These Debut Novels By Female Authors Will Inspire You Out Of Your Writer's Block

by Emily Dixon

So you missed the start of NaNoWriMo, and at two and a half weeks in, you'd probably struggle to catch up. Maybe you've had a vague idea for a novel in mind for years, but you've never quite found the impetus to get going. Or perhaps you were once dedicated to your notebook and pen, but you ran out of steam, or confidence, or creativity, and your stories have languished unfinished ever since. What better to inspire your future literary debut than the first works of other astonishing female writers? Try one of these five debut books by female authors, and feel your motivation come screaming back.

Of course, you needn't be an aspiring author to enjoy any of the following novels, and should pick one up even if your life's calling couldn't be further from writing. They depict adolescence, trauma, racism, misogyny, inescapable pasts and new beginnings; they range from sci-fi to prose poetry, dealing in fear and hope and ambition and tragedy. But the common thread that binds all five novels? Each one of these critically-acclaimed books marked the author's literary debut. Next time you contemplate abandoning your project altogether, take a moment to consider: wouldn't it be lovely to see your creation on a future list like this?

'The Mothers' by Brit Bennett


Shortly after Nadia's mother dies by suicide, she discovers that she's pregnant with the child of Luke, a pastor's son. Her secret abortion only intensifies the disapproving gaze of her small town, and though she seizes the chance to leave it for university, a family crisis ultimately forces her return. No pressure, but Bennett started writing her bestselling debut at the age of 17 and published it at 26, according to the New York Times. Can anyone else hear their own personal clock ticking?

Buy The Mothers from Amazon.

'Ponti' by Sharlene Teo


Three women form the centre of Teo's debut novel: Amisa, a former movie star whose career highlight came with the cult horror film, Ponti!; Szu, her daughter, isolated from her aloof mother and equally lonely at school; and Circe, a privileged teenager who befriends Szu when she transfers to her school. The novel also depicts three time periods in Singapore, from the '70s, when Amisa first moved there from her small Malaysian village, to the adolescences of Circe and Szu, to 2020, when a planned remake of Ponti! makes a reluctant Circe revisit her past.

Buy Ponti from Waterstones.

'Peach' by Emma Glass


Peach is short, brutal, and surreal — it's a book you could finish on your commute, though you'd risk arriving at work in a somewhat turbulent frame of mind. The titular protagonist is traumatised by a violent sexual assault, but her pain is ignored by those around her. Glass plunges her readers into Peach's tumultuous headspace, depicting her anguish with lyrical, experimental prose that you'll feel in your gut.

Buy Peach from Amazon.

'The Leavers' by Lisa Ko


When Deming Guo is 11 years old, his mother, Polly, leaves for work and never returns. The white family that adopt him rename him Daniel Wilkinson and move him from his Bronx school to one where he's the only Chinese-American boy, exposing him to racist abuse. While desperately attempting to fit into his new life, Deming clings to the memories of his mother, consumed by her seeming abandonment of her son. Polly's story emerges in the second section of the novel; it's one of a marginalised woman repeatedly denied the freedom she craves, from her early life in China, to her perceived new start in the U.S.

Buy The Leavers from Waterstones.

'The Water Cure' by Sophie Mackintosh


Three sisters live on a remote island with only their mother and father (who they call King) as company; they're bound by a restrictive series of rules designed to protect them from the supposedly toxic wider world, and the male violence that poisoned it. Then, King dies, and three men arrive on the island. The sisters see their brutal rituals challenged, their lifelong beliefs destabilised — but the violence of men, in varying forms, prevails.

Buy The Water Cure from Amazon.