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Why You Should Write that First Novel

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Writers are warned about the fiasco of their first novel before they even begin covertly scratching bits of dialogue on legal pads during business hours, much less birthing characters and their capers. Of course, there are many good reasons why writing and sending out that first novel can be hairy at best, but before images of the martyred writer start dancing in your head, consider the six little words that have sparked many a revolution: what have you got to lose?

If you fear that your book will not make you a literary celebrity, that’s probably true; but you have more of a chance of remaining in anonymity if you aren’t finishing and sending out that first work. The worst that will happen is that that your novel will be forced to endure the writer’s spring cleaning, taking up residence in the sock drawer with the sobering knowledge that the socks are more likely to get a publishing contract. Just remember the old adage, though, that the first novel is meant to function as a sort of lubrication for the next tome to come shooting out of the writing mind.

Besides, you’re a writer and must be prepared to make a living off being a glutton for punishment. The act of creating even the briefest anecdote involves a number of verbal sacrifices and downright word deaths. Each term is chosen over countless others that could have filled the same slot. You are the alchemist who can convert your joy and pain into words, but you dream of the impossible: of placing your thoughts down whole on the page.

The crux of the writer’s pain, then, is that, although you have articulated some part of your imaginings, you know those images will always exceed that attempt, remaining imprisoned in your head. However, the real artistic impasse is that, although the image will not make it to the other side whole, it won’t make it there at all if it’s not translated. This makes the art of a writer like a creation myth, as the idea must be sacrificed before it can be resurrected into words.

Writers are doomed to repeatedly undergo this perverse exercise in order to make their art. Ultimately, what you hear when you read is the torture music of the author caught in the midst of the painful process of expression. Let me leave you with one thought: if you live with this ache every day, you can handle the rejection letters.

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About Caroline Hagood

  • http://nickleshi.blogspot.com Nick

    Okay, you’ve inspired me. Working on my first novel now!!! :)

  • http://carolinehagood.typepad.com/ Caroline Hagood

    Nick, You just made my day. You have no idea.

  • http://techbitsnbytes.com Jraz

    That is an inspiring piece. I often have the battle raging in my mind unable to get the words to the paper. And when I finally overcome and the words flood out, I am critical that it didn’t sound as good as in my mind. I think this is my “writer’s pain” and one I will have to conquer in my own way. Thanks for sharing the thoughts.

  • http://carolinehagood.typepad.com/ Caroline Hagood

    Jraz, it means a lot to me to hear that it inspired you. I wrote it because I know that pain so well. Ignore the naysayer in you. If your writing is really in need of improvement, you’ll work on it; but if you are just letting the negative voices in your head stifle you, that’s the real tragedy. The point is, you’ll never know if you don’t try.

  • http://corp-minamiji.typepad.com Christy Corp-Minamiji

    Caroline, what a great piece. I couldn’t agree more. I’m about 95,000 words into a first novel that started as notes in a journal because it seemed too daunting to try. But I’ve noticed that the deeper I get into it, the more grateful I am to have started. Thanks for writing about this.

  • http://carolinehagood.typepad.com/ Caroline Hagood

    95,000 words? Sounds like you have a novel on your hands. You know, in the end, nobody can take away that proud feeling you have upon completing a novel, even if it’s just the same sentence over and over like the one in “The Shining.”

  • http://nickleshi.blogspot.com Nick

    It might take me a while though. I’m still on page 3. :)

  • http://carolinehagood.typepad.com/ Caroline Hagood

    Hey, I’ll be here waiting with the old reading glasses:)

  • http://DamianDaily.wordpress.com Lisa Damian

    I linked to your article from my blog…

  • http://carolinehagood.typepad.com/ Caroline Hagood

    That’s very kind of you. Thank you so much.

  • Daydreamer

    Is anybody listening? If you are, Caroline, I’m 11 ok? And I really want to get into writing! Please! Please! Help me!

  • Daydreamer

    Anyone can help me, I just need some tips. I’d really appreciate it.

  • http://culturesandwich.com Caroline Hagood

    Sure. What kind of tips are you looking for?

  • Daydreamer

    im looking for tips on a good, emotional novel. i have a few ideas, i would like to share them, but im scared they will be stolen. I think their good ideas, but i have a bad habit to not dedicate myself to it

  • http://culturesandwich.com Caroline Hagood

    If you’re passionate about the ideas, then you should just start writing the novel. You have nothing to lose by doing that and it could lead somewhere really great. Good luck and please let me know if you have any other questions!

  • Daydreamer

    what do i need to get started?

  • http://culturesandwich.com Caroline Hagood

    It’s different for everybody, but I would think that ideas and an outline should do the trick. Then you can just start writing and see where it leads you.