As the woman once said, a beginning is a very delicate time. I’m all too aware of how true that is. I judge books quickly. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, on the first few pages. More often, by the first few sentences. So a beginning is not to be rushed into. So when I first had the idea for a fantasy novel, I decided to plan it. I figured out the plot, the background and the world. I fleshed out the characters and read lots of books that I thought would be relevant or helpful. But that planning process is seductive. It keeps whispering: “Just a few more weeks”, “You should think about the plot more” or “You can’t possibly start until you’ve read that book.”

Planning forever means that the writing will never start. Sometimes that doesn’t sound so bad. After all, the idea of the novel is perfect and untarnished by reality. And the fear of the blank page is a very real thing. It can only be conquered by writing on it.

Once I’d decided it was time to start writing, I nearly fell into the next trap: the set-up. I needed to sort my computer out so I wouldn’t be distracted, get an alarm that would wake me but not my girlfriend, read over all my notes, et cetera and so forth. Just like planning, the set-up is mostly a procrastination tool.

Just as the beginning of the novel is important, so is the beginning of writing a novel. But if the writing never begins, neither will the novel. And, let’s face it, none of us can think of a good novel without a beginning. Sometimes you have to ignore delicacy and just do it.

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