So, while catching up on the mountain of laundry that vacations produce, I was thinking about this terrible cliché one hears authors spout about their book being their baby, or how writing a book is like having a baby, or some variation thereof.
I hate that.
It isn't true, and I'll tell you why.
No, the baby will gestate just fine without any creative input from you, thankyouverymuch.
A novel, meanwhile, goes nowhere without the writer's full effort. Everything is created from scratch--the world, the characters, the plot. It's a heck of a lot of thinking work. And then there's the writing work. And the submitting work. And the marketing work. And the--hey, this is starting to sound more like a job than a baby.
Another point at which the book-as-a-baby analogy falls apart is the gestational period, ie, the time itself. That baby's only going to brew for so long. Thirty-eight to forty-two weeks in normal circumstances, and then, blammo! Evicted in a relatively brief rush of pain and effluvia. Hours (or days, for the unfortunate) later, and it's all over. Baby has arrived.
|I put a lot of work into this one, but you can|
have it for a reasonable advance, plus royalties.
That baby, meanwhile, which you gestated and birthed in less than a year is going to continue to develop and grow and change and require your support and help and love for the next infinity.
Likening a book to a baby is too emotional for my taste. It gives the novel an unreasonable sense of importance in the grand scheme of things. I have manuscripts and I have children. The two are not even closely related.
Of course, I put heart and effort and sweat and tears and even a little blood (paper cuts!) into my novels. Of course, I want to see them out in the world for readers to enjoy. But in the end, writing is a job. Novels are the products of authors' hard work, ones we want to sell. Submitting is the process of applying for a paying job as a novelist.
Maybe some authors really do have similar feelings about their novels and their children, but not me. I have to give myself some emotional distance from the businessy side of writing; otherwise, I'd go mad. Gestating an actual baby for nine months is hard enough. I couldn't deal with the uncertainty and stress of submitting if I thought of each manuscript as a baby. Besides, what kind of mother sells her children?