Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The First Isn't Always The One

Okay, I just had a little something on my mind, and I really wanted to say it here for all of you. This post is mostly for writers--especially the ones interested in publication.

I know you love your book. I know, because I love mine. I know that you really want the rest of the world to know and love your characters. I know that you're outstandingly proud of that first complete novel. I know, because I was, too.

But my first complete novel....yeah, it will never be published.

That's not to say others have not gotten their first works of literary art published, but look at it from this perspective: some of the best writers of our time had many attempts before reaching that first published work. Lauren Myracle, for example, mentions on her website that she has five trunked novels from before she wrote Kissing Kate. She's one of the most popular YA writers at the moment, and she has five.

I have one trunked. One that I tried to briefly query before realizing that it just wasn't working. I put it away--determined to try again later--and started on The DUFF. ONce I'd finished The DUFF and sent it to betas, I opened up my first novel, A Face in the Crowd, and tried to reread it. What I discovered was that it was 1.) very cliche, 2.) poorly written, and 3.) not really fixable.

I won't lie. This realization kind of broke my heart. I wasn't as attached to these characters as I was the ones from The DUFF, but I did love them, and knowing it just wasn't publishable was a kick in the gut.

But, hey, my second book was much better.

And I'm still going. Who's to say my third won't be better? And my fourth better than that? Because even authors who get published keep growing and learning as they write. Its natural. It's expected.

I guess what I'm trying to say is, don't be deadset on having that first novel be your publishing ticket. It might be, but it might not. The ticket may be your second or your third or your fourth. That first book--while precious and important as a stepping stone in your writing career--may not be meant for the rest of the world.

But that brings me to a second point. To those of you in the middle of that first novel, don't stop just because I said it may never be published. In fact, I always tell my friends to never write to publish. You want the truth? I had the most fun in my life writing The DUFF. I love the characters, I love the story, and I loved writing it. I never expected for anyone else to love it, though. If every agent had rejected it, I still know I would have loved writing the thing. I still remember how much I loved writing A Face in the Crowd, even if it won't ever see the light of day.

Don't write to publish. Write because you love it. And, hey, if it never gets published--if nothing you do ever hits the shelves of Barnes & Noble--who cares? You've still done something many people will never do. You wrote a novel!

So, I guess my point is to keep writing. If that first book seems publishable to you, then give it your best effort, but don't be discouraged if it isn't published. Don't see that as your only shot. You have a lifetime to write another book. And if you give up after the first one, you may never know what the future will hold for those other stories brewing in the back of your head.

Just had to put that out there...


Alley Of Books said...

I agree. Thats what I try to keep in mind that Im writing because I like to write and i have a story to tell.
Its not necessary that I have to have it published.

Thanks Kody!
Great advice!

Becky said...

Great post, Kody.

I'm beginning to realise that my first novel - while I definitley don't want to trunk it - may be destined to be shelved for a while while I work on new things. It just doesn't seem likely to be published at the minute, and I'm working so hard to try to make it publishable I've forgotten why I loved writing it so much in the first place.

Becky x

Kaitlin Ward said...

Everything about this post rocked. Especially writing for the love, not for getting published. It's an amazing dream, but what's the point if you don't love it?

Becca Cooper said...

Too true!

I've finished 5 books, 4 of which are locked in a trunk that's booby-trapped to self destruct if anyone tries to look inside. =D

Kody Mekell Keplinger said...

Haha. I'm glad you all liked it! I was kind of scared it might piss a few people off--even though I was just being honest and basing it on my own experience.

Horserider said...

Great advice Kody! Looking at Destiny, I'm realizing how much better Jump is. Even if Jump isn't the one, I'm going to keep writing. I've gotten so much better since Destiny's first draft that I can't even read the original version because I get disgusted with how horrible it is.

The important thing about writing is to enjoy it and keep writing. Because the more you write, the better you'll be. Until someday you'll find the one novel that's...well, not perfect, but great.

Frankie Diane Mallis said...

Very good advice!

Kirsten Hubbard said...


grace said...

This is all good advice! and psssst you won the books on my blog!!

Kody Mekell Keplinger said...

Grace - REAlly? YAY! Can you send me the link again? I's lost it!

Catt said...

Thanks for the awesome advice (the best type of advice is the honest ones... if that was grammatically correct!

rosepddle said...

Such wise words! The book that I'm querying now is my third completed novel. I tried to query my first book many moons ago and had no clue it would technically be YA. I didn't know what genre to put it in. I made all the dialogue in bold and italics,(wth?) and I hardly had any dialogue tags so no one knew who was talking. Not to mention there really wasn't any plot. I suppose I could rewrite it, knowing what I know now, but I don't really want to. And like you said, we have to write because we love it, not to be published!

Genevieve said...

Awesome post!

Imani Dlamini said...

That was a fantastic post..I am 14 and I have always wanted to get published and I used to find it hard to work on my novel because I would want it to be perfect and I would put myself down because of it and lose the passion..but now I realise so what if i dont get published? I am only 14 and even if i dont get published ive still got years to fufill that dream..rome wasnt built in a day..thanx for your inspiration. you made me wanna be writer..even if i never get published its still so much fun!

Kody Mekell Keplinger said...

Aw, I"m glad Imani!

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