“Treat your book like your child”

Parenting or Writing, which is harder?

Over on the NaNoWriMo blog, the Office of Letters and Light, they recently interviewed author Karen M. Cox, whose second novel Find Wonder in All Things was written during a NaNoWriMo. Her novel was awarded an Independent Publishers Book Award, which just shows how great NaNoWriMo can be for unlocking the novel in you.

As part of the interview, Karen gives her top writing, revision, and publishing tips for other NaNoWriMo participants.

These are summarised below:

  • Write every day during NaNoWriMo. The days that I started out ‘behind’ were tough days.    
  • When you stop for the day, know where you’re going tomorrow. It helps eliminate the ‘staring at a blank screen or paper’ syndrome. 
  • Resist the urge to edit until you’ve got the thing out of your brain and onto the stone tablet, paper, or screen. 
  • Find people you trust to give you feedback: [people with] no agenda besides reading good material.
  • Throughout the writing process, treat your book like your child. What I mean is love it, treasure it, brag about it, but be objective and open-minded enough to discipline it—through accepting constructive criticism, editing, rewriting—without losing your long-term vision for when it’s ‘all grown up.’ This is harder than it sounds—you have to weigh others’ opinions without pride and prejudice, yet still stay true to what you want for your ‘child’ in the end.

It was the final point that really stuck in my mind as the most comprehensive piece of advice, but the hardest (for me) to follow. On a bad day the advice would mean me yelling at my book over something stupid and then sobbing in the corner for being a terrible writer, destined to go to Writer Hell in a handcart.

As you can tell, I haven’t sussed parenting yet, particularly the discipline part. I find it hard not to take toddler-defiance personally and I’m often more prone to childish tantrums than they are (I like to think I’m the highly strung artistic sort but that’s probably rubbish!)

I know all the theories of good discipline and on a good day, with lots of sleep, I can be that parent, calmly instigating time-outs and positive rewards. Much as I know the theory of what constitutes good writing and on a good day I can be that writer too, editing with consistency and a clear mind. On a normal day, however, I have as haphazard an approach to editing as I do to parenting: I do what I can do, get frustrated that I’m not doing it better, and constantly fight the urge to throw in the towel.

Maybe I need to write all my first drafts now, play with them and enjoy them, and get to the task of revision and redrafting when I’ve worked out how to be a proper grown-up parent person.

Oh dear, I might never finish a novel.

7 thoughts on ““Treat your book like your child”

  1. Pingback: Back to Camp NaNoWriMo | The Claire Violet Thorpe Express

  2. Amanda – thanks for your kind words regarding my OLL interview! I happened to see your blog tonight during a search – otherwise, I would have missed it.
    And yes, it is hard for me to follow my own advice at times – lol. Some days are definitely better than others. Hopefully when all the days are averaged together, though, progress is made!
    Take care,

    • Karen, thanks for stopping by to say hello! I thought your interview with OLL was very inspiring, particularly for those of us plugging away at editing our NaNoWriMo drafts into something reader-worthy. Good luck with Find Wonder in All Things. Persuasion is probably my favourite Jane Austen novel and I look forward to reading your take on it when I’m not buried in books about dragons!

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