A to Z Challenge: Bravery

Welcome to the second day of the A to Z Challenge, new and veteran novelists alike.

Today, I want to introduce you to the most intimidating obstacle to be found when you’re starting to write. It’s one that even makes us veteran’s cringe and flinch away. Even after many many encounters with this… deep… dark… okay dark won’t work.

Two dimensional… blank… white… first… page.

Okay, vets, you can stop hissing at it.

Ah good. I see some of you have your writing utensils out.

You see, new kids, there’s only one way to beat the scourge of the blank page. You need to be brave.

You need to look the pages right in the… uhm… blankness and find something to write on it. Don’t hesitate. Don’t think about the best way to approach it. The longer you wait, the bigger the page’s intimidation grows.

Attack it.  Just write. And keep writing until the page is full.

And once it is, attack its little brother the second page too.

Once you get it done, you’ll find you’ll have a few days of furiously easy and fun writing. Enjoy it!

When was the worst time you had to face a blank page?

Beginnings Blogfest

Today I’m taking part in L.G. Keltner’s Beginnings Blogfest. Being the nice person she is, she didn’t give us any rules as to which beginning we should write about. So I thought I’d be all lazy and post the first post I ever did on this blog. But that’s easy. And unnecessary. Because if you wanted to read it, you’d have gone to archives and picked the first post. 

Instead, I thought, I’d do something a bit more helpful to new bloggers. On this blog, I’m going to do two posts from my early blogging days. On my other one, I’m giving ten tips I wish I knew as a beginning blogger. 

Okay then… The first post is from 3 August, 2010. It’s the second one I ever wrote. 

On the joys of being a new blogger

So… at the moment I’m still blogging to myself, which kind of feels strange. Almost like a new empty house. Everything I say reverberates in my mind and I wonder how I’m going to get this out there. 

For now though, just building this blog is bringing up complications. For example, do I continue with the use of my dark but beautiful background or do I go lighter. Do I allow advertising to cover my blog? I suppose that I should be worrying about this later, but somehow I just can’t help myself… 

I will get over this overwhelming desire to put too much nonsense on my blog. I promise. This extends to my posts. Therefore… Thus closes this post.

As you can see, I was completely lost in the start. In fact, I’d e-mailed about five blog authors begging for advice. They were wonderful and gracious when they answered. Which is why I fell in love with blogging. But there was a problem…

Nearly a week. and… nothing but soul searching

I’m starting to feel rather down now, but maybe it’s just that I want to sleep.

I’ve been blogging for almost a week now and this is the impact I’ve made: five profile views. Absolutely no followers. 

As much as I enjoy blogging, I never really enjoyed the idea of writing for myself. Not even my book. Since I was really small, everything I wrote was presented to someone to see. My mom (for honest crit) and my gran (full out support) were my favourite recipients. After I got the idea of short stories down, I wrote every assigned task with the idea that someone else is going to read this, namely my teacher.

I would ask, what am I supposed to do? What do you want to see on the blog… but… alas you are not here. So the empty house reverberations continue, leaving me to fight a slight sense of panic. 

What if… the same happens with my book… What if… I write all of it and no one cares. Should I even care at this stage of the game? I think so… everything I write comes straight from my heart. Repeating this process again and again and again without anyone actually seeing this makes me feel… well… terribly lonely. 

When people tell you that you should blog, they never warn you about the beginning days. The writing isn’t hard. The honesty isn’t hard. Sharing experiences isn’t hard. But blogging to yourself is. It sucks. Big time… So much so that I’m wondering why I’m doing this to myself. 

[Huge amount of insightful but currently irrelevant soul searching withdrawn]

I guess that the only thing I can do is to just do my best to get followers for my blog and not get hit so hard by the apparent lack of interest. I’m sure that someone out there cares enough that he or she will stumble across my attempts and join me in the experience. Maybe it’s just coincidence that they haven’t stumbled across me already….

This same blog crossed 100 followers by the end of 2010. I hit 450 by end 2011 and by end 2012, almost 900. There is hope. Don’t give up. 

To all you veteran bloggers out there, what were your first days like? 

A to Z Challenge: Beginning

To me, beginnings are so important to stories that I devoted special attention to mine for Doorways. Before I even let most of my crits see the post-first-edits version.

After all, first impressions matter.

For some readers, a good opening chapter will make a difference between them closing the book and finishing it. So yeah. It’s pretty darn important.

On the other hand, it’s common to find people who work their butts off on the first lines and neglecting the rest of the chapter or on the first chapter and neglecting the rest of the book.

It sort of makes me think of a guy with this body:


And these legs:


See when we focus on one portion of a book too much at the expense of others, the story could (and often does) come out looking lop-sided.

Most of the places I’ve read about beginnings talk about hooking readers with the first line. About how important the first lines are and so on. Those aren’t wrong, but there’s more to hooking a reader than a first line. In fact, I see an excellent first line as something of a bonus. A sweet sensation I enjoy for all of half a second before moving onto the rest of the story.

According to me, the beginnings are there to serve two purposes:

1) To introduce at least one character in a way that draws the reader to the story. If not to the character.
2) To set up the story in a way that leads the reader into the rest of the plot. That’s why personally I’m not a huge fan of opening in dream sequences or in the middle of action.

Both of these must be done in a way that moves into the second chapter without a hitch.

It’s incredibly important to draw the reader in, but the effort can’t stop at the end of the first line or even the first chapter. It stops at the end of the story.

Not a moment before that.

Look Out for These:

1) The beginning differing in tone or pacing from the rest of the story.

2) The characters are introduced, but with telling or in another way that bores or irritates the reader.

3) The opening not setting up the rest of the story plot-wise. If the first chapter doesn’t slot into the subsequent chapters in a way that affects the rest of the story, it’s better to start somewhere else.

How do you do your beginnings? Do you write it first and make the rest of the story fit, or do you write the story and tailor the beginning to fit?

Julie Flanders: My Beginning as a Writer

Hi all! Today I welcome Julie to MFB. Julie is a writer of one of the earliest blogs I’ve followed. From the first time I went there, I loved her blog (and her) for her passion both for writing and for animals.

Take it away, Julie.  

My PhotoThanks so much, Misha, for hosting me today. I was attracted to the theme of beginnings as I am a new writer myself, and I hope that sharing my own “beginning” may be an inspiration to others who find themselves in similar situations.

My writing beginning came about at an age when many people are getting serious about planning for retirement. I’d never worried much about age before, but that changed when I turned 40. At a time when society says we are supposed to be happily settled and basking in the rewards of middle-age, I found myself feeling lost and unfulfilled, and wondering what on earth I could do to change what looked like a dull and uninspiring future.

 I felt like I’d hit a low point, and I made the decision that I was going to make changes. I had no idea what those changes were going to be but, somehow, just making the decision felt like a step in the right direction.

I started reading all kinds of self-help books, but I quickly realized that I was simply reading as a means of putting off actually doing something. The reading was easy. The doing was the scary part.

Finally, I sat down and thought about what it was that I enjoyed doing. The answer came easily. From the time I was in school, the one thing I had always felt confident about, and had brought me pleasure, was writing. Whether writing papers for classes, writing letters, or writing academic articles as a librarian, I enjoyed all of it. In addition, since childhood I had loved constructing stories in my head about characters I saw on tv or read about in books. I never wrote them down; as I thought writing stories was something creative people did. And I wasn’t creative.

If there was one skill I had mastered in life, it was saying “I can’t,” or “I’m not.” Now that I had reached this low point, I thought I had nothing to lose by trying “I can” and “I am” on for size. If nothing else, I resolved to say “I’ll try.”

My opportunity to put my words into action came about in a completely unexpected way. I discovered a show called Dog Town, which was about dogs at Best Friends, an animal sanctuary in Kanab, Utah. I fell in love with the place, and looked up their website. To my surprise, I found a listing for volunteer writers for their site. On a whim, I submitted an application.

Before too long, I had my first assignment, and wrote about people in Floridawho had come to the aid of starving and neglected cats. I was so nervous when I submitted my article that I was afraid to open the response from the editor. But I had no reason to be afraid, as the feedback I received was overwhelmingly positive.

I felt buoyed in a way I never had while doing my “real” work. I wrote more articles, and continued to get wonderful feedback from both editors and readers alike. In addition, I was thrilled to be contributing to a cause I cared about, and helping both people I admired and animals I loved.

Suddenly, being a writer didn’t seem like something I couldn’t do any more. I went from “I’ll try” to “What if?” What if I branched out and wrote for other outlets? What if I could actually get paid for doing this?

“What if?” became “I will,” and that was my beginning. Now nearly two years later, I feel like I’ve finally found the passion and sense of fulfillment I’d been missing for so long. And even though I still have a long way to go to be able to support myself with writing, the small amount of money I have made has been worth its weight in gold. What’s more, the personal rewards have enriched my life in a way no amount of money ever could.

So my advice to would-be writers is simple. Begin. No matter your age or experience, there’s never a wrong time to get started. It may seem frightening, but take that first step. Volunteer, write a blog, or sit down and start that novel you’ve always wanted to write.

The step you take is up to you. The important thing is to begin.

Thanks so much for this inspiring post, Julie. What about you ladies and gents? When did you start writing?

Also, I need a hero/heroine to please step up to the plate. On 10 February, there is no one to do a GPF post. *gasp* It’s a terrible thing, because then everyone will be subjected to my ramblings on a Friday! Surely no one want that!

So please please please (with awesomesauce on top) contact me at mishagericke(AT)gmail(DOT)com and let me know that you’ll do a post for me.

Have a great weekend!

Guest Post Friday: Madeleine Maddocks

Hi all! Today I welcome Madeleine Maddocks to My First Book as the first GPF guest. Her blog is always one where I stop whenever I need inspiration for poetry and prose, but she also has some other great tips to inspire writers. Thanks so much for being my first brave soul, Madeleine.

My thanks to Misha for letting me post on her blog today.
My subject is very apt for January: Beginning.
For Flash Fiction, Haiku and Blogfests I enjoy the picture and word prompts that blog hosts provide. For me it creates a challenge / a beginning from which my own writing can mature and grow. Having created my blog in Aug 2010 I feel that it has certainly been a great start for allowing me to gain feedback and practice in these different genres.

What creates that initial spark that leads you to put pen to paper?

Is it always the same way each time?
Or do you use different stimuli to find your material?

Thanks again, Madeleine! For those of you who still want to sign up, January’s full, but the rest of the year is mostly open. Please see here for details.