A Prompt From: Maggie O'Farrell

Beginnings are hard. The blizzard-white emptiness of the page in front of you, the empty document with the patiently waiting cursor: they can conspire to give you such awful vertigo that it’s hard to put down any words, let alone a defining opening sentence. It’s not always immediately apparent where in its timeline your narrative should start. It took me a while to work out that a writer doesn’t have to begin at the beginning. You can start wherever you like in the story. Just put down words; don’t look back; don’t re-read too much at first; keep going until you have a morale-boosting number of pages. There is great solace to be had in a decent word count, even if you end up ditching most of it. I have found, again and again, that my beginning, my opening line, is often lurking somewhere in the middle of a scene, several pages in, just sitting there, waiting to be discovered.

- Maggie O'Farrell


About the Author

Maggie O’Farrell is the author of the Sunday Times no. 1 bestselling memoir I AM, I AM, I AM, and eight novels: AFTER YOU’D GONE, MY LOVER’S LOVER, THE DISTANCE BETWEEN US, which won a Somerset Maugham Award, THE VANISHING ACT OF ESME LENNOX, THE HAND THAT FIRST HELD MINE, which won the 2010 Costa Novel Award, INSTRUCTIONS FOR A HEATWAVE, which was shortlisted for the 2013 Costa Novel Award,  THIS MUST BE THE PLACE, which was shortlisted for the 2016 Costa Novel Award, and HAMNET, which won the 2020 Women's Prize for Fiction. She lives in Edinburgh.