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First Novels

When it comes to publication, the love of storytelling must come first. If you are in this for the fame or the money or the glory or the status, then you’re in for a rude awakening.  

We write because something in us longs for it.  

Yet you don’t hear of many novelists who pen a story, stick it in a drawer, and get to work on penning another. Most of us desire publication. 

Why is that? Why do those of us who write books so often aspire to publish them?

I think the answer is simple.

That story we long to tell is the same story we long to share. And publication is an excellent means to that end.

So we sit in our chairs like good little writers and we write that first novel, delighting in the magic that is storytelling. But also spurred on by the hope that maybe, just maybe, it will be on somebody’s nightstand someday. 

I know that was my hope when I wrote my first novel. 

I came back from Kenya with a story bursting inside me. A story I couldn’t wait to write. It was magical, that first novel. I loved it. Absolutely, one hundred percent loved it. I’m telling you, I believed in that story. I thought it was good enough to share. Good enough to publish. And I think that was a good thing.

Because if I would have written that story thinking, “This is just a stepping stone”. Or if I would have written that story without the hope of one day sharing it, I think that might have sucked away some enthusiasm. I think I would have felt deflated before I ever got the chance to hit my stride.

So while I resonate with the majority of Jody Hedlund’s post, How to Drive Yourself Crazy as a Writer. While I wholeheartedly agree that a writer must take intrinsic joy in the process of writing. I don’t agree that writers should write their first novel with the belief that it won’t be ready for publication. 

It’s okay to dream. It’s okay to hope. It’s okay, even good, to imagine that maybe, just maybe, that first book could be the one.

It’s happened before.

But the key, the absolute key, is to keep writing. 

Maybe your first novel will be published. But don’t put all your eggs in that particular basket. Keep, keep writing. And by writing, I mean something new. While your first novel is getting critiqued, or read by beta readers, or professionally edited, or while it’s out on submission to agents, write a different story. The world is filled with them. Latch onto one you’re dying to tell and write it.

Not only will you grow and improve. But you’ll have another story. And the more stories you have, the less pressure you’ll pin on that first one. 

Maybe it’s still a masterpiece. In which case, bravo!

Or maybe it’s lost some of its shine. Because your second novel is a thousand times better. And your third one, even more so.

And you start to see what you couldn’t have, maybe even shouldn’t have, when you wrote your first. That while it might not be ready for anybody’s nightstand, it wasn’t a wasted effort. Because without it, you wouldn’t be the writer you are today.

Let’s Talk: How many novels have you written? How has your opinion of your first novel evolved over time?

Katie

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