Wednesday, May 4, 2011

That First Novel

When it comes to writing, I'm a new egg. A Robin's Egg, I'll name myself. Robins are common, like writers with dreams. But robins' eggs are a blue so uncommon, it now names its own color. So I'm a writer-dreamer hoping for my very own thing.

In college I studied teaching literature, not writing it. Two very different things. I have, ummm, one creative writing class (taken twenty-one years ago) in my how-to-write quiver. The arrows are dull, rusty, and ugly. Thankfully, superb writing helps landed in my quiver lately.

About a month ago, I met Lois Lowry. From all she shared, I gleaned this: Bring readers immediately into contact with characters and their conflict. Alright, my novel started in the wrong place. Characters in conflict first. Describe later.

Last week I read this blog post by Mary Kole telling me: Be careful about giving your novel a historical setting. Eek. That's what I write, middle grade historical fiction. Why? Because I love reading it. So I evaluated my story. Does my story need a historical setting? My answer: yes, mine does. Whew. Off the hook on that one.

Just yesterday I read this about MG main characters, warning me about who should rescue whom in MG novels. I evaluated who would (and should) rescue my character, save the day, and rescue others in my story. My answer: my MC should and will - at least in most parts of the story, everyone needs help sometimes.

Also yesterday, I read this about querying one's first novel. And thought, "Sheesh. I'm writing my first novel right now. Should a first novel be just practice?" I can't answer this yet. I'm hoping the answer is: No. Sometimes it's a good idea, but it doesn't have to be.

I'm hoping I'll be this Robin's Egg: when I hatch, eat enough, and gain strength, I'll catch the breeze and soar on my new, beautiful, strong wings. I'm curious, what kind of writing egg were you?


  1. Great post Barbara!
    I'm an Arctic Tern Egg, I think. —The result of foolish determination and a willingness to fly unspeakably long distances. And I live in the cold. :)
    Truly though, I hope I never become too much more than this. I want to ever be in a state of growing and learning and gleaning from writers who have come before me, and from writers—like you—who are about to catch a strong breeze.

  2. Thank you, Beth. Encouraging! Like you, I don't want to soar with eagles (if it means, "I've arrived") because I want to keep growing, learning, and gleaning too.

  3. Great post. I'm not sure that the first book has to be for practice. We just need to be sure not to query it too soon. Sounds like you're reading and learning from it.

  4. Natalie, that's what I've gathered - don't query too soon and without lots of help from critique partners. I appreciate your support.

  5. My first story is actually now my fourth. When I first wrote it, I was a technical writer and a plot girl. My characters were flat. After a bunch of rejection on querying my first draft, I had my ah-ha. I put my first on the shelf and wrote a character driven story. Then I wrote a rough scary story and started research on a historical fiction. I pitched my second story to an agent and realized my shelved first story was a better fit. So I dusted it off and went to work. The plot is the same but the story/writing has changed dramatically. And now I'm querying my first story again.

    That was a lot of words. Sorry. You're playing it way smarter than me. Keep working and learning. It doesn't have to be practice.

  6. bfav: Knowing the path others have walked helps me along mine. Thank you for sharing (all your words). =) I'm hoping that by playing smart, this first novel isn't 'just practice.'

  7. Lovely post! And I must say I'm insanely jealous of you meeting Lois Lowry. Seriously, turning a shade of envious green right now.

    I do not believe at all that your first novel has to be practice. If nothing else, there are tons of examples to the contrary. It may be for some, but it's definitely not the rule! So don't let it discourage you in the slightest. <3

  8. Meagan, thank you so much for stopping by. Meeting Lois Lowry was truly a gift.

    Your encouragement is uplifting. Writers are a wonderful group. And onward I shuffle in my first novel.

  9. Wow, meeting Lois Lowry! Talk about envy!

    What a fantastic post, and these are great links, particularly the one on coming to the rescue. Thank you!

  10. Amie, I feel honored to have met her.

    Writers sharing what they know is how I've learned the most about writing.

  11. These are all fabulous links. Thanks for sharing them. It's wonderful to have found another MG writer. I hopped over from Shannon's blog. Linking to your MMGM post for tomorrow! Best of luck. Am following now. :)

  12. Thanks so much! For your comments, linking tomorrow, and the follow.


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