How to write fiction

.. I urge new writers to dive in. There is never a perfect time to write your novel, though writing students seem to believe there is. Begin today. That has been my consistent advice in the 20 or so years I’ve been writing, or teaching writing, or talking about writing. I can, of course, see the temptations of not beginning. Chiefly, not beginning sustains the belief that you are gifted, that the novel – when you one day get round to writing it – will surpass all others, that you will suffer no rejections, that it will be published at once and be thereafter visible in every bookshop you step into, that you will never suffer a bad review or sit at a dinner party and hear the question: “So, should I have heard of you?”

Not beginning protects you from the disappointment – no, shame – of reading what you have written and finding it rubbish. It also prevents you from an equally disturbing possibility: discovering that you can write. What then have you been doing all those years? Success or failure can both be avoided by never starting at all – this then is the spell that procrastination casts. How to step out from under it?

There is much anxiety created in new writers about writing the beginning of their novel, how the first line has to grab the reader’s attention, how they must open with a vivid scene or phrase, that kind of thing. Reading wonderful opening lines makes it look easy and implies that there is a formula for this – shock the reader by opening with: “Mother died today, or maybe yesterday, I don’t know” (Camus’s The Outsider), or stun them with lyrical virtuosity: “Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta.”

Whatever your level of experience, writing a novel usually feels like a series of false starts. When we begin the voice sounds wrong, the characters don’t “come through”, the tone is wrong, even the year and the place you’ve put them in, all feel wrong. But how can you, the writer, know these things, see them, until you’ve put words on the page, taken a look at them? This is drafting. Resisting producing a draft means not producing anything at all

read the complete piece by Jill Dawson here