It seems like a small thing—putting that first sentence down on paper (or screen, as it may be). But don’t sell yourself short, if you’ve gone as far as putting the first words together in hopes of creating a novel, then you’re on your way.
Many people dream of writing a novel, but few people actually do what has to be done to turn that dream into reality.
As a daily newspaper journalist for forty years I was accustomed to researching, writing and meeting deadlines on a daily, sometimes hourly, basis. But I had never written an article longer than 5,000 words. Writing a novel was a challenge to myself. Could I write something that was at least 70,000 words? Would anyone want to read it? The only way to find out was to try.
The thing to remember is that although all novels have a beginning, a middle and an end, you don’t have to start at the beginning. It’s your story you can start where you please. The first words I wrote for Spank now begin chapter 3. The secret is to get started, to write a single sentence, then another, then another. This is how all novels begin.
I had this vague idea that I would write about the adentures of a retired civil servant who would be challenged by his creative writing teacher to write erotica. This was what I wrote. You will notice it has most of the elements of that old newspaperman’s mantra: who, what, where, when, why.
In a classroom on the third floor of the City of Westminster Trade, Technical and Performing Arts College on the Kings Road, Chelsea, George Aloysius Brown, recently retired as municipal manager Putney & District, occupies a desk at the back of the class and daydreams of making love to his late wife. In his mind’s eye he is stroking her lovely Balinese bottom which is wriggling for the sheer joy of his undivided attention.
And so it began.
After 40 years of reporting the news, dealing almost exclusively with facts, I found it intensely exhilerating to write fiction, creating characters and situations from my own imagination and putting them into environment that I am familiar with: London, Hong Kong, Sydney, even introducing characters from history, such as Cleopatra and Catherine de Medici and placing them in the narrative.
So when I sat down to write, instead of being ovewhelmed by the scope of project, I took small steps, a sentence here, a paragraph there, working bit by bit from a detailed outline and gradually fleshing it out to give it life and depth.
As the Chinese philosopher Laozi famously said, “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”