First Novel Answers: 10 Years Later

Ten years ago this month, ECW Press published my first novel, Fruit. The book would eventually go on to become a bestseller (thanks to Canada Reads), but I didn’t know it at the time. In fact, there were many things I didn’t know at the time, even though I had lots of questions. 

I put together a list of the answers I would’ve liked to have known if I could’ve known back then. (I don’t even want to think about how many errors are in that sentence.) If you’re a first-time novelist, the following might answer some questions you may have.

1. No, your grade eight teacher won’t sue you. No one else will for that matter.

2. Yes, people will read your book, even people you don’t want to read it. You’ll have no control over your audience and their responses to it. Which is probably why you didn’t think about that while you were writing the book.

3. No, you won’t be quitting the day job anytime soon. 

4. Yes, you’ll spend the next five years or so running to the book and running from the book. This is what real writing feels like.

5. Yes, your mom will settle out. Eventually.

6. Yes, this book will find its readers, in spite of what you were told by some industry doubters.

7. Yes, you’ll go on a book tour. To the States, as a matter of fact! You’ll even travel to San Francisco to read at a bookstore. One person will be there. No, you won’t tell your friends this when you get back.

8. No, none of your reviews will contain the words “genius” or “revolutionary.” And no, you won’t win the Novel That Changed Humanity award. That award doesn't even exist.

9. Yes, you’re a good writer. You’ll need to remind yourself of this every single time you sit down at a keyboard.

10. No, your book won’t turn you into an egomaniac. Publishing a book is a major accomplishment and people will be impressed with you without even having read your work. But the book won’t take precedence over people. Your writing won’t become more important than your happiness. 

11. Yes, you’ll grow to miss the writing of this book. It will be the last time you write in true isolation.

12. Yes, your book will mean something. You’ll be approached by a young woman at an event. She’ll nervously pass you a folded-up letter and leave before you can talk to her. On the streetcar ride home, you’ll open her letter and read what your book meant to her. You’ll place the letter in the drawer of your night table. It will still be there, ten years later.