Tuesday, April 25, 2017

“Novel Beginnings: Stuck Before Even Getting Started”

“It was a dark and stormy night …” (a tried and true opening for sure, and just as oft-played)

The novel idea has been fleshed out, the research done, the writing utensils prepped (for those of us who prefer paper before processor). But the first page remains blank. For some time. Just … blank.

In the midst of writing Broken Benevolence, I paused to turn back to the beginning, staring at the opening lines with a bit of wonder. I know how it starts (fans will too in the near future), but the wonder came with actually seeing … that I started the book (the third in the Dr. Naomi Alexander series).

Writing that opening sentence can be the hardest part of writing a novel; it's a form of writer's block all its own. I utilize an outline, and while that may help with the meat of the story. I still struggle with putting that first sentence down. The options for beginning a story are varied and numerous. Should I start with a description of the setting, or maybe some dialogue? Begin with some backstory narrative, or right in the heart of the action? What about having the main character …?

Any one or even combinations of those options could work (if done right), and so the page stays blank for just a little longer.

Inevitably, my outline helps me get going. I may still pause at getting that first sentence started, but referring to my outline helps me do the one thing necessary: write something. That first sentence may not even make the cut, but it’s enough to keep the pen flowing over the page, or the keyboard clacking away. The same can be said about starting new chapters, but the 'anxiety' is different and not quite as intense.

The feeling that comes when that first sentence (or two) of a novel kicks off, though, is akin to a mild high as 'the Zone' approaches, and the dark, stormy night becomes a bright and sunny day.

Broken Benevolence is scheduled for a Christmas 2017 release.
Click on my logo for more about the Dr. Naomi Alexander novels, or visit www.sfpowellbooks.com.

Engaging, commercial fiction for grownups.