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Feeling rather giddy when I sent my manuscript to my editor, I wrote the following:

“It feels like my child’s first day at school and I'm hoping she's remembering her manners, showing the teacher what a clever girl she is, and making friends. And now I'm going to have to be patient until she returns home, climbs onto my lap and shares with me how the day has gone.”

OK, I may have stretched the metaphor a little too far, and I have sons not daughters, but it started me thinking about other parallels between parenthood and self-publishing a book. I hope I don’t alienate people who are not parents with this post, as I proceed to take the comparison even further.

I wouldn’t dream of suggesting that the effort that goes into publishing a book is anywhere near as profound as having a baby, but launch day is a big day. I remember looking out of the window of the hospital on the morning I’d given birth to my first son. I saw a man in a suit running for the bus, a lady jogging with her little dog on a leash, two school children in uniform dawdling along the street. These people were going about their normal business, nothing special, totally unaware that for me and my baby, it was a momentous day, full of potential. I was happy, scared, exhausted. I’d done something amazing. The day I clicked “publish” on Amazon was a mundane day for the vast majority of people, but a day of possibilities for me. Confidence vying with anxiety.

In later years, the warm and intense friendships I made at antenatal and parent and toddler groups have been similar to those I’ve made with authors in writing groups online. These groups are places where life-long friendships are forged and parents-to-be/new authors receive lots of reassuring advice, especially from those who have done it before. Prior to birth/publication, questions tend to revolve around such things as “How do I cope with morning sickness?”/“How do I get past this tricky scene?” and “Can you recommend a good midwife?”/“Can you recommend a good editor?” Announcements of being pregnant with a second child are akin to the announcements of writing a second book.

Many of the cries for help in these groups are identical: I’m feeling overwhelmed by everything I need to do; I feel isolated; I’m not sure I can do this; there aren’t enough hours in the day.

There’s an element of competition within groups of parents and within groups of authors. Comparing rates of development/numbers of sales is inevitable. However, parents who are real friends will celebrate a child’s milestones in the same way that authors who are genuine friends will be happy for the success of a book. Each loves their own child/book the most, but can admire the talents of others.

And, in case you feel I haven’t pushed the analogy to the max, a little description of school reports and book reviews. A brilliant report from a teacher who clearly understands your child’s genius: 5* review. A mediocre report from a teacher who doesn’t fully understand the nuances of your child’s genius: 3* review. The report from hell from the teacher who seems to have taken against your little darling: 1* review. With regard to the 1*s, parents and authors know it’s wrong to argue with teachers or reviewers, but they can listen and judge whether the teacher/reviewer has a child’s/book’s best interests at heart or if they’re just being mean.

Children or books, we’re protective and proud of what we’ve produced. Their successes are our successes and their slips are our slips. We love them because we created them.

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Wendy Janes spends her time running her freelance proofreading business, writing novels and short stories, and volunteering for The National Autistic Society’s Education Rights Service. She has recently published her first solo novel, What Jennifer Knows. You can connect with Wendy online and discover more about her writing via Twitter, her Facebook author page, and Amazon author pages (UK/US).

5 Comments:

  1. Wendy Janes said...
    Thank you for featuring my guest post. Much appreciated.
    Terry Tyler said...
    Am I really hard hearted? I see so many people talking about their books like this. I don't feel it. I am obsessed with them when I'm writing them, but then I just click 'publish', feel totally sick and depressed because I think everyone's going to hate it, for a bit, and just get on with writing the next. I can't even remember the names of all the characters in some of my earlier ones, much less the minor plot details. I know so many people think of their books as their 'babies' ~ one writer I know says he feels depressed after he's finished one, for ages, because the loss of his characters leaves a whole in his life. I do understand this but I just... don't feel it.

    I do realise that I'm in the minority (and maybe a bit odd)!!!
    Christine Campbell said...
    When someone tells me they want to have a baby, I reflect that they won't just be having a baby. They'll be having a 'terrible two' and a teenager.
    When someone tells me they want to write a book, I reflect that there's more to it than 'writing a book'. They'll be having 'second draft blues' and 'final edit terror'.
    Wendy Janes said...
    I don't think you're hard-hearted, Terry. Perhaps less fanciful/more down to earth than some of us. :)
    Wendy Janes said...
    So true, Christine. And the teenager/final edit are likely to look very different to the toddler/early draft!

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