Writer’s block. Now and then everyone who dares call themselves a writer will hit blocks. Times when you can’t get anything to work. Some write through it, sure that if they get something, anything down, it will help work things out. I’ve tried this and all it usually achieves is a page of stilted nonsense where the story jogs on the spot and characters talk rubbish. It gets deleted a few days later and achieves nothing.
The biggest cause of writer’s block for me is not knowing the characters well enough. I can have the storyline planned to the finest detail, but if I don’t know the people well enough, it won’t work.
So often I’ll get to know them as I write and this is why I’d never dream of sharing a first draft. Inevitably by the time I’ve reached the end of my first draft, I go back to the start and realise the character at the start isn’t the one at the end. And it isn’t due to their growing as the story progresses, it is because I was feeling my way at the start and by the end, I’d worked them out.
The first draft chapters have the people that populate their paragraphs saying ridiculous things that contrast with the people they become by the end.
That’s why I think the best advice out there is to just get the draft written and not get hung up on making those opening chapters the best they can be.
Sure, every editor, agent and peer reviewer will focus on the opening three chapters or the first 10,000 words, but getting those perfect isn’t worth a thing if later they have to be brutally carved up.
So often I’ve scrapped the first ten thousand words or started over.
My message is this. First drafts should never see the light of day. Second drafts should be shared only with those you trust and who will continue to love you despite everything. Third drafts, maybe a few less obliging friends. But it’s only the fourth. fifth or sixth that should ever really be shared with a stranger.
You have one pop with a story and character, don’t send it out into the world too soon.