Why Your First Novel Is The Easiest To Write
If you’re struggling with your first novel, you probably think I’m crazy to say this. But it’s true. When you write your first novel, you have dreams, ideas and determination. Sure, your determination might falter, but if you really want to write, you’ll overcome the lows and get it finished. Eventually.
We know what’s hard about first novels
Firstly, most people don’t really know what they’re doing, even if they’ve attended fiction writing courses. Because a novel is HUGE. While you struggle to get 200 or 500 words down, those 80,000 words or so seem an eon away. You ask yourself — how the heck does anyone write that many words?
But then you realize that your 500 words, if you keep doing them regularly or daily, will get you there, often within a year.
You have to keep that big plot and all the subplots in your head. Or on paper somehow (I use diagrams and notebooks). Some people swear by Scrivener, but it won’t write the novel for you, and comes with issues of its own.
But you gradually work out what works for you. Plotting on paper or with diagrams. Following a structure like the 3-act or hero’s journey to guide you. The more you keep track of all the bits, the more control you start to have over it all.
Or you’re a “pantser” and you just keep writing and writing and writing until you’re finished!
You have a million fears
You know you can fail in a dozen different ways. You won’t finish. Your family will (or do) laugh at you. Your friends get upset when you’d rather write than go out partying. You suffer imposter syndrome, believing you’re kidding yourself and your writing really sucks. Then you read articles where even well-published writers feel like this and realize it’s not just you.
You’re afraid of rejection. You don’t send anything out, not even your flash fiction. But everyone has to go through this fire. People talk about being rejected dozens of times. You understand that it’s part of the process, and that you can learn to write better and receive fewer of those dreaded emails saying No.
You fear that you are wasting your time That all these hours could be put to much better use, earning money or learning a new hobby or hanging out with friends.
But writing gives you an amazing sense of fulfillment, of achievement, of joy. Just to write is worth the time, to see the pages mount up, to feel you are getting somewhere, loving your characters, letting them speak to you, sending them into the world you have created.
Your passion for the story overcomes the fears, and your dreams for what will happen, what might happen with your novel, mean that it’s all possible.
And more than anything, your first novel is easy because there is NO DEADLINE. Nobody is waiting for it, tapping their foot. You can take as long as you need to finish it, and then rewrite it until it’s the best it can be. That’s why it’s the easiest. No pressure. Other than your own need to do it.
Then there’s the submission process. This is the reason why other writers will tell you — don’t wait for your novel to be accepted or published. Start your second novel straight away. You could be submitting for a year or more. Even if you self-publish, this takes time to do properly, and then market it well.
Start your second novel as soon as you can. It won’t be as easy as the first one, because you’re also trying to get your first one published. That will take time, and your confidence will have to weather the rejections. But what you have to do is write, and keep writing. Otherwise the process of dealing with Novel №1 will dishearten you and you will never get started again.
But then you get Novel №1 published. And that’s when it gets hard. New writers don’t believe this. When my students said, “When my novel gets published, all my problems will be solved,” I would reply, “No, you just get a new set of problems.” And you do.
Very often your contract will be for two books. The second book will have a deadline. Suddenly that foot-tapping person is right behind you, waiting. That deadline seems forever away, and next thing you know, it’s right in front of you. Your second novel is nowhere near finished. It’s not working the way you wanted. And the foot tapping starts to echo night and day.
People talk about the dreaded second novel syndrome. A lot of this is caused by the deadline, and the realization that you don’t have vast amounts of endless time to tinker and fine-tune anymore. You have to get Novel 2 done to someone else’s timetable. It can freeze you up. Or make you produce something that is just OK.
Even when you self-publish, you’re aware now that readers are waiting for the next book. They’re wondering if it will be as good. You have to stay away from reviews, because some will be bad, but you can’t help yourself. Or Book 1 doesn’t sell well, and you start to wonder if it’s worth it.
And the marketing. The time it takes. Let’s not even go there.
So make the most of your first novel. Take joy in all its ups and downs, and take your time writing and editing and rewriting and polishing. It’s a golden time. Enjoy.