Blank page panic

I know some people consider me a grumpy old man, and I'd be the first to confess that (having reached a certain age) grumpiness does come fairly easily to me. But for all its hazards, pitfalls and lack of cash, I love the writing life. There are few things more satisfying than seeing your book on the shelf in a shop, and thinking 'I did that.' Or getting a nice email from someone who has read one of your books and got something out of it.

I even enjoy some of the more grump-generating aspects of the whole process of being an author. Many don't like proof reading, but I get a small buzz out of fine tuning the book... and by the time we reach the proofs stage I've almost forgotten what's in there, so it's a nice surprise when it's really quite readable.

But there are two stages of the process I dislike. One is writing proposals. This is primarily because they are such hard work. You have to put in some research, some writing skills, all the effort involved in writing a book, but in a more concentrated fashion to craft a little jewel... only for it to be rejected more than half the time. It is truly soul destroying.

The second of these stages is the one I'm at right now. The one where you sit down with a totally empty word processor file and start to create something. Where to begin? How can I turn this blank page into 90,000 words? Luckily, one advantage of the proposal is that it acts a template. You can, in fairly brainless fashion, put in the chapter titles and a quick outline of each chapter. Even better, if you start each chapter with a quote, you can spend an idle hour finding suitable quotations to head up each chapter.

Then it's into serious prevarication time. Let's do some more research now. Let's investigate illustrations, because they can take a long, long time for permissions to come through. Let's do almost anything rather than type those first words. Eventually, though, you have to give in. Your brain and notes are full of research. At least one of the chapters is beginning to mentally take shape. You sit down at the keyboard. And begin.

It's easy to forget, when peering out of an aircraft window...

And all of a sudden you are wondering what all the fuss was about. It's easy, this writing game, isn't it?


  1. Writing proposals. Ugh! I hate it! The agony of crafting a 10,000-word document is much more intense than that engendered by writing the whole book, probably because it's concentrated in a smaller space. It can take me up to twice as long to create an acceptable proposal (pulling teeth) as to write a first draft (pure enjuoyment). The problem with a proposal is you have to get the flow of ideas just right, because if you don't, tiny gaps and flaws in the argument produce gaping holes in the first draft. Rather like inflationary cosmology.


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