When The Magic Happens

By Sherry — just back from New England and all its glorious fall beauty

Last weekend Kensington sent the Wickeds on a three day mini-tour in New England. One of the questions posed was what brings you joy in writing. I said it was when the magic happens. The moment you are facing your computer not knowing what you’re going to write. Then you place your fingers on the keyboard and words come out. Sometimes it’s fast and sometimes it’s painfully slow. I heard a story one that Handel wrote the Messiah in three days. If it was true I’m sure the music was playing in his head for months before he wrote it down.

Last week I turned in From Beer to Eternity, the first Chloe Jackson Sea Glass mystery, to my editor at Kensington. As I mentioned last week it was the hardest book I’ve ever written. I got so inside my own head with this one. I wanted it to be perfect from the first sentence on. Perfection is no way to write. As I said in my post The Finishing Line, the mean editor in my head kept telling me, “You can’t do this. It’s not as good as Sarah.” Shutting up that editor took a lot of hard work. And the help of independent editor Barb Goffman and my beta readers Mary Titone, Jason Allen-Forrest, and Christy Nichols. Barb especially pushed me to dig deep. And I did. Jason made a suggestion that made the opening much stronger.

This week I started the ninth Sarah Winston book. My editor came up with the title, Absence of Alice. I was glad to be with the Wickeds to talk over who Alice was and why she was important to the story. As Julie and I drove back from New Hampshire to Boston on Monday she helped me plot. Who are the suspects? Why is this happening? Where does the book start? It was great. Thank you, Julie!!!

Tuesday afternoon I sat fingers to keyboard and the opening scene poured out of me. It’s a movie that’s been swirling in my head for a few months ever since I got the germ of an idea of what I wanted this story to be. Even before I knew about Alice. But the opening scene also chilled me and I thought it was maybe too scary.

So I called Barb Goffman. And she came up with a delightful suggestion. When I sat down to write this afternoon the magic was there again. The scene dancing in my head poured out onto the blank computer screen. It’s a fun scene. A happy scene. Then bam — there’s the twist. I love it.

The magic is why I write. I wish it was always as easy as the past two days, but it isn’t. I know there will be slogs ahead. Games of solitaire played instead of writing. Checking Facebook instead of writing. But if I trust, I know the magic is there lurking.

Readers: What motivates you to do something you love? Writers have you experienced that magic?

28 Thoughts

  1. I love that kind of magic, Sherry! Admittedly, it doesn’t happen as often as I’d like, but when it does it’s fantastic. Looking forward to your new series!

  2. What a wonderful sequel to our tour, Sherry – glad you are at peace with Alice. I’ve been having a short story pour out this week, too. It’s magic, all right!

  3. Nature motivates me. I love photography and scenes like the photo you posted get my blood pumping anxious to find the next great shot. Nature is always changing so it’s like starting a new book each and every day. When traveling in the car, I always have my camera in my lap because you never know what’s around the next curve.

    Photography is like my love of reading. You are excited to start a new adventure each day – like when you pick up a new book. The day may have its ups and downs, but you can always find the good and it makes you feel warm inside – like when you devour a good book. Then once today is come to an end, you can reflect on what you saw but thrill to know that tomorrow is another day – like finishing one book but knowing there are others on your desk yet to read.
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

    1. Wow. What a positive approach to life–instead of thinking of all the things to check off the list the next day, look forward to the something good that will surely happen and make you warm inside. I love that.

  4. Yes, I’ve felt that magic. It’s wonderful and exhilarating.

    Another reason: I received a Facebook message from a reader today saying she loves my Laurel Highlands series and can’t wait for more. Hearing that someone else has felt the same (or close to the same) magic as I have is also exhilarating.

  5. Congrats on the tour and the great start on your new book, Sherry! Starting a new story is always exciting. And scary! One of the reasons I’m motivated to write, and to keep writing, is that it keeps my depression at bay. When I don’t write, the dark cloud starts wrapping its tentacles around me. Writing pushes the cloud away and helps me keep it at a safe distance. Kinda heavy, but it’s true.
    Plus, making up stuff is so much fun!

  6. I’ve felt the magic writing. Everything fits and flows. Its much like playing in a musical group when everyone comes together and they are actually making music. Indescribable. But that’s not what motivates me. Getting something out of my head keeps me sane.

  7. There’s nothing better than when the magic happens. It’s so fulfilling to write something you know is good and that others, hopefully, will enjoy. So glad to be able to help you live the dream.

  8. Wonderful post, Sherry, starting with your photo of my favorite time and place – New England in the fall. Yes, the magic while writing, when you say, “Where did THAT come from?” The tricky part is that you have to keep writing even when it isn’t magical. Because THAT is how the magic finds its way back. ( Or you rediscover it? It’s a mystery) This weekend I had a good idea for how to refocus a new book …while at the ballet. No way to explain this, is there?

  9. Yes, I know exactly what you mean. When I found out the topic of the anthology, the plot of my short story popped into my head. That evening, in my hotel room, I wrote out the first draft (in longhand). It really stank (and I absolutely knew that it was terrible), but as my friend Rita kept reminding me, “You can’t revise a blank page.”

    I think the magic, when it comes, is the thing that gets us past our well-honed procrastination skills as well as the fear (OK, the certainty) that it’s going to start out bad. But I now know that I can definitely make it better, even good and reminding ourselves of that important fact can keep us going when the dark feelings are telling us to stop, that we can’t do this, that we’ve just been lucky thus far, and that we’re fundamentally undeserving. I know that’s asking quite a lot from a little bit of magic, but it does seem to keep coming through.

    And knowing that the magic can show up at any time can keep us going through the slogs.

    Lee (who is at this moment singing, “I Believe in Magic”)

  10. Congrats on the magic. Can’t wait to read it.

    Sometimes, I experience it with a review I’m writing. I always know what I want to say when I sit down, but sometimes it flows out of me. Sometimes, I have to force every word out. And it rarely sounds as good as it does when I’m driving in my car and can’t write the review down.

  11. I love all the positive energy in today’s posts. Thanks for making it yet another beautiful day.

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