Why Is It So Hard to Start?
I like writing. I must. In the last thirty-some years I’ve turned out more than a dozen novels, a few novellas, and quite a few short stories. I figure I’ve likely produced more than a million words all totaled.
And yet, every time I sit down to work on a story, something inside resists getting started. It’s almost like there’s an invisible wall I have to break through to get rolling. I had trouble even getting to work on this blog post. Why is that?
I really do like writing. Translating thoughts, ideas, weird notions, and particularly all those stories rolling around in my head into words gives me tremendous satisfaction. But none of that makes it easy to start.
The resistance reminds me of what I feel as I start to exercise. My body seems to say, “NO. Don’t want to get up out of the chair. Don’t want to get moving. It’s too much trouble. Too much work.” But of course, once I get going, it feels good and I’m glad I started.
The same with writing. My brain seems to resist the effort of gathering the words. Once I really get started and the words start flowing, I enjoy the process. It’s the getting going that sometimes almost defeats me.
I’ve developed a few tricks along the way.
Reviewing what I wrote the previous day and usually making some minor tweaks or edits helps me dive into the world of the story and pick up the thread.
Computer games like Candy Crush and a few Solitaire card games are a weakness of mine, so I use them to motivate myself. I buy a round of whatever game I’m playing with writing a sentence of whatever I’m working on. One sentence gets me one round of whatever I’m playing. The next sentence buys me another round, etc. Usually after four or five, the writing is rolling and I’ll change the stakes to a paragraph or a hundred words for another round.
Another thing that sometimes works is to set myself a time limit and a goal. I’ll sit down and set a timer for fifteen minutes and challenge myself to write a hundred words (or more) in that space.
Most of the time one or more of those tricks will get things rolling and the writing will start to move. I strive for 500 words a day for the first half of a novel and a 1,000 words a day for the second half. On occasion, though, I have to keep up the one sentence, one game thing for the entire time I’m writing.
I used to worry that the strain would show in the writing. But then I heard another author talk about how sometimes writing can be very hard for her while at other times the words just gush. And she pointed out that readers generally can’t tell which parts of the book are where the words were flowing and which sentences had to be plucked from your brain, kicking and screaming, one word at a time.
I’ve read a lot of books. And she’s right. I can’t tell.
When Cathy Bennett agrees to attend an important party as a favor for her boss, she knows she won’t enjoy it. But she doesn’t expect to end up holding a dying man in her arms and becoming the recipient of his last message. Bobby Stark has evidence that will prove his younger brother has been framed for arson and murder. He wants that evidence to get to his brother’s lawyer, and he tries to tell Cathy where he’s hidden it. But he dies before he can give her more than a cryptic piece of the location.
The man who killed Bobby saw him talking to her and assumes she knows where the evidence is hidden. He wants it back and he’ll do whatever it takes to get it, including following her and trying to kidnap her.
Cathy enlists the aid of attorney Peter Lowell and Danny Stark, Bobby’s prickly, difficult younger brother, as well as a handsome private detective to help her find the evidence before the killers do.
Karen McCullough is the author of more than a dozen published novels in the mystery, romantic suspense, and fantasy genres and has won numerous awards, including an Eppie Award for fantasy. She’s also been a four-time Eppie finalist, and a finalist in the Prism, Dream Realm, Rising Star, Lories, Scarlett Letter, and Vixen Awards contests. Her short fiction has appeared in several anthologies and numerous small press publications in the fantasy, science fiction, and romance genres. She lives in Greensboro, NC, with her husband of many years.