Writing a novel has often been compared to giving birth. I’ve done both twice, so I can attest to the fact that it’s a good metaphor–you write for nine months, then in a final painful push, drug-induced or not, you give birth to a being that didn’t exist before.
Too often, the metaphor stops there. It shouldn’t.
Just as no self-respecting mother would send her baby out into the world after the snip of the umbilical cord and a quick clean up, no writer should ever send a manuscript out into the world so new and so fresh.
It takes time and love and energy and dedication to raise a child. So, too, does it take significant effort to raise and revise a worthy novel. Some things cannot be rushed, no matter how much we writers seek validation or legitimacy, no matter how many times a well-meaning relative asks about “the writing,” and if we’re ever going to “finish that thing.”
It’s ok to be a first draft for a while. Perhaps we need to stop thinking of our first drafts with Anne Lamott’s famous descriptor. Perhaps we need to think instead that our first drafts are newborn babes, eating and sleeping and making good use of their diapers.
If we let them grow into a second draft, they turn into toddlers. The struggle ensues as personalities begin to develop. A third draft brings early childhood, with lots of learning going on. By the time the fourth draft comes along, our manuscripts are developmentally “in school,” persistently plodding along.
All too soon, the manuscript hits the teenage years and wants to break free and live an independent life. This, perhaps, is when our manuscripts need us the most. It’s time for tough love, friends. It’s time to say to our manuscripts. “Wait a while–there’s plenty of time for the jungle out there.” And then ground it until it’s 35.