The Birth of a Novel
Writing novels is hard. I’ve written two so you would think I’d know this. You would think I’d go into every new book with the vivid memory of what giving birth to that last little monster, I mean darling, felt like. While I’ve never personally been pregnant nor given birth, bringing a brand-new screaming little book into the world seems a lot like it in a vaguely metaphoric way. The excitement of discovering you have a brand-new book idea growing inside you, the way people look at you with that gleam of wonder and awe when you tell them you have another on the way (okay, I admit I might be exaggerating that one a bit). Then comes the morning sickness when you realize the story you thought you had isn’t coming together quite like you thought it would and your child might very well be born without a head. Many authors put on weight during their pregnancy, sitting for hours munching on whatever is handy as they type and just as quickly delete words like aunties trying to pick out baby clothes. But with loving support (Would you just shut up about that damn book!) and an investment in a small Columbian coffee plantation the big day finally arrives and…
Oh sure, your book release posts on Facebook get almost as many ‘likes’ as that kitten picture you shared last week. Some of them even buy the book and then some of them actually read it (God bless you saints). But the excitement the author imagines when the big day comes never quite materializes. Even though he had been through this before, he still thinks the world will be a better, more exciting place when his baby is born and that people will show up in droves to prove him right.
Not all authors experience this, of course. Many have book release parties. Their friends gather around for support. Some even sell a decent amount of books. We introverted depressives don’t usually fare so well, at least I don’t. Both of my book release days were spent in a grand funk at work. Please don’t take this as a plea for pity because it isn’t that. Everyone handles things different and I happen to handle days that should be quite special like expectant moms who rush to the hospital cause that baby’s a comin’, just to be told, “false labor, go back home”.
Writing a novel is hard. Depression makes it harder. What should take me nine months to a year to finish actually takes me that long just to get going. I fall into a deep depression so I don’t work on the book which makes me more depressed because I really should have worked on the book but I can’t even think and just opening the document feels about as overwhelming as trying to pick a 2020 Democratic nominee for President which makes me more depressed because I don’t want to be this sniveling thing curled up in a ball that I’ve become (sorry for the run on sentence but that is what it sounds like in my head). All of which is really depressing.
What I have learned from having written and published two novels is that no matter how many bad days I’ve had, no matter how long it took, if I just keep going it will get done. Don’t quit. Never, ever quit. You may go days or weeks without doing anything. Don’t worry about it. Go back to it, take out a pad of paper and pen and scribble some notes. Do Something! Eventually it will be finished and regardless of how underwhelming release day might be, your baby will have been born into the world.
And that, my Friends, is a beautiful thing.
P.S. Below are a couple of my favorite books that help me through these tough times. The first most of you writers out there are probably familiar with. The second maybe not so much but I highly recommend it.