Saturday, November 17, 2012


     I had a student ask me how to begin her novel. She kept trying to begin it in different places and it wasn’t working. She’d tried and tried and tried.  She was discouraged. She felt lost.
     “Just end it,” I said.
     “It’s not as bad as all that,” she said.
     “You have to just end it,” I insisted.
     “No really. I’d prefer not to. I’m only nineteen.”
     “You have to it.”
     “I could always be a lawyer, ” she said.  “A lot of my friends are going to be lawyers.”
     “You can do this.”
     “I don’t want to die.”
     “The book,” I said.
     The above is a fictional dramatization, of course, because I’m a fiction writer and sometimes it’s just more fun to write the scene you want than what really happened. But the gist is there. Like a lot of writers this writer keeps starting over because she knows the beginning isn’t right and she’s worried about starting in the wrong place. But here ‘s the thing. We mostly start in the wrong place. It might be almost right or it might be very wrong. We can’t know until we get to the end. You have to just write it and then see what you have-- in my humble opinion.
     Here’s something else I’ve noticed being around writers and it is also something true of myself. Most writers write for years and years before they’re published. Most writers have written two or three or five or six unpublished manuscripts. Maybe you’ll be lucky and find your way faster. Maybe not. You learn how to write by writing and paying attention to what works and what doesn’t and doing more of the former and less of the later . YOU HAVE TO FINISH A NOVEL to finish a novel and learn from it and go on to the next. So don’t worry so much about the beginning. Worry about the end. You can do many things to improve your writing, but nothing will improve it more than finishing your work. End it.
     Or so I think today.