In the Beginning: Starting to Write a Novel

I finished writing my fourth novel several months ago, and I feel as if I should be starting another one. After all, a writer writes, right?

I have a synopsis and a great hook, but I just can’t get into the story. I don’t know who my characters are or why anyone, including me, should like them. I am bored by the minutiae of their ordinary lives and I want to jump right into the extraordinary times that are coming, but I need the preamble to set up the story. I suppose I could start with the last chapter as Margaret Mitchell did for Gone With the Wind, and work my way toward the beginning, but my linear mind would rebel. Or I could start with a violent scene to get my adrenaline going. Books that start with violence sell better than ones that begin more passively, anyway.

I tell myself that, good or bad, I should just get the story down on paper and worry about rewriting later. Then I remember that it’s hard for me to find any words, so they need to be good.

Starting to write a novel is always difficult, even for professionals like Mary Higgins Clark who have been writing for decades. She admitted in an interview that it never gets easier. But still she writes.

Perhaps if I were writing for publication as she does, I would be motivated. There is nothing like the threat of having to return an advance to keep a writer churning out the words. I am not writing for publication yet, and I already have four unpublished novels packed away in the dusty reaches of my computer. Adding another seems pathetic.

So what’s the alternative? Blogging. It satisfies my writing urge, the posts are short and don’t require a big commitment of my time, and I don’t need to create interesting characters.

Characters are the key to a good beginning. Once you know who they are and what they want, they can help drive the story. But the only way to learn who they are and what they want is to write them. It’s a vicious circle.

For now, I’ll stick to blogging.

3 Responses to “In the Beginning: Starting to Write a Novel”

  1. nomananisland Says:

    Why not blog a character? It will help you with thinking about personality, motivation, history, yet you won’t have to worry about where the story is going, and it won’t have the pressure of having to write a whole book.

    Because just blogging the events of your own life/thinking isn’t really helping you write better prose, now is it? There’s a difference between writing your own life well, and writing good fiction.

  2. Bertram Says:

    I don’t really blog about my life, just my writing life, which helps me figure out how to write. It does help with my prose, but it doesn’t help with creating a fictional world — that uses a completely different part of my brain.

    I like your idea about blogging a character, but would anyone be interested?

  3. sonjanitschke Says:

    Personally, I’ll read anything that’s interesting and well-written.

    I particularly find the idea of a character blog fascinating. It’s like…the best of both worlds!

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