Sunday, March 29, 2009

What's Magic About Writing?

When I was thinking of subtitles for my blog, "The Magic of Writing and More" just seemed like a good idea--mostly because in the last couple of years I've been writing so many princess and fairy books. But let me confess that when I'm drafting a story, writing often feels more like hard work than magic, and getting to the end of a story can be a cold, hard slog.

The author Gore Vidal once said, "I never reread a text until I have finished the first draft. Otherwise it's too discouraging." I'm of the same opinion. Forward movement has always seemed a good thing to me in first draft writing. Though I do a fair amount of rewriting as I go along, I try not to get caught up in improving my prose too much in a first draft.

Instead, my usual modus operandi is to reread the last paragraph or two I wrote the day before, then go on from there. If I realize while drafting chapter 8, that I should’ve foreshadowed an event in chapter 4 or 5, I may go back and add that part to the story, otherwise, I just make a note about what needs to be changed or added on a piece of paper labeled “Notes for Draft #2” and go on with the story.

So where does the magic come in--especially in a first draft? For me, it's in those rare moments when a clever line of dialogue or description pops into my head. Sometimes those lines later have to be edited out (we writers hate that, and sometimes refer to it as "killing our babies"), but often those lines survive successive drafts intact, or with just a bit of tweaking. And even when the writing comes slowly, and in fits and starts, there's a certain magic in simply seeing the pages accumulate. And when those pages have been sprinkled with the fairy dust of successive drafts, helped along by many fairy godmothers and godfathers (my agent, my writing group, my editor and a whole publishing staff, and an illustrator), voila! A book! What could be more magic than that?

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