So, on my hiatus from blogging (sorry!), I sat down and reread Terry Brooks’ Sometimes the Magic Works: Lessons From a Writing Life. This book is an awesome memoir/writing manual by a fantasy writing giant, the author of multiple bestsellers and the Shannara series. It’s an excellent read that I recommend to any writer, whether you’re a fantasy lover or not.
What makes Sometimes the Magic Works such a great book is that Brooks is able to so wonderfully capture the writing life in all its complexity — the joy, the frustration, the back-breaking work, the odd moments, and the rewards of being a writer. He sugar-coats nothing, but still manages to remind you how much the difficulties of being a writer, whether a hobbyist or a professional, are still worth it at the end of the day.
If you do not love what you do, if you are not appropriately grateful for the chance to create something magical each time you sit down at the computer or with pencil and paper in hand, somewhere along the way, your writing will betray you.
How true is that? How much are we writers actually defined by what we do, shaped by a compulsion, as Brooks puts it, to put words together and create something meaningful?
Brooks doesn’t just wax poetic on the life of a writer, however. He also includes a slew of practical information about publishing, as well as the craft of writing (he’s an outliner like myself!) and the necessity of staying in a state of child-like imagining no matter how old we get.
Probably best of all, Brooks has great wit and managed to make me laugh even when I didn’t expect to:
…My friends and family like me well enough, but they think I am weird. Or at least peculiar. I can’t blame them. I should have grown up a long time ago, and yet here I am, writing about elves and magic…Readers used to ask me at autographing events if it wasn’t hard to making the transition from practicing law to writing fantasy. I told them there was hardly any difference at all.
I am not a big fan of writing manuals — I personally despise most of the writing advice Stephen King has ever given (gasp, I know). However, this “manual” is short, simple, and to the point, teaching me without having let me realize I was learning anything.
Go out and get a copy soon. In the meantime, check out these other great resources:
Patricia C. Wrede’s Worldbuilder Questions (scroll down for index)