Books as "Babies" - an Opinion
There’s been a bit of kerfuffle on the Amazon forums recently. (I know…what a surprise, right?) On the one side, we have authors who like to refer to their books as their “babies.” On the other, readers and reviewers who believe such comparisons are ridiculous and unwarranted. They view the authors’ tendency to talk about their “babies” as an attempt by the authors to ward off criticism of their work. Tempers have flared a bit (yes, I know, another surprise) and some pretty harsh words have flown from both sides.
Anyone who knows me realizes that I’m not a fan of authors who do not take criticism with grace, who engage in deceptive practices, or who carry out vendettas against reviewers. Nor am I fond of those readers who decide to carry out vendettas against authors. Raw feelings have been laid bare, accusations–both well-founded and unfounded–have flown, and threats have been made on both sides of the line. As usual, I lurk but rarely post. However, this is an issue in which I can truly see both sides of the argument. Y’see, I have compared my books with babies, too.
There are some things in common between the gestation of a novel and that of a child–with some very important differences. The novel takes longer, at least mine do. During that gestation period, a great deal of my time goes into the synthesis, development, and maturation of my “baby.” Like a baby, I carry it with me everywhere, and think about it constantly. Along with that time we have resources–thought, imagination, creativity–I have a great deal of “sweat equity” and personal investment by the time the book is ready to be “born.” When I finally finish it, I am most likely drained physically, intellectually, and emotionally. Then there’s a sort of postpartum depression that goes with finally declaring the novel finished–a work I’ve been focusing on for the past year. There’s a sort of “Ok, NOW what?” feeling, at least for me.
Then comes the polishing. That is likely to take at least six months, if not longer. I wait for the editor to pick the book apart, I revise, revise, and revise some more. I “feed” my book the best editing and revisions I possibly can, getting it ready for the wide world. I dress it up with first-class cover art. Now it’s ready to be presented–ready for that all-important debut. But here’s the thing…it’s not a baby any more. When it goes to market, it had better be a full-grown, ready-for-anything adult.
Yes, I sometimes view my books as I would view children. They are my product, my legacy. There’s a lot of “me” in them–my world view, my original characters, no doubt some wish-fulfillment. If they fail, I am devastated. If they succeed, I am elated. But I do NOT expect anyone else to see them that way. Readers aren’t expected to care one bit about my sweat equity or emotional investment. The books are there for them to judge however they please. If I didn’t want my “children” to suffer the slings and arrows of the wide world, then I should have kept them at home.
I never refer to them as “my babies” to anyone outside my inner circle. In fact, I believe my books would be quite annoyed to be referred to as “babies”. I can hear them now: “Babies? BABIES? We have well-developed characters, a plot interwoven with many mature themes, and professional production value, thank you very much! Calling us babies implies that we are immature, not-ready-for-prime-time releases. I mean, really! We’ll respectfully request that you call us “the books” from now on, if you please.”
So, though I might see commonalities between gestation and novel-writing, I’ll keep them to myself or call them something else. More to the point, I won’t expect anyone else to ever view my works as anything other than what they are. I’ll keep writing and striving to send worthy works out into the world to be loved (or not) by readers. That’s the only real “parenting” I can do.