A Novel Observed #8 – Why The Start Is So Difficult

The Writing Stage

The Writing Stage

This first chapter was an EFFORT! But it wasn’t really a surprise since, as with most exercises, getting started is one of the hardest stages. You have to battle against inertia, break new ground and coax yourself into an unfamiliar world.

In my previous post, I compared writing a novel to making a vase and in this initial draft chapter, all I have really done is scrape out the first blob of raw, sticky clay. It doesn’t look like a vase. It doesn’t even look like the rubbish pot I made back at school. It’s just a blob, and it’s going to have to be shaped and moulded and maybe even cut away. But that can’t be done until I have the whole lump of clay to work with – you can’t make a vase by shaping and firing little pieces and then glueing them all together… well, I guess you probably can, but that’d be a rubbish way to do it!

Am I taking the vase analogy too far?


The original plot for this chapter was fairly straightforward:

  • Opens in Sebastian’s flat, as he packs for the week
    • Focus on the view from his window – a brick wall – which he adores
    • Emphasise his love of the city and fear of the country
  • Flashback to Sebastian being issued a challenge by his friends to prove he is a ‘real man’
    • This takes place the night before, at his birthday celebration
    • They give him a pair of wellies and train tickets to Barnstaple
  • Sebastian is waved off by his friends (checking he really leaves!)
    • The view from the carriage window alarms him as it is increasingly ‘countryside’

I didn’t really know how this was going to evolve as the various characters were introduced, but the majority of the chapter ended up being filled with the ‘Flashback’ section, where Sebastian and his friends (Mops, Brillig, Little Pete, DeVere, Diesel and Sheila – who burst into existence from nowhere) became real people to me, and as a result the plot expanded into story.

I’ve titled the chapter: Not A Real Man. Feel free to have a read – I have posted the full text here:


Now on with chapter 2…