Do first books always suck?

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Louise Curtis
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Do first books always suck?

Post by Louise Curtis » May 6th, 2011, 9:21 pm

Not always. Just usually.

In my opinion, the writer who has just finished their first novel should, for the sake of burnt-out agents and publishers, do these three things before submitting:

1. Edit it, then leave it for at least a month, then edit it again. At least one person (who is not a relative or in love with said writer) must also help with editing - you can tell a good editor because they make the writer cry and/or consider deleting the whole book at least once. After the crying/giving up, the writer must then fix 90% of the problems the editor has pointed out. You can find critique partners all over the internet, including at http://www.critiquecircle.com/default.asp.

2. Read at least three books that are in their genre and published within the most recent five years (look on actual bookshop shelves – and if you’re too poor to buy them, go and get the exact same books from the library for free).

3. Help edit at least three opening sections (chapters 1-3) of other people’s unpublished novels, and also edit at least one full unpublished novel. You can find heaps of critique partners online, eg at http://www.critiquecircle.com/default.asp.

After the horror of reading someone else’s book (which will almost certainly be intensely instructive), the writer must have another honest look at their own book, and do one more edit (or more if needed).

Congratulations! You are now ready to submit your first novel.

PS Was it a mistake? Here’s how to know:

If three agents/publishers (who produce the right genre!) have rejected the opening chapters without requesting the full manuscript, it’s probably worth setting that book aside and focusing on a new one (which you’ll probably begin while waiting for your responses – which take 1-6 months each). The new book should NOT be in the same series – it should be something genuinely separate. (Otherwise you may find yourself dragging the corpse of a bad book around, because it’s part of a series – been there, done that.)

Want to compare stats? Copy and paste this section, and add your own responses.

Have I sold short stories for money? Yes, lots.
Have I sold novels for decent money (say, over $1000): No (although I've won a few bits of change here and there).
How many unpublished novels have I written: 13 (yikes)
How many requests for full manuscripts have I received: 19 (and I know at least one was rejected at a major publisher's acquisitions meeting, arg).
Do I have a reputable agent: No (but I live in Australia, where agents aren't AS crucial as they are in the US and UK).
What do I think of my first novel, and how long ago was it finished: It did surprisingly well in a contest, and I technically sold it for money (to Vision Australia for production as an audio book - which never happened). I'm SO glad it was never produced, though! I was 16, and I'm 30 now.

How about you guys? Do your first books suck?

This post was inspired by this post.
Louise Curtis
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Falls Apart
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Re: Do first books always suck?

Post by Falls Apart » May 7th, 2011, 11:17 am

I was seven.

Yes, it did. Shocker, I know.

I wrote it in what was supposed to be a diary. It was about the world being dominated by two groups of people who, for no reason, wanted to kill each other. Or something like that.

I had problems.

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Re: Do first books always suck?

Post by Margo » May 9th, 2011, 11:20 am

Louise Curtis wrote:Not always. Just usually.
A hard truth, but a valuable one.
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Cookie
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Re: Do first books always suck?

Post by Cookie » May 9th, 2011, 12:10 pm

Falls Apart wrote:I was seven.

Yes, it did. Shocker, I know.

I wrote it in what was supposed to be a diary. It was about the world being dominated by two groups of people who, for no reason, wanted to kill each other. Or something like that.

I had problems.

Haha. I wrote my first one in a journal too. I was a little older than seven though. And I believe it was a fanfiction. Yea, it sucked.

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polymath
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Re: Do first books always suck?

Post by polymath » May 9th, 2011, 12:11 pm

I don't know about first books. First manuscripts have a failure rate approaching parity; however, there are no absolutes. S.E. Hinton's The Outsiders for most intents and purposes is a first manuscript that profoundly succeeded, to name one outstanding exception.
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Re: Do first books always suck?

Post by sierramcconnell » May 9th, 2011, 12:12 pm

Technically, I've been writing for quite some time, so I have a lot of experience. Editing experience, not as much, but I did a lot of that in High School and college. I was also raised by an extremely strict mother. She would make me rewrite an entire paper by hand if I so much as miswrote one letter in a word or mispunctuated a sentance. We were not allowed to use pencil. Even if the paper was five to ten pages long.

So. With that said, I believe it's the background that breeds a bad book. Yes, it takes more work to make a good book that first time, but I don't believe it's going to suck no matter what you do. You might have to rewrite it. You might have to gut the hell out of it. It might be barely recognizable as the first manuscript version you had of it. But it can be fixed.

I just don't buy the advice that, "No matter what those first few books you write are going to suck".

That's like saying, "You're going to suck at the first five jobs you have".

I didn't. They cried when I tried to leave my first job. Had I not gotten wrapped up in the political scandal of diry police and city leaders, I would still be working the second one. People were sad to see me leave that one, too.

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Re: Do first books always suck?

Post by gyhaney » May 11th, 2011, 5:15 pm

Do first books suck? I certainly hope not!

But I think I've been very dedicated to my first book. Over 3 years now, with plenty of short gaps working on other things. Many drafts, many edits, many readers, many opinions and critiques. I truly think my book never sucked, per say, but its definitely better than it was when I started!

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dgaughran
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Re: Do first books always suck?

Post by dgaughran » May 11th, 2011, 7:48 pm

All first books suck at some point. Usually the first time the writer thinks they are done.

Oh! How naive I was.

First agent queried led to a partial, then a back-and-forth about stuff, then a... first of many, many rejections.
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Re: Do first books always suck?

Post by Sommer Leigh » May 12th, 2011, 8:27 am

I'm going to ditto dgaughran on this one. I think all first books suck at some point and it's usually (though not always) the first time the writer is all, "Yay I'm done!"
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Re: Do first books always suck?

Post by TheZies » May 12th, 2011, 9:00 am

I've been working on the first book for a while. It's a story I like and want to make work.

I found a copy of some of the first draft.

It was terrible.

Bad enough that I wondered why I ever considered doing this :)

but it's gotten better. LOTS better. I've written probably about 1,000 pages. Most of which never made the actual manuscript. It sits at about 341. It's good, and getting better.

I don't even consider it my first book anymore. It's really No. 3 when you consider the number of "from scratch" or "word-by-word" rewrites I've done.
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rhrussellwriter
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Re: Do first books always suck?

Post by rhrussellwriter » May 12th, 2011, 9:04 pm

I hope not! Several books later, I still love the first one. I haven't given up on it yet.

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Re: Do first books always suck?

Post by knight_tour » May 13th, 2011, 12:13 pm

My first book doesn't suck, but it does need some work still to improve tension and some description.

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Re: Do first books always suck?

Post by Claudie » May 13th, 2011, 8:45 pm

rhrussellwriter wrote:I hope not! Several books later, I still love the first one. I haven't given up on it yet.
Yeah, I'm still in love with some of my early projects (read my 2nd book). I keep going because I learn with every new idea (and I have trouble saying no to a new idea), but I'm fairly certain I'll go back at some point to reshape the original plot and rewrite.
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Re: Do first books always suck?

Post by jazzlovesnoodles » May 20th, 2011, 9:02 am

I hope not! But I think my fear that the do is part of my problem with procrastination. If I haven't written anything, I haven't written anything terrible.

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Re: Do first books always suck?

Post by dgaughran » May 21st, 2011, 6:59 pm

You must give yourself permission to be cr*p.

Best way to get going.
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