I always have about a squillion reasons for not beginning a new story as soon as it’s formed in my head. Firstly, when I start a new story, I’m enveloped in it. The whole process of setting everything up ‘just so’ is an obsession. As a result, I become a dreadful housekeeper, a vague wife and an impatient mother. I don’t want to clean the stove, listen to the football story or do school pick up. Dammit, I just want to WRITE.
The second reason for not starting straight away is a technical one. I like to have all my ducks in a row. I spend an age asking questions of my characters, poking holes in, then mending my plot. This makes me less bad at everything else than actually writing. Mostly it just makes me a bit vague. So I spend a lot of time on this phase.
My third reason is much darker and scarier. I’m always a little bit afraid of a new story. When it’s in my head, it’s a wonderful concept, everything about it is perfect, magical even. Actually writing it makes it real, which means it can be criticised and picked at–unless I do a really great job. And the fear is always that I might not do my job well enough.
As such, it was with great trepidation, that I sat down yesterday, to begin writing out the magical story in my head. Three thousand words later and I’m entranced, enchanted and in love. People tell you that every good story begins with a hook; what they don’t tell you, is that it’s you, the author who will be hooked first. This earliest phase, now that it’s here, is like the beginning of a love affair. So this is what I’m writing to tell you. If the first five thousand words don’t have you panting to get back to your keyboard and screen, then you’re writing the wrong story.
Later, when that first rush of blood to your head is over; when you get down to the daily grind and nitty gritty of living together, it can sometimes be a trial of persistence. But now, oh now, when my characters are new and rushing across the page, they startle even me, with their cleverness and charm. Now, when the setting is developing a scent and a vibe that fairly hums as it settles around the plot. Now when the plot is still a tantalising promise just peeking at me from between lines, I am truly, madly and deeply in love with this book.
That is how it should always be right at the very beginning. Wouldn’t you agree?