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Why My First Book Failed. Miserably.

When I was 18, 19 years old I wrote my first book. It had 125,000 words, and I was so proud of it and honestly believed it to be amazing, so I wrote to two different publishers hoping for one of them to give the thing a chance.

They didn’t, and while I was pretty disappointed at the same time I can’t say I blame them. It wasn’t a very good story, and overall there was so much wrong with it! Here are some of the reasons why it failed. Miserably.

1) This wasn’t a new idea. Not for me, anyway. This was a story I had started writing when I was 14 or 15 years old, maybe even younger than that. While recycling an old idea like that works beautifully for some people it really didn’t for me! It was never a strong concept – girl (princess) meets boy (heir to the enemy kingdom), they hate each other, for no reason at all they fall in love and end up getting married. End of story.

So, as you can see, there was never much behind it to begin with (yes, this was honestly all I had). I was very focused on their love story but didn’t include anything else. There was no side plot, so as a result the vast majority of pages ended up as boring filler. And we all hate those, rigtht? Right.

2) I didn’t know the characters. Yes, I knew a little, like their names and that they loved each other (eventually) but that was it. It’s impossible to make your characters compelling when the writer herself doesn’t even know the slightest thing about them! I thought I knew them pretty well – they were going to fall in love against all odds and get married, after all! – but had you asked me anything besides that about them – like, say, what they liked to do in their spare time or what they wanted to do with their lives – I would have shrugged. There was no character development, no depth to any of them, which doesn’t make for a very thrilling book!

3) I was very defensive of it. Occasionally I asked people to read it for me and let me know what they thought or what I could improve, but I also fought them every step of the way. I’ve had a reason for everything in this book, which overall meant that I wasn’t actually willing to change anything. I was asking for help but didn’t really want to hear it. Honestly, I only asked for their opinions because I believed they’d tell me how awesome it was. Which they didn’t because it was terrible.

The two previous points were pretty big flaws, but ignoring feedback? Not acceptable!

4) There were probably a lot of grammar and spelling mistakes (never mind punctuation) in there, too, but I wouldn’t have known because – as we just established –  I ignored all feedback.

Luckily over the past five years I have learned from all that, and none of the above are still happening. If they are please, please, hit me with a chair.

Of course there are many reason why books ultimately fail. My first attempt had other issues, too, but the above are the main offenders.

Have you tried to publish a book before but have later realised just how right the publishers were for rejecting it? What are the most important things you have learned from the experience? Please share your main offenders in the (anonymous) comment form below.

Thank you for reading,

~Sarina

Published inA Writer's Musings

3 Comments

  1. Hmm. I’d never finished a book ever even when I was at my most motivated state where I thought I could get published at the age of 12 haha. The only thing that I can share which is similar to yours was that my first ever book/piece, whatever you wanna call it was some rom-com about next-door neighbours who secretly harbour feelings for each other but couldn’t express them because of puberty and high school drama. I don’t know where I’ve kept it. I didn’t even finish it but I was so proud! Haha. Now I cringe every time that I think of it. Ahaha.

    • You must have been a very ambitious kid to have set being published as your goal then! I can’t even remember what I wanted to do when I was 12, I was probably still waiting for my letter from Hogwarts! (a year too late, I know, but I was trying to be positive).
      I know how you feel, some of the things I wrote when I was a teen make me cringe a lot now, too. Like the above mentioned book failure, and all these little horrible shorts I wrote.. Despite said book being so terrible I was very proud of it, and it was the first thing I had ever finished, too! Unless you count those two-page long (A5) short stories I did. I had loads of those, and they all make me cringe now.

      • I kind of was, yeah. Now, it’s all different because you grow up and then you realise all these limitations and you keep overthinking things. Urgh. It’s such a challenge that sometimes I still wish that I had that blanket of ignorance where you try and try and not think of how stupid other people might think you are.
        Haha! Sweet! I would have waited for mine but I didn’t really start reading the series til I was about 17 I think (I’m still hoping that I secretly have magic though)
        Yeah, at least you managed to finish it! That must have been a great feeling! Good luck on all your other writing pursuits too!

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