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Starting a novel: Granite or fun house?

Today’s post: the mental state of being at the front-end of the novel. I love the start of novels. It may be the only time I can say I am unabashedly happy as a writer. Other times I may be confidant, poised, satisfied, or happily resigned. But there is only one sequence when I am in love: At the beginning.

Other authors do not love beginnings. Mary Higgins Clark has said:

“The first four months of writing a book, my mental image is scratching with my hands through granite.”

In contrast to this–quite common, I believe–writing experience is mine:

Springtime at Giverny - Monet

Springtime at Giverny – Monet

“The first hundred pages or so, my mental attitude is that of being lost in a fun house–no, not lost, more staggering from one wonder to another”

Once I have a general plot and I know my novel’s theme and major characters, it’s as though a door opens, and here is a world that was always present, people who have always existed, and a truth I’ve been waiting to tell. It’s the miracle of fiction writing, that the mind weaves lies which become the truest thing we know.

The first hundred pages can be tad exasperating, it’s true. There are many side paths which look germane, but which really are other books. Not this book. One might take a few steps in, and then realize, no, that’s not my story. So beginnings are largely about choices. We must choose from an embarrassment of riches. We must not gorge, indulge or be swept away by possibilities. Well, perhaps some of this on the first draft. But we know in our hearts that we must later, cut, cut, cut.

The first hundred or hundred and fifty pages are a time of intense creative fire and at times, joy. I know that I’m being shown a tremendous story, and that inevitably, I will get only some of it right. But nothing in my life quite matches the pleasure of getting to try, and watching the book come to life on the page.

And after?

Oh, that is another story. There will be granite and a small portion of boredom… Another post!


Ways into Worldbuilding interview series: Stand by for next Wednesday’s interview with Kristine Kathryn Rusch!


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