Starting yet another novel for Nano this year has reminded me how very much I hate beginnings. Somewhere out there, I have no doubt, is an author whose first lines are always poignant and gripping on the first try, whose characters spring fully formed from their fingertips. I am not that author and neither are a lot of us.
Every time I start a new novel I am surprised again by how difficult it is to start. Surely, at some point, it must become easier, but if that’s true than it hasn’t happened yet.
There’s a lot of articles out there extoling the art of writing a novel. Many people set out to try and write a novel. Not everyone gets there. It’s so easy to get bogged down at the beginning and try to get it perfect before moving on.
Perhaps one of the most important things Nano taught me was to keep pushing through the crap. I am not good at beginnings. I know that. I feel like my characters are awkward and stiff, no matter whether this is the first book with them or the fifth. My dialogue is cheesy and my descriptions feel forced. When I release novels to my betas, I always cringe because they’re going to see that horrible prose first.
But hey, here’s the thing. Beginnings end. Eventually you get out into smoother waters. The characters settle into themselves, your plot starts flowing seemingly without your help, cool things start happening. I feel bad for the people who can’t get past their beginnings. People who, for whatever reason, get so bogged down by their own quest for perfection that they never get to see where the story goes.
So, for those of you who have recently started a novel and are bemoaning the amount of crap that seems to be springing forth – stick with it. Yes, it’s hard. Yes, it’s bad. But it will get better, it will get easier, and you may go back (when the draft is done) and find that maybe it wasn’t quite as bad as you thought it was.
And if it is as terrible as you feared, well, that’s why God invented editing.
Just don’t give up on yourself. Then you have nothing.