Sometimes the truth hurts. You never know when it’s going to bite you. It could be at the pool when your 5-year-old looks at you and says, “Mom, you’re fat!” It could be when you look in the mirror and notice that you’re starting to get wrinkles, or when you look at the dog you’ve had since she was 11 weeks old and realize that she’s getting old. Truth can be an evil bitch.
I’ve recently compared writing a novel to having a baby. You spend months (or years) working on its creation. By the time it’s finished cooking and ready to share with the world, you’re in love with every aspect of it. You look at your baby/novel and you see perfection. So what if it looks like a troll doll? (My son did when he was a newborn. I’m not kidding.) Who cares if your plot has holes the size of the Atlantic ocean? You see past all of that because of your love for the thing you have created.
At first, you shield your creation from the big, scary world. The few friends and family that you do allow to share it with you coo and gush about how amazing it is. And would they really tell you if they thought your baby looked like a Sharpei? Probably not, because they love it almost as much as you do. But at some point, chances are good that you’re going to have to take your baby outside of your comfort zone. Luckily, with a human baby, most people have enough tact that they’re not going to tell you that they think your baby is ugly even if it looks like a chimpanzee mated with a head of cabbage. (Try to visualize that, I dare you.) With a word baby, that’s not the case. Even the most amazing novel isn’t going to appeal to everyone. Just take a look at the reviews of your favorite novel on Amazon. Chances are, no matter how many amazing five star reviews you see, there are still some brutal one star reviews as well. People can be downright mean when it comes to word babies. Of course, the good thing about that is, if you can be thick skinned enough to accept the criticism, you can use it to your benefit. You can use it to become better.
There’s another big difference. Even ugly babies (and let’s be honest, they do exist) are awesome. There is every chance that they’re going to grow up to be someone incredible. You know, the whole ugly duckling syndrome. Novels? Not so much. You can make them better, but sometimes, they’re so ugly that they need to be hidden from the world.
When I finished my second novel, I started the query process. I spoke with a publisher, who very politely turned me down, stating that my I needed more description to make things come to life. Looking back, I think it was his way of being gentle. In all honesty, the story itself was flawed. The novel suffered from a serious identity disorder. It didn’t know what it was trying to be, and honestly, neither did I. It was a prime example of what happens when you start a story with no ending destination in mind. But it took me several years to realize that, because I loved my characters. I loved my story. And I still do. Every once in a while, I spend some time trying to figure out a way to resurrect those characters. Because as ugly as it may be, it’s still my baby, and I’m not ready to give up on it quite yet.