How Writing a Novel is Like Having a Baby

(Posted today on fallfifteeners.wix.com)

I was just sitting around thinking ('cause it's easier than cleaning my house) how having a baby is pretty much the perfect analogy for writing a book.

The actual writing of the rough draft is comparable to childbirth, only this labor can last years and there are no painkillers (unless you count wine and coffee).

When your baby (aka your novel) finally arrives in the world, you can't wait to check it over. First, you determine the sex (genre), then you run the Apgar numbers to see if they look good (the word count), and finally, you wash the baby and bundle it up (polish your manuscript, checking for birth defects such as typos and the congenital overuse of adverbs).

When you show your baby (novel) to your friends and family, they adore it. The baby is a specimen of perfection, they tell you. They are so happy for you.

Your critique partners are another story. They are less diplomatic, like the people outside the nursery window. They point out the conehead (information dumping), tell you they hate the name you chose for baby (your book title), mention that your baby is a little too long and lumpy in some places, and make helpful commentary such as how they would like your baby better if the voice wasn't so whiny and helpless. They also point out when things are awkward and not in character for your baby, like the onesie his daddy got him that says Sh*t happens.

After friends and critique partners have all visited baby, you take your baby home and nurse it through long, exhausting nights. You coddle it through colic (editing and revision) and take pride in its growth spurts. You approach projectile vomiting (plot holes) and adorable dimples (witty dialogue) with the same care, dedication, and love.

Soon after comes the birth announcements (queries to agents). Some recipients will send generous gifts in response (requests to read your manuscript), and some just send nice cards (thanks-but-no-thanks emails). Some may even send along much appreciated advice on baby care, such as proper burping to remove excess gas (cutting out backstory) and how to dispose of the smelliest baby poop (also known as purple prose).

You appreciate all of their time and best wishes, even the ones who say they do not think they could sell your baby in today's baby black market.

If you are lucky, someone will offer to babysit your baby (an agent offers representation). You are happy, but nervous. You hand your baby over to the caregiver (your agent) after going over specific instructions and emergency numbers (the agent contract). When they take the baby from you, you try to go out and have fun doing something else (writing your next book).

In an ideal world, the babysitter takes your child to the park, where all the mothers and grandmothers (editors and publishers) ooh and aah over him. They like him so much, they want to get together and set up playdates for him (publication and book release dates). Unfortunately, sometimes the babysitter gives the baby back at the end of the day and says the baby was cute but did not catch anyone's attention and played in the sandbox alone.

But that's okay. You know that it's a rare for a newborn to become a Gerber Baby (a New York Times bestseller). Once in a while, it's not until your fourth baby that one of your children catches the attention of an adoring grandma at the park. And sometimes, none of your babies get fawned over at the park. Creating a baby is still an amazing experience, even when you have to put them to bed at night.

It's okay either way. Because the truth is, you do not have babies for the other mothers and grandmothers. You have babies (write novels) because you love being a mother (writer). It fills your heart with happiness and your soul with fulfillment, and you can't find that kind of joy without an occasional episiotomy.

Did I go too far with that last metaphor? Sorry. This is exactly why writer's have critique partners.

 

 

Why I Write YA

Posted on fallfifteeners.wix.com yesterday:

Despite appearances (translation: I am old), it makes sense that I write young adult fiction.

Let me explain. For the past decade, I have been held prisoner in my home by two socially-addicted teenagers with the same last name as me. My captivity started one night when I foolishly tried to escape for a relaxing evening of adult conversation and company. Warning: Parents of Teenagers- Do not try this at home. 

I returned home early to find scattered liquor bottles and garbage strewn about my basement. My son either threw a rager or wanted to surprise me by remodeling my basement in the contemporary decorating style of Bourbon Street the day after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans.

Consequently, I started hanging around my house more and more unless I knew my sons were:

1. Out of town.

2. At an activity where their remote destination could be confirmed by multiple tracking devices.

      and/or

3. In police custody.

Desperate for a night out, I once considered restraining them. Of course, this was a ridiculous idea. If DCFS found out and temporarily removed me from our home, my heartbroken sons would surely deal with the loss by converting our residence into a fraternity house.

Okay, so I'm exaggerating. But the point is, my kids were always ridiculously social and active. Imagine Tigger on adderall. Now toss in raging hormones, the life philosophy You have to be young and foolish to be old and wise, and 16,540 friends on Facebook.

You get the idea. I started hanging around more and keeping an eye out.

Come to find out, I like my kids. Who knew?  And despite my title of "Meanest Mom with the Stupidest Rules," my sons (and their friends) like me, too. I don’t have just two sons, I’ve had a hundred kids call me mom over the years. (Momma-Lo, actually. Don't ask...).

This is one reason I write young adult: it's what I know. Adolescence is the noise that fills my house: the laughter around the fire pit, the music streaming from speakers, the laughter from girls trying to impress the bragging boys who are trying to impress them back.

It's amazing what stories they'll share with you around the island in your kitchen if you're willing to listen. Sometimes, they give me nightmares. Mostly, they crack me up. And always, they remind me how complicated (and simple), fun (and traumatic) life is when you're perched at its starting gate.

Living the Fairy Tale...

 

A long, long time ago, in a suburban kingdom west of Chicago, lived a wannabe author named Lynn. She dreamed of being a writer but was held captive by two untamed teenagers in a deep dungeon of bills, laundry, and a calendar so full of writing, it made the dictionary envious.
And so it was she existed on the perimeter of her fairy tale, surviving by writing poetry, witty emails, and rough drafts of unpublished blockbuster novels. Until one day, her fairy god-agent announced, “We just got our first offer.” And in that moment, magical things began to happen…