I listened to a podcast a few days ago where one of the 'casters talked about how it's been said that writing book is like having a baby. While she couldn't speak to the second thing, she thought the analogy was off base.
Well, I have had a baby (two, in fact) and I have written books. So I feel qualified to speak on this topic.
Ways writing a book is like having a baby:
1. Nesting. When you're nearing the end of your pregnancy and you know you could go into labor at any time, but you don't know exactly WHEN, and it's all very frustrating and scary and out of your control, a lot of women start nesting, i.e. getting the house ready for the baby to come. I think a lot of this is A) to take your mind off of the scary/uncertain thing that could happen at literally any moment (like just after you fall asleep watching The TV Set in bed) and B) because fixing up your house is one thing you can control. I tend to go into "book nesting" mode after I've finished a draft and have sent it to my agent or editor to review or when my agent has sent my MS out on submission. I'm in a nesting phase right now. I'm painting my house like whoa, to keep my mind off the possibility that I might soon be facing rejection OR acceptance -- both scary prospects in their own right.
2. Your baby is a stranger until s/he's born, and so is your book. I remember when Boy Child was born over 7 1/2 years ago. The nurse handed him to me and he had this shock of black hair and a mouth like mine and wide-set, charcoal eyes and I was like, "Who is this person who just lived inside me for nine whole months? I don't even know you. You are an alien being." Books are a little bit like that. No matter how much you plot out the thing, no matter how much you know about the story before you start writing it, you'll always find out something new along the way. The story will find a way to surprise you.
2A. Along those same lines, if you have the good fortune of selling your book to a publisher, there's a good chance that your book's title will change. This is like if your daughter, who you've called "Madelyn Grace" her whole life, decides, at age five, to go by "Butch." Also, your book's cover. Much like how DNA decides your kid's appearance, you have little control how your book will look to the outside world. It's better to have no preconceived notions of either.
3. The more kids you have, the less neurotic you become (ideally). The more books you write, same deal. For my first few books, I would obsess over them when I wasn't writing them. I'd want to stay "in the zone." I did the same kind of thing with my first kid. I was hypersensitive to everything -- I knew what every single "ba" out of his mouth meant; I lived and died by his schedule. When the second one came around, she was expected to roll with it. I barely knew when she started talking. There was just one moment of, "Oh, you said a thing. Maybe it means dog? Good for you." I'm taking that easy going attitude with my current work-in-progress. I pick it up and work on it every day. I'm not obsessed over it like I was with some earlier manuscripts. I think it's a good story, don't get me wrong. I really like it. But I'm able to live MY life outside the book now. I'm, like, 85% more chill.
4. Your kid is not you. Your book is not you. You have to be able to distance yourself from the words on the page in order to receive criticism from other people as well as let readers experience the book for themselves. They're going to read it differently than you do. They're going to hate the parts you love and love the parts you hate. And that's okay. That's the way it's supposed to go. You can't take it personally. Just like you can't take it personally when little Johnny doesn't want to follow in your footsteps on the basketball court. Johnny is his own person, just like you're your own person. Let him do his thing, while you keep busy doing yours. Maybe you could write a novel?
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