Hi All! As many of you know, I just finished a series on the building blocks of a novel, which dove deep into a metaphor comparing a novel to a city. We compared words to bricks, sentences to walls, paragraphs to buildings, scenes to streets, and chapters to neighborhoods.
Today, I want to acknowledge that sometimes a novel is not like a city at all.
I think most regular readers of this blog know that my debut novel, Ivory and Bone, releases tomorrow, June 7. These last few months leading up to the on-sale date have been a very exciting, sometimes terrifying, often exhausting time. Over the past few days—and especially today, on the eve of the launch—I’ve been forced to admit that there is another apt metaphor for a novel. In many ways—at least from my personal perspective—I’d have to admit that a novel is a lot like a child you’re sending out into the world.
We’ve all heard novels referred to as “book babies.” Here are three reasons I have to agree that writers’ books are like their children.
First, like a child, a novel has a mind of its own. If it doesn’t want to conform to your expectations of it, it simply won’t. You may want it to grow up to be a fast-paced thriller, when it might instead become a quiet psychological drama. Some things are within the author’s control, of course, (you can simply start over if things aren’t going well,) but just like with children, you may find that letting them choose their own path can lead to amazing results. It can be maddening when things don’t go the way we intended them to with a manuscript, but just like kids, books tend to find the path they were meant to be on all along. (The author—like a parent—just needs to keep up!)
Second, when your book baby meets with rejection, it feels a little like someone has insulted your child. Every author receives a certain amount of rejection, but knowing that rejection is unavoidable and generally not personal doesn’t make it any easier to process. It hurts, even when you know it’s a part of publishing. When the book I wrote right before Ivory and Bone failed to find a publisher, I took it very hard. The characters in that book were incredibly real to me after I’d worked on the book for so long, and I felt like I’d let them down. Of course, the opposite holds true, too. Now that Ivory and Bone is almost here, I feel so happy and proud for my characters.
Third, when your book receives praise, it feels (at least to me,) like the praise is for this separate entity, rather than for you yourself. This is another way that a book is like a child. As a mother, I’m always proud and flattered when someone praises my child, and I feel like I can accept the praise graciously because it’s not really directed at me. In the same way, even though a good review of your book feels personal, it still feels separate and distinct from a direct compliment. You may have brought your book baby into the world, but it’s got a life of its own.
I’m extremely excited to be posting this on the eve of my book baby’s birth! Though I’ve said it here before, I can’t say it enough—thank you all so much for your support on my path to publication. I joined PubCrawl in early 2010, when it was still Let the Words Flow. This has been a long pregnancy—book babies take a long time to gestate—but it’s been amazing. Thank you all so much, and please check the acknowledgements at the back of Ivory and Bone for a special shout-out to all the readers of this blog!
What do you think? Are your books and manuscripts like your babies? Please share your thoughts in the comments!