How Writing a Novel is Like Having a Baby

(Posted today on

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.