I started my first novel – Set ‘Em Up, Joe – last year. When you begin to write your first novel, many things happen to you. You feel a bit overwhelmed, you go a little crazy. Maybe you start talking to yourself – more, and in public. You dream, you hope, you pray. You laugh at yourself, but not too much because you think you might just be able to swing it.
Then, on the second day, you think it might be better to not worry so much, not over think the situation – or you’ll never get past the first scene. So, you write. And at some point, you finish (really finish, like after the many critiques and revisions).
Then, you find yourself in the middle of the submission process. Maybe you have some partials, or even a full, out. You wait a week or two before getting seriously into your next project- you know, just to give yourself some breathing room and a little time before you go through the whole crazy, glorious journey again. You may have some ideas swimming around up there, a few possibilities jotted down on your favorite notepad. You’re not quite sure which one to give yourself to, so you mull things over. You could study trends, see what might be the best idea to foster. But then you quickly realize doing so won’t do you any good – by the time you write the novel, the trend will be over (or on hiatus). Plus, you should write what speaks to you. Write what you have to write, not what you think you should.
Then, you decide on a project. Could be one jumps out at you fairly quickly, or you might have one of those moments where you realize idea number five on your list of eight ABSOLUTELY MUST BE WRITTEN NOW. Maybe one of the characters whispers sweet somethings (because nothings would be…nothing) in your ear or visits you in a dream and threatens you - “Write this now, or else I’ll Stop. Talking. To You.” Egads, that wouldn’t do at all (I’ve always wanted to use egads, thanks).
If you’re like me, you write the opening scene knowing it’s going to change and quite possible go away completely. Then you do some research, interview your characters, start working through questions you find in the How to Write the Breakout Novel Workbook by Donald Maass. You know, get a better feel for the story and the people. Then suddenly the real opening scene appears, hovering just within reach, and you make a mad dash to your computer or notepad, shut out the world, and START YOUR NEXT NOVEL.
And you realize something.
That thing you read or heard about authors – you know, the one about how you never, ever find an agent to rep your first novel because it’s rarely good enough – you realize its true.
And the other thing you heard about – that you have to write two or three or four or more novels before you can hope to have any idea of what you’re doing – you start to think maybe that one’s true, too.
So you fret and maybe cry – just a little bit, just enough to work out some anxiety and fear. But then you tell yourself something you never thought you would hear yourself saying (or think yourself thinking):
“It’s o.k. if my first novel doesn’t find a home.”
Because some day, it might – even if that is after your next one does (or the one after that or after that…)
Because, you have to write. You Have to Write. And each and every single novel you work on is worth it.
If you have kids, you’ll get this – you love each child as much as the other. Maybe you love different qualities about each child, because each child is different, unique. But you love all your kiddos so darn much you can hardly breathe at times. You want the best for each child – that includes doing the best you can as a parent. Sure, you learn as you go and so maybe the way you parent your next child is slightly better (or way better, maybe) than your first. Because you’ve learned some things – tricks of the trade, what works, what doesn’t. Plus, remember – each child is different so you cannot parent all kids exactly the same. What works for one may not (always) work for the other. Which is good. Parenting should never be easy. It should be hard, it should force you to try better each and every day. You won’t always – some days, you’ll be too tired or you’ll fall into old patterns of (bad) parenting. But that won’t last long, not if you really want to be the best parent you can be and you really want the best for each child.
Now – substitute writer for parent and novel for child.
That’s how you approach the next novel. And the one after that and the one after that…
Submission Update – I’ve not heard back from the agents that have partials/full. I did have the opportunity to meet one of the agents at a recent workshop. She said she’d keep her eye out for the partial (I’d just mailed it out) and that she’s looking forward to reading it. That made my day. And she was so very nice!
Hard at work on my second novel – a supernatural thriller.