On Writing a Novel in High School


I went on a job interview the other day, and they asked me about what I like to do in my free time. I mentioned writing, because that’s often one of the first things that comes to mind, and then I said the other sentence that I occasionally follow-up with when I mentioned that: “I actually wrote a novel my sophomore year of high school.”

I then got the typical reaction, the “Oh, wow, you were just a sophomore? That’s really cool” to which I quickly followed up with, “It’s really bad, and I’ve never done anything with it, but yeah.”

Since then, that’s had me thinking: Why do I always respond with such a self-depreciating follow-up comment? Like, yeah, it’s bad, but any 16-year-old’s first draft of a novel is going to be reallllllllly bad. Of course there’s a crappy romantic sub-plot. Of course the grammar is awful and doesn’t make sense sometimes. Of course the ending is rushed and doesn’t fit.

I figure my response comes from some subconscious attempt to do what I described in last week’s writing post, which is to show some humility. I don’t want to be that person that walks around bragging about the novel I wrote one time in high school like it’s my greatest accomplishment. At the same time, I think I sometimes take it to the extreme by dissing everything I wrote: I talk about how awful it is all the time, when, as I said before, it’s really only as bad as you’d expect a 16-year-old’s first draft of a novel to be. It’s not great by any means, but it’s still something to be proud of.

I guess the biggest issue I have with it is that I haven’t written anything to completion since. I can’t follow up my little spiel with “Yeah, the novel I wrote in high school is bad, but it gave me some inspiration for the novel I finished recently, which is a lot better, and the one that I’m concentrating on now.” I think I’ll need to do that before I’m comfortable talking about that first one.

I don’t quite know where this post is going anymore (to be honest, I didn’t know where it was going when I started), but I guess the gist of it is that it’s hard to talk about my greatest personal writing achievement to date, when it was something I did so long ago. Sure, I’ve got journalistic pieces to be proud of from the last few years, and even the last few weeks, but none of those really seem that impressive because I’m a journalism major and it’s what I’m supposed to be doing. At the very least, the muddled feelings I have about finishing a novel in high school are only more motivation to finish the novel I started during Camp NaNo. It’s one I think deserves to be finished, one I can finish, and most importantly, one I love.


2 thoughts on “On Writing a Novel in High School

  1. This is an interesting story.. I can definitely relate.
    Whenever I say something “slightly” an accomplishment, I always quickly say something self deprecating straight after. Or when someone compliments me, I always say something self deprecating. There is a lot of self deprecation going on in the world, and I think that everyone’s always too scared of people thinking that they are arrogant/other.
    Great discussion post!

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    • I agree that there’s definitely a lot of self-deprecation that goes on in all areas of life. It’s a habit I want to try to break. There’s of course fine line to walk with it, because you don’t want to brag or be too boastful, so it’s mostly a matter of figuring that out.

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