Last week I broke down and after much reluctance and resistance, I joined Twitter. It felt a bit like standing on the outside of a playground cluster at a new school where they speak a new language, wondering how to participate in the conversation. And then I found a few friendly followers, and looked up a writer who had contacted me about her upcoming book, and found this fabulous blog post retweeted by another author from Julianna Baggott. As someone who is just finishing a year of homeschooling and book touring with my three Hoffspring, I'm a sucker for people who drag their kids all over the world in the name of research and writing. I loved this post, and lost several hours to digging around on her blog and ordering her books and disappearing into the prolific and witty world of Baggott, Asher and Bode.
I am so grateful to Twitter and SheWrites for building the forums where we writers can share our stories and wisdom. I am happy to introduce Julianna Baggott, writing under her pen name Bridget Asher, and her new novel THE PROVENCE CURE FOR THE BROKENHEARTED.
Bon Mots from Julianna Baggott
Writing Tip #17 for Aspiring Writers – or #47 or #2. Your pick.
Hint. Circle. Reveal. This is something I teach. Make mention of something -- "that was before the fire" -- then circle it -- "She looked different after the fire. There were the burns on her hands but also a different look in her eyes. -- and then reveal. Tell the story of the fire.
You can also do this backwards. You reveal the entire story up front. Circle back to it -- you've invested in the creation of the image and your character has been stained by it so let it come back to the character and the reader. Hint at it, once more, at the end.
Tell us a tale from the publishing world – something, ANYthing about that process from your perspective.
The longer I'm in this business the more I acknowledge that I don't know why some books hit and others don't. I always go to bat for my books once they're out in the world. I push them along every way I know how, but there's only so much that can be done. The rest is mysterious. Sorry. Not really a tale.
Pep talk (or bootie-kicking) for the downhearted writer. Let fly.
I was in a room with two other novelists -- high accomplished ones. We were waiting for someone to arrive. We sat there. All of us very tired. One said, "Writing novels is hard." The other two nodded, and then one of them said, "We could talk nonstop for two weeks and talk about why, but, in fact, that's all that needs to be said." So that was it.
I hope this helps. It is hard. It's brutal to try to extend a lie for 300-some pages, to know your characters deeply, to see the world with fresh eyes and relate it to the reader.
Hard. Hard. Hard.
What's your worst writerly habit?
I still will write a scene. Things will happen. My character will live it, but not really experience it. I still write first drafts with a main character who's more of a camera (a witness, a writerly look at the world) than a real character. I always have to go back and add a layer where the character reacts to whats going on -- not just going along with it.
Research. We all have to do it. Sometimes it’s delicious, sometimes brutal. Tell us a tale from the research trenches.
I love research -- mainly because it manhandles plot. It doesn't let you do what you want to do. It bumps you up against history. I love anything that takes me as the author out of authority. It also gives story -- history is filled with narrative. Being true to it means not inventing but imagining. A relief.
What project of yours was the easiest writing of your life? And, flip-side, which one was the most like wrestling bears? (And could you tell before you started or did they turn on you, for better or worse?)
Each novel teaches you how to write it -- just as each of my children have taught me how to raise them.
And I never know what novel is going to turn into a bear wrestling match until I'm deep in it. THE PROVENCE CURE FOR THE BROKENHEARTED terrified me. I had no idea how the second half of the novel was going to work out. My characters held all kinds of secrets, many of which (and some huge ones) they weren't sharing with me. And yet it was great to write because I developed a new way for me to process the narrative -- a matching of real-life events fictionalized to epiphanies/insights put into a path of rising action. It was really fascinating to work in a new way. Liberating.
BIO: Julianna Baggott is the author of seventeen books, most recently THE PROVENCE CURE FOR THE BROKENHEARTED under her pen name Bridget Asher, as well as THE PRETEND WIFE and MY HUSBAND’S SWEETHEARTS. She’s the bestselling author of GIRL TALK and, as N.E. Bode, THE ANYBODIES TRILOGY for younger readers. Her essays have appeared widely in such publications as The New York Times Modern Love column, Washington Post, NPR.org, andReal Simple. You can visit her blog at http://bridgetasher.blogspot.com/ and her website at www.juliannabaggott.com.