Each word you write only yields more words that need to be written

When you set down a road, you’re not limited to that one highway. There will be intersecting roads – some gravel, some narrow streets, others wide boulevards and multi-lane freeways – that in turn lead to many, many other roads. A few of these roads will be similar to the one you started out on, but most will offer new vistas, taking you either through woods or across suburban sprawl, either past farm fields or into cities of gleaming skyscrapers.

In much the same way, each sentence you write gives you the opportunity to take your book in an entirely new direction. No sentence should leave you wondering, “What will I write now?” but “Which sentence should I write next?”

Once you write a sentence, think of all the different ways it might be followed. Consider the opening lines to this story: As Jane examined the dead man, there was a giggle.

The next line might describe the giggle. What did it sound like? Was it nervous and brief? Did it grow louder into a full-blown laugh?

Or maybe it describes Jane’s reaction to the giggle. Is she surprised by another person? Is she disgusted because she finds her friend’s reaction inappropriate?

Perhaps Jane herself is the one who giggled. Why did she giggle? Was she anxious? Maybe she feels delight that the man is dead and got what was due to him.

Possibly the dead man is the one that giggled. What does Jane do then? Is she frightened? Is she pleased that her experiment to revive the dead man worked? Maybe the man really isn’t a corpse at all but a fellow med student pretending to be dead during a class exercise.

Each of these potential paths in turn leads to hundreds of more possibilities for that third sentence and then the fourth. By the time you’ve written the fifth sentence, you’ve generated dozens of potential starts for your story…and even stories themselves.

You must begin, though, by writing one sentence. After all, you can’t explore the world about you unless you pull out of your driveway and set off down that first street.