Confronting my first novel...

When I starting this scribbling business in 2009, I wrote the second part of my trilogy first. I didn’t know I had at the time. I sat down one morning in front of my computer and typed for three months.

As a professional translator, I knew it would have to edit anything I produced. I joined a writer’s group and got through the terror of reading my offering out loud and receiving comments and criticism. I toughened up. I ordered and consumed books on writing, I swapped others with the writing group members. I put out tentative feelers to find out how to publish. I went along to seminars, listened to talks. I was on my way.

My novel’s heroine was established in her role; she knew her world, she had a significant other and she duly saved the day. What could be wrong?

But after one writer’s group evening, the discussion confirmed a doubt which had started sliding into my head by the back door a week or two earlier. Why had I started where I had? Why hadn’t I started at the beginning of her story?

I explained to myself and the group that I would publish(!) the first part afterwards. I didn’t need to be all conventional.

Er, yes, I did.

To get a second sale, you have to hook your readers. When did you ever read a trilogy or series that didn’t start with part 1? I don’t mean the absolute beginning of the heroine’s or hero’s life, but their first adventure/case/ revelation/ pivotal point in their life.  (I’ll probably get bombarded with comments and emails quoting hundreds of examples now 😉 ).

But I saw the logic and took another three months to draft the first part. Seven drafts later, I submitted it to the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writer’s Scheme and received terrific feedback plus a load of points to work on. This is the book whose progress I have mentioned from time to time in this blog.

But what of that book I wrote first – the second part of the trilogy? The one I cut my teeth on. I dug it out of the archive, printed it out and wept. It was crap. The story was basically sound, but dear gods, the words: clichés, telling, dough, fluff, gratuitous scenes, sag, cardboard characters.

So out came the machete, the clichéometer was cranked up and the stomper readied. I have left some sentences and even the odd paragraph untouched. This is encouraging. I am on page 41 with 248 to go. It’ll be over before Christmas.

I realise that since putting that first novel aside, I have learned so much and practised so much more. My writing is at a different level altogether and importantly, I can see that. Which is quite a relief.

So am I alone or have you noticed a similar change in your writing?

2 comments to Confronting my first novel…

  • I completely hear you! My first ever written novel (not the several abortive attempts years and years ago) was far away from what I managed to produce in the last couple of years. My agent recently asked if she should have a look at it and I said no. I’ve learned and practiced so much since I write it that now it looks like a raw lump of some kind of precious stone. You can see there’s value in there and part of it sparkles, but to find the real gems is going to be months and months of hard work. For the time being that one is staying in a drawer!

  • alison

    I’m only pleased I haven’t shown this first draft to anybody but my critique partner; she was the one who pushed me to leaving it and writing my current WIP.

    I need this old draft – it’s part II of my trilogy, so I shall have to bash it into submission (in both senses!).

    Continuing your analogy, I have started up the grindstone, along with the tumbler and the polisher and I am determined to smooth the rough parts and coax it into shining.