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First Novels

May 25th, 2012

Eighteen years ago I published my first novel – Sheep. Somewhat belatedly, I am just getting round to organising an e-book edition. And what this means is that I have had to read it again.

sheep-simon-maginn-ebook-cover-mock-up

Writing My First Novel

A first novel is a very particular beast. It may contain some story so central to you that you can’t begin to explain where it came from or why you need to tell it. It may be the best work you will ever do – certainly, my first novel is the only one that has ever generated anything substantial in terms of income or impact. It may have been growing, brewing, quietly, inside you for years: or it may tear itself out of you in an unseemly rush. And of course for some writers, the first novel is also the last. I’ve lost track of the number of authors I’ve shared a platform with, flushed and proud as new dads as they cradle their firstborn, and full of plans for the next, only to disappear back into their ordinary lives. It’s a tough game, and it isn’t for everyone.

Has everyone got a novel in them? Maybe. When my first came out all that time ago, I found myself having a great many conversations with friends about their novels, the ones they were writing, or planning to write, or wishing they had the time to write. But wishing will only get you so far: you also need grim, dogged stubbornness – a defiant refusal to give up, despite the 1001 reasons why you should – to get the thing finished. So everyone may well have a novel in them but, alas, the majority of these novels will stay within, will remain a potentiality, a dream, an ambition. And ambitions don’t get published.

I don’t think anything in my life has given me more simple delight than the acceptance and publication of my first novel. I recall hugging it to myself (psychologically I mean, though I may well have hugged the thing itself too): much was wrong in my life at that time, but I had my novel, and nothing else really mattered. I have written many more since then (seven, and I’m up to my neck in a new one), but they have all been attempts to relive the giddy, queasy rush of the first.

So make sure you enjoy it when it happens. There’s no time like the first time.

www.simonmaginn.com

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