The Magnificent First Novel

Novel manuscriptIn the summer of 1996, I had the grand idea that I would write a novel. I had big plans for this wonderful tome. It would be epic. It would be world-changing. It would outsell To Kill a Mockingbird.

I had never written a novel but how hard could writing a bunch of made up stuff be. It couldn’t be any more difficult that writing a college essay. I had gone through a number of college English courses in my decade at NC State, and had made As in all every one of them. Surely an A student could write a novel.

By the end of that summer, I had my great American novel. It was all of seven chapters. Double spaced. Size 12 Times font. One-inch margins. I even made a nice cover page with a title and my name. It was magnificent.

A neighborhood friend caught wind of my magnificent creation and suggested I show my work to her daughter, an NC State English professor. No problem, I thought. Here was my moment to impress yet another NCSU English teacher. Easy A!


Although, the writing professor spoke in caring tones, what she told me was an extremely hard pill to swallow. For starters, my ‘novel’ was too short. Most novels are around 75,000 words. My seven chapters were long but they weren’t 10,000 words long. There were other things that my book lacked. The list of wrongs was longer than the rights. Deeply discouraged, I threw it aside for several months, vowing never to writer again.

Eventually I took that pitiful work of fiction up again and over time it became The Making of Isaac Hunt, my first published novel.

Discouragement is a mountain every new would-be novelist has to muscle through. The truth is, experienced writers wrestle with that same mountain as they write every novel. I wish I could say I have the twelve secret steps to overcoming disappointment and discouragement but I don’t. I do know that every writer will have failures. Just as sure as there are 26 letters in the alphabet, there are bumps along the writing road. Publication isn’t for wimps.

That road for me started with my magnificent first novel, the one that no one will ever see. How about you? Where’s your first novel?


2 Replies to “The Magnificent First Novel”

  1. Rita, more power to you. I can remember those days. Sweating bullets and praying hard in the post office lobby before I sent my first proposal off. That was before you could email queries in. My thoughts and prayers are with you. God’s speed.

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