What’s the best way to begin a novel?

All you need to write a novel is that first word. Figure it out, and then you’re off and running.

So you’re a writer.

And you want to be an author.

So you’re an author.

And you want to write the next book.

You have a story rolling around inside your head.

The story wants to be told.

You want to tell it.

You’ve done the research.

You have a list of characters.

You’ve nailed the plot together.

You know who falls in love, who gets jilted, who dies in the car crash in chapter fifty-four, and who runs away with the bride while the groom is still standing at the altar.

You know who dies and why she died and who committed the dastardly deed and who looks like he may get away with the perfect murder.

And you know why he won’t.

You know the mistake he made.

He doesn’t know it.

But you do.

So all that’s left is to sit down and write the story.

You stare at a blank screen.

Chapter One it says.

The story’s ready.

All it needs is that first word, and then you’re off and running.

But you can’t dig it out.

You can’t pull it out.

You can’t even find it.

The first word has fled.


It has nothing to do with your talent as a writer.

It has nothing to do with the story.

Most all writers are cursed with the same malady.

It’s all about fear.

You may be a beginner.

You may have a bestseller beside your name.

But writers are afraid of the first word.

And they’re afraid of writing the last word.

What if it’s the wrong word?

What if it’s boring?

What if it’s the wrong beginning?

What if it’s the wrong ending.

What if my hook doesn’t hook anybody?

What if the reader doesn’t like it?

As long as a book is not written, it can’t be rejected.

So we fret.

And we fuss.

We type in one word.

We hit delete.

We type in another.

For those who are beginning a novel, I only have nine words of advice.

If you remember nothing else, please remember these nine words:

Don’t worry about it.

Just write the damn story.

A man much wiser than I am explained the dilemma so I could always remember the solution.

It’s not like brain surgery, he said.

You don’t have to get it right the first time.

That’s the beauty of writing.

Then again, I whipped the problem a long time ago.

I begin every novel with the second word.


I began Back Side of a Blue Moon this way:

EUDORA DURANT KNEW there must be a hundred or more good ways of dying, some better than others, some worse, and she wondered why she had insisted on taking the slowest path possible to the grave. She couldn’t blame anyone for her lot in life. All she had to do was look in the cracked mirror beside her bed from time to time, and she knew where the blame fell, and it landed squarely on her shoulders.

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