Mining The #BadFirstNovel & Acknowledging My Failure

I’m throwing back today, reposting from Dec. 8 of 2014… and the novel I’m talking about is The Female of the Species.  The complete re-haul that I ended up doing resulted in this becoming my bestselling title, seeing publication 15 years after I had initially written it.

I’m sharing this now because it’s a story about failure converted into success. And because I think it’s important for aspiring writers to see that we all start somewhere.


December 8, 2014

So I’m resurrecting the concept of the first novel I ever wrote, which would have been around 1999. The reason why I started writing was because I read a book for a college class that I thought was just awful (no, I won’t say what) and I threw it across the room upon finishing it, self-declared myself a better writer than that person and immediately sat down in front of my computer to prove it.

Guess what? I totally was not a better writer than that person.

And I can see that now.

In the past week I opened up that document and started looking at it for concept because I can see it working as a YA with a ton of restructuring – and by restructuring I mean I’m taking a 3rd person omni adult literary (or so I flattered myself) and making it a 1st person present multiple POV YA. This also means that I’m not using any of the original content. Not a single line. And it’s not only the restructuring that makes this a necessity.

It’s the fact that my first novel really, really sucks.

And the version that I’m looking at has gone through multiple revisions, been re-written from scratch at least once, and then seen more revisions. It’s had a lot of work, and it’s still painful to look at. And I mean that. This isn’t me throwing out false modesty.

I found a paragraph that consisted entirely of character movement, had a head hop, plus someone able to see something in a pitch black room. And that was within four lines.

I’m sharing this because I think it’s important for aspiring writers to know that it’s perfectly okay to suck. Published writers don’t spring forth from the womb holding polished manuscripts.

I started tweeting about my first ms under the hashtag #BadFirstNovel, so if you’re interested in seeing my thoughts on my own first work as I barge forward, feel free to see what I’m up to on Twitter.


2 thoughts on “Mining The #BadFirstNovel & Acknowledging My Failure

  1. I loved Species so much! It’s the first work I read from you and never would’ve known that that was your actual first novel (or at least the former draft of a first novel attempt). Usually, when I read something I really love and notice that it’s a writer’s third or fourth published book I’m always like, “Oh they’ve had some time to really get good! Now I don’t feel totally incompetent.” hfksd Thank you for sharing this story it was interesting!

    1. I agree. We all need to be honest about those beginning struggles and how much time and work was necessary to become published – and worthy of publication.

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