How I Wrote My First (Good) Novel

Once upon a time I decided to try my hand at writing. I read a lot, wrote a lot, studied a lot, then wrote some more. My writing improved with each short story, novel idea, and blog comment I wrote. Not only that, I received much priceless encouragement and critique along the way from some of the coolest writer people on the planet.

At some point I wrote a crazy little story that was picked up by Infuze. This was followed by a silly story that I never submitted anywhere, and finally a piece called All Healed Up that won the editor’s choice honors in Relief Journal.

All during this time I was finishing up a “thriller” for the CBA market. It was a) not that thrilling, and b) not very CBA and c) it kinda sucked. Not only that, the plot was anemic and the whole story was riddled with cliches. The important thing here, however, is that I finished it. I started a novel, wrote my way through the sagging middle, and eventually typed THE END.

A few people liked it. And it was just not-awful enough to help me land my first agent.

The morals so far:

-Write stuff

-Finish stuff

-Submit stuff

-Be teachable

But there was one big problem that reared its ugly head above the others–I was writing for a market, with an eye toward publication. I was writing to please other people, not me. That is a bad idea for everyone involved.

Then the cartoon light bulb went off in animated brain. I had spent a couple of years learning to please people with my writing. Instead, I needed to write for the one person who actually needed the encouragement and stamina to persevere through lonely writing nights, scads of rejection, and oodles of everyday writerly frustration.

Amid this revelation, I remembered my short stories. I didn’t write those to make money or land a publishing deal. I wrote them because I loved the characters and believed in the ideas.

Then came the cool part…though I was clueless at the time, the protagonist form each of the three short stories were really just different facets of the same character. I didn’t have to start my next novel from scratch. The character and much of the backstory was spread throughout my hard drive, a pile of notebooks, and a couple of literary journals.

That’s when I wrote my first good novel.

The second round of morals?

-Write the book that you wish already existed, the one you wish was on your nightstand so you could read it

-Don’t discard any character, scene, or idea…they’re bound to lead somewhere

-Unless you already have a contract (and they’re always laden with expectations), NEVER write for a market or to please people you don’t live with…

-The goal should always be better writing. You can learn about contracts and publishing and all that AFTER you write something you love.

4 thoughts on “How I Wrote My First (Good) Novel

  1. I’m still working on the agent part. This is encouraging though! I wrote the book I loved – I still read it over and over, just for fun. I’m reasonably confident it’s good, but even if no one ever picks it up (besides me), I’m glad I wrote it. Shouldn’t that be the goal? Writing is hard enough work that it ought to be its own reward.

    • Couldn’t agree more. The writing is, and should be, the point. Love hearing that you wrote the book that you love. Otherwise it’s just not worth doing, at least not to me.

      If/when you do decide to pursue an agent, try attending a writer’s conference. Nothing beats face to face.

      Thanks for stopping by!

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