I wrote my first book in the eighth grade (unpublished). At the time I didn’t realize what I was creating. I hadn’t had the intentions to make such a thing either.
It started out simply as a response to a prompt for a project. After presenting it for a grade, when I got positive feedback including people asking me to print it out for them, I added onto that story because I felt motivated. I added depth to the plot and posted chapters online. A few months later it was over 100,000 words with a tiny, respectable fan base that fell more in love with the characters than I had. And it was only then, when I finished the epilogue, that I realized I wrote a book.
I’d share a link to it but I actually find it quite mortifying to look back upon. The research that went into it was minimal, and it was more of an uneducated free-for-all because like I said, I didn’t think it’d become anything remotely serious. Obviously it still holds a close place to my heart, but the romance was corny and the plot was overdramatic. However, it still was one of my first realizations I was a writer. It was one of the first moments I discovered that my words could make a difference. And those comments people left–paragraphs about how much my story meant to them, and how much it changed their lives, and how much they loved it–the people who took the time to invest themselves in something I wrote and allow it to impact them so positively is something I’ll never forget.
Freshman year I wrote my second book. Considering this was an actual serious project, I deem it my first true novel. Though it still remains unpublished, I actually followed through with the process to try and get it somewhere. One of the best moments in my life includes touching up on my makeup in the Target bathroom with my friend when all of a sudden I received an e-mail from a literary agent asking for a partial of my book. I screamed, jumped around, and cried. And even though in the end it got rejected, the experience was so mesmerizing. It was a leap of hope in a pile of ‘sorry we don’t want to represent your ninth grade novel’.
I’ve taken a break from it for now, but I’ll never give up on it. This story I created is my first love… and I’ll continue to leaf through the pages, develop the characters, and rewrite and revise and try my best to make it into something worthy until it can finally be held in the hands of readers. For now, I’m still learning.
I wrote my second book throughout sophomore year and into the beginning of junior year. This one was much harder to write. I loved it while I was creating it–I had all these big ideas–but I was also haunted by the piles of rejection letters, and feedback literary agents gave me. Instead of writing for solely myself like I had in eighth and ninth grade, I was partially writing to please others in hopes of jumpstarting an early writing career. And though I thought I was creating something beautiful, though I truly fell in love with the people I brought to life in the pages, I stepped back from it for a few months and returned to it only to realize all it had been was a rushed, forced romance piled into a bunch of obnoxious, underdeveloped ideas. The writing style wasn’t my typical self, and it was too people-pleasing to truly be something I could be proud of. I was too concerned about what others were saying that while reading my second book, I realized I didn’t have the same passion I had for it as I did with the ninth grade one.
I’d always written for myself until that moment. And it’s strange that the moment I strayed from who I truly was, it was so obviously reflected in my work. The point of telling this story is really a lesson I believe all young writers should know. First of all, don’t get discouraged. And second of all, don’t let discouragement change you. When I wrote for myself, I was producing the best work I could. When I wrote for others, my thoughts were scattered, frantic, and too concerned to truly be something beautiful.
Not everyone can write–whether it’s a paper, or a poem, or a book. It isn’t easy. People often have ideas, and are unsure how to develop them. Other times they lose motivation in the middle of the process. But the secret to writing isn’t drive or expert ability–the secret to writing is sitting in front of your laptop or pressing a pencil against a page, and scribing words that make you feel whole inside. Words that tell a story, words that heal your own wounds, words that make you smile. Writing for yourself is the only way you’ll be able to do it, and once you’re finished, it won’t feel forced or wrong or uncomfortable. It’ll feel perfect.