I often hear writers refer to their creations as their babies, and fret about sending them out into the world to be judged and possibly ridiculed. I can understand the analogy, since a novel is a deeply important part of you that somehow takes on its own life.
My relationship with my novel, though, is more like my relationship with my husband, and here’s why.
1. My novel exists.
This is actually more about me being up-front with you from the beginning. I don’t have kids, so when I talk about relationships with children I’m talking out of almost complete ignorance of what that relationship is really like.
My novel may not be published, but I can print it out right now and make it tangible. Offspring will take considerably more effort to conjure up. Perhaps I could say that my future novels are like my children, since they’re just as nebulous to me.
2. I can quit my novel if the going gets really tough.
It’s not an option I would ever want to take, either with my husband or my novel, but quitting your kid just isn’t possible. At least, that’s what I’ve heard lots of parents of problematic kids say, even when those kids are adults.
No matter how you start out with a novel or a marriage, there may come a point when someone thinks, “You and I lost our way somehow, and it’s better if we start over because I don’t see how we can fix this.” There have been times when I’ve stared at my novel and thought, “You again? Haven’t I seen you every day for what feels like my entire life? You with these annoying little flaws I know so well but can’t seem to do anything about?”
Thankfully, these times are few and far between, and I fall back in love with my novel again.
3. I love my novel out of choice.
As a childless woman, this is the scariest thing about the possibility of motherhood – you have to take whatever little person pops out. Sure, there’s a lot you can influence, but you’re bound to passionately love that person no matter how badly they disappoint or hurt you.
I knew who my husband was before I committed to spending my life with him. Part of my love for him is unconscious and beyond my control, but part requires my continued effort to discover who he is, how he’s changing, and how we can continue to be good partners for each other.
It’s a similar thing with my novel. I don’t love it just because it exists and it’s part of me. It takes effort to dig deep and discover what it’s really about at its heart. It’s those glimpses of its heart that keep me excited and coming back for more.
4. My relationship with my novel is mature.
I don’t baby-talk to it. It doesn’t whine at me. We approach each other on even footing, with mutual respect. My novel encourages me when I need it. Occasionally there is cursing involved, but it’s usually in jest. Usually.
5. My novel rubs my feet.
That’s right – *that’s* how amazing my novel is. So if you’re an agent or editor and you’re reading this, check out my novel because it might rub your feet, too.
What relationship best describes how you feel about your novel?
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LOL–great analogy, Kat. I don’t have a child or a husband (*sigh*) so my novels must be like my dogs. They’ll eat up all my time if I let them. They require a lot of TLC. If I don’t keep them groomed they’ll grow long and shaggy. They periodically wake me up or interrupt me with a good idea (*there’s a cat/squirrel/killer mailman outside I need to chase NOW*). But I love ’em anyway!
“If I don’t keep them groomed they’ll grow long and shaggy” – LOVE! Do your novels shake water all over you just when you think you’ve got them nice and clean? Do they run away if you don’t keep a tight hold on them?
Yep, I can see how this would work.
My novels aren’t my children. My characters are. Or maybe brothers and sisters–since I rant at them more than I would a child, and have known them since they were children, and know why they act the way they do–good or bad. And like siblings, I can put them in a closet if they misbehave, which I think is frowned upon with husbands and children.
Ah, that old game of shove-little-brother-in-the-closet-and-lean-against-the-door-with-all-my-weight-while-bracing-my-feet-against-the-bed-and-ignoring-him-as-he-launches-his-body-at-the-door-from-the-inside-and-curses! You’re bringing back fond memories for me, Kaki!