Dawn Colclasure's Blog

Author and poet Dawn Colclasure

Thursday, December 31, 2020

Getting Past the First Chapter Blues

Back in 2017, when I had a year-long mission of finishing work on a bunch of manuscripts, I ran into a problem late in the year. I attempted to start writing a book my co-author requested I write, even though I had her blessing to go ahead and finish what I was working on that took up all year to complete. (Sadly, that didn’t happen, as I got VERY sick and had to be hospitalized and THEN I couldn’t write!) But I felt like I was ready to start writing this book now. It wasn’t 2018 yet, but I felt that NOW was the time to start writing.


Unfortunately, I couldn’t get past the first chapter. I was stuck and could go no further. And, you know, I should have known that SOMETHING was wrong with my ability to write, because one other book I was writing had VERY lousy writing at the end. It just STUNK! That writing in the last few chapters was awful and not like the writing in the rest of the book (it was a novel, by the way). But I just didn’t realize something was up. I just shrugged it off and figured that maybe I wasn’t ready after all and moved on.


Then, during my recovery from my illness, I tried to write another book. Once again, I couldn’t get past the first chapter. I wrote Chapter One and that was it. I was blocked. I had NOTHING.


Then I tried again in November of this year. It was my NaNoWriMo book. I was determined that THIS time, it will happen. I WILL write Chapter Two and beyond!


But, unfortunately, that didn’t happen. I only wrote the first chapter and could write no more. I could only scribble bits and pieces of the second chapter but not actually WRITE it.


What. The. Heck??!!! Why was this happening? I was stumped. This had NEVER happened to me before, in my 20+ years as a writer, and I didn’t understand what was wrong. Why was I only able to write just one chapter and nothing else???


I tried to find out if this has happened to other writers too but came up with nothing. I was stumped. I even diagnosed myself with First-Chapteritis.


But then something awesome happened. Inspiration struck. I started writing a new book in my notebook. This was something that hit me out of nowhere.


I actually started writing this book in October of this year. I put it on hold in November, hoping that might help my attempts at NaNoWriMo (it didn’t), then resumed writing it in December.


And I finished writing this book on Christmas Eve. Not only did I write Chapter Two, but also Three, Four, Five, Six – all the way up to Chapter Thirty.


That’s right. I wrote 30 chapters after I struggled for so long to get past Chapter One. Now I finally had gotten past Chapter One. I wrote a WHOLE NEW BOOK!


This accomplishment is telling me one thing: It’s time to get back to finishing those OTHER books that only have one chapter, because now I CAN write a whole book again! This accomplishment is PROOF that I can. I CAN write and I CAN write a whole book.


I am excited about the prospect of getting back to work on the books next year. Thankfully, my new job has me working less hours than my old job (which I LOVE), and it is not as physically/mentally draining as my last job. I have been able to write even after I got off work. So I do believe I will be able to write on a workday, too. I believe that it can happen. In 2021, I am going to make it happen. I’m back, baby! I am back to writing books, and that’s exactly how it should be.


There is a quote I like: “Turn your setback into a comeback.” After struggling for months to write before I finally managed to write a whole book, I feel like that quote sums it up pretty good for me. I didn’t give up on wanting to write again. I didn’t give up on trying again. I kept trying and working at it until it finally happened. I didn’t stop writing; I was just dealing with a setback. Now it’s time for my comeback!


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