Twelve books later, it’s still like getting myself psyched up to run outside on a cold winter day. I find a million reasons not to. Inertia’s a bear. I’m talking about starting a book. Ideas spring up around me like weeds. I can outline and scribble notes endlessly. But actually writing the guts of the book? The first ten thousand words are ALWAYS the hardest.

So every time I start writing a new book, my house gets cleaned, I repaint a room, revamp a web site, overhaul the garden. Great ways to stay busy — and yet not really be productive.

Why the struggle? Because once I really commit to a novel, I realize how hard it is. How emotionally draining it can be. How tangled and messy and unclear the process is. Writing my historicals, in one big way, was easier. I already knew what happened. But with fiction-fiction… what’s scary is that there are so many choices. So many decisions to make. I am both empowered and intimidated by that.

And then, I realize the reason I avoid making those decisions at first is because I’m never sure it’s the right decision. It’s called procrastinating. We make decisions by not making decisions. Sound familiar? It’s like trying to figure out what to purge from your basement or attic. What if you throw out the wrong thing???? And I say this because I just spent two weeks re-re-writing the first few chapters of my thirteenth novel. Which is totally okay. Because I do this all the time. The book still happens. Things get moved around, deleted, I leave messages in the text like “[XXX DO THIS SECTION BETTER]” so I can forge ahead and come back to the sticky parts.

Eventually, the first ten thousand words are behind me. That messy pile of ideas starts to assemble itself in some kind of order. Another, better idea comes along, and then I get excited about a scene. And another scene. And another.

Anyway, I’m 16,000 words into the third Sam McNamee Mystery. Only 100,000 more to go!


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