It’s a commonly heard phrase uttered by authors everywhere; ‘my book baby’. I must admit I’ve used it before because it’s such a cute phrase and at times it does feel like the book you are writing (birthing) is your baby.
But, it’s not. In fact, when you come to release your book, you need to think of it more like a young adult going out into the world, and even then, there comes a time where you need to completely step away from thinking of your book in this way. Here’s why.
During the drafting phase, you are learning all about your manuscript. You are learning and helping it discover its personality. The first draft can indeed be like birthing new life. Then, while redrafting you are carefully guiding it along, helping it become the best it can be. There will be times when you adore your book, but also times when you can’t stand the sight of it. When you wrestle and fight with the words, and then makeup. Just like a child, right?
But there will come a time when your manuscript is ready to step outside of the warmth and unconditional love of your home. The time to show agents and/or publishers and editors; teachers, who will help in the development of your book. And this is where it is important to stop thinking of your book as your baby.
No parent wants to hear that their baby ‘needs work’. And that is exactly what an editor is going to tell you. If you are too precious about your manuscript it will be too hard to listen to the advice you need to hear. Too hard to cut the thousands of words that aren’t working. Too hard to kill off beloved characters and plot lines and redevelop its essence. And it’s this important advice and guidance that is needed to take your manuscript to the next level.
Then, by the time your manuscript is really ready to take on the world as a fully formed book, when all the input, advice, hard work, tears, and triumphs are done, that you need to completely step away and let it go.
You may be its creator, but you are not its parent.
You can no longer protect it from the harsh realities of the world; aka critics and book reviewers.
Everyone will come to make up their own mind about your book; whether they love it or hate it, can take it or leave it. And they will tell you.
Sometimes directly, sometimes they’ll tell others over social media or on book review sites. And here is why your book is no longer your baby or even your child. Your book is now, simply a book out there in the world library.
You can’t stand up and defend or protect your book from others’ opinions. And if you continue to think of it as your baby, the one-star reviews and the negative comments will be your undoing. They will damage your confidence and in worst-case scenarios, they may even stop you from writing ever again.
In parenthood, (in most circumstances) we don’t get a chance to start over and do it better the next time. Parenthood is an ongoing journey of learning and doing better. But with a book, you get to start all over again from scratch and put all your knowledge, experience, and learning into your next book. Into something totally different. Knowing that this one will better than the last and that your next one will be better again. And so forth. And, I’m not so sure we should be thinking of our children in that way… ahem…
So, while you may feel like this thing you have created is akin to a life, it’s not. It’s special, it’s a huge achievement, and it’s something that you can be proud of forevermore, but, it’s not your baby. It’s your book.
Free yourself from the emotional attachment, put everything into your books, and keep creating, because, unlike children, your next book will be better than the last one.