Friday, April 22, 2011

Your First Book Almost Certainly Stinks

Mine did.

I banged out the first draft in thirty days (350 pages, more or less) and shot it out to a couple of readers, including Eric Patten and my wife Emily (this was before the Story Monkeys formally existed, but Eric and I were already in conversation about writing).

Eric's criticism came back harsh.  If I took it seriously, I realized, I would have to do a major rewrite, probably ditching or changing 80% of the first draft.  I rationalized, enumerating all the reasons he was wrong.

Then Emily gave me feedback, and her major points were, in different words, the same as Eric's.  I lay awake into the wee hours, with my first ever (and, to date, only) migraine headache.

What to do?  The answer for me was, and the answer for you will be: move forward.  You may have to rewrite your first book, or you may have to ditch it entirely, but you have to get past it.  The guy whose first book was his best is like the guy whose glory days were on the high school football team: pathetic.

In my case, I rewrote.  It took me three weeks to produce the second draft, which was several orders superior to the first draft, and the process was the steepest learning curve I've ever experienced.


  1. Dave, I would agree with this assessment. My first version of my current book, as you can attest, was a flying piece of doo doo. Lesson learned: get some independent feedback before you get too far down the road!

  2. I think the first great culling of would-be authors from the herd is at the line where some actually write the book they're always talking about, and most never do.

    Another culling occurs at the point where the would-be author has his manuscript in hand and gets his first real feedback. Kudos to the writers who are able to hear the feedback, survive it, digest it, and move forward! For those who are unable, compassion!

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  4. Dave, You are still here. That's a good sign that you have avoided the third cull then, which must come after the second book/re-write. Kudos to you and good luck my friend.

  5. Thanks, mate. It's culls all along, I'm afraid. Ha!