Why Your First Novel Will Always Be Your Favorite


Your first novel will always be your favorite, because of your innocence when you wrote it, though it is unlikely to be your best effort.

You wrote without the fear of not being able to write a second. You did not yet know that agents would ignore you. You knew, on some level, that finding a publisher would be hard, maybe even impossible, but you had not yet tried to find one; so you remained naive, thus not yet vulnerable, to being shunned.

You just wrote. With that pure, sheer abandon that those who have a story to share will. And you kept at it, because you believed your words, and you believed in what you wrote, and it was good. Good enough. It was all you needed: you needed only to write.

Your belief in your words, and in what you wrote, was good enough for you to finish your first novel.  Tweet:

No editor had yet struck through your adverbs and instructed you to kill all your darlings; you were still free to savor every sweet descriptive phrase you wrote. You had yet to confront the pros and cons of traditional publishing vs. self-publishing. You hadn’t yet groveled for cover blurbs, nor paid for professional editing and cover art. You hadn’t had to format your book nor navigate selling on Amazon. Nor had you arranged countless book signings and author talks; even now, your e-pub edition hasn’t yet required updating.

You didn’t yet know that you needed validation from others about what you wrote—that you needed friends and loved ones to marvel at your storytelling; that you needed agents and publishers to put you on the publishing pedestal; that you needed wonderful reviews, that you needed readers to read your book and even better, to gush about it on Goodreads; that you needed fans to form a Facebook page for you and Twitter users to create a hashtag for you. Nor had you dared to dream of getting a movie option and control over the casting and director; and above all, you didn’t have the crushing need for sales, sales, sales.

You didn’t yet need the almighty sales, the bestseller list, nay, the number one spot on The New York Times bestseller list, which would mean respect, validation, another book deal and above all, dollars. And while you were still innocent, you didn’t yet know you’d need the Man Booker Prize, too.

Your first novel is born of innocence, with no knowledge of the hardships to come.  Tweet:

But for now, your first novel is born of innocence, with no knowledge of the hardships and unfulfilled wants to come. It’s your first, it’s your joy, and you must treasure it.

Your subsequent novels will be better. They’ll be better conceived, better written, better embraced. You’ll be wiser for your experience, and savvier for your hard-won expertise. But you’ll never, ever, again have the chance to feel that first joyful pleasure when the words were freshest, when they hit the page guilelessly, without the disappointments to come.

So you linger over your first novel. Somehow you do this intuitively; could this be why first novels are sometimes decades in the making? When you raise your first child, you never, ever want her to grow up. But she will. So you have more children, to postpone the inevitable, and you get better at parenting your children. Just like you get better at parenting your novels.

But your first . . . ahhh, your first. That’s the one that’s most precious, like the memory of your first dance or your first kiss or your first fuck. Maybe not the best, but the first. Which grants the bubble of illusion, and your dreams. ♣

What’s your experience been like with your first novel?

I’ve yet to publish my first novel (unless Eric and the Smugglers, written in 8th grade, counts), but I am working towards it now (more about that HERE). So how do I know that my first novel will always be my favorite? Simple. I can foresee the future, sometimes. And when I can’t, I consult my Ouija board. You can read more about the art of writing creatively HERE

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13 replies

  1. My first novel took 5 years to write and 3 to edit. After I penned the words “The End” I went right ahead and wrote two more novels, and let the first one sit for a year. Almost threw it away, it was so bad. I couldn’t even open the file! Even though I made every mistake in the book (and a few others), I eventually went back to it, because the story wasn’t half bad. My other two completed novels are not the same, not in the same style or genre. To me, my work is like my kids. I love them all, but they are all different.So I disagree with you (a little). It’s always exciting to finish a draft.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Good to hear this from someone who’s been in the trenches for awhile, and as the mother of only one (child and novel) so far, I respect your take on it. Perhaps I should say that though some of them are tough cases (novels, and children), we never give up. Fair?

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  2. This post really resonates with me at the moment. My first novel was written in a fury of passion and insomnia as I was terrified the story would disappear from my head but I loved every crazy second of that time. The draft took 3 months during which I lost 20 pounds then it took a year to get right (or as right as a first novel ever is!) and publish. I wrote the draft for the second one before I published the first. It was steadier writing, more considered and I believe it is a better novel.

    The third…ahh…the third is an entirely different experience. You see I am writing a trilogy and it is tough to write and market as well as run my business, that pays the bills, and the house and the family etc etc… Plus there is the expectation now. I had none of that before. I never expected anyone to read my books let alone like them and yet now I have people asking for the third. That is wonderful, if unbelievable, and I am truly grateful but the weight of expectation is there and I have to produce the goods. No pressure then!

    So to anyone working on their first novel I would just tell them to enjoy every single moment of it because writing will never feel like that again.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fascinating, and thanks for explaining how the triology aspect works for you. Funny how you never expected success. Of course it found you! And so did pressure to produce, which is what I was expecting when I wrote the post. Love your advice to just enjoy writing every single moment of the first book. I’m trying to. Thank you for some great insights, Georgia.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Interesting, I actually think my second is my favorite. My first does have some sweet reminiscent feeling to it of innocence, but it has never given me the same sense of adoration as some of my others as I think I was just more focused on getting it done and on a page than actual savoring or enjoying writing. Good thoughts though, interesting to hear other writers feelings towards their books.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. My first novel took ten years to write. Some of that was historical research, but most of it was just learning to sit in silence and go deep enough for long enough to put the words down. That’s still the hardest part for me. Getting quiet and letting my self trust the process.

    Good luck with your maiden endeavor. Enjoy the writing. Don’t even think about anything past getting that draft down. And if you’ve already conquered the first draft, be mindful of who you hand it off to for feedback. Anyone can read a book and offer an opinion, but “constructive” criticism requires honesty be balanced by insight and, yes, kindness.

    Happy writing!

    Carrie Ann

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m having a similar experience to yours, Carrie Ann, and your advice is reassuring. Thanks for your comments, especially your suggestions about how to handle critiques (the phase I’m in now)–that’s really important for everyone, no matter the number of novels they’ve written. Nice having you visit my blog.

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  5. VERY interesting idea. I think you have a point ..my first novel ( now on 14th published, many unpublished was a bot like that. A lovely voyage into the unknown. On cloud nine, and everybody being very nice, as I was a ”baby” writer. The second was sheer hell…as I thought it would be as dreamily easy. I have to say though (slightly off topic) that I do enjoy the security of knowing that I CAN do it…like a woman who has given birth many times…been there, know what it feels like. Can get to the other side safely. Good luck to you!! Nice blog.

    Liked by 1 person

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