Friday, September 27, 2013

Three ways a first novel is like a first baby

If there's anyone out there who still doesn't know, I had a baby a couple months ago. So far he's pretty all-consuming, and since I like to keep family life private I haven't had much to blog about. But I thought maybe it was time to venture back into the blog, so here's a baby/writing compromise...

Three ways a first novel is like a first baby:

1. You can't sleep.

This is probably about the biggest cliché is the world: newborn = no sleep. But it's so true. I heard a statistic the other day that in the first year after having a baby, the average woman loses 41 days of sleep. I can believe it.

Writing a first book isn't nearly comparable, but there is still some sleep loss. Whether from lying awake because you're too excited about the plot twist that just jumped into your head, or from telling yourself "just one more scene" late into the night, sleeplessness happens.

2. You have no idea what you're doing.

People say all the time that "babies don't come with an instruction manual." Well actually, I have several sitting on a shelf, all by different well-meaning authors. But they all say completely different things. I guess each parent has to muddle through somehow.

Writing fiction is much the same. Advice doesn't grow on trees, but it does grow at an astounding rate online. And again, the advice is often conflicting. Fortunately, with a little experience and a lot of help from critique partners, your writing can improve. Maybe not in time for the first book, but you can always write more.

3. Everything is a mess.

To preserve my dignity I won't tell any specific stories, but I'm sure your imaginations (or your own experiences) will supply the relevant details. With a newborn, nothing stays clean for longer than two seconds.

A first novel is bound to be the same. Either the pacing is off, or you use too many adjectives (or not enough description), or your dialog sounds forced. The whole thing is a big, beautiful mess. But you're having too much fun to care.

And I guess babies are like that too. They may be messy. They might be awake when all you want to do is sleep. And you probably have no clue what you're doing. But that baby is yours and you love him no matter what.

One way books and babies are very different? You can go back and edit the novel. With parenting you only get one draft.


  1. I had a college adviser who told me, "Every child you have is a book you don't write." She said this as two of her offspring were crawling around her office.

    1. I can believe that too. But I'm ok with that. I would give up many books for this adorable little person who has invaded my life.

  2. As for (1) our experience is that if you let the child sleep with you, everyone gets a lot more sleep. As for (2), no one ever knows. Who could tell that 50 Shades would rock the world? (3) No advice there. Sorry. :)

    1. Haha :) I infer that you all did co-sleeping then? When and how did you transition to individual beds?

  3. Sorry for the long lag in replying. I've been doing too much lately. We did do co-sleeping (because it meant sleeping!). Transition was long and gradual. I think she still did one night a week with us up to age 11 or so.

    1. Ok. Thanks! I'm trying to get an idea of how different families choose to do that.