I’ve been struggling with the topic for my next character segment so I decided the only way to work through it was to let it percolate a little longer.
Instead, I want to talk about firsts. What do I mean by firsts? Well, writers measure so much by firsts. The first draft, the first finished manuscript, the first content won, and the first published book.
What we don’t realize is there is one first no one sees, not usually. The first novel you ever wrote or in some cases, the first book. Most of us as children had to write journals, small stories, and even picture books. I remember some of them and maybe one or two have survived my purges over the years.
But my first novel?
Now that’s in a folder on the computer I’m writing on. It’s also backed up on like 5 floppy disks that will never be retrieved again. I come across those floppy disks from time to time and wonder what I’d really written. Was it the first “draft”? Or was it a draft with revisions?
My first novel was written when I was only 13 years old. It was the summer between Grade 8 and 9 when it came to life. Mercy, Chance, Chase (now called Ace), and Kassie (now called Sienna) were created. They were my first characters. They weren’t as fleshed out or had as much depth as my characters do now but they were mine. I’d created a fantasy/sci-fi world. I’d named the planets, I’d created the villains, and I’d written a whopping 22 chapters!
I went back to it a few times during high school (evidently with two main characters names being changed). I even plotted out the whole first novel again when I was older. The notes are sitting in a folder somewhere on my writing projects shelf.
It eventually lost its luster, its shine to my young adult eyes as I went on to other projects and works in progress over the years. Still, it was my first novel. No one told me to write it. No one asked for it. I wanted to write it.
As I felt stuck in my first finished manuscript revisions (I’m in the revision underworld right now), I started thinking about firsts. I went back to that first novel 13-year old me wrote. At first, I couldn’t even find Chapter 1, I’d renamed it and moved it at some point. Then came the writing…
On Viper a young boy had snuck onto a realm union headquarters. He had got past security way harder than this. ‘This is simple all I have to do is get half this place blown up. Then I can get out of here.’ Then a light disturbed his thoughts and made him jump back. He noticed two lights were heading his way. He jumped on the wall and climbed in a window.
I laughed at this paragraph. I started picking it apart without realizing it – the missing commas, the worst first line in history, and how did he jump on a wall and climb the window? Had I created a mutant Spiderman? There’s so much wrong in those lines (from my own eyes) but I realized something important from those lines. I’d grown a lot as a writer and I definitely wasn’t 13 years old anymore.
My writing may not always be eloquent and flowy like some authors writing. It may not even be good at times but it’s better than it was and I will keep improving. I’m still learning and I’m still growing as a writer. That first novel became the first step in making me the writer I am today. The writer who writes this instead:
As I moved past the cash register, a shock of red hair caught my attention. A pale girl sat on the floor, her blood red nails tapping out a beat before grabbing the pencil from behind her ear to scribble in her notebook.
~ Chapter 5 revised, Blood of the Half-Elf, J.D. Millington
I still write simply but it tends to make more sense. It flows better and I don’t feel like laughing out loud at the obvious mistakes (and I make them all the time). I’ll probably find something wrong with this sentence and change it again (like I did 5 times before).
Nevertheless, this all just goes to show you, firsts are important. The very first piece of writing I chose to write, that I wanted to write, is what started me on this journey to become a writer.
So maybe one day soon, I’ll go back to my first novel and my first characters. Maybe I’ll build them better, stronger, and well-rounded. Maybe that first novel will be rewritten, revitalized, and revised a million times, but maybe, just maybe, that first story will be told again. That’s the beauty of a first, it’s just the beginning.