We often talk about the technicalities of the writing process, but less often about the emotional strain of writing a book. Today debut novelist Jan Petrie, who has just published her first two books in quick succession, likens the emotions involved to childbirth: like parenting, launching a book is just the beginning!
I can’t be the only writer to be overwhelmed at times by the emotional peaks and troughs on the long road to publishing a novel for the first time.
It’s all very well writing about your character’s emotional journey as they follow their developmental arc and emerge in some way altered by their experiences; it’s quite another to go through this process yourself.
Why the Childbirth Cliché is Justified..
It’s a groaningly overused cliché to liken the publishing of a novel to the act of giving birth. However, having gone through both processes, the parallels are undeniable: all those worrying low points that precede and proceed the proud and dizzying high of finally showing your beloved creation to the world.
I have to acknowledge right away that my particular path from unpublished to published author was considerably smoothed by a number of ALLi members who very generously shared their technical knowledge and moral support. Thanks, in particular, to the online, step-by-step, free tutorials from indie Horror author Iain Rob Wright (should I liken him to my midwife?) I finally managed to successfully upload and even advertise the first volume of my Eldísvík trilogy.
With the congratulations of friends and fellow writers still ringing in my ears, I wasn’t fully prepared for the emotional aftermath.
…And Some Points of Difference
In some ways this is where the birthing analogy begins to break down a little. Peering at someone’s none-too-beautiful baby, most of us will have looked the proud parents in the eye and declared them ‘lovely’ or at a push ‘striking’ or ‘sweet’.
By contrast, once your novel is finally out there in the big bad world, it’s fair game for anyone – stranger or friend – to pronounce upon its merits regardless of your delicate feelings.
Up until that moment, you may have known this as a remote possibility but, keeping faith, you made the decision that the risk was better than letting the damn thing stagnate in the drawer – or the electronic equivalent. Wouldn’t you always regret not having the courage to take the next step?
Even so, nothing can prevent the feeling of excited trepidation as you embarked on a process that, once you’ve pushed that final ‘publish’ button is destined to take its course for better or for worse.
This is when you pray all that polishing and refining – the re-structuring, editing and re-editing, all the beta readers’ feedback and then the final proofread that still picks up a surprising number of typos – will have been enough.
When my just-published novel was uploaded onto NetGalley and thirty plus people downloaded it, I felt physically sick at the prospect of all those potentially less-than-flattering reviews. I have to say that – deep breath – so far my worse fears have not come true. At the time of writing, though my reviews are scant in number, they’ve consistently been very positive. That said, at this stage it could all still change at the drop of a hat – or the few cold strokes of a keyboard.
What a knife-edge! Why do we do it?
Right now, the author rankings on Amazon seem like a mountain that’s impossible to begin to climb. When I look at the smiling profile pictures of successful writers, I tell myself that, though it may not show, they too have been through this same process. It’s easy to look at their exalted rankings as set in stone and not the result of the same just as hazardous journey.
The reality is that, just like birth, it has to be gone through. You can only trust it will prove worth it in the end.
OVER TO YOU Which coping mechanisms work best for you to deal with the emotional ups and downs of writing and self-publishing books? We'd love to hear about them!#Writing a book brings as many emotional ups & downs as childbirth - @TurkPetrie, new mother to twin novels, explains why it's worth all the angst! Click To Tweet
OTHER HELPFUL ADVICE ABOUT THE WRITING PROCESS
From the ALLi Author Advice Center Archive