Sunday, May 12, 2013

Being a Good Mother to Your Book Babies

So I had a totally different idea for a blog post today, but then I realized it was Mother's Day. I couldn't resist the urge to somehow tie that into the post I wrote, so you guys are getting something completely different than what was scheduled. I hope you aren't too disappointed.

I want to talk about how we all are mothers in a sense when we give life to a new story.

Now, back up a few steps and realize that this does not mean every and any shiny new idea becomes our "written child". No, they are just the shiny new ideas then. Sometimes we get them in  dreams or they sprout from a crazy movie we just watched or sometimes we literally witness an event in real life and it sparks a plot or a first line or a character into our brains. But, alas, there are too many of these sparks in my life to count them all as beloved children. Some of the ideas fizzle out, or, when I start to consider them more, I conclude that I'm just not at the spot in my writing journey to take on that kind of topic. Really, sometimes we aren't ready to talk about certain things.

But when you commit to a shiny new idea and start to plot it out, when you map out the characters and find your ending and begin fervently writing on that idea, then it becomes your baby. You may have a lot of babies in your writing life - many manuscripts that are in their infant state. They are helpless and they need you more than ever to grow their characters and strengthen their plots and hold their hands when they come to a rough spot.

No really, they need a LOT of help.

Maybe some of your babies are 5 weeks old ...maybe some are 5 years old. Book babies can stay young forever because, unfortunately, we don't always complete every work. But every new child strengthens your resolve to be better for them. They also can be quite cute with their snarky, new characters and fresh conflicts. You can't wait to have a hundred more so you can always feel this way!

But then they grow into teenage books.

You ever get to that point in your current work-in-progress where the story has so much potential and so much to look forward to in the future, and somehow, it just wants to ruin your life? Your teenage book that you've loved and cherished is complaining and whining and telling you that "you don't understand what it's like to be them." That you aren't putting enough twists or romance or adventure into them. That they are just going to fall flat on their faces in public because everyone will laugh at the silly plot you dressed them up in.

We all go through these teenage phases with our books. Maybe some are a little more passive than others, but there is always some doubt on if you are doing this thing right. If you gave it all you could. And sometimes the truth is, maybe you didn't. Maybe you were a "bad mother" to this particular teenage book. Maybe you always put off spending time with the ideas and only worked with them once a month, sporadically, never giving them any consistency with your love. There is no direct right or wrong way to be a writer, but no matter for fun or for a potential career, you have to give them the attention they deserve if you want them to grow up into a story that you love.

But other times, we really do put in the effort needed, and they still cause us to doubt ourselves. This is normal. I will repeat it: this is normal. I think that doubting oneself is almost a required attribute to being a writer. I don't think I've met any writer out there who doesn't doubt his or her story once and awhile. It doesn't make it wrong, it just means you have to help your teenage book find friends that like it for what it is - find people in your life to support you both. That is how you both grow into being better together. The doubt will probably never completely fade away, but with each new teenager you raise, it becomes easier to identify and recognize it for what it is: your desire to give readers the best book you are capable of giving them. There's nothing wrong with wanting to do that as long as you accept that not everyone in the world will always love your children. And that's okay because your love is enough.

Finally, at some point, you turn around and your book is an adult. It's out on it's own and taking care of itself. People are reading it and judging it, but it stands tall and proud.

And you love that child just the same, from when it was born to when it became independent of you - it became something people share and love and talk about all on it's own. But, for any successful child, there is usually a great mother who brought them up. A mother who put in the time and the effort and the care to make that message shine. Still, this is the time that you have to let go of the reins and let it be the book you wrote it to be.

I personally have many of my own book babies and two book teenagers at the moment. They drive me absolutely mad sometimes, but at the end of the day, they are the last things I think about. When I wake up, my thoughts race to where I left them and how much of my time I can spare them that day to make them better.

Today, as everyone celebrates and appreciates their own real-life mothers, keep that in mind for your writing. You have a responsibility to your book's message to give it the care and support it needs to be something great. Maybe all your book babies won't grow into full adult books, but every one will always have a special place in your heart.

Happy Mother's Day to all the mothers out there...and happy writing! Now go kiss your book babies/teenagers/adult children and have a wonderful week!