Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Your First Manuscript

By Kathy Lipscomb

Seven years ago, when I finished my first manuscript, I was so excited. I thought the next natural step was to get published and get lots of money. Oh how naïve I was. I didn’t know about the writing community, critique groups, writer’s conferences, or even much about editing. I thought I could send it to a publisher and be published within a year! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha . . .

The first novel is not typically the one that’s published first, because we don’t know how to write a great book yet. At the same time, the first one is important because it teaches us so much. It’s the one we learn with. It can be reworked a million times, but what I’ve seen with successful published authors, is that they put the first novel aside, use what they learn on the next manuscript, and go back to the first when they’ve developed the skills to fix it. Sometimes we take more than the next manuscript to develop the necessary skills to go back.

My first manuscript taught me about writing and about writer’s conferences. My second novel taught me about critique groups, hard core editing, the amazing writer communities out there, and more about writing in general. Now that I’m on different stages of my third and fourth book, I feel more confident about the skills I’ve learned. When I get a novel published, I’ll go back to my second manuscript to rework it. I’m too in love with it to let it go. My first one though…I may take that apart for scraps…  

Are there good published novels that were firsts for an author? Absolutely. But sometimes we’re so hooked onto the idea of it being published, it’s hard to let it go even if no agent or publisher wants it yet. When that happens, sometimes we get stuck and never continue, never truly grow.

It’s kind of like how I tell my son in the midst of high emotion to take a breath and step back. You do not have to give up on any novel (I recommend you don’t!), but sometimes it’s best to take a breath, step back, and move on until you’re ready to tackle it again. Let yourself breathe. Let yourself learn from each manuscript. 


  1. I'm a fan of letting writing stew. My first full novel (not novella) was completed in 2002, but my debut novel came out in 2013. Incidentally, that was my second completed novel, but one that had been completely rewritten about fifteen times. Looking back on it now, I cringe. It's amazing how much we grow as writers, even in a short period.

    1. I agree completely. I have yet to join the world of published authors, but the difference between my first novel and the one I'm working on now is incredible. As much effort as I put into each novel, it's nice to be able to look back and see progress. :)

  2. Kathy, this is such a good reminder for us slaving our way through our first manuscripts. It actually makes me happy, because there are some other ideas I have that get me more excited than my current WIP (because any new Idea is brighter and shinier than whatever you're currently working on!) and it's good for me to remember that I'm building the skills now that will make those other books much better than they would be if I just abandoned this one and went for those.

    1. Yes! All the work and time put into a manuscript just helps us to understand the process and to make the next one so much better. I go back and laugh at my first manuscript when I need a pick me up (it's seriously horrible). :)



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