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Monday, October 1, 2012

Revisiting an Old Story

When I was 15, I got the idea that turned into my first novel.

A wizard with self-esteem issues gets pulled into the middle of an assassination attempt on the king. She’s not with the assassins, though. She’s trying to save the king.

(Yeah, I know, the pitch needs work.)

I thought about the premise for about a decade. I added scenes. I added characters. I figured out the structure of the story. I built a world to contain it. And then I got up the courage to sit down and write the thing.

I wrote a first draft. I went back and rewrote the whole book a second time. I set the thing aside for a while and then went back to it. I’m not sure how many drafts I went through, but it was more than three. Then I knew I needed to get other eyes on the thing, and I looked for beta readers.

Beta readers are hard to find. The ones I used weren’t very helpful. They either told me that the book was “good” or all I heard from them was crickets. After waiting on them for a while, I decided that the book was as good as I could make it. It was time to see if I could sell it.

I wrote a query. I even wrote a synopsis. I did my research, followed submission guidelines, and I looked for an agent.

No one was interested.

While I looked for betas and queried, I worked on other stories. I’ve heard many writers say that they trunked the first book they wrote. They say their first book was for practice and isn’t good enough for publication. But I’m not ready to give up on my first. Not yet. I think there’s still something there.

Perhaps I’m na├»ve.

I don’t think I need to trash what I had and start over. But there are some decisions I made in this story that I now question. So, I thought I’d ask for opinions. And then maybe I’ll revisit this book.

Did you give up on the first book you wrote? Are you still working on it? Do you think a first book has a shot at being something worthy of publication?

34 comments:

Trisha Leaver said...

My first ms is still on my hard drive. I go back to it every few months and tinker around with it. It's like an old friend that I revisit when I need to take a step back from whatever new project I am working on. Do I think it will ever see the light of day? Probably not, but that doesn't stop me from playing with it now and then.

Alicia C. said...

If I ever finish my first one I'll let you know. But my gut feeling is that if it's good, you know it. If you believe in it...and you work on it, and refine it, why can't it be just as good as your third?

Patchi said...

My current manuscript has the same story, and I haven't given up on it yet. I haven't queried it either. After the beta readers I went to Critters Workshop and the critique I got there was fantastic. I'm still revising/polishing based on feedback, but I think the novel is getting really close to ready to submit. You might want to try it. Here is the link:
http://www.critters.org/

Laura Hughes, MittensMorgul said...

The first book I ever wrote is safely hidden away. So is the sequel I wrote for it. I have a plot outline for book three for those characters, but it still lives in my head. I went on to write a completely different series of books, which I am querying now. Someday I will go back and rewrite that first book. I love the story, and the characters, and the world I created for them, but it was my first attempt at writing something longer than a term paper. I haven't read it in a while (like maybe a year), but I have a feeling it reads like a first attempt at writing. It got better through revision, but it's still...cringeworthy.

Ink in the Book said...

My first book is still yet to be read by anyone. Apparently my query and pitch doesn't entice anyone enough to read the manuscript. Which I think is unfair to my story. I know all writers think their book is awesome, but how will I ever know what others think if I can't even get a someone to read it?

That said, yes, I think my book is worth reading and I am still trying to get in into the hands of someone who can help me with their opinions and suggestions...

aaawwww, the first book. I haven't given up on it, and I don't paln to, either. Not yet anyway:)

prerna pickett said...

if a book is calling to you then go for it! i have a story just like this that i set aside but plan to get back to soon.

Michelle Roberts said...

My first "book" was a 90 page story that I wrote when I was 13 after reading the Lord of the Rings trilogy. After that I was hooked, each story getting longer and better. I even wrote a novel in high school that was part of my curriculum (the best part of being homeschooled). :) My current WIP I've been working on for about 4 1/2 years. I'm not giving up on it. The story has evolved, along with my ability. It's only taken this long because of outside factors: working while going to college, getting married, etc.

In other words, don't give up! If you believe it has potential, then I'd go for it.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I never gave up on my first book but I rewrote it several times as I learned more. I think I had written four more books before I found a publisher for that first one.

Laura Stephenson said...

I think a first book can become publishable if you rewrite it enough (ie throw out the whole thing and start with the same main idea, but add/remove characters, add/remove plot points, etc), but not in its original form, no matter how revised.

Marsha Sigman said...

So funny because I have been thinking about this for a few weeks now. It was a few years back but the feedback I got on that first story from agents was the concept was great but the writing was horrific.ha I am paraphrasing but it's what they meant. I've come a long way from then to now. Maybe it's time to go back to it.

So my answers are No, Yes, and Hell, yes.

DEZMOND said...

I remember burning down my first novel :) But, to be honest, it was written when I was about 15 or something. Epic fantasy titled WINTER DAWNS.

mshatch said...

I still have my first story, partly typed, partly handwritten. Maybe some day I'll get it out to finish and polish.

Huntress said...

I wrote a 100K urban fantasy that still haunts me after three years. I believe it has a chance for publication. It isn't a part of the mainstream vampire/angels/werewolves theme and seems fresh (to me!)

Maybe I quit offering it to agents too soon. But after 50 plus rejections, I was ready to more onto the next project. Now, I am happy to come back to it and employ what I've learned in the three years since writing it.

Cherie Reich said...

Heh, speaking of first novels, I plan to rewrite mine for NaNoWriMo this year. I'm definitely not giving up on it any time soon. :)

Aldrea Alien said...

I wrote my first story at the age of 12, a decade and a half later, after many rewrites (including a switch from 1st to 3rd), it has lost much of the original feel (which I consider a good thing, as the original sucked majorly).
It's also sitting just under the 200k mark. O_O So while I'm not giving up on it, I am realistic on what I'll need to accomplish before getting my fifteen-year-old 'baby' out there.

Charity Bradford said...

I never gave up on that first one and look where it got me. ;) After putting it away several times (the first draft was born 10 years ago!), I did a complete rewrite a few years ago. In between I wrote three other books for practice.

The more you write, the more you learn and then you can return to that story born from your deepest heart's desire and make it all that it can be. Yeah, never give up on anything that continues to pull on your heart.

Liz said...

I had an afghan that I was knitting that was like that. Eventually, I did finish it. I bet we'll see that ms someday.

Liz said...

I thought so too, while I was working on it. Now, I'm not so sure.

Liz said...

Thanks. I'll have to check that website out.

Liz said...

But I bet you could make it work now.

Liz said...

I'm not alone. That's good to know.

Liz said...

Calling to me? I don't know if it's calling to me. I'm not ready to let it go, yet.

Liz said...

4 1/2 years? So, perhaps 20 years is too long?

Liz said...

Thanks. That gives me hope.

Liz said...

I think you're probably right.

Liz said...

I'm glad that this topic is something you can relate to. (I've been worried about my topic for this week. Panicked, more like.)

Liz said...

Were you able to make something out of the ashes?

Liz said...

Can't wait to see it.

Liz said...

That's kind of what I was thinking about mine. It's been long enough, and I've learned more, so perhaps I can fix it.

Liz said...

Good luck.

Liz said...

Age 12? I'm impressed.

Liz said...

And your book is amazing (at least the version I read, and I know it must be much different now). Yes, I've had the other books written since, so I think I may have a chance.

Carrie-Anne said...

I'm still with characters I created at age 11, 12, and 13. We literally grew up together. I consider my superlong Russian historical novel my first real, completed novel (my Atlantic City historicals are much shorter and not what I personally consider novel-length, though they're longer than novellas). I wrote it between ages 13-21, briefly queried it, lost access to it for a decade (since i wrote it on MacWriteII and ClarisWorks, and all 43 files were on disks), then finally was able to convert and reformat it last year. I'm really proud of all the work I've done on it, though I'm strongly leaning towards some kind of indie publishing due to the length. It's a Russian novel-sized Russian novel!

Liz said...

That's impressive!