The prompt was “What was the first thing you wrote of your own free will?”
Simple answer: I started when I was nine, writing a compilation (it was not a novel, too haphazard) of Robin Hood stories. It was poorly written, with choppy transitions, and too pleased-with-itself, and the humor was just shoved in randomly, not integrated.
Nevertheless, I had some fun with it.
Rewriting it today, I would have done it from Will Scarlet’s point of view, left out extraneous material I’d thrown in, and done a lot more research. (Watching Doctor Who has made a good impression on me. At least in that respect.)
The second thing I started to write, when I was eleven, was a complex and dedicated effort at overhauling the young people’s side of the Star Wars mythos–namely, I wrote about a Padawan Learner (different one in each trilogy.) It was essentially Jedi Apprentice, but much more ambitious. (I was eleven, and already writing at an eighth grade level. That might be hard to believe, but if you ignore the poor quality of the content and the horrible, choppy, obvious dialogue, it’s true.) This story had no central arc, being merely a series of short adventures (mind you, I had not started watching TV shows back then, so I had no real idea of how to write a story which could stand alone but also played into a larger plot. Kudos to you, Bad Wolf.) The first of these stories, in the original trilogy, starred an OC–not a Mary Sue, I am proud to say, but still horribly awkward. (I am considering rewriting some of the adventures into a separate novel that has no Star Wars affiliation, because some of these characters would fit ironically well into a steampunk setting. I recently discovered that I love steampunk, and science fiction, especially science fiction that takes its science seriously. Such a treat!)
I started a third novel a few years later about a mythical country and a young woman who had been kidnapped. This is the story that would eventually teach me that less is more, because her backstory got painfully complicated very quickly. Rewriting it today, I would make her less of a victim and more of a dynamic character with something to actually bring to the table (maybe she likes making shoes? That would be useful to the rebels!), and make her actually a real, honest-to-goodness peasant who had just been raised by her aunt and uncle, rather than a noble in disguise. Self-made nobles are far more interesting than born ones in many cases.
After that, I began work on a different angle on the Arthurian legends, which spun off into a novel about Mordred–my Mordred is a bit more like Batman, only with some anti-hero thrown in, a temper, and a vulnerable side–he desperately wants to be accepted by Arthur’s court, but he wants to be accepted for who he is, not as Arthur’s long-lost (illegitimate) son, and his best friend, Gawaine, can never find out that Mordred is really his half-brother (Morgause, in this story, is Mordred’s mother, but he was raised by his aunt Morgan.) Of course, it gets a bit violent–Mordred gets angry with Morgan and walks out on her when he turns fifteen, and of course it was acrimonious. Mordred decides to change his fate and is totally loyal to Arthur (he explains to his confidant Lady Lynnette, who is married to one of his half-brothers and found out Mordred’s secret by accident, “I don’t think of him as my father. That would be weird. I think of him as my king.”) but ends up having to make the choice between saving Arthur and stopping Morgan. Add in a bit of a dark sense of humor and there you are.
It’s not always been an easy or comfortable journey (bits of it were positively embarrassing,) but I’ve been glad to go on it, if it means improvement. Allons-y!