Completing the first book is a wonderful experience. And any writer who has done so deserves a big high five. There are countless people who say they want to write a book. Usually, all we need to do is mention we’re a writer, and people come out of the closet to tell us the book ideas they have or the fact that they’ve always wanted to write a book.
But most of those people never write their books—the ideas don’t move beyond their heads to paper. And out of those who gather the self-discipline to start one, many never finish.
Why do so many never finish the first book?
Because they soon realize that writing a full length book from start to finish is time-consuming and complex. They quickly understand that the ease of reading is not duplicated in the pain-staking process of crafting words and plot.
And let’s face it, while most of us have the innate need to express ourselves, not everyone is wired to communicate through the written word. There are many other ways to give voice to the passions inside—through music, speaking, art, baking, etc.
Whatever the case, if someone sets out to write a book and then actually completes it, they’re well ahead of the majority of wannabes. I applaud anyone who has climbed the mountain of finishing their first book. It’s a monumental feat and those who reach the summit should be very proud of themselves.
However, I’ve noticed that many writers tend to camp out on Mt. Book 1. Perhaps they have plans to scale the distant slope of Mt. Book 2. But for whatever reason, they hang out way too long on Mt. Book 1, and keep putting off the next hard climb.
I’m not begrudging the need to celebrate and savor the accomplishment of finishing the first book, nor am I saying writers don’t deserve a break after all the hard work. But . . . all too many writers take up permanent residence on Mt. Book 1 and never move on.
Here are several reasons why writers need to push themselves up the next hard climb of another book:
We have the potential to grow with each book we write.
There’s never the guarantee we’ll grow just because we write another novel. In fact, we could write ten books and never really improve. But there is the potential to get better—especially if we make a concerted effort to learn and apply basic fiction-writing techniques in each new book we write.
The Preacher’s Bride was approximately the sixth full length novel I wrote. I can’t imagine how much my writing career would have stalled if I’d camped out on my first book (or even the next couple) and waited for an agent to take an interest. I wouldn’t be where I’m at today, not by a long shot.
There are geniuses in every field, those rare people who have extraordinary talent—like Mozart, who was born playing the piano. But most of us have to work hard to achieve success (even when we have talent). It’s somewhat unrealistic and perhaps even a bit presumptuous for the average writer to assume they’ve “arrived” at Book 1.
Industry professionals will take us more seriously.
More than one book shows professionals we’re in the journey for the long haul. Most agents and editors are interested in investing in writing careers not just one book. By completing multiple books, we demonstrate to agents and editors that we have many of the same characteristics that go in making a successful writing career—stamina, perseverance, determination, and self-discipline.
We occupy ourselves during the long waits that are a part of the business.
The waiting in the industry can be unbearable at times. Whether a query, request, or contract, the waiting takes weeks, often months. Instead of driving ourselves crazy checking our inboxes, we should get to work and write another book, one even better than the last. That way if an agent or editor doesn’t think they can sell the first one we’ve given them, we’ll have another to offer, perhaps one even better.
We increase our chances of publication.
Even if a writer’s book is of publishable quality, it may not meet a current market need. Sometimes an agent or editor may like our voice and skill, but they reject us because they don’t think they’ll be able to sell our particular story. Having another one to offer them right away, may give us another shot.
I turned in two completed novels to my publisher before I was contracted. And they only bought one. Both of the books were equitable in skill level, but the one they rejected had a setting and time period that doesn’t sell as well. What if I’d only turned in the book that they didn’t think was as commercially viable? What would have happened to my writing career then?
My Summary: Writers write. So why stop after the first book? Why not keep on writing?
So what do you think? Have you camped out on Book 1? If so, why? Do you agree or disagree with my philosophy that writers serious about publication need to push themselves beyond Book 1?