Confessions of a First-Time Novelist


Having written the first 4,000 words of a novel, I will boldly (if grossly prematurely) call myself a first-time novelist. Making such an assertion, however, brings up insecurities about certain embarrassing qualities I possess—ones that would seriously seem to undermine the success of a budding author. If I contritely confess these shadowy aspects of my nature, perhaps I will be released from their consequences . . .

Confession #1: I don’t like to read fiction.

I usually can’t even make it past the first few words of the back cover copy. “On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri . . .” “Joe Rickman, head of CIA clandestine . . .” “It’s Christmas Eve . . .” Maybe my aversion to reading for pleasure stems from the fact that I read for a living. (I would venture to guess there are plenty of baristas who don’t drink coffee at home.) This is not to say I haven’t amassed a library of books I suspect would be entertaining (judging from their covers). I am not well-read past the Renaissance.

Confession #2: I don’t want to be a beginner.

That’s right, I vainly want to skip novice, apprentice, and journeyman, and go straight to master. I have been writing educational, nonfiction, and marketing materials for over 20 years, so undertaking a novel is like starting over. This idea extends to other areas of my life. For example, I started playing the guitar and rollerblading at the beach, but I didn’t get very far because being a beginner felt so yucky. (And the guitar was dangerously wide for the bike path.)

Confession #3: I am a procrastinator.

My procrastinating is directly related to my perfectionism. If I delay starting something that requires my immediate attention, I can’t do it imperfectly. Problem solved! To put the perfectionism in perspective, I fact-check my Facebook posts—against three sources. As a professional editor and proofreader, I get paid for rejecting anything less than perfect—so this tendency is constantly being reinforced. One thing I don’t procrastinate about is my perfectionism.

Any of these shameful character traits should rightly disqualify or prevent me from being a first-time novelist. On the other hand, Camus said, “A work of art is a confession,” so perhaps a little guilt is a good thing for a writer.

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