The Fear and Possibility of The Blank Page

imgresThere is nothing so delightful and terrifying to a writer (well, to me, anyway) as a blank page. After I finished BEFORE I GO and got my publishing deal, I had a few different ideas running through my mind for my next book. Coming up with ideas is never the problem— it’s deciding which ones are good enough; which ones will really translate into an interesting full-length novel that’s tough.

I ran them past my agent who helped me decide on the best one, and then we told my editor over lunch one day when I was in New York. She loved it. My agent loved it. I loved it. So I came home and began to write.

No, let me rephrase: I opened my laptop, pulled up a blank Word document, and stared at the blank page, the blinking cursor tallying — and judging — every second I sat inert. I knew how I wanted to start the book, I knew who my characters were, I knew, basically, where the plot would meander, but I was frozen. Paralyzed.

I was talking to an successful author last week, who’s on her 8th book, and she assured me that every writer goes through this. Often with the second book— but it can also happen with the 3rd, 4th, or even 20th book. It’s the fear — flat-out terror— that you can’t repeat the magic of your first book. That it was a fluke. That you’re actually a really crappy writer and now everyone will know you for the fraud you are.

Right now I’m about 100 pages into my WIP, still feeling the fear— and it helped to know I wasn’t alone. Her other piece of advice was also helpful— you can’t repeat the magic of your first book. You have to create new magic.

So that’s what I’m attempting to do now— push BEFORE I GO out of my head and sink into my new story and new characters and just write my heart out. It isn’t easy. It’s still slightly terrifying. But here’s hoping I can pull a rabbit out of a hat. Again.

Do blank pages intimidate or inspire you? What are your tips for starting fresh?

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Colleen Oakley is the author of BEFORE I GO (Simon & Schuster/Gallery, Jan. 2015), a love story. A former editor for Marie Claire and Women's Health & Fitness, she's now an Atlanta-based freelance writer. Find out more at colleenoakley.com.

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