The University Novel

I’m a bit late for the next writing segment, but I guess in this case it’s better late than never. Please accept my apologies.

The first time I heard the term ‘university novel’ was after I had written my ‘university novel’. It wasn’t something that I needed to know before I completed that novel, but it did make a lot of lightbulbs go off in my head and it’s helped me mentor other writers along the way.

So, what is the university novel? From how it was explained to me, the university novel is your first novel. The one you start and complete to the end of the first draft.

Why is it called the university novel? Supposedly because it’s the one where you learn a lot about writing (voice, technique, plot etc). But I believe it’s teaches you so much more.

Not that I have this huge fount of success, or any success, to back up advice but I do have a few first drafts beneath my belt. That first novel will probably never see the light of day but that doesn’t mean I’m not grateful to its existence. It taught me a lot, most importantly it taught me about who I am as a writer.

I discovered

When I come across newbies who are seeking perfection on that first chapter without moving on to the second, my number one advice is finish your story. Don’t hem-haw over the first chapter as if all your eggs rest on that one chapter. They don’t, at least not now. Besides, as you write the book you’ll discover more about who your characters are, this will help you discover their goals and their motivations behind those goals. It will help you discover depths you never imagined when you first began plotting.

I’ve seen many writers give up after the first fifty pages or so and move on to the next story. The problem is, I’ve seen them do the same thing with the next story too. They never finish a book. It’s like they have writer’s ADD or something. I know the plot can seem boring, the characters dull, the scenery lacking the five senses.

Get over it!

If you want to be a writer you’ll eventually need to push through the first novel to prove to yourself that yes, you can do it.

So, you’ve got a few choices. You can either play at writing or work at writing. Completing that university novel is a step toward working at writing. It’s a step toward taking your dream of becoming a novelist seriously.

Happy Wednesday,


2 responses to “The University Novel”

  1. Christina, I needed to hear this so-o-o-o badly!!!! I mainly write devotionals, but the fiction calls me frequently. I start, I doubt, I restart, I fear, I give up…around and around I go. I’m a ACFW member but don’t utilize it in anyway. I’m on the local Yahoo ACFW loop, but just read the emails and wish. God has been nudging me to jump in, take a chance, attend one of the groups “field trips” (yes, they usually meet at a museum or other historical point of interest). I want to be a part of it, but stop short. I feel like the kid sitting quietly in the back of the room while the rest of the class is surrounding the teacher as she does some cool experiment.

    Thank you for blessing me with this. Thank you to God for urging me to read it.

    Merrie (met you at Pittsburg “Called to Write” conference)

    • Merrie, I remember for years I’d pull out notebooks and write stories. Writers cramp would set in and I’d give up. I didn’t have a degree or anything so who was I that I could become an author? God provided an opportunity in a weird venue and I jumped in with both feet. Was I scared? Yes. Especially since the venue was filled with writers at all levels of success, even NY Times authors.

      The more I entered the writing venue the more it became evident that God was calling me to write. I don’t need to tell you about the blessings when we are obedient to God’s calling. I encourage you to attend your local ACFW. I know I’ve found mine to be worth more than I could ever imagine.

      Christina (who remembers you quite well) 😉

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