Thursday, August 27, 2009

First novels

There was a very interesting poll at Nathan Bransford's blog this week. Yeah, I know I should've been on it a lot quicker but vacation is unfortunately intervening. ::grin:: Anyhoo, there's just enough time for me to post this before I'm off again and, of course, I have an opinion, right?

Besides the incredibly fascinating metrics that came back from the post (yes, I participated), there are a couple of comments I'd like to make.

One, like Pepper Smith, I was dismayed to find self-published and e-published lumped together. Nathan said that if he'd drilled down into every permutation, the question would have become cumbersome, but he only offered two options for that choice. If he'd put down "self-published / e-published / only non-English rights / only audio rights / micro press", or something like that, then I might have been more convinced. But, to only have two options and then say that splitting them out would have made the question more cumbersome is a bit like showing your Freudian slip.

I know I'm not an NY-published author, but every manuscript of mine that got e-pubbed still had to go through the submission, edit, revision process. I didn't jump the queue by self-publishing. (Having said that, I don't want to make it appear that I'm having a complete downer on self-publishing. Talented writer, Ann Sommerville, for example, has self-published. But, she knew what she was doing. She had her own reasons for taking that particular route which didn't include being afraid to take rejection, as I suspect many of the self-pubbed are. There, that's my Freudian slip this time.)

But another question that came up in the comments was about first novels and someone commented that s/he was working on her/his first novel and was being serious about it and why shouldn't it be the first one that gets published?

This happens. First novels get published, of course they do. But, in thinking on this, I'm starting to come to the realisation that, for the majority of writers (me utterly included), the first novel can only ever be seen as potentially valuable scrap metal for future efforts.

I came to this epiphany via another route; i.e. martial arts, because the exact same thing plays out. In my first year of martial arts, I took part in my very first tournament. And the instructor videotaped all of our performances for later analysis. When I saw myself in the sparring round, I cringed. Oh. My. God. Was that ungainly person hopping around, doing weird things with her hands and legs really me? Aghast, almost in tears, I approached Sifu and asked him if there was any -- any! -- hope for me? He laughed. "Everyone goes through that," he told me. "Before you can really start training, you need to get all the bad influences out of your system."

Mortifying me completely, he sat down with me and we went through the tape again. It didn't feel any better watching myself prance brokenly all over the screen for a second time. Sifu watched with a frown on his face. "I'm thinking ... Kung Fu," he said. "What?" "That TV series, Kung Fu. That's what I'm seeing here."

He was right. Out of all the TV series that I'd watched as a kid, one of my favourites was David Carradine's Kung Fu. And there it was, on the screen during a noisy and busy tournament. I was trying to be, whether I knew it or not, David Carradine, in all his stiff, top-heavy, completely clunky glory.

"You had to get that out," Sifu said. "And, now that you have, we can start the real work."

And that's what I think of most first novels. It's a way of getting things out of your system before you start the real work. But that's just my opinion.


Jewel Amethyst said...

After reading your post I had to go to Nathan Bransford's blog and take the survey. Interesting and informative to say the least. As for fist novels, there are many authors who publish their first novels only after publishing others and developing a fan base.

Shauna Roberts said...

I still hope the first novel I wrote will sell. But even if it never does, I learned a whole lot from writing it that made it worthwile.

Pepper Smith said...

Freudian slip, indeed. Considering how many other choices were in some of the other questions, I don't see how separating those two would have made it all that much more cumbersome.

I have a very talented friend who went the self-pub route after carefully considering her options, so there was no disparagement intended in wanting the two separated. Some good books do come out that way. But knowing how self-publishing in general is viewed, it's discouraging to be lumped in with that, considering we go through the same submissions/editing/revisions process that NY pubbed authors go through.

Genella deGrey said...

I love Nathan's blog - and I swear, I'm not there for his hair.


Liane Spicer said...

I don't see how self- and e-publishing can be lumped together. The format is different but the selection process is the same for e-books as for print, as you pointed out.

I was lucky to have my first book published, but I've realized that is not the norm. And published or not, the real work is still just beginning.

Unknown said...

Kaz --
Where Souls Collide was my first manuscript and novel. But I have to admit, that after writing it over a six year period, I ending up gutting more than half of it because reader preferences had changed during that time. I think I learned a few things over the course of writing it, too. So, technically, it was my first, but I wouldn't call it a typical first (if there is such a thing.)