ROW80 Check-In 1- Writing a first novel by Marie Lu

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Hello gentle reader,

It is time for my first ROW80 check-in of this round. As a reminder, my goal for this round is simply to Write or edit every day.

I don’t know about you, but this week went by really quickly to me. I started my new position at my day job and it was quite time-consuming. In my spare time I wrote a couple of blog posts, went to see Les Miserables at the theatre and rewrote my query letter. But I didn’t find the time to work on my novels, which I intend to do this week. Finally my blog received the Lovely Blog Award and you can read all about it here.

Now if you’re new to this blog, know that each Sunday, I share an inspiring story with you to keep us motivated for the week to come. This week I’m sharing YA author Marie Lu‘s tale of her Very First Novel. She published this post on Publishing Crawl in November 2012 and I thought you might find it interesting… Enjoy!

Marie Lu-Legend

“I’m talking about my very, very, very first novel. You only have one first novel–not your first published novel, but the first one that you are able to write “The End” on. I know that for the most part (unless you are Stephenie Meyer!), first novels don’t end up going anywhere except for the back of your closet or the Archives folder on some old hard drive. And for the most part, this is a good thing. But I’ve always felt a certain rosy fondness for first novels–not just for my own, but for others’. It’s usually that first novel, however bad (or good), that teaches us that we want to become writers. It’s the one that makes us realize that we can do it. The dream is possible, at least according to our word count.

 Here’s the story behind my first. […]

That first novel was a high fantasy titled The Wings of Heaven. I’m still not sure why I called it that, since it had nothing to do with the story. It was about a young, orphaned (of course) knight’s apprentice named Pher (pronounced “Fair”) Artemsrough who aspired to become a knight and who loved the kingdom’s red-haired princess. One day, a beautiful woman came to the kingdom and told him that he was the Chosen One, and that she was on a quest to bring him to the far reaches of the world so that they could find a shiny ancient object that would tell her what his role in a prophecy was. I can’t even remember who the bad guys were in this story, but there were definitely some bad guys. I think. Along the way, the beautiful woman and Pher picked up a ragtag team of elves, thieves, and assassins that all happily joined them on this quest. There were also some children that could breathe fire, some powerful sorceresses, and a snowy cave called The Dark of Night.

It was 160,000 words. Yeah, I know.

Of course, fifteen year old Marie was completely oblivious to all of this thing’s flaws. I worked on it obsessively. Every night, I’d set my alarm clock for 2 AM, wake up, stuff a bathrobe under my door so that my parents wouldn’t see lamplight leaking from the bottom of the door, and then write quietly until the hour right before dawn. I wrote notes in my schoolwork and drew pictures of my characters on the margins of my homework. I posted chapters of it onto a personal site that I shared with my closest childhood friend. I spent a great deal of time lost in the whimsical haze of First Book Euphoria. I promised myself that I would finish it. I will never forget typing “The End” on that manuscript–I leaned back in my bedroom chair at 3:30 AM, stretched my arms up high, and smiled so hard that I thought I might break.

It was a terribly written story. I loved it with all my heart. I learned from The Wings of Heaven that I could finish a novel-length book, that I could carry characters from point A to point B (however badly), and that I could keep a promise to myself. I learned that if I wanted something badly enough, I would find the time to work on it–even if it was in the middle of the night.

Of course I went on to submit it to over a hundred literary agents, and of course they all soundly rejected it. I don’t think I even had a single request for sample chapters–that should tell you something about my query-writing skills. I remember crying over some of those rejections, laughing over others, stuffing them all in a big manila envelope (which I still have), and then pushing stubbornly onward. The thing is, looking back, my naivety was probably my greatest advantage. Had I actually known how difficult it would be to get published, I might never have finished that manuscript. I never might have been able to face getting rejected. And writing another manuscript. And getting rejected. And writing another. And getting rejected. And another. And another. If I hadn’t been so naive, I might have stopped right there. But I was so young, arrogant, optimistic, ignorant, and hopeful, and because of that, I was able to convince myself to write “just one more.” Most importantly, I was able to figure out over time that I wanted to write stories regardless of publication, that I loved it and that it was a permanent part of me.

This is why I love first novels, in all their imperfection and wonder.”

What was your very first novel like? Did you try and get it published? And how are you other ROWers doing after this first week? Feel free to leave me a comment below!

Here is the Linky to cheer the other ROWers on if you wish to do so.

13 thoughts on “ROW80 Check-In 1- Writing a first novel by Marie Lu

  1. Karen Rought says:

    My first novel is, appropriately, stuffed into a file folder on my computer. It won’t see the light of day for a while. And that’s okay. I’ve learned a lot from it and, like the article above, it taught me a lot of things about what I can do. I hope I can work on it again one of these days. It has potential, but it definitely needs an overhaul. Maybe some day. Thanks for sharing!

  2. S. J. Maylee says:

    Great story, especially like this part -> wanted to write stories regardless of publication, that I loved it and that it was a permanent part of me<- I recognize this in myself
    My first MS is a little over 200-pages and I finished it last February. I immediately started on a new story, but it was months before I really let the first one go. I see now that letting a story go and starting again is an important skill to have.
    Busy weeks do tend to fly by, rewriting the query is huge, well done.

  3. My first novel actually was published, although it shouldn’t have been! This was by a small e-press ten years ago, before ebooks were really viable. And it wasn’t erotica so you can imagine how well it sold. 🙂 It went out of contract after 3 years, and I recently rewrote it – rewrote as in, didn’t even look at what I had before. I added aliens, and am getting ready to publish it, 1000% better(At least I hope). Good job on writing every day, even if just a little! Darn day jobs do take a lot of time, don’t they? 🙂

  4. First novel is always hard. But I think you have the right goal – just write/edit every day. Every day it gets easier and you’ll get better.

  5. This week did go by too fast.
    Oh, did you like Les Mis? My hubby isn’t into musicals so I can’t convince him of going to the theater with me =(
    I remember reading that blog post by Marie Lu. Great post! Thanks for reminding me of it.
    Have a great week!

  6. Lena Corazon says:

    I am currently trying to fix up my first novel to make it something that is actually viable to publish. It is a hard, hard thing to do, but my novels really are like my babies, and they are still stories that I believe in.

    Hope you have a great week, EM!

  7. My first novel was written by hand when I was at school, and I have no idea what ever happened to it… aliens on the farm… not exactly great literature, but we all have to start somewhere!

  8. EM Castellan says:

    We do, haha! Mine was dreadful too. But we’ve come a long way since then, haven’t we? *hopeful nudge* 🙂

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