5 Things I Learned from Writing My First Novel

In 2014, I published my debut novel Our Dried Voices with Scribe Publishing Company. I learned a lot during the lengthy process of conceiving, writing, editing and publishing my first book. Here are five lessons that stand out two years later. For more lessons on how I conceived, wrote and published this novel, join my free email course Building the Book: Our Dried Voices.

1. Read

Read the news and opinion columns. Read works of fiction by your favorite authors and by authors who come from a very different perspective than your own. You’ll get ideas for your own stories (exactly what happened with Our Dried Voices) and you’ll also see how other writers tell their stories. You’ll start to discover what styles and linguistic peculiarities you like and learn what works in plotting and character development and what doesn’t.

2. Be patient

It took eight years from the time I conceived the initial idea for Our Dried Voices to the day it was published. That’s eight years for a 219-page book containing about 65,000 words. Chances are you won’t yet have the opportunity to write for a living when you set out to pen your first book. You’ll work on it nights, weekends and during your lunch breaks at your day job. But if you love writing and enjoy the story you’re telling, you’ll keep at it. When it seems like an endless slog, bring yourself back to the joy of writing that one sentence that jumps off the page.

Constructing a building as a symbol of building a first novel

3. Fill in the holes

At some point in your writing career, the muses may favor you, and entire stories might suddenly leap into your brain. In all likelihood, you won’t be so lucky on your first go-around. In all likelihood, you’ll probably have more than a few cases of writer’s block. That’s where a detailed outline can be an author’s best friend, especially on your first book. A strong outline allows you to establish the framework of the story and anticipate any major plot holes before you compose the actual text of your book. When you inevitably get stuck, you can refer back to your outline to plan how to move the story forward again.

4. Be confident, but humble, but confident

It takes some guts and some faith to put your work in front of someone else’s eyes for the first time. Write something you’re proud of (i.e. free of major gaps in story logic and without significant spelling and grammatical errors), and then get another pair of eyes to read your work. That person will almost certainly discover things you missed. Try not to get defensive—after all, you asked for advice. Instead, consider their feedback with an open mind. It may seem like your reader hated your work. But a good proofreader or editor will do their best to pick your story apart so you can make it as strong as possible. Have confidence that you can take the reader’s advice and apply it to your story one step at a time.

5. Publication is great, but it’s not the end

If you enjoy writing, you probably don’t want to be someone who just wrote one book. You want to be someone who has written several books and can connect with a devoted audience of readers. Whether you are self-published or traditionally published, remember that you will always be your strongest advocate. Your level of investment in your work and your enthusiasm for your craft will go a long way toward determining how well you reach your audience. Continue to write new stories, but don’t forget your old ones. If you don’t remember them, neither will your readers.

Join the free email course Building the Book: Our Dried Voices using the form below for more about the lessons and behind-the-scenes stories of Our Dried Voices.  You’ll learn what it’s like to create a novel, from the spark of an idea, through years of writing and editing, all the way to a published book. Plus, I’ve loaded each email in the series with bonus content like my personal notes, diagrams and edited drafts that will bring the book to life before your eyes. And don’t worry, Building the Book is spoiler-free and cost-free.