The first words are the hardest
About a month or so ago, I wrote ‘The End’ on book number three, The Marriage Lie, and sent it on to my editor. It didn’t take me all that long to write the book — only five months, which in the fiction-writing world, is pretty zippy, actually — but those months were beyond stressful. I’d just walked away from a manuscript after 70,000 hard-earned words, and without pausing to breathe or process, jumped right into the next story. I desperately needed a break.
So break I did. I called my mom and had long lunches with all the friends I’d been neglecting. I went to to the spa and signed up for a 30-day challenge at my yoga studio. I lounged on the couch and read books in the middle of the day. I did a lot of nothing.
After a couple of weeks, I caught myself staring out the window, daydreaming of characters and settings and plot lines. I started hearing snippets of dialogue and seeing bits of scenes play out across my mind. After only a couple of weeks, I was already tired of doing nothing, restless to start a new story.
But I’m also kind of terrified.
When you’re writing, you’re pretty much married to your story. You think about it in the shower, when you’re cooking, when you’re out with friends and one of them says the perfect line. Even when you’re not thinking about your story, your subconscious is still chugging along, and I can tell you from experience, it’s as exhausting as it is rewarding when you get it right.
So while five months is a short time to write a whole story, it’s also a hella long time to spend with characters you don’t love, plugging up a plot full of holes. Do I love these new imaginary people enough to spend a good part of a year with them? Do I think they have something valuable to say, a compelling story to tell? Yes. No. Who the heck knows? Not me, that’s for sure; I’ve been so wrong before.
Lots of people think ‘The End’ are the hardest words to write because of all the words that come before. Ask any author, and they’ll tell you the opposite is true. By the time you’re closing in on the end, the words often flow faster than you can type them. It’s the blank page that’s the most daunting, that first sentence that cramps up the fingers. One of my writer friends compared starting a new story to jumping off a cliff with your eyes closed. You don’t know what will happen or where you’ll land.
You just have to trust the process.
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