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AH, Young Love! What Your First Love and Your First Book Have in Common: Guest Post by Sarah Enni

Today, we have an awesome guest post by Sarah Enni, a full-time journalist and writer living in Washington, D.C. She reads obsessively, plays field hockey, and dreams of a future in competitive Tetris. Check out her fun blog or follow her on Twitter!


First relationships are amazing. Magical! They filled us with joy then and nostalgia now, and quite a few of us are writing books about them. But many (dare I say most?) end. And in hindsight, they all tend to share a few things in common:
  • First relationships are all-consuming, and blind participants to any and all faults;
  • They are FILLED with cliches, and;
  • They last far too long.
It occurred to me that many of the same things apply to the experience of writing your first novel*.

"And what, we're supposed to swoon?"

Obsession/Blindness to Faults. First relationships are when people learn the meaning of the phrase "lovesick." Thoughts of the object of your affection fill up every waking minute. You have so many burning questions: do they like me? if so, how much do they like me? what's their favorite color? how many kids do they want to have?? The promise of something so fresh, so unknown, so filled with possibility blinds us to what is real, and often to many glaring faults.

The same exact thing applies to a first novel. The shiny new idea that gets you started, the first spark of inspiration that actually gets pen to paper, is absolutely special. But it could be like that guy, the first one to catch your eye, the Christian Slater look-alike wearing the Doc Martens and a just-so-slightly stained Stussy shirt... The idea may mostly just be special to you, first-time writer, starry-eyed and innocent.

"I'm the King of the... Well. I think you know."

Lack of Cheese-dar. When you're in this blissful first-time stage, everything the person does is epic on the scale of Romeo. "OMG he made me a mix tape. And it even has my third favorite Beastie Boys song on it. He is obviously the one." Every note on the back of a gum wrapper is a Shakespearian sonnet and every lame excuse to touch you ("Oh, you have an eyelash on your cheek...") is no less thrilling because it's so cheesy.

And so, every first (very, very first) attempt to write out a story in novel form will result in some beginner trends: abundant use of adverbs; painstaking minute-by-minute description of the protagonist's entire day; long ruminations on love interest's eye color.** But as an author, everything is new! The page is blank, the characters are longing to have their story told, and every single syllable of purple prose is delightful because, dammit, it's your purple prose.

"Give it up! It's not gonna last!"

Denial. At some point in most first relationships, things simply run their course. And then, much much later, one of the people in the relationship gets the balls (or ladyballs) to actually call things off. Fear, neediness, inertia---whatever it is, something keeps the couple together far past the relationship's natural expiration date. This can take many forms in a novel-novelist couple, like exorbitant word count or ceaseless editing that keeps the novel from ever being finished. Something usually makes the process last longer than it needs to but, just like in first real relationships, identifying what caused the delay is essential to improving as a person/writer, and doing better next time.

And that's the great news! Once you have the first relationship in the rear view window (and your first book on the shelf, or in the trunk) you can learn from it, and then love (and writing) gets easier and more fun!

* Of course these aren't true for every first-time relationship or novel. Just most.
** I've done all these things. AND HOW. Just ask my beta readers -- and they read my SECOND ms.

Kate Hart

Kate is the author of After the Fall, coming January 24, 2017 from Farrar, Straus and Giroux. A former teacher and grant writer, she now owns a treehouse-building business in the Ozarks and hosts the Badass Ladies You Should Know interview series.

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  1. Ahh Sarah- a walk down memory lane. SO SO TRUE! So now is my first novel going to friend me on FB or what?

  2. I have conveniently wiped the memory of my first loves from my brain forever. *strangely still manages to feel shame*

    Wagging Tales - Blog for Writers

  3. Ha ha ha KO! That gave me the chills just thinking about it. Sometimes old books need to stay in the past! and LOL Charmaine, it wasn't exactly my proudest moment remembering the Stussy guy... sigh.

  4. Very good comparison. I had to learn this and boy is it hard to let go! I think I will be haunted by that book the rest of my life.

  5. Great post! I married my first love and was lucky enough to get a bookdeal for my first novel, so I guess first's are a good thing for me! :D

  6. Kara and Sarah, thank you!

    Kathryn-- I know the feeling. Ex boys and ex books have a habit of haunting you

    Michelle-LOL I try to work that word into as many conversations as possible

    Susanne -- you are an amazing exception to everything about this post! Way to rock, lady!

  7. Love it! Much better to see it as a learning opportunity--without which we'd never have gotten anywhere else--than to stew over its manifold faults as signs of ineptitude and/or bad judgment! :D

  8. This is an ingenuis comparison! Love it, Sarah! :)

  9. This was amazeballs, Sarah. Just sayin'. :)

  10. this whole post = truth

    and i am LOVING that Clueless shout-out something fierce.

  11. Wow, I think almost everyone can relate to at least one aspect of that. You have officially described my first unfinished novel. Fortunately, not my first finished novel.

  12. I'm at the break up stage with my first novel and it's tough- almost as tough as the break up with my first love. This explains something as we split up around ten times (oh the attraction of teenage love) and I think I have a similar pattern with the novel!!

    Time for some tough love, thanks for the insightful comparison.

  13. Thanks for this awesome.

    I know I need to break things off, but I won't do it until I have someone new secured in the wings first. ;-)

  14. So glad you guys were with me on the analogy! And yes, Lisa, I basically try to throw in Clueless quotes whenever/wherever possible!

  15. so funny story about the Stussy guy...totes ran into him this weekend. Don't you worry, I was able to fill the room with enough awkwardness to cover you and I both.

    ps. love the post!


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Item Reviewed: AH, Young Love! What Your First Love and Your First Book Have in Common: Guest Post by Sarah Enni Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Kate Hart