The first 100 sales. The first 100 visitors to a blog or website. The first 100 followers on Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites. These all are milestones that authors celebrate. Passive milestones, over which an author has very little control.
There is another set of milestones in the life of a writer of a novelist – of any writer of books, for that matter. The first sentence, the first paragraph, the first completed chapter. Each of these represents a goal to be achieved; a challenge to surmount. For me, the challenge is the first 10,000 words.
Ten thousand words. That’s roughly forty pages. Forty sheets of blank paper (or computer screen) to be filled with ideas. With words. It’s a daunting task, and one that I am now in the midst of tackling.
I have begun to write the first draft of my fourth mystery novel. I haven’t yet finalized the title, nor have I written an outline. I don’t do well with outlines. I have a general idea of the main plot and at least one secondary plot. I think I have figured out where I want the climax of the story to take place. What I don’t know is what will happen along the way. For now, I am groping my way into the story. Just writing as the characters come to life inside my head. This isn’t an efficient way of writing, or so I’m told. But it’s the way my mind works.
It takes me about 10,000 words to feel as though I have a good handle on the story. I have now put 6000-7000 words under my belt. This is no guarantee that I am on the right track; I’ve had false starts before. In fact, I’ve experienced at least one false start with each of my previous three novels. Maybe it will be different this time. Maybe I’ll just keep on piling up the word total, and arrive at the halfway point before I come up for air. But I don’t count on it. I’m more likely to decide, perhaps around the 9500-word point, that half of what I’ve written is garbage and must be discarded.
False starts are part of a writer’s life and, for me, the first 10,000 words are the hardest.