Why I Abandoned My First Novel

September 19, 2021 maddoctorartist 0 Comments

Hello everyone! Hope you're all doing well. I've been working hard on my next YA Fantasy trilogy, The Sorceror Saga. Set 300 years after the Goddess Saga (available here), these next books will follow the journey of Jessie Balthanders, a prodigal Magician born into an Azaria now imbued with the magic that was sealed away for a thousand of years.

You'll get to meet Jessie soon...

The original idea for this story, however, was set in its own world, and it was one of the first story outlines I ever wrote. I've always had an interest with writing, starting in my early teens with a short story about two boys who were sent back in time to help Edward Jenner invent the vaccine, then diving into fanfiction, before braving ideas with my own original creations.

But the first idea I attempted to put together was a story called 'Legend of the Zodiac', when I was 18 years old. I started getting into astrology when I was 17, as I found the symbolism and character typing intriguing, and my Dad had a fascinating book on the subject. Now while I don't believe movement of the planets can affect the future, I do feel a lot can be gained through self discovery and identifying your own weakness and strengths. Like the analytical Virgo I am ;)

Anyway, my story was about an orphaned pirate named Nick, set in a post-fossil fuel future where technology had regressed and sea travel and trade dominated the world. Given that my main source of inspiration for this was the game Eternal Darkness (a Gamecube game whose story spans all of human history), I wanted a story that explored ancient civilisations. I also devised 'Zodiac monsters' which also played a key part.

Apologies for the watermark but this piece was stolen and is still plastered all over the internet!

My first attempt to write the story gave me a 375, 000 word manuscript that, let's be honest, was a disaster. My idea was to have each chapter be about each Zodiac monster, so there was no character development, no scene breaks, poor dialogue and an inconsistent tone. Not to mention chapters that were long enough to be their own short stories!
With my prior writing experience amounting to that short story and Sonic fanfiction, along with being an overly ambitious teenager, this was no surprise. A friend even gave me an email address of an agent to send it to, and of course I was politely turned down.

At this point I had the insight to realise I needed to work on my craft, so I continued with fanfiction and reading my favourite genre of books. Then I started to refine the original manuscript. I split it into three parts to make a trilogy, totally overhauled the characters, parts of the setting and plot, and added a lot more depth. I still have the Notepad file detailing all the necessary changes and set to work applying it...

A cover mock up I made...

I kept at this on and off for years, in between completing my A-levels and getting into medical school. During this time I also found an online writing community called Authonomy. This was a now defunct website run by Harper Collins where you could post your work, get feedback and climb the rankings. The top 5 ranked would get a professional critique from Harper Collins themselves.

While I was never interested in getting into the top 5, I did connect with other fantasy writers and made some great friends. One of them was a paranormal romance author whom I swapped a critique with, and we seemed to get on well. We got talking about our books, and I had to admit something.

After 7 years of constantly trying to polish and improve my original idea, I was going round in circles. I'd gotten half way through the second book and was losing interest, constantly going back to the beginning and refining and revising. My friend therefore suggested I take a break and write something else.

Now as you can imagine, I was very reluctant to go ahead with this. After all, I'd grown so attached to my idea, and I'd been working on it for so long, how could I just leave it behind? However she eventually convinced me, so I opened a new document and wondered what my next idea should be.

Since my friend was a romance author (and I am generally not a fan of how traditional romance is written), I decided to try my own take on the genre. Hence I came up with a magical spell that curses people to fall in love; a slight dig at the instalove trope which is widely despised.

And thus the Goddess's Binding was born...

Today, I have no plans to go back to Zodiac. While it was painful to leave behind, it was ultimately the best choice. I've learnt a lot more about the writing craft, have thousands more words under my belt, expanded my media consumption and so I'm in a much better position to write the stories I want to tell and present them in fresh and interesting ways. Zodiac was too ambitious for its own good, and I lacked the skill to pull it off. There's still potential to simplify it into a middle grade story and streamline things, but I'm happy just to keep it as a failed first attempt, an important stepping stone in my writing journey.

Thus I'd advise if you are a new or young writer is try not to get too attached to your first idea. By all means write it and have fun, but if you're serious about publishing and your idea is precious to you, it might be worth testing the waters with an idea you're not so passionate about first. That way it can be a learning experience, and help you make your most important idea as good as it can be. This was my experience, and I'm glad my friend pushed me to change.

Did you ever have to abandon a writing project? Did it break your heart, or were you relieved to move on? I'd love to know!

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