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I am a writer - late developer since I wasn't published until I was 50. I have now written 23 novels, numerous short stories and articles.

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Sunday, 1 August 2010
Recently, on the RNA forum, Sarah asked if we look back at our books did we feel proud or surprised that it was published? (I must say Sarah does ask interesting questions which always get me thinking.) The answers have been surprising since most people said they were proud of their first book.

Many years ago I heard an author – can’t remember who – say that authors were invariably embarrassed by their first novel. At the time I thought it was a silly comment for how could anyone be ashamed of a book which they had written and someone had published? Now I understand for I agree with that unknown writer.

Of course a lot depends on whether or not it was your first novel. I was once told that often it’s the second. third or even fourth one you’ve written that gets published. There’s a logic to it for you learn so much in the writing of a novel that inevitably what follows is better.


That was what happened with me, number one written was Love; the Bright Foreigner. But the first published was Distinctions of Class.
However, in my case BOTH embarrass me. Love: the BF was my attempt at writing for Mills and Boon and like most who attempt this I was a total failure; I knew it was, so I never submitted it. It’s a love story and an improbable one at that. There’s too much sex in it to the point where my son can’t read it, and I will always be mystified that it ever saw the light of day.

And Distinctions of Class? There are bits I like and bits that I cringe over even after nearly 25 years. Part of the problem is that the beginning and the end were grafted on later at the publishers suggestion. I did not like it then and I still don’t. It is artificial and I think totally out of place. Why did I do it? I had been rejected by virtually every publishing house in London and was on the point of giving up and I had reached that dangerous point where I would have paid the publishers and not the other way around. In other words I’d have done anything to see it for sale in a bookshop.

I never re-read them, once finished I’ve done with them. What would be the point? I know the end! I had to read Advances and Exiles for the sequel I’m writing now. I’d been quite pleased with them, but upon reading them after so long there was so much I wish I could have done to make them better.

I’ve only one I really like – Clare’s War and I don’t dare read that one in case I don’t like that one anymore either.

Now the one I’m working on I adore, but I’ve been here before, and I wonder how long the love affair will last before, like a lover when the lust has disappeared, and you can’t imagine what you ever saw in him.

11 comments:

  1. My first complete book was a mills and boon and will never see the light of day again (locked into a bottom drawer) but I do wonder how I will feel about the first one published..
    lx

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  2. The first book I completed was a saga, and when I had a look at it a year or so ago it made me cringe it was so awful. Thankfully no one has ever seen it.

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  3. The only time I ever read my first was at a signing when there was no-one there and I was bored. I hated it. I never read them except when I have to check back for a fact. As I write a series that's a constant danger. I have already changed the name of the local shop owner, so he has now become brothers.

    How can I say which of yours is my favourite? I adore Advances because of its subject matter, but I love Breeders, Clare's War, The Harcourt books, The Cult...I could go on.

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  4. My first (unpublished)full length book was sub-Georgette Heyer. It was very pompous and surprisingly middle-aged for a fifteen year old. Scary!

    I don't think I have favourite books - I want to read different things at different times. But I love Clare's War, too.

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  5. Horses for courses, isn't it? I like all my books and can happily re-read them - even the unpublished ones. I can see why the unpubbed aren't, but damn, I wish I could find an editor who could see the potential and give me the incentive to make them better.

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  6. Thanks for answering my question Annie.
    There must be so many factors that influence this. I've sometimes read a first published book by an author and thought their next wasn't as good, but I think that's the deadlines working against the author.
    Also, you might get an excellent idea once, and then not as good the next one. Don't writers ever run out of ideas?
    But on the whole, I would expect people to improve with time and I certainly hope I will.

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  7. I have just finished my first and am feeling rather pleased with myself. I wonder what I will be saying a few years down the line?

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  8. My reaction is much more like Jan's! I love my books and whenever I happen to read one, say when something is reissued, I'm QUITE ASTONISHED by the thing and don't really understand how I did it and feel I could never do it again, really. It's very much like one's children: you look at these PEOPLE walking around in the world and think: are they my children? Really? So grown up and lovely? Amazing and gobsmacking!

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  9. Dear Ms. Burgh,

    I just wanted to say that I just finished reading your novel "The Family" and loved it so much! It is absolutely wonderful. I loved Jillian - so warm and loving and she was able to assert herself in the end. Your descriptions are beautiful, especially of the feelings of mothers.
    Thank You

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  10. I've just revisited this post, Annie, and realised I didn't mention my unpublished stuff. Like Liz, my first was a Mills and Boon. So were my second and third. And they all got a second read with the NWS, and one got an editorial meeting at Richmond. Then came the night of the long knives, as I believe it was called, and my requested mss was rejected.

    A good thing, in the long run, as many people in the know told me I couldn't really write romance, so, as a hack journo at the time, I gave up. I do read bits of them sometimes and quite like some of it. But I've not used any of the material in any subsequently published stuff.

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  11. Anita,
    I have to say what drew me to your blog was the fact you said your first novel was not published until the age of 50. I am 51 (well, will be in 3 days) and have recently signed a contract to get my first published; My Life as a Dog...so I look forward to reading more of what you have to say.
    The best to you!

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