Do you ever get a great and overwhelming sense of… the only word for it has to be relief… to think your first novel didn’t get published?
I just felt it, undeniable relief sitting here in the café, skimming through pages I am happy to stay hidden for the rest of my life. Never publishing that novel is a good thing, not a sad thing. I should be grateful about that, not depressed.
Sometimes I peek back at the novel. Sometimes I have moments of doubt about having doubt in the first place. The book can’t be all dead, can it? I ask myself. Not after all that work? But it is. So far, I’ve published three stories that used to be pieces from it. I think I can dig out one more, maybe.
The novel I’m talking about was the first one I wrote. I started it when I was 22 or 23. I’ve talked about it here before: 500 pages long, written to graduate my writing program, and it did get me the MFA—at least there’s that. All told I spent five years on it.
Not too many people read the whole thing. E, of course. My thesis adviser. My two thesis readers—one who seemed to like it and one who said he was worried it would fail. My mom. My writing friend Erin. One agent. Is that really all?
How can you give up after one or two agents say no to you? Maybe because it was the right thing to do. Is it horrible to think that a whole novel was written for practice, for therapy? I feel better for having written it, but I want to burn parts of it too.
I just wish I’d learned enough from the experience to write a second novel that was publishable. Alas. I’m slow to learn, I guess. For now, I just want to thank the stars that the first novel wasn’t The One. Such relief, for real.