how Ursula K. Le Guin started writing

OrsiniaUrsula K. Le Guin at Paris Review:

My first attempt at a novel, begun in a tiny notebook in Paris in 1951 (for I had at last got to Europe), was intrepid, immodest, and unwise. An attempt to relate the fortunes of an Orsinian family from the late fifteenth to the early twentieth century, it was called A Descendance. I did not know enough about people to write a novel, and barely enough European history to support my invented history, which included the Renaissance, the Protestant Reformation and a civil war resulting from it, several invasions, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and a couple of revolutions. The characters were mostly men, because in the early 1950s, fiction was mostly about men and history was all about men and I thought books had to be about men. I wrote it at white heat and submitted it to Alfred Knopf, who rejected it with a letter that said (in essence) that ten years ago he’d have published the crazy damn thing, but these days he couldn’t afford to take such chances.

A rejection like that from a man like that is enough to keep a young writer going. I never sent the manuscript out again. I knew Knopf was right, it was a crazy damn thing. I suspected he was possibly just being kind because he knew my father, but also knew he was too hard-nosed an editor for that. He’d sort of liked it, he might have published it. That was enough.

more here.