• Maggie Shayne

The Book That Writes Itself


I’m having the rare, delicious experience every writer dreams about; the book that is writing itself. It’s like magic. And as I’m blissfully relishing it, I’m also trying to figure out what might have instigated it. Because it seems to me that all my books used to come this easily, and now, or lately at least, it almost never happens. I hadn’t realized it until it started happening again.

The last book I wrote seemed to be the turning point. I was in the middle of a trilogy. Book 1, Mark of the Witch, had required massive rewrites, setting me behind schedule on book 2, Daughter of the Spellcaster, before I even began. So when I started the writing, I had to write fast, as fast as I ever have. I saw my editor in NY last week. She’s nearly finished editing it now, and says no rewrites. Just the usual tweak here and there. It was then I realized that the last few of my books have been a lot more work than usual, with heavy edits, many rewrites, etc.

Then I started on Book 3, Blood of the Sorceress, and yes, I have more backstory to work with, and yes, my subconscious minions, (the girls in the basement,) have been working on this one under the radar since I began. Naturally I had to turn in a synopsis. But I haven’t looked at it once. It’s like I sit down, lift my hands over the keyboard, and it just…happens. I don’t know what I’m going to write when I turn the computer on. I just let it come, and it’s effortless. Any time I decide to work on this one, all I need to do is open the file and put my hands on the keyboard. Day or night, for as long as I sit there, the story keeps on coming.


I love this! It’s like magic again.

So what have I been doing differently between way back when all my stories came this way, and when they became this way again? I’ll tell you exactly what I’ve been doing. I’ve been thinking too much. I’ve been trying to plot too much. I thought I had stumbled onto a miracle when I read the brilliant Alexandra Sokoloff’s Screenwriting Tricks for Authors and Save the Cat by the late great Blake Snyder. The books did save me tons of time in writing outlines, in plotting series, and the notion of writing in 50 (or so) page segments is something I’ll probably always use, along with a lot of the creative tips about the craft of storytelling itself, which both books deliver in spades. But the rest, the idea of trying to figure out what happens when, to plot it all out on a grid before beginning my story, which I thought was going to be my new method for life, didn’t work after all. I thought it did. But I soon realized that every book I turned in using this new (to me) method, required massive rewrites. Why? Not because there’s anything wrong with the methods offered in those books, which work wonders for many many writers. Just not for me, and I guess I should have known that the way I’d been doing things for more nearly 50 books, was the only method that would work for me.

Let me add that even though I’m not using their pre-plotting methods anymore, I still recommend both books HIGHLY. They are full of wisdom and insight, and every writer will find gems they’ll use forever to enhance her craft, myself included.

Now, as I pen novel number 53 (or maybe 54?) I’m back to seat of the pants writing, because that’s what works for me. Running out of time on the previous project, and having to sit and write too rapidly to think first, reminded me that this is the way I work best. Sitting down to write this current one without having storyboarded it first, and the beautiful ease with which it’s flowing, seem to be reassuring me that it’s true. Oh, I hope they can all go like this from now on!

And yes, I’m implementing some (lots) of the tips I learned from those books. Everything except trying to plan ahead, to plot in advance. I’ve never been a plotter. I’ve always been a pantser, (One who writes by the seat of one’s pants.) And I guess I always will be.

I think it’s because my Muse doesn’t like me trying to do her job for her. I’m just supposed to shut up and channel.

I guess I had to try a new way to know that for sure.

Now I’m heading up to the office for the day’s writing, and it’s such a great feeling knowing the words will come effortlessly, easily, until I’m ready to stop.

I’m very happy, and endlessly grateful.

#writing #RWA #writers #pansters #authors #thewritinglife #plotters

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