Writing Discussion

Sometimes the Magic Works by Terry Brooks

The first time I read a Terry Brooks book, I was twelve years old and a curious thing happened: I heard not the voice of the characters, or the usual narrator in my head, but my voice reading the story back. It was a disconcerting sort of feeling, and as I read through the Shannara books,this nagging strangeness bothered me so much so that I didn’t quite enjoy them.

I’ve always wondered why that happened.  Was I picking up something familiar in the shape of the words, the echoes of speech pattern? Or was I reacting to something that plucked a little too deeply into my core that it was unsettling? It’s never happened before or after, and I sometimes wonder if I read the books again now if it would be the same.

So, I was curious when I discovered Terry Brooks had written a book on writing. I picked it up at the library, and finished it in one sitting. I’ve read Stephen King’s memoir ‘On Writing’ which is an excellent biography, with a sprinkling of advice. I’ve always been more interested in the stories of why people became writers rather than craft books. “Sometimes the magic works” is similar in that regard. Brooks takes us through some of his experiences, and what shaped him as a writer.

Perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised, but this book resonated with me more than King’s. Reading about his childhood, I could could see echoes of my own life and thought processes. Is this what I recognized so many years ago?

Writers live in two worlds — the real world of friends and family and the imaginary world of their writing. If you were to measure the difference in time spent between this two, I suspect you would find it quite small… but a writer can’t ever leave either for very long. pg 5

Ask E about my inattention. Sometimes I get so caught up in story I don’t hear him. I also had a friend once who mentioned he could tell it was me walking down the hall from the way I wasn’t paying attention to anything as I walked. I read E a few bits from the book and he laughed. “Are all writers the same? That sounds just like you.”

There are practical bits of advice for writers in the book, but I found most valuable was how it made me see that I am definitely a writer, and not clearly insane. LOL though, perhaps just a little. Writing is such sweet madness.

And some advice from Terry Brooks:

  • If you do not hear music in your words, you have put too much thought into your writing, and not enough heart.
  • If you do not ever wonder what happened to your characters after you stopped writing about the, you did not care enough about them in the first place and do not deserve to know.
  • If you are ever completely satisfied with something you have written, you are setting your sights too low. But if you can’t let go of your material even after you have done the best that you can do with it, you are setting your sights too high.
  • 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.
  • If you don’t think there is magic in writing, you probably won’t write anything magical.
  • For those who cannot or will not walk away, you need only remember this. Writing is life. Breathe deeply of it.

Pg 196-197 of “Sometimes the Magic Works by Terry Brooks”

14 Comments

  1. Lol, that’s funny about the inattention. The same thing happens to me sometimes. Living in two different worlds…yeah, that pretty much sums it up! People may think you’re not all there (which is probably true, in a way), but then again those people probably aren’t writers, heh.

    Great post, Theresa!

  2. “If you do not ever wonder what happened to your characters after you stopped writing about the, you did not care enough about them in the first place and do not deserve to know.”

    Absolutely. That’s why I keep writing about them. I want to know what happens.

    And I agree with the next one, too. Do the best that you can do, and then let it go. Computers have made endless tweaking far more possible than it was with typewriters, but that doesn’t make it a good idea.

    1. T. S. Bazelli Author

      I always wonder, and I can see why some writers use the same world and characters over and over. As a reader, I get attached to the characters too. If there’s a sequel and my favorite characters aren’t in it, I usually feel a mild sense of disappointment.

      And yes, endless tweaking can be a disaster.

  3. I could never get into the Shannara books… I don’t know why, but they just didn’t quite work for me, even though I wanted them to. I was much younger then, too, so maybe they’d work better for me now that I’m older; I don’t know.

    But the writing book sounds interesting, at least. And the title seems very much like being a writer… because sometimes the magic of writing works, and everything comes together and it’s beautiful… and sometimes… it doesn’t.

  4. But what about writers like me, who don’t wonder about our characters when we stop writing because we know what happens next? They surprise me on the page, from event to event, but I always know where we’re going after this immediate break. We’re very good together like that. Or, they’re very good to me.

    1. Then I think you are very lucky, and they are very good to you. My characters usually go on with their lives without acknowledging my existence, so I often wonder and once in a while check up on them to see what they’re up to. I suppose this is why I’m always a little sad at the end of a novel, my time with them is up!

  5. Joelle

    Loved the original Shannara series. I re-read one of them until it literally fell apart. I’m going to see if my local library has Sometimes The Magic Works. Love the last one in the list. Thanks for reviewing this one.

  6. Kim

    I’ve never read Terry Brooks but all the quotes you pulled really resonate with me. Adding Sometimes the Magic Works to my reading list, thanks!

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