planning a novel: magic comes from hard work

In a thread about writing, Vox Day writes:

Some authors love to create myths about the magic of the process, but as Glenn Frey commented in the documentary about The Eagles, the secret of song-writing is in the elbow grease. Most of the better writers simply work harder at their craft than the lesser writers, just as most of the better-selling authors work harder at selling books than most of those who don’t sell as many.

a commentor Stickwick replies:

These myths contributed to my sense that there was something elusively magical about the creative process, that it “just happened,” and either you had the gift or you didn’t. A few months ago, Flavorwire published hand-written notes by a few well-known authors, showing how they organized plot points, characters, etc. (including a massive spreadsheet constructed by Joseph Heller for Catch-22), and I was astonished to see that there’s, you know, actual work involved in fiction writing. Like Frey’s comments, this dispels the magical myth of the writing process.

This is all rather encouraging, as it means someone without the natural story-telling talent of, say, Tolkien or Heinlein can still, in principle, work at producing something halfway good.

The referenced Flavorwire article is fascinating.

Here’s a paper-and-pencil spreadsheet outline of Heller’s Catch-22 (click to embiggen):

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One Response to planning a novel: magic comes from hard work

  1. Brian Dunbar says:

    I am reminded that RAH and Virginia, for short story, used a roll of butcher paper and two days of time to work out the calculations for an orbit. For a line that read (IIRC) ‘And he took off and departed Lunar orbit’.

    Nobody saw the time and butcher paper, but it got baked into the story. And it felt right.

    Probably one of the many reasons people still read Heinlein, but not many of his peers from that era.

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