Writing my first novel

Brought forth by a blog page titled Writing my first novel.

I wrote my first novel, which never saw the light of day nor anybody else’s light of eye, at the ripe age of 18. I remember coming home from school, eating something, doing any homework that was absolutely necessary and then sitting down at my parents’ manual Triumph typewriter to advance my novel, which I simply called The Great Novel. Great in the sense of long.

It was the tale of a kid about my age who was about to study at a university. To give myself plenty of freedom (and avoid any verisimilitude issues) , I set the story in a fantasy country, of which I even drew a map, and I wasn’t too particular about the time setting, either. Time, let’s put it this way, meandered back and forth between the then present (1974) and undefined previous times.

The country had something of the Balkans and was backwards in many ways. I suspect this had to do with the countries invented by Robert Musil (Kakania) and other Austrian writers I’d read. Lots of apricots were eaten and cooked in this country. I think I included some made-up apricot recipes.

There was a convoluted love story, but I don’t think the lovers had met by the time I quit writing. I was leading up to that in the course of the approx. 140 pages I wrote. This added a medieval quality (in the Middle Ages, lovers are usually apart).

There were numerous tangential stories featuring minor characters woven into the basic plot.

The major characters were loosely based on young yours truly and, strangely, the younger sister of the girl yours truly had been in love with for about 6 years. I remember that this girl slept in a canopy bed and wore pyjamas with dragons stitched on. Oh, and she had a dictator-like but somewhat admirable father, whose personality was based on her real-life father, the vice principal at my school. And she was going to be married by force to a brute of a rich playboy known primarily for his vicious headshakes.

140 pages written in perhaps 3 months of afternoon and evening sessions after school. This fragment is still around somewhere, but I haven’t looked at it in ages, and it will with about 99.9% certainty never be read again – neither by myself nor by anybody else.

Even though it could be safely said, I think, that more harebrained and more poorly written stuff has actually been published in the history of mankind.

– James Steerforth


About James Steerforth

I am an author of poetry and fiction, translator and painter who loves to have fun with borrowed feathers.
This entry was posted in Creative writing, Novel, Writing. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Writing my first novel

  1. suburbanlife says:

    Oh, this is delightful! By god you write so well! I love it that even up to 140 pages the lovers had not yet met… and that the unrequited love and love-from-afar syndromes you label “medieval”, very Dante-esque in my mind – I am relishing this post! Thank You!!!!

  2. suburbanlife says:

    I need to add… you must unearth this incomplete manuscript and put it somewhere for safekeeping to hand down to your successors.
    Who knows, by that time apricots may have become a rare and exotic fruit, and your reference to the Balkans might provoke curiosity…”just what was Uncle James/Dad/Gramps like as a kid?”
    I hound some letters written by my husband to his parents 50some years ago in an inherited trunk. This is a valuable trace of his presence!

  3. Thank you for your enthusiastic comments, suburbanlife. I am extremely appreciative and flattered!

    Not quite gramps yet, but that’s coming up, I hope 🙂

  4. maryt says:

    James, just took the time to read about your Great Novel…I do agree with suburbanlife that you must unearth it. I have the beginnings of a novel (not great by any means and written at least 15 years ago), a mystery in which I am murdered by the leader of a book group that I belonged to. Two things stopped my writing it: 1. I couldn’t think of a satisfactory way to kill my character off so that no one would know how I died; and 2. the murderer (the book club leader) was still alive and she’d recognize herself when she read my book after it was published. Ha! (She’s STILL alive today!)

    Okay so back to your novel…tell me more about this rich playboy who was going to marry the girl you loved…what’s with the vicious headshakes? Hmmm, curiouser and curiouser…

  5. “what’s with the vicious headshakes?”

    Just remembered with a smile where that came from. At the time, shock rocker Alice Cooper was quite successful. He had a wild mane of hair which he shook wildly – I must have seen him do it on TV. My character’s name is a slavicized variant – Aliz Kobr.

    Mr. Cooper, by the way, seems very much alive and still shaking it 🙂


    “I couldn’t think of a satisfactory way to kill my character off so that no one would know how I died”

    Now that’s a difficult one, I quite agree.

    “and she’d recognize herself when she read my book”

    Maybe she’d get a kick out of it???

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