Monday, July 27, 2009

Firsts

Kiss. Paycheck. Baby. House. Grandchild.

Novel.

Mine took a year to write. Three months to edit. Three months of queries (and no agent bites) before Avalon showed interest by requesting the full. They turned it down for their reasons, and I've been sitting on Bliss Lake ever since. I thought about more edits, some embellishments. I considered reworking the format, deepening the plot, adding another POV. I even spent some time giving it another go, trying to make it work.

But I recently decided to shelve it. Bliss Lake and I are cutting ties for now. Maybe for always.

It was shorter than most agents and publishers choose to consider. My characters, much as I loved them, weren't fleshed-out enough. The story, as I thought it was meant to be told, didn't have emotional depth, no pulling weight.

It just wasn't good enough. Not as my writing needs to be. As good as I want it to be.

But it was worth it, because I learned so much. I delved into the craft, started finding my voice. Experienced the rush of words, the effort of discipline, the draw of the story. I learned I can write a novel. All from my first attempt.

It was excellent practice.

What ever happened to your first novel?

53 comments:

JKB said...

I do believe my mother threw it away.

I was 11.

I had typed it out at the high school, and drawn all the illustrations. I was crushed.

(I even sent it to a Big Publishing House in a manila folder I begged off the art teacher.)

LOL

Don't give up! *hug*

Rebecca Nazar said...

Haven't written one, but I've shelved my share of short stories. *sigh*

ajgallion said...

This is such an honest post...my first novel sits alone by itself and despite having had a non-fiction pubbed, my first crack at fiction just doesn't seem to spark any interest. I'm thinking that it was a learning experience, but there's that part of me that wonders if I should still try to sell it and not give up. In the meantime, I've begun two other novels...

Angie Ledbetter said...

My first women's fic ms is patiently (and sometimes not so) waiting for me to finish revisions. I hope nobody calls Child Protection on me for neglect.

Marty said...

Hey, getting a book written is in itself a GREAT accomplishment. Then to be successful enough with a query to get a full read is fantastic.

My first "book" is a technical manual on aircraft corrosion control and it sits unpublished on my bottom bookcase shelf. I have a screenplay (currently being read by a producer) and I am working to slowly wrap up my first novel.

Never give up!

Jessica said...

Do you mean the first one I finished? Snort! There was one started in middle school, never finished. As an adult, I started one and spent two years literally pecking at it. I didn't get serious about writing until someone mentioned I should try to get published. See, I'd started writing the first story without even thinking of publication. So I got down to business and churned out a historical romance but revisions and stuff made me take almost two years. Then I started querying a year ago. I still have a partial out. :-) I haven't given up on this one yet, but if it does need to be shelved, I think I can accept that.

Marybeth Poppins said...

My first novel and I haven't spoke in a couple weeks. We are having a few differences of opinion. It wants me to change words...I like the words the way they are :)

It's on a shelf for now and I recently started a new novel, which I am also struggling with.

I'm wondering if I should be working in a different genre, but I don't have any ideas in any other genres.

Donna M. Kohlstrom said...

Like last week, my computer crashed years ago, this was before I knew anything about backing up, and I lost 150 pages, never to be recovered!

My next novel, which I finished the end of 2008, is sitting in a drawer. I feel the urge to resurrect it, but don't know if I will give in.

My first love in writing is short stories and I'm focusing on them, but this weekend a novel length story crashed into my writing and I've been scratching out pages!

Oh, what to do!?

Just because you had a rejection, don't give up! Your story is probably publishable but you just haven't found the right agent/editor. Persevere!!!!!

Jenna said...

On an old 3-1/2" hard disk sitting in a landfill somewhere.

Janna Qualman said...

Jen - Aw, that is devastating. I wonder what you'd find if you could get your hands on it and read it one last time?

Becca - I'm glad you piped up, because I didn't want to discount short story writers like you. :)

ajgallion - Thanks for stopping by! I love seeing new faces. And good for you! I think starting something new (even if we do eventually go back to another novel) is very important.

Angie - LOL! For your sake, I hope the same. :D

Welcome, Marty! Thanks so much for the words of encouragement, and good luck to you. Wow!

Jessica - Yeah, there were some I started as a kid that petered out and lost momentum, too. High hopes for that partial!

Marybeth, thanks for visiting! I so know that feeling. My advice is to not stress over genre at all right now. Don't even think about it. Just brainstorm and plot and come up with your next idea. Then write it as you feel it should be written. Later, much later, you can tag a genre on it. It will tell you. Good luck!

Stephanie Faris said...

How long did Avalon take to get back to you? They've had a requested complete of mine for months and I'm wondering if they forgot about me!

Rejection is part of it...and it sucks. But I've found usually if I have more than one thing out at a time it cushions the blow a little because there's always hope one of the others will come through.

Janna Qualman said...

Donna - Thank goodness for backing up! I understand your heart being in both kinds of writing. And I think you should appease both desires; work on that new novel whenever the urge comes. And your creativity will stay fresh with the shorter stuff.

Jenna - Pooh, that reminds me of the lost 3-1/2" disk I can't find anywhere. :( But it's good to see you again!

Lynnette Labelle said...

Don't feel bad. Even the big authors didn't sell their first book. Actually, I don't know of ANYONE who has.

I've shelved my YA series (because I'm no longer teaching and am out of that "world"). I left my first romantic suspense unedited to write the next book because I liked the story better. After completing it, I decided to rewrite most of it. Ugh! It's been quite a challenge, but I like the new version a lot better. I'm at 65% now (as of this morning), so I'm getting there. Yay!

Lynnette Labelle
http://lynnettelabelle.blogspot.com

Janna Qualman said...

Stephanie - It was three business days from receipt of my query to the full request; about a month for the rejection. Maybe you could send a follow-up letter? Good luck! And you're right, having other stuff to work on is nice padding. :)

Janna Qualman said...

Lynnette - You know, I'm beginning to think everyone needs a first, "practice" novel. We have to test everything out, you know? There's so much to learn. Great job on your rewrites! Good luck.

Wendy @ All in a Day's Thought said...

How did you *know* it was time to cut ties. An agent has mine...waiting...
~ Wendy

Janna Qualman said...

Oh Wendy, good luck! It was only the last month or so that it became clear to me, when I found my current project had so much potential, and just determined I want to be better. Up until that point I kept stringing it along. But it's definitely a personal decision. I think if it happened for you, you'd know. Maybe the agent will decide for you. ;)

Ladybird World Mother said...

What a heartening thing to write. I so get this.. all our writing is meaningful, whether published or not. Especially a first novel like your one. And judging from all the comments... you have raised a good subject!!

Kristen Painter said...

My first novel finaled in the Golden Heart and is now getting comments from a NYT best-selling author in the same genre so it can be revised and resubmitted.

Terri Tiffany said...

I have revised my first book about 5 times I think. It was accepted last year by the publisher in England and I pulled it when they kept changing their part of the contract. So I cleaned it up some more and it is out there waiting for it's second rejection:)) Or is that third??

ralfast said...

I haven't given up on mine yet. It is a bit short but its mine and I believe in it, the words, the characters, etc. Maybe after a few rounds of rejections I may set it aside, but not yet.

Melissa Marsh said...

I had a ton of bites on my first novel - and they all ultimately passed. THANK THE LORD. That novel wasn't ready to be put out into the world yet. I've learned so much since I wrote it.

Janna Qualman said...

Ladybird - I think that's the brunt of my point; that even though my first didn't get as far as I may have dreamed, it sure took me to new levels. You expressed it well!

Kristen - Great for you!

Terri - Your journey is leading you somewhere special!

Rafael - That determination is key! And I don't mind at all. :)

Melissa - Amen! :)

Cindy said...

Oh boy...let's see...the first novel I wrote I started when I was 12 and finished when I was 15. I think it ended up somewhere near novel length, so I was happy. But it was terrible. Long gone but not forgotten. I learned that I could finish and entire novel, and more, that I had a passion for writing.

quixotic said...

My first attempt at writing was lost in a cross country move. I was 14. My first full novel, I am hoping will make it to book form someday. I'm shopping it around to agents right now.

Now that you have shelved the first, are you ready to write another?

Lazy Writer said...

It's been sitting for a while. I hope to return to it someday, but for now, I'm moving on!

Melanie Avila said...

*blushes*

I'm querying mine. I'm terrified right now that mine will have to be shelved, but it's too soon for me to decide that just yet. Fingers crossed.

Janna, I want to snuggle on the couch with you over a cup of coffee. That's such a tough decision!

wv: disca

I think it has yours and Jenna's novels.

Jill Kemerer said...

I was just thinking about it while reading a book with a similar set up. And I miss it! I might have to go back and read it for old time sake. Except I'll probably be gagging over all the new-writer-mistakes I made!

Travis Erwin said...

It still haunts my dreams.

Janet said...

I'll let you know when I find out...

Kathy said...

My first novel is just sitting around on my computer.

I asked a few people to read it and only one person actually gave me feedback. I'm really curious why the other people never did what they promised to do.

That was a big turnoff and stopped me from doing anything else with the book.

Kara said...

Good for you on learning so much from your first novel. I can't seem to finish mine because I keep changing course, which I know is wrong. I just need to finish!

Lori said...

Mine is slowly going the same path as your Bliss Lake. I feel stronger and stronger that it's not worth it and I can do better than that. But it's such a hard decision! I don't know if I can really make it. Hugs!

Janna Qualman said...

Cindy - So that was a huge distance down your career path!

quixotic - I hope you hear good news! And I'm glad you asked, because I wasn't clear in the post: Yep, I've been working on other stuff all along, and feel my current WIP may have the good stuff. :)

Lazy Writer - Sometimes I think moving on is important.

Melanie - Well, as evidenced by a few comments here, some first novels have what it takes. Hang in there! And a hoo snuggle with coffee sounds perfect. :)

Oh gosh, Jill, I did that! It wasn't over-the-top horrible, but I wanted to tear my hair out over some of the things I did. Mortifying! I just hope my brain knows not to do it again. :)

Travis - I can't tell if that's a good thing or bad, but knowing you, bad? ;)

Janet - My fingers are still crossed!

Janna Qualman said...

Kathy - How long has it been? Maybe the time and distance gave you fresh eyes, and it would be worth revisiting.

Kara - I think that's the key with the first one. Finish it! And then go back. Good luck!

Lori - You'll know if it comes to that for you. I didn't want to let go, and then one day it just seemed the perfect thing to keep it to myself. I'm just moving ahead with bigger and better things, but I'm still glad I got that story out. I think I had to get it out before I could do more, you know?

Helen Ginger said...

Well, my very first novel is long gone. I wrote them in high school. Friends would take each page as I finished and pass it around. Never got the pages back. My first adult novel is shelved. Somewhere. Or maybe lost with one of many hard drive crashes.

Save yours. Maybe you'll go back to it one day. Or maybe you'll pull bits from it for another project. Or maybe one day your grandchildren will read it.

Helen
Straight From Hel

LA said...

Sadly I haven't finished any of them. Yup them. I have 3 in some stage of completion. Although now that I have more time on my hands, maybe I'll take one back up and just finish it.

there's always the dream.

Lady Glamis said...

Wow, shelving it huh? Well, I shelved my first novel for 12 years. Now I've rewritten it, and 10 months later I'm itching to work more on it. It's getting there, but not there yet. It's been a very good experience for me. First I have to finish my 3rd novel, Monarch. The 2nd novel is another story, haha. Good luck with your work! No writing is every wasted writing. Remember that projects can always be revisited.

Janna Qualman said...

Helen - Good advice! I'll definitely save it. I'd thought about picking up years from now, but maybe there will be cause to use a scene or character in another story altogether. Thanks!

LA - You've already done so much work, I know you can do it! Finish!

Lady - "No writing is ever wasted writing." I love that. Need to post it in my work area. Thanks! And good luck with yours (even number 2). ;)

Kathryn Magendie said...

The first one became TG - but the first Virginia Kate was very different from the one who became Tender Graces....so, in a way, the "first novel" is still in my files, but what morphed from that first novel became the my debut novel...did that just make sense?

You will visit BL again - you will.

Janna Qualman said...

Kat - It does make sense, absolutely. I appreciate your experience with it. And maybe you're right. :)

Jenn Johansson said...

I'm still working on it, lol. I think this is my last go with it though, if this doesn't take me anywhere--off to the shelf with it as well.

Janna Qualman said...

Jenn - So no one can say you didn't try, huh? :) Good luck!

Sharla said...

Wow! Lots of comments on a great post.

My first novel was done in eight months and then (LOL) was edited off and on for 5 years. Yep. Life got in the way so it sat. When I got back to it, I was in such a different place that it didn't fit me anymore, so I completely revamped it. Queried and queried and got no takers...so it's kind of shelved for now, but I will query again at some point.

I did learn so very much from the process and started a second novel, so I never look at my first "baby" as a failure. It turned me into a writer, and I can say I've written a novel.

Great thought-provoking post, Janna!

Janna Qualman said...

That's the right attitude, Sharla! And thanks. :)

JLC said...

Late to the party!

Mine is sitting on a thumb drive. I wrote it two years ago. 82K in two months. But I haven't even started editing on it, probably for the same reason. I think I could do better, and I am growing as a writer with each new WIP. Who knows, I may go back to that first one.

Great Post!

Janna Qualman said...

That's incredible, JLC! That means you can do it. And you'll do it again.

Cat Connor said...

My first novel is sitting on my hard drive awaiting daylight. lol. It may get it's chance to shine yet - when I get a chance to revise it.

My debut novel, killerbyte, is my fourth novel. (so the first one has friends hiding on my hard drive!)

Janna Qualman said...

Cat - Welcome! And best of luck with your debut.

Terresa said...

I'm still working on it...20 chapters in and knee deep wading through it, reveling in it.

Janna Qualman said...

Terresa - That's a good place to be! :) Welcome. And you have beautiful hair!

Woman in a Window said...

It's fighting to get out. Think the thing wears rings. Hurts when it punches from the inside.

What a great perspective! To believe in the work of it. Good for you. And number two will be even better.

Janna Qualman said...

Very well expressed, Woman.