Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Facing the first page of your novel - have no fear

How to banish the fear of the blank page and the first word

Many articles talk about writers facing a blank page with fear. I suppose the idea is to let us know we all face hurdles when we write.

There is a meme about Humpty dumpty. It’s a title over a crashed Humpty that reads: What if Humpty dumpty were pushed?

What if the fear of starting a new book is a myth?


What if that first word is not fearful, but exciting to write?

To turn the fear of starting to excitement for a new story, try these. Start before the first word, before the first sentence, and use tools, not rules to launch your story.

First, to face the blank page without fear, warm up. Athletes warm up before races or sports matches. Writers can warm-up before starting the first draft.

Free-fall writing is warm-up for writers.

  • Brainstorming on the page is non-threatening.
  • Interviewing your characters on the page is making new friends.
  • Designing a setting is creative and with a diagram or mind map is fun.
  • Staging a what-if problem for the main character can be diabolically satisfying.

Backed up by a collection of brainstormed ideas, I find starting the first draft easier. I dig into my scribblings and diagrams for details, character traits, and the goal of the protagonist. Therefore, the first draft becomes a re-organizing of what I have freely and joyously set down in previous warm-up writings.

Second, remember that first word or sentence is ‘just for now.’ That which you can change, need not be feared.

  • When cleaning the house putting an item in one place “just for now” is not a good idea and can lead to more clutter. However, putting down a first word 'just for now' is perfectly legal and actually a damn good idea.

 Third, rename that surge of adrenalin. The physiology of fear and excitement is the same. 

  • Name the surge of adrenalin excitement, not fear, as you put the first word, the first sentence on the blank page. Excitement trumps fear.

Retrain your brain to help you. When those first words are on the page, celebrate, punch the air, and congratulate your brain as you WRITE ON.

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