at it and suddenly the nuts and bolts have fallen away and I'm soaring with the magic again.

  3. Actually, I do not have my magic wand. I found by getting into the habit of writing a bit every day it eventually gets to "The End." I usually find that once I start as you say hours pass, breakfast turns into lunch and way past dinner. You got to love when that happens.

    The main key is having an idea of the story you want to write, define you characters well, and then let your fingers do the walking. That amount of writing you actually keep during the editing and rewriting stage is irrevalent at this point. Polishing goes out the window (that's handled later in the editing or the next day.) Just keep writing.