The voice: stupid YOUR NAME HERE. You obviously don’t care about me at all. Otherwise how could you possibly CHOOSE ONE: a) not read my novel; b) say my novel is great when you clearly can’t stand it; c) tell me the second novel is usually the one that works; d) insist that everything is fine.

The books say (and there are lots of books now, many more than when I started writing, not to mention blogs) every story needs a beginning, middle, end. They teach you how to write a perfect beginning, perfect middle, perfect end. Then you write the beginning, and there isn’t any life. The books didn’t talk about that. The beginning is inert, like those writing exercises you did in high school, compare and contrast. You know in your bones that the audience you hope for will be bored, demoralized, unable read. Eventually you abandon the beginning, declare a busman’s holiday. You write anything, a thousand-word monologue from the point of view of a character you barely know, and for the first time in weeks you feel life. Where does that fit, in the instruction manual? The part where you sense something wrong, like a diviner, and turn away, because you know there’s no water?

I keep looking back. Danny says this is a waste of time, but it’s one of my best strategies for gathering courage: how did I get here? Is this moment part of a steady, encouraging, forward movement, or are things falling apart? Have I been lost before? Is that, too, part of the process?