Write that next book. It's one of those writing mantras which has been quoted a million times, but never gets any easier to swallow. But it's true. So true. I know, because I've lived it.
Writing a novel is difficult (hi, my name is Kirsten, but you can call me obvious master). Finishing a novel is a massive accomplishment. You've probably spent thousands of hours writing and revising, submerged in a storyworld of your own creation. Naturally, you've woven all your hopes and dreams into your 60,000-word document.
That's why WTNB is so hard to take. Thing is, your first book ever written – in its first form, at least -- is probably not going to be your debut.
A huge mistake writers make is pinning all their hopes on to one book. It's understandable. Believe me, I know how hard you've worked. However, the admirable feat of finishing a novel doesn't come with a ready-made publishing deal. That's because in almost every case, that first novel isn't ready to be published.
That's why you've got to keep plugging forward. Keep reading, learning, networking, and writing that next book. In my experience, it doesn't get easier to write to novel length – but it gets easier to write better.
Which is what will get you published.
So go ahead and query that first book, unless it obviously needs to sit. Querying is a valuable learning experience, even if you don't land an agent that first time around. You might not want to query too widely, in case you revise and query again (see below). But most importantly, in the meantime, WTNB. Not only because your next book will be better, but also because rejections are much easier to take if you're excited about a new book.
And if you decide to shelf that first book -- before or after you query it – that doesn't mean you'll shelf it forever.
See, here's where the good part of my story comes in. I wrote my first book. I wrote my second book. And while I was querying my second book, I went back and tackled my first book with wisdom and skills I didn't possess when I first wrote it. That book is LIKE MANDARIN, which landed my agent within a weekend of querying and was sold to Delacorte at auction a couple weeks ago.
Now, I'm on to my next next book – and in the meantime, revising my second.
YA highway contributors Kody Keplinger and Lee Bross also landed agents for their second books. Their take:
Kody: For me, it wasn't such a conscious decision to move on. It was the idea. I had a new one idea, a new story to tell, and I was passionate about it. Once it was done, I realized that it was a much better, more original, catchy story. My first novel--or my first decent novel--was a great experience, but it wasn't meant to be published.
Lee: I wrote my very first YA in about 4 weeks. In hindsight, it was bad, but I learned SO MUCH writing it--mostly about not questioning my own judgment. I started writing the next book and it flowed. When it was finished and edited, I started subbing. Got five requests within three days, and signed with my agent a couple days later.