Thursday, August 15, 2013

Writing 101: Starting is the Hardest Word...

Those who follow me on Twitter know that I watch The Golden Girls late at night. One of my favorite moments is depicted in the clip below, where Blanche says she's got writer's block...because she hasn't written anything at all. Dorothy tells her that you have to have written something to have writer's block -- otherwise, everyone's got it. But I know what Blanche means, because I've sat and stared at blank screens a lot.


Blank

For me, starting any project is the hardest part. I compile research, I envision plots, I carefully plan outlines...and then, I sit. I stare at the screen. I think about that first line. I let my mind wander; I try to snap my focus back into place. The dance could go on indefinitely, in some cases, if I let it. 

A lot of emphasis is placed on the first line of any book. Join any forum group, and you'll often see it as a thread. The first line is the subject of articles, blog posts, conversation and obsession. No pressure, or anything, but you're expected to come up with an amazing first line. Not just good, mind you, but sensational. Some readers believe that the better the first line, the better the book.

This is how writers get blocked...before they even write a single word. This is why I stop, and start again, and erase, and go back, and eventually just write whatever feels right to me. This is how you defeat the blank page curse: stop caring. The best first lines are natural, and flow easily into the rest of the story. If you think about it too much and obsess over it, you're going to end up like Blanche...staring at egg yolks inside a plastic bag.


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