I can still vividly remember the day I sat down and started, officially, writing my first novel – I was on winter break, and I spilled out 8K words onto that digital page in one day. It was unlike any other writing experience I had ever had. I don’t know why, but this one felt different – I’d started novels before, but I’d not yet completed one. (In fact, I actually started my third novel before I wrote either the first or second one.)
Now, as I sit here with three completed manuscripts, one in progress, and one in research mode – it’s hard to remember life before I was a writer of books. Officially. I can’t help but think back to these first two stories – and what different experiences they were to write.
I know I refer to my first book as Alice’s story, but it is actually a dual narrator story – so Alice and Stanley’s stories. This one took me two years to finish writing the first completed draft. Part of this was because I didn’t know what I was doing. I hadn’t yet figured out my writing process for work of this length. But also, life got in the way a lot. My commute ate up nine hours a week. Grading ate up a rather large piece of the time pie, too. And so on and so forth. So it was two years before I got to type THE END on my first novel. I could have cried typing those words. I did it – I finally did it! I wrote a book. I was officially a writer of books. Or, you know, a writer of ‘book’, singular.
It was through this first story that I really figured out how to write a book – not just literally, but what process worked best for me. The second book was where I perfected my process for myself. The second book (and the third, actually) was written during the pandemic when I was working remotely. It’s amazing how much faster one can write a book when they aren’t driving nine hours a week. (Also amazing how much more money one has to spend on books when one isn’t filling the gas tank twice a week…)
Another significant difference between the two was how quickly I was willing to turn the manuscript over for feedback. I wasn’t quite finished when I first handed a chunk of my first story over to my writing buddy for feedback – but the section he read had been revised and edited more times than I can remember. The entire manuscript had been completed and revised and edited and polished before I even considered handing it to anyone else. With the second, I handed over a full manuscript to my entire group of beta readers that I had read through only once before. It felt a little like one of those jokes people make about parents with two kids – how the first is treated like they are made of porcelain, and then there are barely any pictures of the second child (me, I’m a second child) because it’s not like they’d never seen a child’s first steps before (I’m stretching the truth for effect – there are plenty of pics of me as a child). In this instance, though, to be fully honest, I was looking for feedback to help me fill out the story – but I think it’s telling that I was willing to hand over something that was so unfinished. (And it’s telling of how much I trusted these people. And myself.)
Alice will always be my first book – my debut. Thought at this point, it looks like Lucy might be out in the world first. Because even in publication, they are completely different experiences. Alice is with a publisher – Lucy will be self-published. And everything else? Well, those stories are on hold at the moment. This writer tried to juggle too many manuscripts all at once. Lesson learned. 🙂 (Hoping to be back in the query trenches with number three soon, though!)