Thursday, January 26, 2012

Poof Magic

So I was talking to Molly the other day saying how I needed to come up with a bunch of new ideas for my editor. This is new for me. Usually I’m a one idea at a time girl. By the middle of the book I’m working on, I usually come up with what I want to do next. I can honestly say it’s kept me steadily writing for years. But it hasn’t always made me the best category writer.

I wrote comedies, then I felt like doing a suspense, then I felt like doing a golf book, then I decided I wanted to write weird historicals.

This has resulted in a lot of complete books. But not a lot of progress in my career. Now part of this wasn’t always my fault. I had several lines close on me which forced me to change gear, but still I have to own up to the fact that I’m a little bit of a writing wanderer.

However, now for the first time in the 20 years I’ve been writing I’ve been asked to think of a bunch of ideas at once. For moments my brain froze. Multiple ideas didn’t compute. Sure I had vague thoughts of what I wanted to do, but the idea of trying to really pull out concrete stories seemed incredibly daunting.

I could no longer rely on my poof magic just happening out of the blue. I was actually going to have to deliberately call on it like a genie in a bottle.

Let me explain - Poof Magic is my very scientific writing process. I think conceptually about the type of relationship dynamic I want to explore….wait for it and then… Poof, magic. The couple pops into my head. Then they live there for a while simmering and eventually I start to see those movie trailer flashes that lead me to the perimeter of what their story is.

The idea of using poof magic for several ideas at once… craziness. I had this very logical and rational fear I would fizzle it out if I over used it.

Surprisingly, poof magic has come through. I need only one more couple to show up and then I plan to just let them all simmer simultaneously. Like four different pots on four different burners all working toward a common goal. Which for me means a little forward career momentum.

I’m sure we’ve all talked about our process before, but I would also love to hear from some lurkers… Another classic writer questios.... Where do your ideas come from?


Molly O'Keefe said...

I like poof magic!!! I feel like I am not very good at the coming up with ideas part. And having to come up with a bunch at a time, if I'm pitching a series, it's kind of a nightmare.

My analogy is I'm spinning a combination lock, spinning, all the little gears grinding, sometimes I think there might be a click and the story opens, but usually I'm trying to force things. But when teh story really does open - awesome!!!

I'm so glad to hear you've got your ideas, are you going to be able to write synopsis?

Stephanie Doyle said...

If the synposis can be 1 paragraph... I'm golden.

Since those pesky editors usually require more... I'm probably going to have to work at it a little more.

I like the combination lock thing... that's sort of it too along with poof magic.

Anonymous said...

I can come up with concepts, but forming them into solid story ideas with character arcs so much harder and writing a synopsis before writing the story, well, it makes my head spin.
Stephanie, excited to hear about new story ideas. I'm still deeply attached to the historical. I cannot wait to read it.

Maureen McGowan said...


Maureen McGowan said...

But seriously. I think I rely on the poof magic too.
Often I'll be thinking about something for ages, and then I'll be doing something unrelated, usually at an inconvenient time, and suddenly everything will come in a rush and I won't be able to type or scribble ideas fast enough. They often aren't coherent ideas or very organized into scenes... but a wave of "oh, oh, oh!".

Eileen said...

I personally feel like it's more like being in an asteroid belt. Bam! An idea will hit me and it will be made up of maybe a character and a situation. Then bam! another asteroid/idea hits and it's made up of a setting or a premise or a conflict. Then bam!

You get the idea.

Now, trying to get the asteroid belt to bam me with ideas for multiple stories in, say, a series? It took months. Way longer than it should have.

Maureen McGowan said...

Loving all these analogies. :)

And Steph, twice now I've had to come up with ideas fast under pressure. And both times I pulled it off.

I always think it takes ages for ideas to percolate for me... And generally it does, but boy did I write the synopses for the twisted tales books fast. Bam! And then book 3 in my upcoming trilogy...

Agent promised, at noon or so, that he'd send it to an editor for 5:00 pm. Because I was getting my hair done, I didn't find out about this promise until 3:00 pm. Wrote a synopsis. Bam. :)

(And will never exaggerate to my agent again. Me: Oh, sure I have a synopsis for book 3. Just needs tidying up.
Tidying up = figure out plot and write a synopsis.)

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