• Glo Gray
  • How to get over your first novel
How to get over your first novel
Written by
Glo Gray
May 2014
Written by
Glo Gray
May 2014
I’ve written stories since I was a child, and published several factual and opinion pieces in niche magazines, but my first major endeavour was an epic fantasy novel that topped 200 000 words. While I was writing that, and for a long time afterwards, I noticed that I had not one single idea for another story. Nothing sparked beyond a few lacklustre initial ideas. It wasn’t a lack of inspiration as such; there are plenty of books, shows, films, ideas and experiences that, in theory, should’ve spawned at least one other workable idea. But nope, nothing. What was the problem? Was I really just a one book wonder (and an unpublished one at that!)?

Then one day I realised- I couldn’t move on because I was still hung up on that first novel. The whole situation, never mind the book,  was incomplete, unfinished, unresolved. I hadn’t even tried to get it published, bar contacting one lonely publishing company. My confidence to push it forward was absent, but nor did I have the heart to let it go.

Instead, I languished in the garden pond that is writer’s block. A few magazine article opportunities came my way, and I updated my various blogs now and then, but nothing reallly creative happened. I came to believe that I really must only have one book in me, and went back to editing the novel for the 50 millionth time. This was a mistake;I just got further entangled, as did the book, and I made a mess of it. Think ‘cat in box of wool’ kind of mess.

But much like an unrequited love, I could not let this one go. I measured all ideas in terms of that first novel and found them wanting. If it wasn’t my magnum opus then it just wasn’t cutting it. My dreams of actually publishing a fictional work, seemed lost. I got on with ordinary life.

Then one day, on the bus (I often have epiphanies on the bus), I was struck by an intense sense of desperation. I couldn’t go on like this! I must not go down with my first novel like the proverbial captain! So strong was this feeling that I went home and started to write- anything! I didnt’ care if it was bad, if it was unoriginal, I just wanted to write; something fun, something light, something manageable. All the things the first book hadn’t been.

I wrote. I might even admit to having a few glasses of wine as I did so. And guess what happened? I found my inspiration again! I wrote one shortish story, just pouring out things that i had previously dismissed as not original enough or serious enough or good enough. Then ideas for several other stories started popping up!  For the first time ever, I was writing verse, flash fiction, short stories, things I had never got on board with before. It was like a dam had broken.

So what really changed? Here is what I learned I had to do, to move on:

- Let it go. Your first attempt, as exciting and beloved as it may be, is unlikely to be a great success, or even a success at all. If it doesn’t work out, acknowledge it, put it aside, and try not to take it as indicative of your writerly failure.

- Just write. Reguarly. It doesn’t matter if is rubbish, get those words down. Writing leads to writing, and the one thing a writer must do is….

-  Take the pressure off. It can be difficult not to get wound up about success and failure, if being a writer is a dream of yours. But the more you think ahead, about what will happen with your book, the more stress you put on the process. You will be less willing to learn from mistakes made through creating, more likely to want to be perfect immediately. This can lead to “writer in the headlights” syndrome (ie doing nothing with a startled expression). Let yourself accept that you don’t have to be brilliant straight away, or all the time. Everything can be tweaked.

- Remember- your book will always be there! That first novel? Not going anywhere. You can come back to it if and when you want to do so. There is no harm in looking around, dating some other stories, assessing your options. If you decide you want to get back together with your first love, then you can. You will always be the only person for them. So relax.

And that’s how I got over my first novel, and now I’m writing up a storm!

How did you get over your first love…I mean book?

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