Wednesday, May 29, 2013

My First Time

So I’ve been thinking about the first novel I ever wrote. A friend asked me about the writing process. My first answer was, “I sit down and write.” And then I went a bit deeper. When I was halfway through, my friend gave me a confused look. I realized I’d been telling her all of my rookie mistakes. My first novel was a true work of passion. I wrote because I was a lonely 19-year-old in a new college and hadn’t made any friends yet—my roommate was not my cup of tea!

So I wrote. It kept me company, filled up my days, and made me okay with not being so popular anymore—I was pretty well known in high school and at my first university. I’d just transferred to this school and wasn’t taking to my new environment as immediately as I thought I would. Nevertheless, my writing made all of that tolerable. Then I made friends, got a social life, and forgot my writing for a while.

When I went back to that story at the ripe old age of 23, I couldn’t believe how juvenile it was. I hadn’t had been lied to, had my heart broken, or flunked a class when I’d written that novel at 19—all of which had happened to me by the age of 23. So got back into my writing and plugged away at it for a long while. It took me FOREVER to let someone else read what I’d written. Only when I was contemplating getting published, like a decade later, did I finally let someone read my novel. My mom and my sister. With there stamps of approval—no one else, mind you—I was ready to get on with this writing thing, I mean, there were millions of dollars to be made. Here are the things I did when I stepped my virgin toes into query hell. Tell me how many mistakes you count. J

1. I italicized, bolded, and changed the font of all the dialogue. *It’s gotta stand out, right?*
2. The manuscript had a word count of nearly 200k. *That’s passion!*
3. To reduce the page numbers I used 10pt and 1.5 spacing and .5 margins. *My eyes are bleeding just remembering that!*
4. The main character was 17 years old so I should’ve queried it as YA, but I queried agents who were looking for adult novels only because they mentioned they liked ethnic fiction and my characters were black and Hispanic. *I’m still laughing about that one.*
5. And finally, I got a copyright. *No one was going to steal my precious work! Mind you, my mother is still telling me to get a copyright on each novel I finish, no matter how many times I tell her I don’t need it.*

It wasn’t until I submitted my novel to a small publishing house that the woman who read it pointed out all of my mistakes. I am, until this day, grateful for her kind words. After I received her positive, yet informative denial I became a researching maniac! I really felt stupid when I realized so much information was out there about manuscripts and how to format them. But I am forever grateful for my mistakes too. I think back on that first manuscript fondly. It will probably never sit atop a bookseller’s shelf, but it’s mine. I created it and I am proud of it…all 669 pages of the YA master piece.

How did your first novel come about? Did you make a lot of mistakes like me, or did you do your homework?


  1. I wrote my first one when I was even younger than you and it was a mess. It took a lot more writing and some research to figure out what I was doing.
    Don't give up hope on that first manuscript. I went back a few years ago an completely rewrote mine. It became my first published book.

  2. Well, after all this time and work, my first novel is being let out into the wider world next March. Before then though ... urgh ... the horror ... I've the very first version of it kicking about in the files somewhere ... yup, in all it's terrible first person point of view, over telling, mistake-riddled glory.

    And, surprisingly, it is around half as long as its successor.