Rethinking Debut Novels

Over the end of last week and this weekend I participated in Pitch to Publication, another semi-twitter competition involving editors, query letters, and the first five pages of my manuscript. Nothing overtly exciting happened to me, though I did get a little feedback (and will be getting more soon here).

But the most helpful part so far seems to be the conversations that occurred with other writers, and the editors.

I won’t go into all the details, but one conversation stuck out to me. It involved what exactly would be your ‘debut’ novel.

For example:

Screen Shot 2016-03-09 at 2.29.11 PM.png

And it went from there. It’s not exactly a new concept — most of us should write one or two books before thinking about publishing anyway. The book I’m trying to publish isn’t my first.

But I wanted to talk about it for a minute, because it’s interesting to me — and because of a lot of disappointment I saw on the Pitch to Publication feed (including mine).

Just because it seems hopeless to publish your book, because you’re told the plot is too cliche or the characters unlikeable or the themes too obvious (or boring), doesn’t mean the book will NEVER be published. Hell, it probably just needs a massive rewrite and a good editor. But if that’s not the case and you’ve been trying to publish for 5 years and it seems like a completely hopeless endeavor and you should just give up —

Relax. You’re a writer: this isn’t going to be the only thing you write. Something else may meant to be as your debut novel — and this manuscript you have right now, wonderful news: it can be published later, after you achieve success. Moving on to another project, one that is (annoyingly) more market-conscious and aimed to sell, does not mean you are abandoning your heart and soul.

I feel weird saying it. For me, and probably for you, writing is about the heart, and thinking of it in regards to ‘markets’ and ‘sell-ableness’ makes me cringe inside. Well, there’s a certain amount of get over it that needs to happen. Being an author is a career. You’re selling things. You need to be aware of the market and the whole capitalism thing.

This doesn’t mean that you should force yourself into writing something you don’t want to write. Or that you need to turn yourself into a only-business minded person (ew).

It just means pay attention. And try to be conscious of it as you write. Be weird. Be different than the trend. Think of a new way to do things. Push boundaries. Read and read and read and read things you don’t normally read. Be creative in your creativity.

Okay. Minor preachy-lesson over with.

Thank god I have a lot of story ideas. I just need to make them unique if my current one doesn’t work out… because now I’m uncertain it’s different enough.

What do you think? Did you participate in Pitch to Publication? How many ideas do YOU have running around in your head?

About R. K. Brainerd

I've been writing since my pre-teens, mostly in the realm of fantasy and sci-fi. Taking interesting concepts and dropping complex characters into fantastical worlds is my jam. I also raise dairy goats and herd cats, the evidence of which can be found on my Instagram. Welcome to the adventure. View all posts by R. K. Brainerd

14 responses to “Rethinking Debut Novels

  • inkstaind13

    I just absolutely love this mindset. It is so refreshing to think, after writing one novel and getting rejected over and over, “Not my first, but one day,” and move on to write a different type of project. I loved every aspect of this! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • R. K. Brainerd

      That’s what I was feeling! It’s probably a common sense thing, and kind of like “oh well of course” when you think about it, but I hadn’t quite put it together before. Like you said, it’s refreshing when you think of it like that! Everything is going to be a-okay. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  • jennabrownson

    Well said, R.K. I agree completely. I pitched the third book I wrote because Book #1 is likely unpublishable, and I have different plans for Book #2.

    It might just be that we writers have to write a half million “practice words” before we come into some level of competence. You know, like Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000-hours idea from OUTLIERS.

    Liked by 1 person

  • L.D. Parker

    Don’t they say you have to write 1 million words of crap before you can write something publishable? I’m just writing my first novel and don’t care at this point if it gets published. If it serves as nothing more than a stepping stone to my first published novel, that’s fine, too.


  • josiahrosenbergerauthor

    Hello there. I’m new in your neck of the woods, but thought I would chime in because I feel you on this one for sure.

    I think it’s super hard sometimes, as an artist, to get over the fact that we need to be creating for other people besides ourselves. As artists, we’re introspective by nature.

    But if we can take that skill of introspection, and learn how to place it into the mold of a solid plot filled with an interesting cast of characters, then the plot and the characters breathe a new life into the work—life that other people, readers, want to connect with.

    Best of writing and life to you.


    Liked by 1 person

    • R. K. Brainerd

      I think you’ve hit it spot on. 🙂 I know that I’m nervous about moving into a writing career where I’m ‘writing for other people’… or at least thinking that way. I tend to get paralyzed by the idea, though I’m more comfortable with it now. I’m not sure if it’s an ignoring the audience (at least in the actual writing bit) or just getting used to them there (at times, anyway). Probably depends on the person, eh?

      Liked by 1 person

  • Louisa Aricheta

    Great and well-put post!

    I used to dread having to “adapt to the trend”, but it’s exactly as you said. Have a few practice books under your belt to test the waters, be market conscious, but don’t abandon your heart and soul. I’m on my third manuscript now and feeling really great about its direction. I should get back to it actually haha

    Happy writing, R.K.! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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