All summer I've been scribbling in my lovely Clairefontaine spiral notebook. All year I've been researching angles and pasting info into my computer journal. Now fall is here and the moment of truth has arrived.
How the hell am I going to start my novel?
This should be easy. I've published seven novels and have five more in a drawer. I've finished lots of them and am not afraid of the process. So why is this so difficult? Is it possible that knowing how to write a novel is no longer my problem and that now I am putting pressure on myself to actually write a really great novel?
Yes. That is entirely, succinctly possible. In fact it is true. I want to write something better than I've written before. I want to write something that is layered, and exciting, and full of quirky, bigger-than-life characters. I want to write something suspenseful and fast-moving yet meaningful and touching, something you can't put down and makes you cry.
Crikey. What a hole I've dug for myself. Remember that green dreck first draft you (I am now talking to myself, which is blogging in a nutshell) used to write? Remember that the magic comes in revision? Remember that the chances of you writing a novel that is fabulously successful in every way (literary, commercial, and personal) are a crap shoot on a par with winning at PowerBall?
Over the summer I have been reading about other writers' outlining tricks and tips. Hence the lovely notebooks and a couple of trial versions of outlining software (both of which have expired unexplored). I have tried outlining, believe me. I have tried almost everything, including Sue Grafton's technique of keeping a daily computer journal of the entire novel, and writing in it before going to the manuscript each day. All of these tips are handy. But they aren't mine. If I was a more organized person with a completely rational mind I'd no doubt be a more productive writer. But I wouldn't be me, and that's all I can be. I am a person whose outlines can be done, but they don't work. I am a person who is an organic writer, who trusts in intuition, who knows the end of the book and several plot points but can't plot out everything ahead of time. I am a person who doesn't know exactly what a book is about until she writes it.
And that is that. Just start the thing. Use the notes. Make notes for more research later. Find the heart of the story, find the soul of the character, find your voice.
Just go. GO.