Writing Your First Novel: Week 1

I had a feeling the first–and last–few weeks of writing a novel would be the most difficult. I was correct, and failed to make my weekly goal. Ideally, I would’ve written 4,000 words this week, but I wound up with 2,404. At least it’s more than half.

Here’s what I learned during Week 1.

Good News
The thing I always forget about writing is that once you actually start putting words on the page, unexpected things start to happen. It’s like magic. Ideas just pop into your head, seemingly out of nowhere, and a lot of the time, they’re pretty good ideas. Your brain will come up with details, twists, and directions for your story that you never would have thought of during your outlining or planning stages. It’s a nice surprise, every time it happens.

Struggling to define a character? Stop thinking about him, and write a page or two about him instead. Not sure how you’re going to begin or end a chapter? Open up your manuscript and start putting words on the page. They don’t have to be perfect; this is just your first draft.

Writing a novel, or any kind of fiction, shouldn’t always be like composing a carefully crafted piece of music. Sometimes, it should be like jazz. Give yourself permission to improvise a bit. You’ll be surprised at what your mind will come up with when it’s forced to keep creating sentences.

Bad News
Unfortunately, your first week of writing will also have some unique challenges. Mainly, that writing a first chapter is fraught with a thousand decisions. Choices you have to make about tone, voice, point of view, style, pacing, character introductions, and other things you don’t have to worry about when you’re just outlining the story.

Making all these decisions definitely slows you down. For example, even though my Week 1 word count was 2,404, I probably actually wrote three times that many words, and had to keep cutting sentences and paragraphs as I was struggling to answer those questions above.

But as they say, no writing time is wasted time. Despite all of those words I had to cut this week, I was still doing valuable work that will help me get to the final page. And while writing the rest of my novel will contain its own unique challenges, at least I know that I won’t have to make these same initial decisions again.

So. Am I discouraged about coming up short during my first week? A little bit. But I still found time to write over 2,000 words during a hectic period of time, and the first chapters of a book are always the most difficult. I know that later chapters will flow more quickly.

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