Why My Novel is Like One of My Children

For those with kids, I’m sure you’ll understand when I say that your child is likely the funniest, smartest, cutest, sweetest thing you’ve ever seen. It’s ridiculous to even think that anyone might feel differently.

And then the next day your child is the brattiest, rudest, most stubborn child on the planet. All eyes are on you at the restaurant, the grocery store, the library. All look as if they’re thinking, “How on earth does that mother let her children act that way? Doesn’t she know how poorly they’re behaving?”

I feel the same way about my writing. Sometimes I think my latest WIP is fantastic. I don’t see the mistakes. The lack of conflict or the commas issues. I only see perfection. Each page is a revelation. How funny, then, that the next day I have my head in my hands, wondering where I went wrong. Nothing comes together the way it should and my characters seem dull and lifeless. I send it off to a beta reader, or contest, and then hope and pray no one thinks it’s all a joke.

I recently spent nine days alone with my children while my husband was away. Nine very long days. I had two goals for the week: write 9,000 words of my WIP and survive life with two toddlers and a baby. During those nine days I dealt with tantrums and whining and vomiting. I also received feedback from a very fair but very tough critique partner that made we question the value of my novel quite a bit. Let’s just say I certainly didn’t meet the first goal, and I’m not sure how well I met the second.

I was beaten down and exhausted as I walked into church with all three children on day nine. I snapped at my son as he wiggled about on the pew, and rolled my eyes as the nursery worker describe my bossy daughter’s behavior. The baby vacillated between boisterous screeches and hysterical exhaustion.

By the end of service I just wanted to get home and survive the next 7 hours before my husband returned. And that’s when the first person approached me. An older woman who told me of how my daughter had entered her Sunday School class the week before and moved around the room hugging each and every elderly woman in turn. “She was the joy of my entire week,” she said. A few minutes later another woman mentioned how well my son had done during junior church. Multiple people stopped to coo and smile at the baby, and comment on how good-natured he was.

And then, just before we left, I saw her from across the room. Months before I had mentioned my writing to this woman, and she had asked to read it. Now, here she was, the first time I’d seen her since handing over the first twelve pages of my WIP.

“You have to give me more chapters,” she said. “I can’t wait to read what happens next.”

Needless to say, I walked out of church that day feeling very proud of all four of my children. I can’t say I ended the day feeling the same way, but it was sweet while it lasted.

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