Some writers labor over their first novel for years–polishing, rewriting, querying agents, polishing, rewriting, well you get the idea. I’ve attended conferences for ten years in a row where the same writer will step up to me and say, “I’m still working on that novel!”
Writing Tip for Today: When is it time to let that baby go?
- Move On. Some would argue NEVER give up on that book. My own debut novel was 15 years in the making before it published, and it wasn’t my first, it was my second novel. But most experienced novelists will say it’s not so much that you keep working on the first novel, but that you start your next one. And if need be, the next after that. Good novels are deceptive–they make for easy, seamless reading, but they take years of practice and skill mastery. It’s an apprenticeship, not a temporary summer job.
- Apply New Skills to Old Novels. They say old dogs can’t learn new tricks, but as your skills grow you might be able to go back and solve what’s wrong with that first effort. Or not. Only you can decide if a first novel is worth fixing. Sometimes you just have to take the characters and/or story line and write another book.
- The Road Is Long. See a pattern here? With each novel you draft, you’re bound to learn some things. Pair these natural lessons with books or courses on solid craft, workshops or critique sessions. And remember: Only writers who don’t give up ever realize publishing dreams. You may have to let your first novel go in order to make way for your next book–which might be a masterpiece. Write on, people.