The Challenge of a First Novel

Writing and publishing are not the same thing.  The plain and simple fact is that I’ve completed more projects that I’ve actually put in print.  Some were never followed through on because somebody beat me to it, meaning they put the idea in to circulation before I do–so I didn’t.

As many times as I do this, I’m still remembering my first-first novel.  The very first book I wrote to actually get in print was harder than I though it would be.  Looking back on it now, yes: I would definitely do things differently.  Even so, I still think of it as good experience, because it taught me a lot about what my future “style” would be.

When I tell the story of how that book came to be, it will sometimes sound like a trial of the Spanish Inquisition because I was miserable and suffering from start to finish.  I made the mistake of carrying that story around in my head for a number of years before actually putting it on paper, causing it to be over-developed when I did spill it on to an outline–which I did do before getting in to the guts of it.

Years before that, I had a chance meeting with a well-known author who advised me to write my first novel and burn it.  He was being funny and serious at the same time.  Fact is, I had already done that three times.  Three failed starts took me some time to recover from because each defeat was a kick that took some time to get over.

I’m all for telling a story, or laying out the nuts-and-bolts of how to do something (whatever that is).  While there is no one right way to do whatever you want to call this, books do not write themselves.  They need your time and patience as much as any children in your family.  In some ways, the characters you create become part of your life.  When you don’t care (because “it’s just a story”), that will be apparent to anyone who reads your work.  Plot holes and/or a lack of editing tell the terrible truth every time.

My first novel taught me quite a bit about my future style, it also gave me a reason to be focused and disciplined.  My thinking changed when I saw what it could be as a finished product.  It was the kind of book that I did want to read.  Yeah, I’d buy that.  Not so sure about the choice of author photo, but hey: we all make mistakes.

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