Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Day One Drama

A few days ago I started a new book. This isn't something I do often, as I write novels for the most part, and I can only juggle a couple at a time. So, day one of a new book is a big day. By which I mean, a bad day. Most writers would agree that rewriting is far easier than writing. But when you're starting a book, there's nothing to build on, nothing to improve, just a blank page.

So, that first line of the book, after all the research has been done and the noodling around with plotlines, and the various windy treatments, how do you do it? For me, it's akin to jumping off a cliff, which I haven't actually done, but I assume it feels the same. You stand on the edge for awhile, terrified, and then, knowing you have to do it, close your eyes and jump. In many ways this sounds easier than writing that first paragraph. Because more often than not what happens is that I dive into the writing, hoping and praying that something worth salvaging will emerge, and nothing does. The first attempts are awful and get erased immediately, leaving me with nothing, once again.

And then the self-flaggelating sets in. But since I've played this game with myself many times, I know somewhere deep inside it's all part of my perverse process, so I go back to the computer and try again. Eventually I craft a tiny foothold, a sentence or two that work, and from there I am able to claw my way forward. I know this all sounds very dramatic, but the truth is, that's the way it feels. I can't imagine I'm alone here.


  1. You are definitely not alone.

    I really need a good beginning to get me going. Even if it's just one good sentence. Something that sets the tone and pulls me in as the writer.

    I often try to end my writing day in the middle of some piece of action, or at least knowing what will happen next. If I don't, I have that same empty feeling starting off the next day. That, okay -- what do I do now? kind of feeling. I hate that.

  2. I think we'd all agree that beginning to craft a new beginning IS dramatic.

    My problem is I obsess endlessly over those first two or three sentences and have to force myself to move on.

  3. Even with short PBs, it can be very hard to get started! I tell myself to just get anything down and I can fix it later, but often I can't seem to nail the first line no matter how many drafts I go through.

  4. I'd rather revise my current project forever than start a new one. I think I'm headed in that direction, actually. ;-)

  5. All I've been doing lately is starting a new project! But you guys have heard this complaint of mine enough now....

    I'm going to press on. If I don't, I'm not going to have anything new to blog/talk about. What a bore!

  6. Starting is usually easy for me as I tend to come up with opening sentences before I ever have a plot or even a story. It's revising that I have trouble doing.

  7. How about coming up with a super title with nada to back it up?

    As I work on something else, I've been pondering that problem for a few weeks now.

  8. Your perverse process sounds similar to mine, Valerie, so you are definitely not alone. If it's a story that's been in my head for awhile that first leap is particularly scary. It's always better in my head! Then again, the middle and the end are pretty scary too. Yep, pretty much terrified during the whole process.

    Why do we do this again? :)