You Always Remember Your First

Having recently finished a manuscript, I decided to take a bit of a break and reflect back on some other things I’ve written. What an interesting catalog of unpublished work in the Kerri Library. 

I found the romantic suspense manuscript that had plenty of romance but lacked even an ounce of suspense. There was the lovely little jewel written half in first person and half in third. And of course, let’s not discount the manuscripts that were so eerily similar to already-established authors I’m actually embarrassed by myself.

That brings me to my very first manuscript. After turning twenty-one and reading a couple Nora Roberts books, I thought, “Doesn’t seem that hard to write a romance novel. I can totally do that too.”

Hence, my first attempt was born. I planned it as a series about quadruplets, three girls and one boy. I referred to them as “The Quads.” They came from a Kennedy-esque family, born in privilege in Boston, moved to Chicago where their parents had a bitter and public divorce and then off to Hawaii to grow up with their father. Each of them lived in a different state and struggled with issues stemming from their mother, a wealthy and uncaring socialite who paid off judges and got plastic surgery.

But the first book belonged to Maddy. Ah Maddy.

My chief complaint about romance novels at the age of twenty-one was the too-young heroine, someone in their early twenties who achieved way more than the typical person of that age. So when I sat down to write my first heroine, I remember thinking she needed to be worldly and experienced. No way would I make her too young to get married and have a fabulous job. I made a very conscious decision that she would be old.

She was twenty-five.

Also, her job at the age of twenty-five was a secondhand historical biographer, which is a career I made up. (It’s someone who interviews people who experienced a historical event from a distance, but weren’t necessarily involved in it, in case you’re wondering.) And yes, Maddy had many, many published works.

Good thing she lived in a two-bedroom studio apartment on Wisconsin Avenue in Georgetown. Obviously, I did not understand what a studio apartment consisted of – or not consist of – such as bedrooms. Also, the fact that a twenty-five year old could afford to live on Wisconsin Avenue in a two-bedroom speaks volumes. Of course, if she already had several best selling published books, I suppose it makes sense.

Yes, it all makes sense. Somewhere in the far recesses of twenty-one year old Kerri’s mind the whole story came together. I loved Maddy and her completely insane story. So imagine my shock when Harlequin turned it down. Clearly, they didn’t know what they were missing.

Clearly, I didn’t either.

Do you remember your first pass at writing a romance novel?

29 thoughts on “You Always Remember Your First

  1. Kerri Mermaid,

    I think your story sounds lovely. Even if no one knew what they were missing. We all start somewhere right? My first pass at writing was a whopping 285,000. Need I say more? 😉

  2. That is hysterical! So many lines I want to quote. I think we need to get T-shirts made. 🙂

    Of course I have no stories like this to share. Nope. Not a single one. Bwahahahahahaha!

  3. Oh yeah, I remember my first. It still sits on my hard drive waiting for another revision. Let’s see, wealthy family. Overbearing, manipulative father, headstrong heroine with a protective older brother. Did I mention an arranged marriage and deranged ex-boyfriend. Yep. Lots of omniscient POV (headhopping) and purple prose. See what happens when a teen reads nothing but Harlequin? Gosh, I miss my characters. *sigh*

  4. I like how when you write sometimes it sounds exactly how you talk. One can picture your mannerisms and expressions and voice inflections. It’s quite a talent to have and makes reading your work enjoyable.

  5. Kerri, your first novel sounds utterly charming! And Maddy sounds like an extremely likable heroine! I cannot even begin to tell you what my first novel was about. I literally don’t remember because it didn’t have any semblance of a plot. I just wrote and wrote and wrote…

    1. Thanks, P.H.-Mermaid! I still love Maddy! She was fabulous – smart, gorgeous and vulnerable. Someday I’m gonna dust off the Quads and rewrite. 😉

  6. Ah yes, I remember – but barely. I was in sixth grade, and the story was about four girls who fought crime. My character’s name was Angelina (because this was definitely a Mary Sue tale) – don’t ask me why. The other three girls were named after my three best friends Yvette, Maria and Linda. We were tall, sexy (although I’m not sure if I understood what sexy meant back then) but we weren’t sixth grade Catholic school girls at St. Agatha – we could drive cars. Oh my – I wonder where that manuscript is today – I would love to read it…lol!

    Great post, Kerri.

    1. That sounds really good, Denny-Mermaid! I hope you can find it. Might be worth a second attempt. 😉

      I wrote this post about my first official romance novel. Do not even get me started on this YA gem I wrote in 7th grade algebra class. Great characters – zero plot.

      1. Oh it was a romance. The love interest was named Lorenzo Wall…a sixth grade boy who I was secretly in love with…actually I think all three of us were in love with him…kinky…even then:)

  7. So… I do not have a ‘first’ when it comes to romance writing, but I do remember reading my first romance novel thanks to you K! Thank you for openning up this wonderful world (and educating me so I can provide feedback on your future published works!) Hugs!

    1. Thanks, D! Don’t worry, I have about 15 books for you to read. I’ll bring them home at T-giving. Smoochies!

  8. Kerri – you are one funny chick! I would love to get my hands on that book – I bet it’s better than you think!

    My first attempts were never completed – just vignettes and snippets that I have in journals in my writing cave. My first completed, full-length romance novel is now sitting with the editors of Blaze for their review. So, we’ll see . . .

    1. Thanks Robin-Mermaid!!! I am so freaking excited about your manuscript – all the best, most glittery, most positive vibes EVER!

  9. I think that everyone’s first novel is written on a learning curve. A great plot idea and likable characters just offers an opportunity to go back and rewrite something great from those early writings once you have a little experience under your belt. I know that head hopping and over writing scenes were huge issues for me. And occasionally still are until my CP calls me on it. 🙂

  10. Kerri,
    I’m right there with you! I still love my first characters. They lived in my head for so long. I never wanted to let them go. But, when I had to trim my first EPIC book down to 150,000 words, I kind of realized that maybe, just maybe, I needed to put it away for a while and get a bit of perspective.
    My next book was a YA with just 60,000 words. 🙂
    I think your Quads sound awesome. I’d love to read about them. Maybe we should have some wine and swap stories. You might get a little bored when you reach the part where my heroine takes an emotional journey down to the lake and dumps about a ton of backstory and touches every tree she passes for a good ten pages. EEEEEEEKKKKKKK.
    But, no matter what anyone ever thinks about our first, our firsts will always hold a special place in our hearts. Just as they are meant to.

    1. Absolutely, Kim!!! I totally want to read your epic. Well… maybe the cliff notes version. Ha-ha! And you know I’m up for wine and story swapping ANYTIME! Smoochies! 😉

  11. Oh, totally remember my first! It was a truly hideous paranormal love story, for a high school creative writing class. Woman with cats against guy with a serious houseplant fetish. Ugh.

    But my first novel, now that was a grown-up romance. With a romance novelist as the villain. It still waits for the fertilizer of perspective. Or I’ll just compost it.

    Kerri, I love your Quads (oh, wait, that didn’t exactly come out right…) 😉

    1. Ha-ha! Thanks, Laurie! I like the idea of the romance novelist as the villain – nice twist! 😉

  12. I kind of like that Maddy already! You have to start somewhere sweet girl and I’d say you made a great start back them and are well on your way. Big hugs sweetie!

  13. I attempted to write a coming of age story the summer between High School and College. I wrote the begining and I wrote the end but never managed to get the middle finished. It was mostly autobiographical in that the kids hung out in a coffee shop called Cool Bean, had amazingly deep conversations about the meaning of life (ok- I THOUGHT it was autobiographical) and at the end the male love interest leaves the girl’s front porch with the parting words of ‘we will always have tea’.

  14. Sorry Kerri,
    My reply is late in arriving. I love your first story idea! Maddy sounds like an intriguing character. We always have a relationship with our first–good and/or bad.

    My first attempt was after my introduction to Zebra Historicals (through Kensington). I loved the westerns/historicals back in the late 80’s -early 90’s from them. Victoria Thompson was one of my favorites! (Still have all of them!) So I decided to try my hand. I had been writing stories since my early teens so I thought why not. I signed up with a wonderful instructor through Writer’s Digest for the Fiction Writing Workshop and started DAUNTLESS RAPTURE. A twenty-something female takes on a group of orphans to San Francisco on a wagon train. She has to disguise herself as a man in order to be in charge of her group. They miss the group but end up meeting a former outlaw gone straight as he’s heading back to his ranch in northern Calif. Of course he doesn’t know he’s a she until later and when he does, sparks fly and etc. etc. etc. I had it printed out and still have the copy. I read it every once in awhile . There are good points and some really horrible points. Maybe someday I’ll re-write it.
    Thanks for the trip down memory lane!

  15. That is awesome, Kerri. I’ve never attempted a Romance novel, but I can assure you that my first fictional effort (a sprawling 100k-word mess based in the deep south spanning two generations of beaten-up/put-down women rising up against the evils of racial and gender discrimination) was a lame duck. What does an Italian kid from Brooklyn know about that stuff? Absolutely zero! But the love scenes were tender and dreamy, I’ll give it that.

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