View Full Version : What did your first novel teach you?

11-21-2005, 08:15 AM
Since we've lost some posts, including this one, I'll start again.

What did your first novel (published or not) teach you? What lessons did you learn?

For me:

1. How to begin a novel.

2. Pacing.

3. Natural dialogue.

4. Self Editing.

(read the long version on my blog (http://itheauthor.blogspot.com/2005/11/what-did-my-first-novel-teach-me.html))

Lady of Prose
11-21-2005, 09:08 AM
Revisions and re-writes are a way of life for a writer.

Not to take rejections personally.

Ditto the self editing.

11-21-2005, 09:46 AM
It taught me that I could do it. And not to take rejections personally.

Sharon Mock
11-21-2005, 10:18 AM
My first attempt at writing a novel taught me what a novel is. For example, a novel has subplots. Who knew?

Lyra Jean
11-21-2005, 10:52 AM
I'm learning that it is important to write every single day. Missing one day really adds up.

Also, I'm in rough draft stage. I can just keep writing and fix it later. Rough drafts is to move forward so you don't lose the story. Worry about details later.

11-21-2005, 11:23 AM
To be wary of those images in the head that just seem to be a short story.

And that not all books have sequels. Thank the Gawds.


11-21-2005, 03:29 PM
My first novel taught me I could write. Seriously, I didn't think I could do it. I was a science major in college and I had one English professor who kept hounding me long after I took her class. Every time we'd bump into each other, she'd say, "Still waiting for your first novel to come out." I'd just shake my head. Didn't she understand I was not an English major (which I for some reason thought was a pre-req to writing a novel). Then one day I did it, started a novel. Once I was done, I wouldn't let anyone see it, until finally, a year after I had completed it, I handed it over to her and she loved it. I was blown away. I could actually write a book people liked. Two English professors read it, one I had never met, and he too loved it. I learned a lot about mechanics from thier edits on my novel. My manuscript looked like an artery had been severed and red ink soaked the pages. Aside from all my mistakes, they still seemed to find it an enjoyable read.

Basically, I learned so much about my own writing, about mechanics, pacing, plot, self editing, and so much more. But the most important thing I learned was...I can write.

11-21-2005, 03:57 PM
That I could write something longer than a short story and stay interested in it long enough to finish.

11-21-2005, 07:49 PM
My first (and so far, only) novel finished taught me not to be afraid. That this wasn't some mystical process, completely out of reach. If I finished one, I can finish another, and another, and another.

Hopefully the second one will teach me how to begin.

11-21-2005, 08:11 PM
I'm not sure my first novel really taught me much of anything, except that I could write and sell that kind of novel. I write it start to finsih in three weeks, so I was operating on instinct.

What I've learn since is that writing the same book over and over is easy, but everytime I try to write a different kind of novel in a different kind of style, the learning process starts all over again.

Unless you're writing the same book over and over, writing novels gets harder and harder, not easier and easier.

11-22-2005, 12:31 AM
I did learn a lot after finishing my first novel. But I cheated and had an editor do a line-by-line edit and critique. Then I cheated again and had another editor review the first five chapters and do a line-by-line edit and critique. What did I learn from these two individuals? Plenty. I learned to tighten up my work, better dialogue, and some editing skills.

Where am I today with second novel? Much better prepared to write a semi-quality first draft that takes less time to edit because I learned a great deal about writing since the first one.

Where will I be with novel three, four, or five? Hopefully, I will have learned how from the previous two and get closer to Nirvana!


11-22-2005, 06:03 AM
To get a friggin' outline first. :D

11-22-2005, 10:19 AM
That I'm not as insane as I thought I might be.

11-22-2005, 10:55 AM
That I probably am insane... :wag:

Seriously: formatting; characterization (including cardboard characters); world-building and story outlining; concise, fluid structuring (sentence, paragraph, chapter, plot, etc.) and heaps of other fiddly things I now take for granted (use of tags, ellipses, dashes, etc.); and last but not least, happiness that I can complete the task many only dream (and talk) about.

Oh, and writing well takes time and patience - and many edits with fresh eyes. :eek:

11-22-2005, 04:08 PM
That I don't have to be perfect. I just need to tell a damn good story.

11-22-2005, 06:03 PM
That crossing genres in a first novel gives agents and editors the heebie-jeebies. (Of course, at the time I had no idea that's what I was doing.)

11-23-2005, 01:23 AM
In a word - PLOTTING

That was hugely missing in my first novel (now in it's oh, 4th or 5th revision :D.) I only had a vague notion of where the story was going and subsequently had to scrap most of it (except for the characters) and restart. But the restart was much more structured. Not scene-by-scene outline structured, but i knew what every character was doing and where he/she had to end up. Recently did a synopsis of the book for a professor who's writing me a letter of recommendation for PhD programs in creative writing and that helped hugely. I'll probably end up doing that before I start every novel, without tying myself too closely to it (leaving wiggle room if I the characters take it in a different direction)

Also language - writing the first one with all the room I had for a novel taught me to stretch the boundaries of language and really reach into my imagination for more lucid and original images.

Of course, the revision is teaching me what to cut from that writing :D.


11-26-2005, 05:44 AM
I think my first novel taught me to be concise. I learned to gut the prose and avoid abusing literary devices.

11-26-2005, 03:43 PM
What I've learned thus far in writing my first novel: write hot, edit cold. (I think Stephen King said that.)