My first-day ritual…

Whenever it comes time for me to start drafting a new manuscript, the first day is notoriously unproductive. I open that brand-new document and gaze upon the intimidating emptiness of it. The tabula rasa dares me to violate its pristine beauty.

So I cheat my way over this first mental hurdle. I spend day one preparing the template. I fill in the headers and set the folios. Prepare a title page. Make placeholder pages for the dedication, the epigraph, and, if necessary for a particular series, an historian’s note.

I’ll style the chapter headers and section breaks. If I have a sense of how many chapters the book will have, I prepare the requisite number, plus  a few extra. (That’s my background as a producer kicking in — always factor in a ten-percent contingency plus the fringe.)

Next I populate my faux chapters with dummy copy, styled for first paragraph in a scene, subsequent grafs, scene breaks (which I mark so that copy editors and production editors don’t miss them when flowing the raw copy into a design template), and hard page breaks at ends of chapters.

By the time I’m finished, I have a document that’s not quite so bare as Mother Hubbard’s cupboard. But still no real words that I can count toward my goal.

Sometimes I consume a few more hours (or longer) seeking out that perfect epigraph, or deciding to whom the book should be dedicated. These are just delaying tactics, and I know it.

Day one typically ends without the first line being written.

On day two, the work begins.

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