On Getting Started

Insecurity quote
Photo via Noel Shiveley and Alex McDonell


Last week I mentioned that I reached a milestone in my novel and I was honestly shocked. It took me soo long to get the nerve up to take the plunge and start writing, and when I finally started it wasn’t nearly as scary as I thought it would be.


I feel kind of weird about giving advice for starting a novel/ big creative project — like a college freshman trying to advise the wee high school students — but I was too scared to start for a really long time, which is a little different than the stories you usually hear.


I’ve read several authors who talk about the failed novel(s) moldering on an external hard drive somewhere, and how they had to write a bunch of crappy novels before they wrote a good one. I… didn’t do that. I have notebooks full of character descriptions, plot outlines, and even some snippets of writing, but they were all abandoned before I really wrote anything. (They were all terrible, so it isn’t really a bad thing.) But it was super intimidating to start a novel knowing that I had tried and failed (abysmally) so many times before.


So I waited. I changed my plot outline about 5,000 times. (Seriously, anyone who was in my creative writing class where I wrote the first scene would hardly recognize it now.) I read blog posts about world building. I made a ton of secret Pinterest boards, with everything from characters to setting ideas. But by far the thing that helped me the most was reading different authors’ blogs.


No matter what kind of project you’re working on, there’s probably a blogger who’s doing it too. Which is great. Gradually I found a bunch of blogs that would give sort-of pep talks: Just go ahead and start. Don’t listen to your inner critic. It’s ok if the first draft is terrible — as long as it’s on the page. At the time I felt overwhelmed by the call to arms, but I really needed every single kick in the pants I read to get me up and moving.


Some links that were helpful when I needed a push to start writing:


Cassandra’s 12 Ways to Start Writing Again


If you haven’t read Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, you need to beg/borrow/steal a copy today. And if you don’t want to take my word for it, take Abbigail’s.


Chuck Wendig’s:


Ashley Brooks’:

Do you draw/ paint/ sculpt/ scrapbook? A Beautiful Mess is always an encouraging place to look for new project ideas, and Elsie Larson’s 10 Reasons to Give Scrapbooking a Chance is particularly encouraging


One of my favorite places for writing advice is newsletters — Ashley Brooks’, Austin Kleon’s, Amber from Mr. Thomas & Me are some of my favorites. I look forward to the days they’ll show up in my inbox.

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