Monday, December 1, 2014

The mentality of the first novel

I'm very proud of completing my first novel back in November 1994.  It was a crowning achievement, of which I celebrated by going out to the movie Interview with the Vampire, starring Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt--honestly I saw the movie four times in the theater; something I had never done with any other movie before or after.  Not even any of the Star Wars movies (although I have probably seen Star Wars: A New Hope close to a hundred times on video).

The day before I completed my first novel, I achieved a total of 1,000 pages (these were Brother word processor pages, where the word count is much less when compared with that of today's Microsoft Word).  I celebrated that by going out to the bar, Bottom's Up, in Bemidji.

I came back early that night, just a little buzzed.  I was alone.  Well, not really.  I had the characters in my head who just wanted me to finish the damn story.  Which I did the following morning.  Then I saw the movie.


Looking back on it now, I couldn't believe how much stuff I put into my first novel--a deer hunting horror story, an homage to my second favorite author, Stephen King (my favorite author is yours truly).

When I calculate the approximate word count nowadays, I come up with between 175,000 to 200,000 words.  *Gulp!*  If it was a fantasy novel, that would be about right.  But this was a horror story.  It was complex.

But a bit too complex.

I threw everything, inlcuding the kitchen sink, into it.

Why?  Because the mentality of the first novel is that everything needs to go into it.  Throughout history, there are authors who have struck gold with one novel.  Harper Lee, J. D. Salinger, and William Peter Blatty come to mind, in that regard.

The best advice on first novels is NOT to throw everything into it.  Hold back.  Only put in what it necessary for the story, and that's all.

Because there are always other books to write.

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