Maybe you’re not so keen on the story you’re writing. Or maybe you’ve finished your novel already (stranger things have happened). Or maybe you’re so sick of your characters that you’ve written them off a bridge and replaced them with new ones.
I wouldn’t blame you in the slightest.
You see, the first few pages of a novel are both terrifying and exciting. It’s like love. You see someone you think is cute, you develop a crush, then you act on that crush. And then, after a few months, maybe just a few days, the walking-on-air feeling wears off. Yeah, novel-writing is like falling in and out of love. Repeatedly. But is it really?
And for the sake of this article, I’m going to liken your novel not to falling in love, but to raising an unruly child. (Heck, just any child for that matter.)
Now, why would I avoid the cliche of romantic love for your creative project?
I’ll tell you.
Because novels drive you insane.
And you love them dearly.
Is that not just like your child?
Maybe it’s just me. I hope not.
Seriously. I love my kids. I heart them. Big wild, crazy pumping heart moments that make me swoon and laugh and beam with pride…and then in the next moment want to throttle them for being so obnoxious and rude and disrespectful.
Yeah, writing a novel is like that. One moment I love my novel and all its imperfections, and the next I just want to toss it in the bin and light the bin on fire. (Don’t take this comparison between kids and manuscript too literally, folks.)
To prove that novels are like children, I’m going to lay it out for you now.
1. The initial idea.
Novel: Oh it’s glorious. Writing feels like floating on air. You’re in heaven thinking about the future of your novel and how, in your hands, this story is going to be amazing.
Kids: You decide you’d like a kid and…take steps to achieve it. For some, this is more involved than others. For some it’s more…accidental.
2. The actual birthing of an idea.
Novel: Suddenly the novel becomes a little more painful. If you’re a plotter, there are actual things to consider before you even write. If you’re a panster, there’s the struggling to come up with the ideas as you write. Either way, you’ve got to start thinking of potential conflicts and challenges for your characters to face.
You might even do some reading up on what to expect when you’re expecting to write a novel. But you know, it’s worth it. As soon as you see those first words on the page…everything else falls away. At least for a little while.
Kids: Much more painful in almost every case, at least at some point. Not only the pregnancy—men, pay attention—pregnancy sucks. But now there’s the birth. A part of you is physically expelled from your body! C’mon!
3. The falling-in-love stage.
Novel: This happens soon after the birthing phase. But don’t worry if it doesn’t happen immediately, because as you see your words take shape, perhaps counting how many words you’ve written, you’ll eventually fall in love. It’s just amazing to see it grow, to actually spend time with it, and watch it develop.
Kids: They smell soo good, don’t they? That newborn smell…there’s nothing like it, they say. True, you might still be hurting from the whole birthing thing, you might still be recovering from that process, and even still uncertain how you’re going to raise this thing from infancy to adulthood. But still, they’re so cute and innocent and helpless…you can’t help but nurture them.
4. Well, it’s happened. We’ve reached the writing-is-hard stage.
Novel: Ohmygoshwritingisawfulandhardandimpossible. Why do we do it? Yeah, this is the stage where you’re just stuck. You’ve tried everything and it still doesn’t work. You don’t know what the next step will be nor do you know why you ever thought writing a novel was a good idea. Seriously. Why?
Kids: This would be the why-doesn’t-this-baby-sleep-through-the-night-yet phase. Yeah. In 99% of cases, this lasts longer than you physically think possible. Don’t they NEED sleep?!
5. The “I got this” phase.
Novel: Yeah. You’re the boss. You tell your characters what to do, where to go, even what to think. And they do it. You’re amazing. Life is amazing. Writing a novel is soooo easy.
Kids: My kid is ah-mah-zing! This phase is usually short lived. Usually after the baby starts sleeping through the night reliably, is crawling, is maybe walking, but is still oh-so-cute and now smiles and engages with you, and strangers constantly tell you how cute they are, and their grandparents just can’t get enough and…yeah, it’s cute. You got it. You’re a pro.
So you think.
6. The “what happened to my cute novel?” phase.
Novel: Everything is out of control. Not one character is listening. Everyone wants to do their own thing and they DON’T want to follow the journey that you so painstakingly outlined and planned for them. They just WON’T LISTEN.
Kids: Ahem. This would be the toddler phase. It’s the phase where the child suddenly develops a mind of their own. And…there’s a lot of weeping and gnashing of teeth. On both sides…
But know that once you put in the time and revise and get feedback and revise again and share your novel-child with the world, the time and effort you’ve put into it will make it into a responsible adult that will go out and change the world.
This guest post was contributed by Kelsie Engen. Kelsie loves to read and started her blog to share that passion with others of like mind. Alternately titled “How Writing a Novel is Like Raising an Unruly Child (part 1)”