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Writing Journey Rewind: Mourning the Death of the First Novel


So a lot has happened to me over the last few months. The goal of landing a dream agent and getting a publishing contract has come to fruition. I feel beyond lucky and excited.  And many of you have been with me on this journey from the beginning, but there are also many, many of you who have tuned in over the last couple of months when everything started to happily snowball for me so have only seen the good news.


Therefore, I thought today, I would pull out a blog post from a year and a half ago when things weren't going so well. When I had experienced the let down of the failed first novel. I'm sharing this because being a writer is full of self-doubt and will-it-ever-be me syndrome. It's a daunting task to do something as personal as writing a book, then facing rejection over and over again. So I want to share the post to show how much a year and half can change.

And I hope you take this lesson from it: KEEP WRITING! Don't get hung up on that one book. Move on, keep writing, keep writing, keep writing!

So here we go (July 16, 2009):


Mourning the Death of the First Novel


So I finished my first novel, Shadow Falls (paranormal YA) a few months ago. (Well, my first one that counts. The one in high school, well, a novel it was not.) I toiled and tweaked and edited and obsessed. I wrote and rewrote my query, frantically checking query shark to make sure I didn't make any well-known mistakes. I went through a crisis of self-esteem before hitting send on my first agent query--the oh so attractive, sweaty, shaky, I-obviously-can't-put-two-words-together-so-why-am-I-even-bothering stage. This stage was quickly followed by the "is my email working? is my spam filter too strong? why is it not dinging with new emails from agents?" phase. Yes, I know they say to expect a response no sooner than a few weeks or months, but I plugged my ears and sang show tunes to avoid accepting that knowledge.
To my surprise, many responded within two weeks, which made the immediate gratification monster inside me very happy indeed. Unfortunately, most of those responses were form rejections. However, to my great delight (and surprise), I received two request for partials and two requests for fulls pretty quickly from biggie, dream agents. Of course, I was already picturing my book on the shelf despite knowing my chances were still slim. After a few weeks (two months was the longest), I received three form rejections. Total bummer. Looped back to low self-esteem phase.
Then, this week, I received my rejection on the final full I had out. However, this time the agent personalized it. The lovely note contained the words "you are clearly a very talented writer" (woo-hoo) and that my story "had lots of teen appeal" (kickass). However, the story wasn't different enough from what was out there in a now saturated teen paranormal market. (sigh) Then, she asked that if I didn't find an agent this time around, she hoped I would query her on my next project. (Backing away from the ledge).
So, I'm considering the rejection a victory. I still have a few queries floating around, but my hope meter for this first book is definitely on low. I am mourning it's gentle death and will be burying it in the drawer soon. Perhaps it can be resurrected another day with some rewrites. In the meantime, onward and upward. I'm halfway through writing the first draft of a romance novel.
Lessons learned from novel #1: a) I don't totally suck b) I can write a query letter and c) I can handle rejection (mostly)


I remember feeling really down the day I wrote that, but now I am so happy I went through that experience. It taught me a lot. So what lessons did your first novel teach you? 

**Today's Theme Song**
"Move Along" - All-American Rejects
(player in sidebar, take a listen)


Reader Comments (28)

Thanks for re-posting this. I wasn't following your blog back then, and it's fun to see how you've come full circle." rel="nofollow">GLOSSING OVER IT

November 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSusan

my first novella taught me that there is an editor in the spice briefs office that has a picture of my face on her dart board (that was her only option of staying sane after she read my work)

November 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJoanna St. James

Thanks for sharing this! You say you were down when you wrote it, but boy, you sure sounded philosophical, teachable and teachably optimistic. I can only hope that if I ever get that far I will remember to come back and read all your earlier posts!

November 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTeri Anne Stanley

Sounds like we had a very similar journey with our first books! And yes, the few personalized rejections I got not only kept me away from the ledge, they also kept me writing. They challenged me to get better. And writing, writing, writing, and not quitting, is the only way to get better.

November 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMiranda

I never really had the ledge issue with my first book, but I did declare it rather dramatically dead on my blog a few months back, including a nice picture of a tombstone.

Funny how sometimes, like many of the critters I write about, they can come back to life. One of the queries I sent back in April came to fruition just yesterday in the form of a full request from an agent. Yeah, it may well end up going back into the ground, but she liked the first two chapters well enough to read them in under 12 hours from the time I emailed them to her AND make a comment about my unique alternate history setting (without referencing me directly of course) on one of the social networking sites, so I took that as a major ego booster.

You just never know.

Of course, that said, I'm about the declare book 2 dead, but that could just be pregnancy hormones talking since I haven't tried anywhere near as many agents this time around.

November 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTory M

My first novel taught me about revisions, tenacity, and how to sit up straight when I write/type.

I don't think I was on the ledge but more like a roller-coaster -- up and down, sideways, slow uphill, racing downhill. An emotional ride.

Now I know, just send out the queries and write the next book. And just keep writing.

November 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAnne Gallagher

Every book we write makes us stronger writers. Aren't you glad you stuck with it?

November 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDawnB

Amazing how things have changed. Congrats on it all. :) And keep your head up kid, through good and bad. There are always people, like us, who will support you.

November 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRezden

This is very helpful to me. It was hard to turn away from my first novel (I got very close with an excellent and encouraging editor) but I am currently toiling away on novel #2. I've really appreciated your blog.

November 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLaraine Eddington

Roni, yYou are awesomeness personified! Not only are you a natural born writer, but you're a wonderful teacher as well. Thanks so much for sharing all the ups and downs, ins and outs, and all the inbetweens.

November 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterHeather Hawkinson

Great repost!!! It's reassuring to see that everyone has struggled.

November 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterStephanie

That it would be decades before I wrote another one.

November 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTravener

My first novel was writing practice. I may go back and re-write it to make it more marketable but... I'm not sure... we'll see...
Thanks for sharing.

November 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJolene Perry

Thanks for this, Roni. It's powerful reminder not to give up. :-)

November 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterShannon O'Donnell

Thanks for this very powerful reminder to keep trying, Roni. You're awesome.

My first novel was...made of suck, for lack of a better phrase. I learned a lot from writing it and it really helped develop my writing style...but it still sucked. lol

November 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKristina Fugate

Excellent post Roni! I'm trying to decide whether to declare my first novel dead or take another whack at it. (I got Sara with # 3.) The third was the one that really sang for me, although my first is still my first love and well, I'm not ready to bury it yet. That one taught me to trust myself because I listened to too many people and ended up making it into something I hated.

This is a good message for everyone in the trenches. Keep moving forward!

November 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer Wolf

So glad things have turned around for you! Congrats on all your success!

November 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSusan R. Mills

I think the fact that your first novel generated interest from agents means that it was a success, even if it didn't get published. Many first-time writers don't even get that far.
For me, my first novel showed me that revision was key. In my third draft, I added two new characters, who changed the entire story.

November 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNeurotic Workaholic

I'm one of your newer followers, so it was interesting to read this post and thank you for re-sharing it with us.

I'm writing my first novel for NaNoWriMo this year, and though I want it to be a literary masterpiece and find a publisher, I know that really it will be my learning curve!

November 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterEllie

Now I am motivated to keep pushing until I get where I want to be. Thanks for the great post.

November 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRegina

Been there. Done that. No matter how much you convince yourself after hitting that send button, that you're totally cool with whatever happens, this agent has a 97% rejection rate according to querytracker, no way would he/she request anything... and yet when you get that form rejection your stomach still drops and its so disappointing.

I found the more rejections I got, the better I handled them so long as there was something out there... 1 little partial request or something.

November 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJulie

Thanks so much for this post. I had a similar experience with my first novel and I loved it so (so, so, so) much I couldn't quite declare it dead. It's just sleeping. Deeply. Under the bed. (I tell myself I can revive it anytime).

My second novel has less of the blush of first love, but its also much more reasonable, the plot having been mapped from he get go, more workable, the control better.

I liken #1 to first love and #2 to a good solid marriage :)

November 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPerri

I think this is a good reminder to all us aspiring writers that we shouldn't be too hung up on that first novel. When I started on my second, it gave me a better perspective on my first. Someone said that we should think of them as practice novels.

I haven't buried number 1 yet, because I scored an agent and the recent rejections gave me feedback that sent me back to work on it again after 6 months and viola - I'm making it alot better.

I've learned so much from other bloggers on the same path too, so thanks to you all.

November 4, 2010 | Unregistered

I think this is a good reminder to all us aspiring writers that we shouldn't be too hung up on that first novel. When I started on my second, it gave me a better perspective on my first. Someone said that we should think of them as practice novels.

I haven't buried number 1 yet, because I scored an agent and the recent rejections gave me feedback that sent me back to work on it again after 6 months and viola - I'm making it alot better.

I've learned so much from other bloggers on the same path too, so thanks to you all.

November 4, 2010 | Unregistered

Sorry about that. I don't know how I managed to get two comments. Sheesh.

November 4, 2010 | Unregistered

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