A Virgin Writer

First, Thank you everyone who commented while I was gone, sent well-wishes and turned green with envy. :-) I had an awesome time in the Keys, and am now browner, blonder, and more freckled. :-)

So, we've all had a first manuscript. Have we all made the same mistakes with it?

My first, unfinished manuscript lays forlorn on my computer drive. Over the course of two years I refined this 30,00-word plotless morass of backstory.

How I loved my first story! (that I wrote as an adult)

But eventually, as I fumbled through it, I realized that it was directionless, that something was seriously wrong.

Now I know that my attempt at writing a full length novel failed for obvious reasons. The story has no genre (think YA, women's fiction, romantic suspense, LOL), it's filled with backstory and meaningless conversations. And yet, I feel like I learned so much just from sitting down and daring to dream a story.

What does your first attempt at writing look like? What did it teach you?


Unknown said…
Well I'm just finishing mine up. I hope it's not plotless...BUT I am having a problem with the genre :( I think it's mostly because the genre's that it fits into, are not to my liking. Sigh.... It has however been a tremendous learning experience!
terri t said…
Welcome home! I wrote my first one ten years or so. So about three years ago I rewrote it cause it was terrible! I don't know what I was thinking---just wanted to write a book!lol But so much to still learn!!!
Jody Hedlund said…
I have about five such beauties and they're on the old disks. So thankfully I can't access them anymore! But they were the stepping stones to learning to tell a story, learning the craft, and growing as a writer. Without them I wouldn't be where I'm at today! I'm just hoping that my current novels don't end up in the same pile!
My very first attempts would be in pitman shorhand in steno pads safely tucked away in my hope chest. Way back then as a teenager I dreamed of being a script writer for a very short time.

My first adult attempt is the baby I continually revise. It was loaded with backstory in the beginning and just plain horribly written, but the story still speaks to me, so I continue to tweak.
Anonymous said…
Hope you had a great vacation! The Keys? Sigh...that's utopia to us people in the still chilly north!

My first MS was a mess! Thanks to a bunch of great people on RWC, I was able to realize that while I might write decently, I had a TON to learn. Chance will stay under my bed until he and his story - call out to me again. LOL

I think every novel I've written since then I can look back and wonder at the growth I make each time.

Hey Marybeth,
Thanks for stopping by. :-) Genre may not be such a big problem. If it's a really good story, I think the genre problem can usually be overlooked. Maybe relabeled as plain fiction? :-) So no worries.
Unknown said…
Thanks :) I still have a bit more time to brood over it, but I do keep that Generic Fiction option in the back of my head.
Elana Johnson said…
I have several stories in hard drive format that no one will ever see. I think just writing them helped me to see what needs to be in a novel. Some of them aren't finished, some of them I still think about. But none of them will ever see the light of day. Waaay too much work there. :)
Hi Jess -

My first attempt at writing The Great American Novel happened at the tender age of about 10. I think I reached page 5 before giving up.

Later, I started a story loosely based on my life. Twenty pages later, I ran out of steam.

Those early forays into writing made me realize I needed training. I'm grateful for all the opportunities we have to learn.

Susan :)
Stephanie said…
Mine finished up at 135,000 words. I managed to whittle it down to 120,000. It is my baby, though I know it needs tons of work...maybe someday.... I felt so accomplished when I finished it.

I had a huge issues with genre too...the beginning and end and VERY adult, dealing with very mature subjects, but the bulk of the story is a flashback to the MC teen years...so that mostly fits into YA.
My first completed ms is the one I'm writing now. I think it had merit before, but I've learned so much about the craft and my own style and voice, that I'm better able to give it the depth it needs. (Here's hoping, anyway. ;)
LOL Terri
And it seems like the learning never stops. It's definitely an exciting, though exhausting, journey. :-)
Oh my gosh Jody! Five? That's amazing. :-) Who knows, they might not be as bad as you think. I'm pretty sure your manuscripts now won't end up under the bed. You're right. With each manuscript I write, I feel like I learn so much.
Eileen, I think you've done well with your tweaking, if that's the story I read. You are a great example of perseverance.
Kristen Painter said…
My first book will eventually be published. It's already got the endorsement of a NYT best-selling author, it just needs some tweaking which I haven't had time to do yet.

Writing that first book taught me alot, but mostly that I had it within myself to not only write a book, but finish one. That's an inspiring lesson.
Yikes Candi! Chance was your first story? I thought it was pretty good. LOL I'm sorry such a hottie is stuck under the bed. LOL
I'm sure you've grown. I feel like I have too.
Thanks for commenting!
LOL Elana! So true. This particular story won't ever be seen either, just because of the work involved.
Hi Susan,
I'm grateful too. I'm really thankful for the authors and more established writers who take time to put writing tips on their websites or articles or blog posts. That's been one of the biggest blessings in my growth, just the amount of help given to newbies through the internet.
Hi Stephanie,
Thanks for stopping by. :-)
Wow, you did a great job whittling it down. You sound like you know where the story needs fine tuning, etc. It sounds intriguing. You know, sometimes YA needs to have the tough/mature stuff in it. Not always, but sometimes. I hope you find the perfect balance with that.

You're right about these being our babies. The one I'm querying is my first finished manuscript. I think I'll query it to death, just because I love it so much. :-)
I'm sure you're right about the depth and craft. You're already so ahead of the game just by learning all this stuff with your first manuscript!
That's awesome!
I totally agree. Finishing is inspiring.
Angie Ledbetter said…
Welcome back, oh Tanned One.

It is pretty awesome to look back at old work and see the improvement, hunh?
Cindy R. Wilson said…
Eww, I can't believe I'm going to talk about this. My first manuscript was one I started when I was twelve. It took me until I was 15 to finish it, probably 65,000 plus words. I looked back at it about ten years ago just to see what it looked like. Much like a journal entry with some okay character description. It was a mess.

The first manuscript I tried to be published was pretty much a mess as well. It was two books later but I was still young, only 19 and didn't know much about the craft.

I just finished my 10th manuscript and I am still learning but happy because I know progress has been made. It's been a long journey but it's so fun to look back at old manuscripts and (after wincing some maybe) realizing that we've come along. Fun post, thanks!
Welcome home to civilization and internet! Yaaaayyy!

I am going over my first ms. right now, cleaning it up to send to a professional editor. I hope she doesn't cringe, cry and send it back!

What i have learned:
Pray before you type the first word of the day;
Love your readers and write for them, not to please yourself;
Don't take yourself so seriously! Have a little fun!
Tana said…
My first three were the teachers. At the time I thought they were brilliant. Now they lay shelved for eternity... ;)
LOL Angie. :-)

Yes, it is awesome. (and sometimes scary, snicker)
Ten manuscripts under your belt is pretty cool! So you've been pursuing this writing thing for quite awhile. That's awesome. :-)
Hi Jen,
Yes, it's SO nice to have my beloved internet back. LOL!

Great advice.

I'm sure no one is going to cringe at your book. :-) It's cool that you're sending it to an editor.
LOL T. Anne!

I was the same, thought my story was so beautiful, so captivating...
Dara said…
Well I'm not sure if this is the third or fourth ms I've actually started :P

My first story was set during the time of Jesus and I just couldn't get past the first two chapters. There wasn't any direction for it; I couldn't figure out what the climax would be and the importance of the actual story...although it's still on my computer too and I hope that I may able to salvage something from it in the future (it was supposed to be the first of a trilogy).

The second one (?)was set during the American Revolution and was supposed to be a romance. Alas, never past the first two chapters (seeing a trend here...). I did just recently rewrite a three page single spaced rough summary for it, so perhaps in the future that's another one I can focus on with a bit of re-evaluation.

I suppose I'm on the third of my novel attempts. Fourth if you count the novel I actually completed when I was twelve :P The other previous attempts (as well as probably a half dozen others that never got past the character creation point and fragment of an idea) taught me to persevere and not focus on just the first two chapters :P They were also a bit on the cliche and unoriginal side too, so it also taught me to come up with somethinig unique.

I've already got a couple of other ideas; one that's another historical set in Japan based off of a real person and another that's mixed between history and mythology. I've just got to get this one finished before I can even consider the others :P
Danyelle L. said…
My first manuscript taught me that revisions are the essence of life. :D
Jennifer Shirk said…
My first manuscript taught me NOT to "write what you know". Oh, and to have a point to your story. LOL!
Keli Gwyn said…
My first monstrosity filled two 3-inch binders, and that was with three-quarter inch margins and one and one half spacing. L-o-n-g doesn't begin to describe it. I've since cut it in half, but it still needs major work. One day . . .

I learned that POV, GMC and writing tight are important. But I also learned how much fun crafting a story can be, and for that I'll always have a soft spot for my first story.
Yikes! So not many like their first ms...or think it's not written well. Hhmmmm...and here I am letting Jody critique my first ms!!! How sad for her! LOLOL Well, I like my storyline, though I just found a major plot hole that is frustrating. I am looking at this first MS as a learning tool. ;)
LOL Dara! At least you recognized a false start...unlike some of who just kept writing ourselves into a big, black hole.

Your story that you're working on now sounds intriguing. You'll finish. :-)
Danyelle, I totally agree. *grin*
LOL Jennifer! A point is good to have.
Wow Keli! That's SO long! Whew. My friend can write long and I don't know how she does it. In a way, I really think it's a gift to have such depth and stuff. As long as it's not wordy. LOL
I think I'll have a soft spot for mine too.
Ha! Sherrinda, you're funny. :-) Don't worry though, there are first manuscripts that do well. Twilight was Meyer's first one.
Amy DeTrempe said…
My first attempt was twice as long as it needed to be, full of useless information and had everyone's point of view who happened to be in the scene. Ocassionally I go back and try and work on it because it is my first and I love it, but there is just too much work to do and I put it away again for another day.
I think the biggest problem with my first novel was that it just didn't have an original enough hook, and while writing it I was trying too hard to imitate some of my favorite romance writers instead of finding my own style. With my current WIP I've really made an effort to find the story without any other influences.
Hi Amy,
LOL! I love the POV part. That's hilarious. Thanks for stopping by!
Hi Kate,
What an interesting comment. I've heard that many writers do that and it's just part of the learning curve. I hear you on the tepid hook too.
Good for you in finding your own style and story! That's really important.
Karen Hossink said…
OK, what is BACKSTORY???

As for growing through writing - I fully agree! But the most growth for me was not in the craft of writing as much as it was in ME. Because I was writing my own story, rather than a novel, putting the story into words that someone else could read and understand caused me to do a lot of growing personally. I had to think about what I really felt and had experienced. I had to understand myself enough to write about it for someone else. And I remember saying to my husband, "Even if this book never goes ANYWHERE, writing it has been a wonderful experience!"
Wow, Karen. I've never thought of non-fiction like that but that sounds right. How interesting and brave you are to expose yourself. And it's so helpful too.

Backstory is the character's lifestory. Sometimes a book opens and all the first pages are the character thinking about their life, their friends, etc. When really, a good book opens with some sort of action. :-)
Kara said…
I'm so glad you stopped by my sight, because now I found yours! My first novel seems to have too many plot points and I struggled throughout with my "voice". I was trying to write a Harlequin romance with a more "Christian voice", LOL I kept having trouble getting it all to work:)
Hi Kara,
Don't worry, the voice will come. :-) So, did you know Harlequin has an inspirational imprint called Love Inspired? That might be a good place for you to submit. :-)
Thank you for stopping back by mine. I'm interested in seeing how your homeschooling journey goes.
Karen Hossink said…
Thanks, Jessica. Now I know what backstory is. And I feel a little smarter. *grin*
M. L. Kiner said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
denise petrovich said…
I happened to have loved your first story and frankly I get tired of publishers having such strict guidlines on how the characters should act and be. Sometimes they take creativity out of the story and alot of stories end up predictable and boring. Don't let them do that to your stories. Love Mom

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