Is Your Book Your Baby?

If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard how a book is the writer’s baby, I wonder if it would take the sting out of having written for all these years for nothing but hope and heartburn? Probably not. But no matter, the question is: is it true? Is each story a spawn? In a word, or three – not at all. Not for me, at any rate. This has less do to with what I think of my writing than it does with how I think of my children. From the moment I knew they were there, they were never mine. Even earlier than that, before I had any symptoms and before I realized that everything was about to change, the DNA had already merged; the match was in the tinder. GIVEAWAY: Jamie is excited to give away a free copy of her novel to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (Update: Laura won.)
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If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard how a book is the writer’s baby, I wonder if it would take the sting out of having written for all these years for nothing but hope and heartburn? Probably not. But no matter, the question is: is it true? Is each story a spawn?

In a word, or three – not at all. Not for me, at any rate.

This has less do to with what I think of my writing than it does with how I think of my children. From the moment I knew they were there, they were never mine. Even earlier than that, before I had any symptoms and before I realized that everything was about to change, the DNA had already merged; the match was in the tinder.

(Meet literary agents who represent mystery novels.)

GIVEAWAY: Jamie is excited to give away a free copy of her novel to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (Update: Laura won.)

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Guest column by Jamie Mason, author of the debut mystery,
THREE GRAVES FULL (Gallery, Feb. 2012). Kirkus said "Mason’s
quirky debut novel deftly weaves dark humor into a plot that’s as
complicated as a jigsaw puzzle but more fun to put together," while
Booklist's starred review said "First-novelist Mason hooks the reader
with her first sentence, 'There is very little peace for a man with a body
buried in his backyard.' ” Jamie Mason was born in Oklahoma City, but
grew up in Washington, D.C. She’s most often reading and writing, but
in the life left over, she enjoys films, Formula 1 racing, football, traveling,
and, conversely, staying at home. Jamie lives with her husband and
two daughters in the mountains of western North Carolina.

After that, nothing beyond my dumb animal functions of chewing the choicest feed and resting when the hooves and hide told me to was going to make much of a difference. That baby, to an extent, was what it was going to be from the first spark. It was all very much beyond my control.

And no plea or plan I owned had any effect on the inevitability of labor and delivery, that’s for sure.

Making a baby is easy. Writing is hard.

It’s is an act of will, and I’m not exactly known for my flint and iron. As such, I can’t relate tapping at my keyboard and grinding down my teeth to a cosmic roll of the dice and the resultant biological avalanche. My inertia or distraction, thank God, never kept a fetus from growing her fingernails or hooking up her little gall bladder pump to her small intestine.

It really comes down to what I imagine I can take credit for. The word ‘pride’ has never sat snuggly in the hole that each of my daughters has scooped out of my heart. What I feel for them is far purer than what I feel for anything I’ve written. They are a product of all their world, inside and out. My writing is more of me than my children ever could (or should) be. It’s mine. They are not.

(How to create an effective synopsis for your novel or memoir.)

Of course that means a small, bound universe fails in its entirety when I don’t write it right, and it’s all my fault. But I know the difference. Ruin a child and you’ve committed the gravest sin. Ruin a manuscript and, in godlike prerogative, you can stir the deluge, commission an ark, and try it again – albeit perhaps under a new pen name. (And a new agent, if you’ve really mucked it up.)

The biggest challenge in handling my babies is doing it well. With the writing, the fight is more of a joust with the Devil. He whispers sweet stingingly that I don’t have to do it at all. It’s much harder to rouse my artistic diligence than it is to surrender myself to the mostly-happy obligations of family life. Praise for one certainly tingles in an entirely different place than for the other. Same goes for the pain.

Of course, all of this may simply mean that I’m doing it wrong, either the mothering part or the writing. Holy hell, what if it’s both?

GIVEAWAY: Jamie is excited to give away a free copy of her novel to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (Update: Laura won.)

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