I know, I know.  I owe you an introduction to M.T. Anderson’s FEED.  I promise that it’s already written and waiting to be posted on Friday.

After I complete a book deconstruction, I’d like to dedicate a post to my own writing.  After all, that’s why I do book deconstruction.  So I can learn from the brilliant things that published authors do.   So, today my topic is: my first novel.

Oh, yes.  I have one.  65,000 words of unpublishable plotting, cardboard characters, and predictable ending.  And, yes, it was the first of a trilogy (that, blessedly, I didn’t write).  Should I even mention that it starts with a dream sequence?  Or that it’s based on D&D gaming?  Despite the fact that I’ve never been part of a D&D campaign?  If you’re not groaning, you are a kind, kind soul.

So, aside from all that (as if that wasn’t enough), what did I do wrong?

  1. I didn’t do my research.  I didn’t read other books with an eye for structure and storytelling.  In fact, I didn’t even look to see if there was another book out there with a plot like mine.  I had the most amazing tool that ever was, the internet, and I didn’t use it.  I didn’t need to make every mistake in the book (ha! Sorry.) .  There are websites all over the place that clearly state how not to start your book, how not to plot your book, what tropes to not get caught in.  But it wasn’t until after I finished my book and decided to try to get an agent that I started researching how to write a book.  Yes, it was bass-akward.
  2. It was a Mary Sue Story, meaning I over identified with my main character.  Her life was my wish fulfillment.  (For the original Mary Sue story click here.  It’s a short Star Trek fan fic and thanks to my writing group for showing me this gem. 🙂  )  Consequently, I wouldn’t do anything very bad to her.  She had to be smarter than the bad guy, cuter and nicer than all of her friends, and morally unimpeachable.  She never makes an unwise decision.  Who wants to read about something like that?  There just isn’t much drama if you don’t rough up your main character a little.
  3. Finally, I didn’t think I had to follow the rules.  Even once I knew you shouldn’t start with a dream sequence, I left it in there.  To be honest, I’m still not a big fan of strict writing rules but I recognize that you need to show an agent/publisher that you CAN do things in the typical fashion.  Once I’m Kate the author, I might take a stab at something a little more experimental.  Until then, I’m going to keep my eye on the prize and just try to get a book out there.

Despite all that, I’m tremendously proud of having finished my novel-in-a-drawer.  Because of that manuscript, I didn’t make the same mistakes with YA novel #2.  Hopefully, #3 will be even better.

What about you?  Do you have a “practice manuscript”?