Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Good news: It's not all magic

Last time we had some DWT we were talking about how it makes each of us a little crazy when authors claim their stories simply come to them out of the ether, delivered by magic fairies to their keyboards.

While I'm willing to believe that there are some writers like that out there, I do question whether or not those same writers are getting better with each novel, or are able to build long careers by producing a consistently good product for readers each time. Particularly when they're on a 2-books-or-more-a-year schedule.

I'd also like to believe that most of these "it's all magic" authors are very hit or miss from book to book. Not that I'm suggesting everyone needs to write the same way, just suggesting that for most of us, it helps to have some idea of what we're doing and why some stories work better than others -- since not all of us have equal access to the keyboard fairies.

So this is all a lead in to more J.R. Ward admiration. In case no one's figured it out yet, I came back from the NJ conference, and the J.R. Ward/Jessica Andersen workshop in particular, all fired up and feeling better about the publishing industry than I have in a while.

Why? Because these two authors, who have very different processes, were both honest about it not all being magic. Sure, J.R. listens to her rice crispies, but she also made it clear how much work and thought and strategy (not to mention sweat, blood and tears) went into creating her highly successful series. Sure, she admits much of her best stuff, the stuff that knocks her readers off their chairs, came out of the ether (or the rice crispies) as she was writing, but the framework was already there. She had a plan. She knew why she thought these books would do well and where they'd fit in the market. She knew she was pushing the envelope of what romance readers were comfortable with reading, but she also thought about what themes and elements she needed to include to increase the chances romace readers would love her (quite violent and graphic for romance) books.

This got me fired up, because I love when the smart people achieve success. And by smart I mean the ones who don't get hung up on the rules and do oodles of things you're not supposed to do in romance, but do it with purpose and create great stories that are well plotted and have great characters and conflicts. ON PURPOSE. (Not by accident, or because the fairies came through.) I love it when those writers hit bestseller lists. LOVE it.

Because it gives me hope. Gives me hope that I can get there through hard work, and without full-time access to the fairies.

(The only thing that's terrified me, while reading her insiders' guide, was her saying that in 2005 she was worried the paranormal market was already peaking, so that even after she'd sold the first 3 books in her series, she wasn't confident she'd sell the seven more she had planned. That market peaking in 2005 doesn't bode well for me breaking into it now, but hey, I was already aware/worried about that. Just means I need to do even more to stand out. And I also think she revived that sub-genre. Took it in a new exciting direction opening up new doors for the rest of us. See? My optimism's back already.)


Molly O'Keefe said...

I've been thinking about the magic lately too. And I love that it's not all about magic, that hard work gets a lot of the work done. But it does seem that those truly spectacular elements are kind of magic. But it's the subconscience kind. You've planted all the seeds and magic happens, maybe the real magic is trusting your gut to add something to a scene or character that you haven't totally thought out. Put those elements in and see where they go?

I am inspired by the book too. And it's so much freaking fun to be inspired!!

Kimber Chin said...

Molly, you said exactly what I was going to say except clearer.

I look at my February release Invisible as magic because when I got to the end of the book, all those dangling details I had no idea why I added all made sense.

But I think it was more my subconscious working on the problem.

Sort of like when you sleep on the problem and wake up in the morning with the answer.

Stephanie Doyle said...

I just finished a JD Robb - and it made me think of the "hard work" element vs. magic. Nora can be up and down but her career and her success is based totally on hard work with the magic elements thrown in.

There was a line she wrote "her hair was pulled back leaving her tired face defenseless..." something like that and I thought wow that's such a great line a powerful image and completely conveyed what she wanted to about the character. 10 billion books, 1000 books a year it seems but there in the between the lines it's still magic.

Steph - who is supposed to be working on her book and not playing on the internet today! Ahh

Sinead M said...

I too love the hard work angle and now that I've heard JR Ward speak,and prior to that, Nora, one thing they both mentioned is discipline.
They are both at the computer every day. For several hours.
Wish I had their discipline..

Maureen McGowan said...

It's definitely a blend of magic and hard work. The magic is the fun part to be sure. But I do think if we want writing to be our job... then we need to suck it up and not rely solely on magic to get us by.

And it's so great to hear people like Nora and J.R. who are so successful admit that they really work hard at this.

Amy Ruttan said...

I get dreams, sometimes for a basic plot. I call them monkeys, but for the most part I'm think how to take that scene I imagined and turn it into a full length novel.

It's not magic, it used to be procrastination when I was at a day job or ineffective use of time. LOL.

I started writing historicals when they weren't selling, now the market seems to be picking up again. I don't think we'll see the disappearance of paranormal because people will still always want it.

I won't be relying on my dreams for plots for the next nine months. Pregnancy dreams are too weird to even comprehend.

I'm also uber jealous you met JR Ward.

Amy Ruttan said...

D'oh see Mommy brain hitting. No, it's not totally about magic, magic can only get you so far. Its the sweating and bleeding that makes a book a reality.

Sinead M said...

Amy, congrats on your news. I hope you are feeling well and don't worry, mommy brain goes away, eventually.

And sometimes it gives you the best plot twists ever.

Maureen McGowan said...

Yes, congrats, Amy!!!

And I realize my post made it sound like I thought people who get inspiration from mysterious places were bonkers.

If that's true, well, I'm bonkers, too. Quite often I have no idea where an idea comes from.

The hard work is molding those ideas into a compelling story.

(and JR Ward rocked!)

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