The Novel Virgin and One Novel Wonders

Two thoughts have recently sprung to mind on the subject of novel-writing and publishing. I figured I would share them with you and perhaps get your insight into them.

The first thing that has tumbled around in my head for quite sometime is on the number of novels I have written. I have nearly five completed novels in varying stages from rough first draft through to pieces that have had several rewrites. The problem with even the more polished novels for me is that I can still find flaws in them and am not comfortable turning them loose until those things are fixed.

Lately it seems we hear about people who were out walking their dog, folding their laundry or sitting in a cafe spilling a mocha-chino down their top when suddenly an idea for a novel hits them. Previously they were novel writing virgins yet they stop what they are doing and begin to write. A year or so later a friend convinces them to send off their manuscript to a literary agent and three years later everyone knows their name and has read their book and perhaps is even looking forward to the film adaptation to come out.

Mundane tasks are the ones that allow my mind to wander the most. I too have written two novels based on ideas that hit me while having my morning shower. I have had a friend (and beta readers) tell me that these novels are good. The difference is I have not sent them of to an agent. For me they are not quite shiny enough.

So that makes me wonder about writing practice. How many authors try to publish the first novel they truly have ever written and how many publish something they have written after getting more practice and experience? Sadly, this is information I am struggling to find data on and I am not sure I would trust the data even if it existed.

I am not working on a query letter for my first novel. I am actually working on getting ready to query my fifth novel instead. This is because for me the first does not seem right yet, the second and third are just not ready yet and the fourth is too different from the others and I do not want to get stamped and branded as writing that type of novel.

This leads me to my second thought on publishing. Lately it seems those who have published in the genre I write in are turning out trilogies. I know I could do an entire blog post on the merits of writing a stand alone novel and the merits of writing a serial but I will save that for another time. The thing is I know why trilogies are so popular. Even as a child I loved reading serials by my favourite authors or found that at the very least I enjoyed reading multiple titles by a favourite author even if they were all stand alone novels. There is something comforting in reading the familiar.

There are only two categories authors can fall in and they are both obvious, those who publish one novel and those who publish several novels. I know we can never predict which category we would fall into until we are lucky enough to be in that place. I wonder how many authors especially those who have only ever published one novel started out like the scenario above and wrote that one glorious novel they formulated while taking out the garbage and then never went on to write again. In the same token I wonder how many authors planned on writing that one book and found them in the position of being asked to write another and another and another…

How about you? Are you more likely to query with your first ever novel? Would you be happy with being a one novel wonder if that novel was very well received or would you rather publish many novels?

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About Billie Jo Schinnerer

Born and raised on the edge of the Helderberg Escarpment in eastern New York. Formerly a primary and middle school teacher. Moved to the North West area of England in 2003. Now a mother of three and a wannabe author.
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4 Responses to The Novel Virgin and One Novel Wonders

  1. Hmm, good questions, Billie Jo. There are famous novelists who only published one novel – and it became a big hit. To Kill A Mockingbird is one, and Gone with the Wind is another. I always wonder about those one novel authors…did they find out what a lot of work it is to write a novel, and then never write again? Did they write others that just weren’t any good? Or were they perhaps intimadated by that bright flash of success and fame, and simply froze at the thought of having to repeat it?

    • That is sort of what I have been wondering too! Why stop at one when you are that successful with your first? I know Harper Lee tried to write another novel but stopped writing it and she filed it away as unfinished but I can’t believe that meant she stopped writing especially since she was such good friends with Capote and I imagine they could support each other through the writing process (and yes, I have heard the conspiracy that he actually wrote To Kill a Mockingbird but I do not believe it).

      Margaret Mitchell is a good example of someone who did not publish the first thing she wrote but never wrote anything after Gone with the Wind. I know they published her teen works after but technically they were written before.

      The thing about them both is they both did not work so that they could focus on their writing and then only ever wrote those great novels and nothing to follow it.

      • As much as I winge and moan about having to earn a living, I sometimes think it makes me use my little free time more wisely. Maybe having too much free time just leads to pissing it away?
        Maybe a huge best seller just freaks some people out and gives them performance anxiety?
        All I know is when I feel this novel is truly finished and ready to go I’m diving right into the next one!

      • I agree with you about diving into the next one which is why I am 25k into my next one. I like the idea that if I ever find representation I can say to them I have other works. I also think the practice does me good too.

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