Starting is the hardest part
I have started my book a total of six times. Sometimes I tweak a detail or two, other times they are complete re-writes. Even after I did a brief outline and was so excited that I could see the main plot points, the beginning was still so hard to write. Now I have my beginning, I don’t know what took me so long. Words spewed onto the page, I really understood those people who said: “I let my characters steer the scene”. A lot of the scenes that led from that beginning weren’t in my outline but added so much depth to my main character. Happy with the progress I made, I stopped writing for the day, but when I tried to begin again, I struggled.
The momentum I felt before had gone, I re-read what I wrote and waited for my characters to speak. After a while of looking back and forth between my writing and my outline, ideas sparked. I then realised that it wasn’t starting a book that was hard, it was starting in general. I try and force ideas when really only my best emerge as I immerse myself into a scene and because I don’t have a lot of time during the day to write, this can be difficult. To try and conquer this I’ve tried to stop writing in the middle of an idea when the action is still happening. This way when I come back to write it gets me back into the scene quicker. It’s not 100% guaranteed, but it definitely works better than the ‘stop and start’ technique.
Don’t look back
When it comes to first drafts you kind of have to accept that it’s not going to be perfect. So don’t make it perfect. When I started, I used to study each paragraph, again and again, it slowed me down tremendously. I am planning to do NaNoWriMo this November, an event where you’re tasked with writing 50,000 words in a month. When you have that many words to write, with so little time, you just have to continue forward. You may hate what you’ve written, don’t think it works but this draft isn’t the place to re-work. Your first draft should just be the basis of your story. You have the second, third, fourth, fifth draft to make it perfect.
Be open to change
Now, this point is a bit more personal. If you’re a hard-core plotter who needs to stick to an outline you may not relate, but as the other points suggest I’m not. Your story is going to take you in a million directions, let it. Again the first draft isn’t to be perfect. If your story opens up an avenue that you didn’t think of before don’t be afraid to explore possibilities. My current work-in-progress is miles away from what I thought it was going to be and I don’t love it any less. Things may not plan out the way you want them to, you may have to cut some of your favourite scenes to fit the narrative but don’t see this as a negative. Everything you’re doing is strengthening your work in a way you couldn’t have possibly of planned for.