So, NaNoWriMo ended a few days ago, and it seemed like I barely took part in it. My plan was to simply finish a manuscript I had started some time ago, a story that was just languishing in a drawer. I felt it only had 10,000 words or so to go, and NaNo seemed like a great time to get it done. No crazy pressure to complete 50,000 words in one month, no sleepless nights, no caffeine-fueled mania. Just steady writing, a few hundred words a day, a clear goal to work towards.
And I did it, for the most part. I would have finished by November 30, but at the climax of the story, my character went and did something completely unexpected, and I had to re-envision my entire ending. It took a few more days to work it out, and I just finished the rough draft today, a few days past deadline.
That’s just fine, but I got to thinking about how uncanny it is when characters you make up in your head suddenly come to life and do things of their own free will. What author? they say, and your pen moves across the page (or fingers type across the keyboard) as the character takes over and writes the story. It’s happened to me more than once, and every time it amazes me.
Here you are, humming along, thinking you’re in control, knowing exactly what’s supposed to happen (you’ve carefully outlined the events and know the very last sentence you’re going to write) and then something else takes over, changing the course of the story irrevocably. And then it’s gone, and you have to clean up the mess afterward! But the story is stronger for it, almost always. It’s as if the writing gods are watching over your shoulder, and intervene on your behalf.
To me, that’s the magic of writing. When my daughter asks me if magic is real, I say, Yes! Just not in the way we imagine it. There are no magic wands, spells, or incantations; there’s no forcing it. You simply have to believe in the process, and open yourself up to the forces of creativity.
Why do I write? For the magic.