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Unicorn Sparkles

Are you a writing advice junkie? Well, quit reading those tips now and find your unicorn sparkles, because they are the only thing that works every time to produce literary genius.


In the picture above, Nux Gallica is playing with a pile of unicorns while hiding under my writing group colleague's desk to take a poop in her diaper. It's like a performance art piece about my work in progress.

In Nux's current favorite show, My Little Pony, the theme song introduces the half dozen main characters with their special gifts and talents and then says, "and magic makes it all complete." It's like that with a good novel, too. You can have all the basic elements--a talented and hardworking author, a solid plot structure, well crafted characters--and still end up with something that is just OK. The magic happens when you find that spark, that trigger, that fairy godmother dusting that sends you into The Zone.

The tricky thing is that each author's unicorn sparkles are different, and they can change with time and circumstances. In college, my unicorn sparkles were second-hand cigarette smoke and shots of espresso at midnight. I wrote the greatest shit (according to my liberal arts professors, anyway) in a haze of tobacco, insomnia, and vagabond ravings at a shady establishment off campus. Now, at age 30, all those things would just make me barf and fall asleep.

Unicorn sparkles can come to you in forms of pain, pleasure, excitement, or serenity. It depends on a complex interaction among who you are, what you're writing, and where you are in life and in your novel. Sometimes my unicorn sparkles are shock and sorrow. Sometimes they are sublime joy. They often come to me when the air is negatively charged (in the shower, during a rainstorm, by the fireplace, at a bonfire, or surrounded by candles). The sound of a bass guitar or cello may produce unicorn sparkles. For some authors, the sparkles can be summoned by caffeine; for others, a glass of wine or a cold beer. Dark chocolate never hurts.

The unicorn sparkles are capricious, but whatever works for one writer is bound to work for some others, some of the time. (Isn't that so for any bit of writing advice?) So please share: What are your unicorn sparkles?

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