The magic of your first book


[The first draft notes of my first ever novel.]

As I began working on a new WIP this weekend, I felt the crushing weight of all the stress and work this WIP drags along behind it. It’s a story idea I’ve had simmering in the back of my mind for about five years, and I never took the time to write it because it scares me. Why? Because it has the potential to be awesome. And I’ve just never felt good enough to write it.

(Case in point: A “good enough” writer wouldn’t use trite words like “good enough” to describe their inability to write an awesome story.)

This new WIP idea has twists and turns and intrigue and a secret society. It has back stabbing and plot twists and epic reveals and an antihero as an MC. I can feel this book’s potential in my bones. Yet every time I start to write it, I clam up and freak out and tell myself I simply can’t do it. That I’m not good enough. That it’ll never work out with someone like me manning the keyboard.

Today, during one of those freakouts, I started thinking about the very first book I ever wrote. It was 2008, I was 23 years old, and I was following the adage of Write What You Know.

Here’s what I knew:
being a teen
dirt bikes

So I quickly came up with an idea about a teen who starts working at a dirt bike track. I did a ton of my brainstorming while sitting on the bleachers at the local motocross races, and at night I’d go home and write it all down. I came up with a main character who was spunky and a little sheltered, and a love interest who was swoony and had talent with a bike. (He also had dreadlocks because it was 2008 and Jason Castro on American Idol was a big deal.)

I toyed with some writing websites, mostly Absolute Write, and read a few blogs of my favorite authors. But mostly, I went into this totally blind. I just hung out on the couch after work, laptop in my lap, and notebook filled with ideas next to me. I wrote. I never even paid attention to the word count because at the time, it didn’t seem like anything that mattered. I was so weirdly out of touch with writing a novel that I actually saved the first 15 chapters as separate Word files on my computer. By chapter 16, I realized that was stupid and combined them all into one document.

My characters became real living people in my head and I got excited to write their story. I wasn’t thinking about plot, or themes, or metaphors. I didn’t worry about the genre or the market or what books were trending. (HINT: It was vampires.) I didn’t worry about anything.

As I look back on the nine months it took me to write my very first book, I only have great memories. I was so blissfully unaware of the perils of publishing and the stress of submitting, and all I knew was how fun it was to create something from nothing.

Now, 8 years later, I’ve published 8 novels (written 3x as many more), signed 2 book deals with small publishers, signed with an agent, and now my next book is currently on submission. You’d think I have this whole writing thing down by now, right?

Actually, I kind of do. I have a system for outlining. I no longer have a day job because my job is writing. I have a writing schedule, and enough time to write 5000 words a day. My last 3 completed manuscripts were each outlined and then written in a month. I totally know what I’m doing! Right?



Sometimes when I’m all caught up in the stress of things, I stop and think back to those days of writing my first novel. It was so easy, and made me so happy. I was completely unaware of how much the writing sucked, or of all the writing rules I was breaking, or of how many rejections that first book would get before I caught on and realized I had a lot of learning to do. It was just a girl and her computer, unleashing the powers of her imagination. I can never get that feeling back, because you only get one chance to write your first book. (Of course, there’s still an emotional connection to writing ANY book, but there’s something special about that first one, I promise.)

Keep this in mind if you’re an aspiring writer. Don’t let yourself get caught up in the nitty gritty of what happens after the book is finished. Just enjoy the process.

Trust me, there’s plenty of time to stress later.