Fiction Novel Writing… Begins With The First Sentence, First Word.


After five years, I have finally decided to devote my time and attention to the fiction novel idea that has been rattling about in the back of mind. It isn’t the first idea I’ve carried about; I’ve wanted to write a novel since… well, like anyone destined to write, the desire to do begins when first mastering letters. I remember the brownish, lined paper of kindergarten and first grade. Our stories then were only one or two sentences, but we hung them on the frig, we made pictures to accompany them, and if we were lucky, our parents saved them for us to enjoy years later (thanks, mom.)

Over the years, I’ve tried many approaches to novel writing. The novel is an enormous undertaking and I can say from experience the very last thing you want to do is simply sit down and begin to write. A plan, a structured outline is absolutely a must. Over time, the acknowledgement of story structure, the elements of drama and a vision for pace and detail must all be explored and acknowledged. We have to know who our characters are and be honest with them, have them do only the things that are true to them.

So, now I have Dramatica, the most amazing teaching tool ever to be created in the guise of writing software. It is enormously helpful for planning a story and ensuring that storypoints will appear at the right time and place from the perspective of your characters and their activities. It has helped me define who my characters really are, and has helped me to create new ideas for conflict and resolution and has urged me to get to understand my main characters so intimately that I ultimately changed the gender of my protagonist and began the story the day after her mother’s funeral–the very same mother who was not too long ago an important player in my story. Dramatica has helped me to realize she did not have the voice I thought she would. It has helped me to funnel that character’s contribution to another who could better move the plot, alter the course of my characters’ goals and outcomes. Hey, it also helped me figure out where I was getting fantastical and dial it down a little.

At any rate, I’m embarking on Act I, Scene I, and it is a tough climb. I am besieged with doubt. I’m worrying too much about the value of my first scene–I know in the back of my mind it will be the benchmark for my story, the pages most often/likely read by prospective agents and publishers and I am obsessing over every last word and turn of phrase instead of flowing freely, getting these long-held ideas out and free to deliver the story they were meant to. I must cut myself slack–I absolutely know this is the initial draft, that in time I will be poring over it, updating, editing, gathering feedback and criticism and revising, so I need to just let go and have fun. Just in the moments I have written this post, there are already more than 500 words. It should not tax me an hour to create only 100 words in my novel! I’m aiming for about 2,850 words per chapter, and at this point I’ve got 1,176 and a nervous tummy.

To all writers and would-be novelists today, I offer unleashed creative freedom. I offer softness, uninhibited expression. I offer fun. I cannot give these unless I have them myself, so together we will write.