Home > Writing > My first novel: a retrospective – Part 1

My first novel: a retrospective – Part 1

First, if you’re not interested in reading about past or current writing projects of mine, then it’s okay to simply skip this one. I won’t be offended 🙂

Well, you’re still here, so if you’re reading this blog in reverse order, i.e., most recent post first, then this one may not really make sense. For context, go back and read this post, then come back here.

Now, as for why I’m writing this particular post (and the several that will eventually follow), I’m not sure. I suppose it could be in response to my earlier blog entry noted above, the one where I talked about my first attempt at writing many years ago. It got me to thinking about lots of things, like who I was way back then, what I was trying to do, and what exactly it was that I accomplished and didn’t accomplish. The more I thought about it, the more details I remembered about what I’d done and why. So of course, I figured I may as well share them here.

I expect very few will find my earlier journey in life/writing all that interesting. I think the two who will enjoy this most will be my two sons, who, while they were quite young, were there with me during that time of my life. In the years since then, though they knew I had an interest in writing and that I’d worked at it for awhile when they were little, I never shared much about the experience with them. So, I hope at least they find this interesting reading. If anyone else does, then even better.

So, there I was. It was 1988 and I wanted to write a book. The only problem? I had no real understanding of how to go about it. All I really knew at the time was that I needed a computer for word processing. After a bit of research, I went out and bought an inexpensive (ok, cheap) machine with all of 640K memory, a 20 megabyte (that’s right, mega and not giga) hard drive, a monochrome (gold) monitor (graphics? who needs graphics), and an Okidata dot matrix (remember those?) printer. Not the most impressive equipment, but as far as I was concerned it was light years beyond having to cut my writing chops on an old-fashioned typewriter. I’m not sure I could have dealt with smacking those large, heavy keys for word after word after word, then having to make all those manual revisions one page at a time. Ouch. My hat is definitely off to all those writers who succeeded before computers and word processors.

Now the owner of new computer and a copy of PFS Write (a nifty word processor 23 years ago, it has since all but disappeared), I took off on my journey. As I recall, it was late at night the first time I sat down in front of the computer. I also remember that, as I sat there waiting for words to magically form in my head, somewhere off in the distance I could hear a dog barking. Inspired, I went on to write the first scene of my first novel, which I later entitled, “The Light”. Interestingly enough, that first scene remained in the final draft of the book, but it ended up later on in the story.

After that, most days I sat down and continued typing away on my book. Sometimes it would be in the morning before work; more often it would be late at night after everyone went to sleep. And sometimes, needing a little extra time with the story, I’d write it out in longhand in a notebook while hanging out with the kids on the weekend while their mother worked. Of course that was a double-edged sword: I got some additional writing done, but then I had to spend yet more time typing it all into the computer. I still have those notebooks, by the way, and occasionally, just for fun, I go back and read through what I scribbled in those pages. It’s fun, because as I read the words and sentences that I wrote so many years ago, I’m magically transported back in time. I can see myself sitting at our old dining room table, busily writing away while the boys played and ran around the house. Good times.

Several months later, I surprised even myself and completed the very first draft of the book that had, somehow, come out of my imagination. Good, bad, or indifferent, I was thrilled when I wrote these last two words:


I was elated and filled with an amazing sense of accomplishment. I’d set out to do something and I did it. Many people say they want to write a book someday, and I’d just done it. Ah, sweet victory. Of course, what I didn’t realize at the time is that I’d really only just begun the journey of completing a novel.


Categories: Writing
  1. August 30, 2011 at 3:27 pm

    Wow Dave, pretty cool that you finished a book. I have to say it’s impressive. But I am MORE impressed when you take us back to 1988 and managed to write half a novel on your diningroom table with your boys running around. I have no idea how you did that.

    • August 30, 2011 at 5:19 pm

      Well, you’d be surprised how much you can do when you throw toys at the kids and let them run around crazy for awhile. Definitely not the best way to get the most creative (I prefer silence or mood music), and not so great ‘cuz you lose some time with the kids. But, since it was only a short term commitment, as in finishing the book, I figured it would be okay 🙂

  2. March 13, 2014 at 9:08 am

    I can’t imagine writing a book before the days of computers. I remember my college papers were painful enough by typewriter.

    Writing a book is indeed an accomplishment, whether it ever gets published or not. It’s the end product of hard work and dedication devoted to one’s passion. Nothing too shabby about that. 🙂

  3. March 13, 2014 at 6:24 pm

    Thanks for checking this out, Carrie. I agree … it was pain enough to write it on a very old and clunky computer. A typewriter? Never. Don’t know how writers did it before computers.

    I’ve always felt pretty good about finishing that first book. Will it ever get published? Probably not, at least not unless I spend a lot of time rewriting. Not sure if it’s worth that. One thing it does do, though, is allow me to see how much better of a writer I am today versus then.

  4. March 14, 2014 at 9:43 pm

    Oh my gosh, so true. Finishing is hard to do, and such a worthy accomplishment. But it’s not even really the beginning of the work you have to do, is it?

    Saw your comment on Jodie’s blog and decided to drop by. Glad I did.

    • March 17, 2014 at 4:57 pm

      No, it’s not. And I found that out in a hurry when I finished that first one. Now I know there’s so much more that goes into improving and completing a book.

      Glad you stopped by … your blog is great.

  5. March 20, 2014 at 6:31 pm

    Ever hear of the Leading Edge? That was our first computer, circa 1987/1988. I also had an electronic typewriter that I hung on to for years, but that thing was loud. When I was 17 or 18, my mom bought me an electric Smith-Corona and I wrote all my college papers, short stories, and poems on it. I don’t think I could have survived writing a novel. It was painful enough to have to retype a 10-page short story 🙂

    • March 24, 2014 at 12:11 pm

      Never heard of the Leading Edge. In high school, I took a year of typing, which was all done on old electronic typewriters. That was fun … NOT. Wrote papers in college on typewriters until I transferred to UCI. At that point I got to start using computer technology to do writing, which made it way easier. I’m with you … I don’t know how people wrote books on typewriters. Ouch.

  1. March 12, 2014 at 8:28 pm

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