Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Magic in Writing

Today I'm going to tell you a little bit how magic worked with me and <i>The Third Magic</i>, which
I wrote for young adults and adults who like fantasy and magic and the idea of
parallel universes.  This book has been so popular that many people have asked me to
write a sequel to it, and a prequel as well!  I even got a couple of emails asking if
the writers could be the heroine when they make the movie.  :)<BR>
<P>It's true that With the perspective I now have on it, I can see that the book is a
stand-alone novel set in a world full of potential stories; in a way it is an epic
battle in a long, long war.  And I do like to write big, complex books. And so, maybe
after my current novel, which has been a long time coming, I will write more about Nwm
and the people in it.<BR>
<P> I had a car accident seven years ago which has prevented me from finishing the new
novel (<i>SMITH</i>). For two years after the accident I couldn't even read.  For me
that's almost like not being able to eat.  And then I was dyslexic and could barely
speak without a stutter.  Things are different now, but With the enforced perspective
caused by the accident, I think differently about <i>SMITH</i> and realize the book
has to be completely re-written. You may have gathered that I'm a perfectionist when
it comes to my writing!<BR> 
<P>My daily life, however, is utterly chaotic. If it weren't for my husband who buys
the groceries and cooks most of the meals and deals with bills and most of the
cleaning, I'd be wading through books and unopened mail to an empty refrigerator. I
must admit there are a lot of books in our apartment.  I read mystery novels to relax
while I research all the details I need to know for the changed <i>SMITH</i>.  I love
reading paper books, and I do all my research using them.  Though I've been hoping to
get a Kindle or another kind of electronic book reader for middle-of-the-night or on
the train reading, there is one advantage of real books that an electronic book reader
just doesn't have.  You can keep one book on the go in every room in the house, and
read the one that happensto be in the room you're in.  Nobody I've heard about has
ever used this as an excuse to keep real paper books, but for me it's a totally
acceptable one.<BR>
<P>I've had ten books published around the world in more than a dozen languages, and
though I love all my books (the way a mother loves all her children), and won a lot of
awards for them (<i>all</i> my books, actually, except for my very first one, which
Amazon can't carry because it hasn't got an ISBN bar code on the back). Still, <i>The
Third Magic</i> has always had a special place in my heart. For one reason, it was
certainly the hardest book I've ever tried to write. While I was writing it (for three
full years) I had huge sheets of paper taped to my walls in my office, just to keep
track of who was where, when.  The editing was a nightmare.  And then finally the book
won the Governor-General's Award, which is the highest award books for Canadian young
adults can win.  Even though I've had three other such nominations, I think none of
them deserved it as much as <i>The Third Magic</i>. Also, I began it at a very rough
time in my writing career, when I'd just been told I had a book accepted for
publication, and then three or four days later I was told to scrap the whole book. The
mixed messages in this event made me completely uncertain about my own judgment.  The
book I had thought was my best up to that time was first accepted and then only worthy
of the trash.  A writer can't write without belief in her own judgment, because that's
what carries her through the years and years of decisions that have to be made every
day in order to write a book at all.  And so I decided to stop writing.<BR> <P>But
then, one day I went into my office (which had sat unused for months), and just sat
down, turned the computer on, and began to write.  It turned out to be the beginning
of what now is Chapter Two in <i>The Third Magic</i>, and the words just poured out,
and they were so good I couldn't even take credit for them, not completely, because I
didn't think about them at all as I was typing.  It was almost like taking dictation. 
And so in that way <i>The Third Magic</i> was magical for me, in that it made me start
writing again.<BR>
Later, I was working very hard and the plot was going just fine, when suddenly, in Chapter 12, I found myself writing whole sentences that I didn't understand.  I didn't get where they came from, I didn't understand their purpose, I didn't even understand what certain words in them meant.  And there were characters there that I swear I had never imagined.  I kept writing in a kind of shell-shocked way, and when it stopped (yes, <b>it</b> stopped), I sat down and re-read what I'd written.  It was good.  It was amazing.  And I hadn't written them.  It was once again the taking-dictation thing.  Something had interfered in what I thought of as my book.

When this happens, you really can't just say, "whoo, wonder where <i>that</i> came from", and then just throw it away because it doesn't happen to fit with the way you're writing the novel.  I read it over and over again.  Why this character?  Why a horse and a sword?  What did it all mean?  And eventually, I dreamed it.  I knew that the book had decided it didn't want to be the kind of book I was writing.  It wanted and was determined to be something I didn't realize had slipped sideways into my book, the way I was writing it. I had to rewrite the whole book, to fulfil my belief in the magic that had interfered in it.  A writer must serve the book; it's never the other way around.  And so, I did rewrite the book, and the magic was fulfilled.

 <P> I work in a home office, and my cat Chloe often likes to lie in my lap purring, as
I type away at my computer.  My husband is a musician who composes songs, so I'm never
without  beautiful melodies as I write.  But I miss my daughter Meredith very much. 
She is a computer game designer in Victoria, British Columbia, and I live in SW
Ontario, a very long way from BC.  For all my later books, Meredith was always my
first and best critic.  She would always have a suggestion if I'd written myself into
a corner, or she'd ask the right question to put me on track. She was only six years
old when I won the Governor-General's Award for <i>The Third Magic</i>, but when she
was old enough to read it, as soon as she finished it she came storming down to where
I was.  "Mom, how could you stop it there?" she demanded in outrage.  "I want to know
all the other things that happen on Nwm!"  And so, for Meredith if no one else, I
really do think I'm going to have to go back to <i>The Third Magic</i> and make it
part of a much longer story.


At 28 September, 2010 , Blogger Jessica Subject said...

Welwyn, I am glad you are now able to write again and that you are working on another novel. :) Third Magic is great!

At 28 September, 2010 , Blogger M Pax said...

Yay on you writing again. That is great news.

My cats usually stare at my back while I'm working. Sometimes they like to sit on my desk - in front of the monitor, of course.

At 28 September, 2010 , Anonymous Sheila Dalton said...

I'm so sorry to hear about your accident, but glad you are writing again. It must have been a very scary time for you.

At 30 September, 2010 , Blogger Welwyn-on-books said...

I'm very grateful to you all for your support. I was having a minor crisis while writing this particular blog and somehow it got posted without cleaning up all the formatting, but you got it anyway. It means a lot to have the kind of understanding and kindness from other writers that you showed me here. Thank you all. Hugs.

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