And Yet We Write

An article in today’s New York Times, quoted the actress Glenda Jackson about how she felt performing before a live audience.

“You can go onto that stage every night,” she said, “and it’s always the equivalent of going onto the topmost diving board, and you don’t know if there’s any water in the pool.

“Every time I say, ‘Yes, I’ll do it,’ I think, ‘My God, I don’t know how to do it. I can’t do it.’ We are sadomasochists as well as being brave, actors, and we torment ourselves.”

Ms. Jackson summed up exactly how I (and I believe many other authors) feel every time I start a new novel. 

Yet she went on stage.

And we write our books.

But It Isn’t Easy

Right now I’ve written about twenty-five thousand words of my fifth NYPD Detective Chiara Corelli Mystery, tentatively titled Blood of the Innocents. That’s about a quarter of a book. Not too bad, right? 

Unfortunately, that’s three different beginnings for the book, with the same characters and the same general story. But none of them is working for me. So I’m about to toss the third into the trash bin with the other two and write a fourth beginning. 

Maybe it’s me. Or maybe I’m trying to tell the wrong story. I don’t know. But I’m trying not to think about whether there’s water in the pool and continue to dive in. My tenth book was published this week. I can figure this out.

Please share your feelings about starting a new book or short story.

Catherine Maiorisi

Catherine Maiorisi is the author of the NYPD Detective Chiara Corelli Mystery series featuring Corelli and her partner Detective P.J. Parker–two tough women, fighting each other while solving high profile crimes. A Matter of BloodThe Blood Runs ColdA Message in Blood, and Legacy in the Blood are all available as ebooks, paperbacks, and audiobooks narrated by Abby Craden.  

In addition to publishing multiple mystery and romance short stories in various anthologies, Catherine has authored four romances novels. Her latest book, The Disappearance of Lindy James, was awarded a GOLDIE for Best General Fiction.


  1. I actually have no idea how I start! I basically do writing exercises until something grabs hold of me. My current standalone started in the wrong place, but I had to write the entire draft, twice, before I saw that. Now, I think it’s in the right place. It feels right, anyway. And yes, considering how shy and introverted many authors are, it’s incredible how many of us are willing to bleed onto our pages. No matter what we write about, it’s always about a bit of ourselves, out there in the world, for anyone to see, comment on, judge. (shudders). But I can’t imagine living without it. I mean… what would I do?

  2. I’m actually okay with beginnings because I feel like I can fix what’s wrong. But endings are terrifying. That’s when I’m saying this is the best I can do. I did see Glenda Jackson in King Lear. If she was afraid she didn’t show it!

  3. It is terrifying! That’s why you just have to what I call cannonball into the deep end of the pool. I’ve been so stale with no new writing lately. I’ve challenged myself to write #1000wordsofsummer for 14 days by starting a new novel and publishing it daily on Substack. Only God knows why I do these things to myself. Perilous pantsing!

  4. Catherine, beginnings are the part I rewrite the most and it changes, esp after a first draft.
    Do you know the ending of your new book yet? Maybe write a scene or chapter you know you’ll need eventually and if that helps you to figure out the best starting point to get to oi?

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