A Manuscript’s Beginnings


This past January, I opened a new Scrivener file and titled it “Penelope Wakefield, Book One.”

Blame it on the headiness of a new year, with its rosily glowing possibilities. Not only was I starting a new novel (my tenth novel), but it would be the first in a series and in a genre I’d never written in before. If at first you don’t succeed, think bigger and try again.

It’s six months later now and, no, this is not going the way you think it’s going to go. “Penelope Wakefield, Book One” hasn’t been consigned to the trash heap of abandoned resolutions. Right now, it looks like this:


Writing a book is a big project requiring, among other things, weeks of frozen dinners, copious amounts of coffee, hundreds of tweets, and dozens of Google searches for things like “ancient Viking jewelry” or “how avalanche beacons work.” It involves compulsive word-counting and wearing out the “s” key on your laptop (or maybe that’s just me.) And then there’s the meta-ness of it. Writing a book means spending a lot of time thinking about writing, which is basically nothing more than sitting in a chair and tapping at a keyboard. It’s so easy and yet, so much harder than you expect it to be.

Even writers who don’t particularly like talking about their work-in-progress (and I’m usually one of them) seem to like talking about the act of writing. Some days, it’s so difficult and so lonely, adding that first word to the manuscript, that it helps to make it into a production. So… you post a photo of your computer screen to Instagram. You use the #amwriting hashtag on Twitter. You blog about how you started your book six months ago and, god damn it, you’re still writing.

Guess what? I’m still writing.


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