Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Magic Click


by Janis Patterson
Just to be upfront, know that I am a pantser. When I start a book I have a vague idea of what the basic shape of the story is, but the idea of writing from a detailed outline not only makes me break out from stress, it also effectively kills any kind of creativity. In other words, I am bored with the story before it even begins.
I admit my style of writing has its pitfalls. Sometimes I simply sit and stare at the screen while it stares back at me. Sometimes an entire day’s work simply must be deleted because it just doesn’t take the story where I want it to go. To be honest, though, I have had the same problems when, during my ghostwriting career, I had no choice but to work from a detailed outline.
Pantser or plotter, there’s only one solution for when you hit a wall like that – write. Put one word down after another, again and again, repeat as necessary, until you have something on paper. If it has to be rewritten or even discarded later, you have something to work with, a base from which you can go forward. It’s not the dream of writing, nor is it the easiest task, but it is something every professional writer can do. Eventually the wall dissolves and the way becomes easier again. 
And sometimes there is the Magic Click, that wonderful moment when everything falls into place and the book flows like molten butter. You suddenly know exactly where everything is going, what clues to put in, what is going to happen two or ten chapters down the road, sometimes all the way to the end of the book – an end that is imminently satisfying and logical, yet might not have the slightest resemblance to the original you envisioned.
Magic, indeed. But isn’t that what writing is? Surely it must be magic to create believable worlds and people from little more than imagination and caffeine.
Some writers say that writing which comes so easily is suspect and most likely garbage. Perhaps, but I’ve never found it so. Usually the post-Magic Click prose is among my best, some of which has stood as written without any changes at all from various usually tough editors. I personally think it’s because all the pre-writing is done in the subconscious and is fairly well edited before it erupts onto the page. Plus, just getting all those words down (as many as 8.000 during one rather spectacular session) is a purely joyous rush.
Pantsing is sometimes frightening, sometimes labor-intensive, sometimes frustrating. It is also great fun and very rewarding. In my opinion it creates a much more ‘alive’ and vibrant story. The Magic Click is just gravy.


          Janis Patterson is a seventh-generation Texan and a third-generation wordsmith who writes mysteries as Janis Patterson, romances and other things as Janis Susan May, children’s books as Janis Susan Patterson and scholarly works as J.S.M. Patterson.
          Formerly an actress and singer, a talent agent and Supervisor of Accessioning for a bio-genetic DNA testing lab, Janis has also been editor-in-chief of two multi-magazine publishing groups as well as many other things, including an enthusiastic amateur Egyptologist. 

16 comments:

Kevin R. Tipple said...

Pantser here as well.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Janis,

I believe I'm a little of each. My characters live in my head for a while before I ever start to write.
When I do begin, I create a rough plot outline first. Then I start to actually write. But I'm very flexible. As I write, there are always new and different ideas. I agree with you that you just have to start to write and see where that leads you. Then I suggest after the initial draft putting the novel away for a time and coming back to start rewriting and editing at a future date.

Rose Anderson ~ Romance Novelist said...

I too am a pantser, and i enjoyed your post. :)

Rose

Carolyn J. Rose said...

I use index cards for the main points of plot, then take leaps of faith between them. For me the "magic click" comes when I write fast enough to get into a zone where the critical inner voice can't keep up and has to shut up.

Morgan Mandel said...

The Magic Click is what keeps most of us going! Kind of like gambling, once you win, you crave that feeling again!

Morgan Mandel
http://www.morganmandel.com

Kathleen Kaska said...

I'm a pantser, too, Janet. When I hit that wall, I go to another project and give my brain a break. It usually works.

Michele said...

Yes! Love that magic click moment!

Traci said...

Hi Janis - loved your post, though I am the opposite, lol. I found I can write faster with an outline of where I'm going, though it is all subject to change, as the characters or story demands. Must be a control thing for me :)

Carole Price said...

Janis, I start with location and only a vague idea what the plot is. Like a painting, I'll then add the characters and then give them problems to solve. Or kill them. If I'm lucky, there's that "click" or moment of satisfaction.

Beate Boeker said...

Great post, Janis! For my romances, I'm a pantser, too, but for my mysteries, I have to be more organized, or I wouldn't know who's the killer ;-). And that magic moment when everything flows - I do agree that this is the best part of being a writer. The joy I feel while writing usually transfers to the reader as well. Thank you for putting it down so well!

Radine Trees Nehring said...

Your blog speaks for me almost exactly and was--therefore--thrilling. Seems from previous comments there are a lot of us. What fun to discover our stories very much like our readers eventually will! "Pantsing" is full of fun surprises and personal praise for ideas that come. ("Wow, where did THAT come from?")

Sydell Voeller said...

An interesting blog, Janis. I think I'm a little bit of both (a panster and a plotter), although this afternoon I've been staring at my computer screen in frustration, trying to tie up the loose ends for a short story. I'm still waiting for the magic click, but I know it will come!

Earl Staggs said...

Count me as a pantser, too. I love it when the magic happens.

Carol Hutchens said...

Great post, Janis!
I agree that planning takes the excitement away. That's when the screen can go blank for me. But I need plot points, so I do a bit of planning and free falling.
Love the "Magic Click"!
Carol Hutchens

Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

I do a little of both. I have my plot in my head, write down bits and pieces of what I think is going to happen, know who the characters are, then plunge on ahead.

Barb Schlichting said...

You are a delight. I do a little of each but mostly pantsing. Great blog!