At a recent family gathering, I revealed how much weight I’d gained with this pregnancy (and I still have a month to go). That prompted someone to ask, “How much weight will you have gained and lost when you add up all four pregnancies?”
It was something I’d never thought about before, and so I had to do some quick math. “One-hundred and forty pounds …. No! One-hundred and fifty pounds!”
It was a mind-boggling sum. One-hundred and fifty pounds first gained, and then lost, in a period of about six years. Technically, the total is 146 as of this morning, but still – that is an incredible amount. To put things in perspective, my weight before and between pregnancies is 112.
Soon I got to thinking about all the work my body has gone through to both gain and lose this weight. All the bowls of ice cream that tasted so good translated into healthy babies, but also time on the treadmill. Wouldn’t it be a lot easier if I gained a lot less? In the end my babies end up being around 7 or 8 lbs. Isn’t it possible to go through a pregnancy and only put the exact amount of weight needed to create a baby?
Obviously, no. In addition to the baby, there are fat stores, and placenta, and amniotic fluid, and increased blood volume. All of these lovely things are needed to nourish the baby and sustain a healthy pregnancy.
Why on earth am I talking about this? Because gaining and losing all that extra weight is darn near similar to the editing process. When I wrote my first novel, the first draft was 116,000. Then I spent several months editing, took a step back, and saw that it was now 96,000.
20,000 words less. And the thought made me positively ill.
You see, at a rate of 1,000 words a day, those 20,000 words represented almost 3 weeks of my life. Now it was all clipped and trimmed away, and I wondered if I had wasted those weeks and hours writing words that would never see the light of day. I had deleted no characters, no scenes. Not even much dialogue. I had simply written 20,000 words too many in the first place.
It took me quite awhile to work up the courage to write a second novel. I had the plot and characters defined, but the fear of again spending so much time writing superfluous descriptions and filler made my heart race. I didn’t want to write too many words. I wanted to write the exact number of words needed to finish my novel. Was this realistic?
Because just like a pregnancy, a novel needs all the extras in the beginning in order to nourish it. To help it flourish. It’s only through writing a paragraph about my heroine that I can arrive at the pitch-perfect five word descriptor. My hero has to grasp for her hand in six different ways before I can find the one that will truly make a reader’s heart flutter.
So here’s my advice to writers everywhere: Don’t be afraid of the fat. Though everything will look scary and bloated at first, I promise there’s a treasure underneath. And it’s only through the process of losing it that you’ll come to understand how to avoid gaining quite as much the next time. Is my second novel as long as my first? Most assuredly not. Could it stand to lose a few pounds? Yes, but isn’t the challenge part of the charm of the entire experience?