Therese here to introduce you to our newest contributor, bestselling novelist Julianna Baggott. This is her first official post with us. Welcome, Julianna!
I recently confessed to a poet friend who’s writing her first novel my secret to writing a first novel – the brilliant accidental loophole that I found on my first try.
The background is that I never wanted to write novels – not at the beginning. I was a short story writer, but an agent had read one of my stories in a magazine and asked me if I was working on a novel. I lied and said I was working on a novelized version of the story he liked so much. It wasn’t so much a lie as it was an automatic truth. An agent was interested in a story of mine? Yes, I was novelizing it. He asked for the first fifty pages. I told him it’d take a month to polish them. I wrote them and sent them. My plan was that he’d love the first fifty pages so much he’d send me a contract and he’d be obliged to sell my short story collection. I would pretend to finish said novel for the rest of my career. That’s not how it worked out.
As of next month, I’ll have published 19 books; none of them is a short story collection.
In retrospect, it’s probably accurate to say that the only way I’d have ever written a novel is with no intention of doing so. Because I only had to write the first fifty pages of a novel I never had to finish, I got out of writing the opening of my first novel. I never had to have that incredible courage. I had a cocky courage of another variety – perhaps handed down to me by my maternal grandfather, a pool-hall hustler – but not the real stuff. I never had to summon the bravery to say: And now, I will write the first sentence of my novel. And now I will conclude the first paragraph of my novel. And now, there is the first chapter. I never had to see the whole thing in my head. I never had to worry that I couldn’t see the whole thing in my head. I only had to write – one sentence to the next, scene upon scene , a story that felt like you wanted to read on, a first fifty pages of undeniable … promise.
I only had to promise. I didn’t have to deliver. [Read more…]