Writing Wednesdays: If At First You Don't Succeed...My Epic Failure of a Book

I've told you about my pathetically cheesy first novel. My second novel was written during my college years. (I shudder to think of all the studying I could have done had I not been writing this thing!) I was so much more impressed with my second novel than my first. This second one was more intense, more mature, more romantic--or so I thought at the time. It was about a girl who went on a mission with the military, with her brother who was undercover as her fiance. They were secretly spies there to flesh out where the enemy had a post near the military base. This was set in some unnamed place, and I just want to laugh now at how totally ridiculous the whole thing was. I didn't know anything about covert military operations, and you would have laughed at the climatic scene at the end where they thwart the bad guys on their spy mission or whatever you call it.

And, as embarrassing as it is to say it, the writing was even worse than the plot. Fortunately, not many people read it, so I have that to be grateful for.

I sent that book to a publisher once. Didn't know how to make a cover letter. Had never heard of a book proposal. I decorated the manila envelop by drawing flowers and vines up one side. That would get their attention, right? I didn't think to find out the right way to do--I just sent it.

Young covering his face with his hands -

It doesn't need to be said that my book was not accepted with glowing acceptance as I'd hoped.

After that, I kept writing, but I changed tactics. I started at the bottom of the ladder instead of trying to jump straight for the top. I started small pieces about things I had actually learned and things I actually knew about. I sent them to small magazines or newsletter, publications that did not pay. I started seeing my work get published.

I also started learning from which things were accepted and which were rejected. I took a correspondence course on writing where I learned to create a query letter, to edit my content, to look forward to criticism because I knew it would make me better.

Slowly, over about a ten year span, I worked my way up. Bigger magazines. Publication that paid. Even assignments.

Then finally, I felt ready. This time, I wrote a novel based on something I new well. The character struggled with my struggles. She traveled to places I'd lived. She encountered a culture I knew about.

I wrote what I had a passion for, not just a story I wanted to make interesting enough to be accepted.

Today I have a 3-part series of novels out there and a contract for a series of non-fiction books as well. I'm not at the top, nowhere near it, but I'm headed in the right direction.

If you are feeling discouraged, if you read things you've written and wish they were better, don't give up. Good writing is a skill that can be learned. Keep working at it and you'll keep improving. And if it will help encourage you, go back to the first book written by your favorite author. You'll likely notice a big difference between their first one and their current one. (Unless they're like me and threw it away so nobody would ever find it!)

If you're on your way forward, you're on your way! Keep at it, keep learning, and one day you'll hold in your hands work that you are proud of.


  1. Thanks for the encouragement this morning! I love your Writing Wednesdays! Lately, I've been getting two comments: "This has the potential to be powerful. " and with many of my conclusions, "I think you can just leave off that ending and it will be stronger." LOL. Seems my pre-conclusion IS my bang-up conclusion. Today is another day, and a great one for writing! =) Keeping at it...

  2. Thanks, Amy! I'm glad they help. I know your writing is great, and am not surprised you're hearing "This has the potential to be powerful"! It's great news that your conclusion is stronger before your conclusion--that's way better than people saying you don't have one and need to add one! Keep up the great work! =)


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