Whether you are starting your first novel, or your fifth, there is always the question of where to begin. Some people outline and have a specific idea about where they think their tale takes form. Others fly by the seat of their pants, allowing the story to just flow out of them.
Whichever camp you belong to, one thing usually holds true: getting those first lines down can be difficult. The beginning is where you grab your reader by the throat, hoping they hold on for the ride through the very last word. Knowing those first couple of paragraphs, pages, chapters have to be solid can create anxiety for even the most seasoned writer.
It is this anxiety that keeps even the best of writers from starting their next book. It’s the “what ifs” and “maybe I don’t have another one in me” that keeps us from sitting down at the computer. Keeps our hands hovering over the keyboard. The truth is, it’s pretty much like performance anxiety. It’s that all-consuming pressure to outdo the last project, and that worry alone can make even the best of us crawl into a corner and do a little rocking and quiet mumbling.
What I want to say to any and every writer today is that you are NOT alone. We have all been there-heart pulsing, palms sweating, worrying whether you have that ability to create a first great line again. Start your first chapter off with a bang. It’s all a part of what this job is about- the doubt, the worry. You as a writer, an artist, a creator, are bound to have these fears. The key is to accept all of it and then put it aside. Say, “okay, I know you’re there,” but you write no matter how crappy the words are because we all have to start somewhere.
Those novels you loved, the classics, the bestsellers, most of them started out with horrible first lines, first paragraphs, first pages (and the writer probably acknowledged that) but they continued to push forward. They allowed the story to be written. Then once it was done, their real craft came into play. The tearing and twisting. The pushing, pulling, and dissecting of the story before it went to readers, agents, or editors.
For me as a writer acknowledging the fear and worry spurs me along. The doubt is like a quiet taunt, urging me to fight back. Prove that I do indeed have another story in me. It’s this challenge that has me staring at a blinking cursor this morning and saying to myself, “Come on, Amy, you can do it. The book is there. Just be brave enough to put the words on the page.”
So as I hit that first key, I feel like a warrior challenging the Doubt Dragon. Slaying that incredible beast known as insecurity. For in this moment, I have a story to tell, and nothing, not even my own worry, can hold me down. This moment is my truth, and in order to push on, I have to believe in my craft. My ability to weave a whisper in my head into a story on the page. It’s a challenge, but I know I have it in me.
Fellow writers, how do you tackle doubt surrounding a new project? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.