Writing is hard work. The challenge of craft never seems to diminish. So I look for inspiration to keep going.
I’ve long admired Julianna Baggott. Her poems and novels have been threaded through my life. I often turn to her blog when I need something to boost my writing spirit or to help me see a new possibility.
In a post dated May 9, 2017, she turns the challenge of point of view. How and why first person can work in some situations and how and why third person is better than others. In this particular post, she pulls in the significance of humor. She shares this insight: “I should say that in first-person I always allow my characters to have a sense of humor — if nothing else than a realistic coping mechanism and how I personally process — and it can really high-jack a scene. I’m not saying that humor is bad in horror or thrillers or drama. The opposite. It’s necessary — for realism and, when used the right way, it’s a great counterpoint and it can make the scene even darker. But it can also fight you line by line, letting the reader off the hook, letting air out of the scene. One way to ease the effect is to go more retrospective. Past-tense and widen the time gap. This allows for a little softening of the lens, nostalgia, less flattening of the scene and more control of how it’s being read because of meddling from the narrator who has a stronger vantage point.”
In an earlier post, dated April 4, Baggott discusses the difference between form and formula especially as it relates to the novel. She writes, “And, look, structure is often something novelists do have to create by hand — and often it’s a brutal process of the story pushing its form into view. We have to chop through the jungle with machetes. But paths exist. They just do. We’re in the same jungle that other novelists have been through long before us. If you can start off as a writer on a path — in a structure that already exists — all the better. You can keep your eye on other things, like your sentences.”
So if you feel stuck in your writing or if you’re simply looking for a little inspiration, take some time with the writers you admire. Have they shared insight into the process? And if so, what can you take to breathe new life into your work and habits?