Those first words are critical, aren’t they? (Hell, I tried and tossed a dozen different sentences to start this post!}
The writing is easy enough. Describe a character. Outline the plot. Picture a setting with vivid details. Blow up a building.
There’s a difference, though, between driving around the neighborhood admiring the scenery — and setting out upon a Journey.
Have you ever taken one of those great drives? The kind where you lock up the house, pack a change of clothes, grab your Visa card or some cash, and GO.
North? Southwest? Down East? Doesn’t matter: It’s a Journey, capital J. Destination indefinite. Here’s your car, there’s a road, and everything else is “out there.” My mom loved those kinds of drives. Head out Saturday and come home Sunday.
Starting a novel is a lot like that, only scarier, mostly because of the distance.
How many novels have you started, but never finished? (“I refuse to answer on the grounds…”)
“I’ll write about 8 pages a day. That should do it.”
Want to know a secret?
Any successful novelist will tell you: “Set smaller goals.“
Here’s what my mom used to say: “Let’s find a nice diner for breakfast.” A small goal for the start of an all-day trip to … hmm, where? Well, to lunch after that, of course! “Keep going west. No, not on the Thruway, silly. Take the back roads.” Dinner and a motel would eventually follow.
Man, I loved those trips. Still do; still take ’em, even though Mom’s been gone for more than fifteen years.
Want to churn out a 100,000-word novel? Start small, with a sense of adventure.
“I’ll finish Page One, and live with it until I finish Chapter One.” And so on.
The late, great author Robert B. Parker (1932-2010: the Spenser for Hire series and much more), started out each workday with a goal. It was a simple goal: 6, 7, or 8 pages — depending. Never less than 6, nor more than 8. Once he’d met that goal, he was free to go back and edit/revise/slash/proofread, or mow the lawn. Whatever.
Parker wrote SEVENTY novels, no less than four series, spawned television shows and movies, and created a legacy so powerful that his work continues today under license by writers Brandman and Coleman.
“I’ll write about 8 pages a day. That should do it.” Yes, indeed.
Start writing. Set smaller goals.
And let The Journey begin. (And if your mom is still alive, give her a hug while you still can, okay?)
Do you have advice for getting started? This is the first in a series. I’d love to hear from you on this and related Novel Ideas. Share your ideas in Comments, just below.
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