Monday, January 17, 2011

Giving Birth

Finishing a book is like giving birth. I’ve done it several times now, not counting the two times I’ve physically produced living children. And as with the births of my son and then my daughter, each time I finish a book is no less exciting.

The first time I gave birth was back in high school when I finished a Civil War romance I wrote for a journal-keeping exercise. Then, over the course of several years, I finished seven Star Wars fan fiction novels, not counting the forty short stories I wrote. Tonight, I gave birth again—I finished the rough draft of my fourth novel, which I’m hoping will someday be published.

For many writers, writing the first draft is the fun part of creating the story, watching it unfold before your eyes with each tap of a key on the computer. However, for me, creating all of those words to fill up the blank screen is tough, just like having a real baby. Pregnancy was not fun; at least, it wasn’t for me. With my son, I was sick the entire time, then I had false labor (Broxton Hicks contractions) from my sixth month until a week before I gave birth, which was two weeks past my due date. With my daughter, I didn’t have the sickness, but I did have the false labor the last trimester, horrible back pain and sciatica. My labor had to be induced and then ended up being all in my back.

As with my pregnancies, writing a first draft is not always fun, or easy. I don’t plot. I’m a pantser. I’ve tried plotting once (while writing my third book) and it screwed with my muse so badly that I ignored my fifty pages of carefully planned scenes and set out to find the story the way that has worked for me over the course of something like forty-five stories. I sit down and start typing. Sometimes what comes out is wonderful and sometimes it’s pure crap. I’ve had story miscarriages more than once. They were no less painful than the real one I had between my son and daughter. I mourned the loss and then set out to see what else I can create.

Now that I’m holding my newborn in my arms, I don’t remember the frustration of not being able to figure out the last quarter of the story. I don’t remember how completely deleting 45,000 words and starting over before NaNoWriMo made me want to throw-up. I don’t remember the pain, when I had to change my hero’s conflict to make the ending work. But now, as I look at my infant, I see a bright future. I know that late nights are on my horizon as I work in some of the changes to the story. But I enjoyed my babies, I loved playing with my toddlers and now that they are teenagers, I love to talk and laugh with them. The same is true of my newborn manuscript. Now, I can nurture it and mold those rough words filling my computer screen into a beautiful child, and eventually a wonderful adult.

I love this aspect of writing. I love to rewrite and revise, tweaking until the story shines. For me, it is now that I can tie up all the loose ends and make sure the characters have the same depth in the beginning as they do in the end. Revising also allows me to stay with my babies a little longer. Help them grow into fine and glorious things that will make me proud to call them mine, just as my children never fail to make me proud. The baby I gave birth to tonight has a promising future. It’s the second book of a five book series.

However unlike pregnancy, I’m looking forward to staring at the blank screen again and seeing what I can give birth to in a few months. It never fails to amaze me when it happens.

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