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Oh That Heartfelt First Book!

By Dana Mentink

Did you ever devour an author’s first book and find the rest of the series slightly different? Perhaps in tone or intensity, even in the style? I recently had a conversation with some book loving folks about that very subject. What is the reason for this “first book”  phenomenon? I’ll tell you my perspective, for what that’s worth!  An author’s first book is the ‘book of the heart’ so to speak. It’s that story that’s been knocking around in your mind for ages, maybe it even took years to finally put the unwieldy thing into words. Then a miracle occurred and someone actually wants to pay you and publish the thing! Wowzers! But now they want a second book, of course, and your writing is not completely “of the heart” anymore, it’s “of the head,” a carefully planned project as you seek to make a go of it in the dark and dangerous publishing waters.

Now, there will be regular deadlines (because a second book must follow the first with a reasonable period in between to carry your readers through the series.) There will be lessons learned from the first book that you will now apply to the second. There will be planning for the third book, of course, and a push to create a proposal for the next series after that, if you’re going to seriously pursue this writing gig.  Unless you are producing books regularly, both readers and publishers will forget about you, so no time to sit on the laurels, so to speak.

Will your next books be sub par to that first glorious effort? No, just….different. While the follow up books may not have that “first love” kind of feel to them, they just might be better craft wise. As an author having had my first book go through the publication process (copy edit, line edit, content edit, etc.) I learned a TON and hopefully I have become a better wordsmith than I was in the beginning of the whole crazy process. It’s like baking a cake. That first one was fun and glorious and unforgettable, but let’s face it, the subsequent cakes probably looked and tasted a bit better, no?

I have gained skill as a writer with each book I produced (hopefully!) and I’d like to think I’m a more skilled author now than eighteen years ago, but my writing will never quite have that “book of the heart” feel again. For me, that first love was my Finny series, set in the tiny California coastal town where oddball characters and twisty mystery (and perhaps a more rudimentary writing style) combine. My books have improved since then, but I will always have a soft spot in my heart for that series, the one that launched my career in this wild and wacky writing business.

Dana Mentink is a two time Carol Award winner, a Romantic Times Reviewer’s Choice Award and a Holt Medallion winner. She is a national bestselling author of over thirty five titles in the suspense and lighthearted romance genres. You can connect with Dana via her website at danamentink.com, on Facebook, YouTube (Author Dana Mentink) and Instagram (dana_mentink.)

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2 Responses to Oh That Heartfelt First Book!

  1. Dana, you’re exactly right. Unless you already have that second (and sometimes third) book written, it’s never going to be the same as the first. But each of us learns with every successive book, so subsequent books are better from that standpoint. Otherwise, all the readers would just be looking for debut novels, then moving on.
    Thanks for sharing.

  2. So agree with what you’ve said. It took me almost ten years to write my first book…publishers don’t give that long for the 2nd. 🙂

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