Where do I start? New novel dilemmas

I started a new novel on the first day of the year.

It wasn’t as easy as I thought it might be. Having finished Wherever You Go in November and sent it to an agent, I felt like I’d still be in the zone, with words waiting to flow.

I was wrong. They didn’t flow.


So, I doodled.

And thought. Thought some more. Came up with ideas. Rejected ideas.

The problem, initially, was that I had three novel ideas in my head. Which one was I going to go with? Which one would I own for 2017?

One idea involved expanding a short story I’d written in 2015. Another was entirely new, based on a stale marriage … I’d started that one – written some early paragraphs, done some character outlines – but yesterday, when I sat in front of the computer, I wasn’t feeling it. My third idea was based in the same place as Wherever You Go, following the story of a different character.

I went with the third. It made sense. The characters and setting were familiar and I could build on what I knew. Scribbled down some ideas and character notes. Ran my idea past Blue Eyes. And went back to the computer, with the intention of doing some early research.

Sometimes you’re led to write what you know without that being the intention. The reading I was doing was confronting. My character, Bonnie, is stuck in a toxic relationship. She’s bound to a narcissist. And reading about relationships between empaths and narcissists triggered thoughts and memories. I had to walk away from the computer. I asked: ‘Am I strong enough to write this?’

I won’t be writing my story. Bonnie is not me. Her relationship as it will unfold (and I don’t even know all of that yet) is not – was not – mine. But there are bound to be similarities in behaviours. And even without writing her, I know her struggle.

So yesterday, I walked away. And thought some more. To be honest, I was quite unsettled for the rest of the evening.

Today, I sat in front of the computer and tried to start Bonnie’s story. For the most part, I write from start to finish … but I couldn’t seem to hit on that right line. I typed up notes and ideas. But the first line eluded me.

Why? I needed to decide where to begin. I needed to decide at what point Bonnie is in her life when the story opens – emotionally and physically. More thinking … and thinking. What was the barrier here? Was the story not right? Was I scared because of what it could unsettle in me?


And then it happened. The barrier dropped and the words started to flow. Bonnie’s story has started. She’s at the doorway of a new beginning. And she’s feeling a mixture of anticipation and trepidation.

Wish me luck and strength. This novel is likely to test me emotionally. But I reckon I can do it.



Monique Mulligan

Monique Mulligan

0 Responses

  1. Power to you Monique. I don’t know what happened to you in the past but by the sounds of it a previous relastionship was very toxic. One word at a time, one day at a time, you have lived through it before you can do it again. Fingers crossed and good luck.

  2. Good luck! How many drafts did it take you to finish Wherever you Go? It’s always hard to leave the world of a novel when you’ve been in it for a very long time!

  3. Good luck! How many drafts of Wherever You Go did you do? It’s always hard to leave the world of a novel when you’ve been in it for so long!

  4. Well done Monique, you didn’t cave under pressure and you’re going forward now. What’s that old saying ?’ What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’ . Not sure if that’s right, but having lived through some tough times I am still here and still moving forward, slowly but forward.

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