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.
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.
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.
Want a sneak peek of my upcoming novel?
For more on the art of writing, look HERE.