Recently I followed a link on Twitter that had the same intriguing tittle as this post. It led me to Sarah Dessen's post on BlogHer where she talks about few mistakes she made when she wrote her first novel, mostly mistakes related to the setting that drew attention from the real story. Few sentences that I really liked: 

I wrote my first novel in college. It was terrible. No, really: it was. When you write your first book, you feel like you have to put your entire life and all you know into it, and that’s pretty much what I did. (...) was my novel, so of course I was proud of it.
I wrote my first novel in college, too. I was obsessed with it. I had dreams in which my mind played scenes from my novel. I was writing like a maniac for several hours a day. The funny thing is, I never once got a block. The story was just flowing, something which never happened afterwards. If I didn't have access to computer, I was scribbling in notebooks. I was so terribly proud of it. As the novel was reaching a word count of almost 100K words, I started to think about what was I going to do with it. Of course, at some point the "p" word came up. I subscribed for newsletters of a number of writing and publishing pages. Anyway, as I started reading them, it dawned on me that this thing that I was writing was awful. Terrible. Not even good for its pages to be used as coasters (okay, maybe not that awful, but still). What did I do wrong? Oh, boy.

One thing I know I succeeded at was characters. I loved them all. They felt so real to me that I considered them to be my closest friends. In everyday situations, I would ask myself, what would Ivy or Tyler or Max do. I made real people out of them, with all their vices and virtues, their quirks and peeves. Looking back on it now, almost two years afterwards, I know I had the motivation right. They were driving the story, not the other way round. A plus for me. It still is so, that everything I write is character-driven. I'm just there to give them a voice.

The plot was too stretched. There were so many cliches in it that sometimes I feel like pointing a finger at myself and laughing a Nelson-like HA-HA! The big twist was not much of  twist. Yes, I loved it (a girl reunited with her father-what's not to like there???) But I did it all wrong. It's supposed to come unexpected, right? That's why it's called surprise twist, duh. The other twist had much more prospect of being surprising, but I just didn't work it out well enough. In so many ways, I went with the most simple and affordable solution, and in doing so, betrayed my own imagination.

For its genre, it wasn't any near dark and mysterious enough. I mean, for a novel that kicks off with six people being shot in cold blood and one escaping being the seventh by hair's breadth, the voice was just wrong. Too optimistic. And a happy ending, everyone living happily ever after? Give me a break. When you have bullets raining on you, some shit has to happen. It's one of my pet peeves, to have solutions popping out like waving a magic wand, and yet, I did it too.

Setting. There was none. I simply didn't know where to place it, so all the places were undefined, either an apartment that could be just anywhere in the world or a road going basically nowhere. I love it when I read a book and know exactly where I am. When I walk the streets with the characters, and see the town through their eyes. Even if it's an imaginary town, I like to know where I am. Why was I doing the exact opposite in my novel?

It has taught me so many things. It was an invaluable experience and a perfect writing exercise. All the things I rushed through the first time, I now let sit and simmer until I know I can't make it any better.
It has showed me something that I find myself questioning every so often. I CAN do it. I CAN WRITE A NOVEL. If it takes years of writing, research, editing, rewriting, deleting and starting all over again to get it right, so be it, but I know I can do it. A bit more patient, much wiser and with lots of knowledge gained in the past two years. Yes. I can.


  1. Neurotic Workaholic said...
    It's good that you completed a novel, because a lot of people start novel but don't finish them, at least not on their first try.
    When I read the first draft for my first manuscript, I realized that there was very little action. It was mostly just dialogue. I'd been so wrapped up in the conversations that the characters were having that I forgot about everything else.
    Ivana said...
    I think dialogues-good and intelligent dialogues- are one of the aspects of writing that are most difficult to master. It's great that we learn from our mistakes. I think being your own harshest critic and pushing yourself to do better is the best way to success.
    Wren Doloro said...
    Its a long process full of learningbnew things. Im working on my firat book, too.

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