A lot of writers struggle with beginning to write something new – that blank page can be incredibly intimidating, and sometimes no first line seems good enough to start on. If that’s you, here are a few ideas to help you beat the fear.
1 Start every piece of writing with “It was a dark and stormy night.” You’ll probably want to get rid of this at the editing stage. But launching in with a banal or overused first line can really take the pressure off. Just don’t worry about whether it’s good, use it as a springboard to get those first few words down, and later on you can go and change it. (This mostly works with fiction but if you try it with nonfiction we’d love to hear about it!
2 Write the first piece of dialogue, and work back. Do you know who will be the first person to speak in your story? Do that bit first, write the next few sentences, and then go back for the first line. Or maybe you don’t even need a first line, maybe that piece of dialogue is actually the perfect place to jump in.
3 Put some other stuff on the page. Sometimes you can beat the psychological dread of the empty page with simple tricks. Just put some other stuff on the page first. A list of characters, a plan of the first chapter or scene, some bullet points to remind you of your themes and character arcs. Doesn’t matter what it is, as long as it makes the page less terrifyingly empty!
4 Set a timer. If your problem is more sitting down to start than actually thinking of a first line, try setting yourself a timer for 10, 15, or 25 minutes, and promising yourself that you won’t look away from the page until you’ve written something or until the timer goes off. Even if you find yourself writing whatever comes to mind just to fill the time, you’ve still made a start that you can build on.
5 Write your first scene in a smaller space. If a giant monitor full of white space, or a pristine notebook page, is too intimidating, move to the notes app on your phone, or a post-it. A smaller space to fill is less scary, and once you’ve made a start you can transfer what you have into your Word document or fancy notebook.
Do you have any tried and tested techniques for getting going on a new piece of writing? Let us know in the comments!