Why Birthing a Book and Birthing a Baby Are Really Very Different
Thank you so much for having me on Uniquely Moi! I wanted to bring up a phrase I’ve heard a lot lately, that having a book published is a lot like giving birth to a child. Sure, the similarities are clear—like children, books leave home and become their own beings. They have their own adventures, become meaningful to other people, and, sometimes, go on to become more than their parent ever thought possible.
But since I will have given birth to both within the past year (the babe was born in September; the book will come on May 22), I thought I’d talk about the one key way in which they differ—timing.
Giving birth to a baby is a process, but it passes in a blink relative to the amount of time it takes to deliver a book. Granted, the gestation periods are similar—a book could be written in nine months, though it often takes longer. But it’s the actual delivery that’s so wildly different.
Most people, when birthing a baby, head to the hospital when serious labor pains start, and they generally come back home with a newborn within 48 hours. Sometimes there are false starts or premature deliveries that can slow down the timeframe, for most people a day or two is all it takes.
With my latest book, Dog Days, the process took about three and a half years. That’s one heck of a long labor! I started writing in the fall of 2008 with one clear idea—I knew I wanted to write about a woman and a dog switching bodies. Unfortunately for me, that was about all I knew. The book had a number of false starts that included total rewrites, cut chapters, and tireless work by my critique group. By November I finally had a decent sense of where I was headed.
Writing the first version of the book took me about ten months—I like to think of that as the pregnancy period. All the rest—a two and a half year process—was the delivery, most of which consisted of revising, revising, and revising.
The first revision came after I showed the manuscript to my agent, Kevan Lyon, of the Marsal Lyon Literary Agency. Dog Days includes two point-of-view characters—Zoe, the dog, and Jessica, the person. Kevan’s feedback convinced me to give Zoe’s sections a pretty thorough overhaul.
Once that was done, Kevan sent the manuscript out to editors she thought might be interested (this was in August 2010). We had the wonderful good fortune to receive an offer from Kristin Sevick of Tor-Forge. (Yippee!!) Not long after, Kristin gave me her editorial suggestions, which this time focused on Jessica’s side of the story.
Kristin and I spent the next year shuttling the manuscript back and forth. After an initial, major revision, there were two more rounds, followed by copyedits. One year later after we finished that work, here I sit, just a week from publication.
Soon, just like when a pregnant woman takes that big trip to the hospital, a book will appear. I’ll be surprised to see it, like any new mom, because ultrasound images never give you any idea of what the really baby will look like. I’ll be excited to show it off to friends and family. I might even cry a little (new moms get so emotional.) And, after a few months have passed, I’ll forget all about the agony of delivery and will be ready to go through the whole thing again.
Elsa Watson is the author of Dog Days, in which Zoe (a dog) and Jessica (a person) are struck by lightning and switch bodies, leaving Jessica trapped in a dog’s body—and giving Zoe thumbs and the chance to speak. (Coming May 22.) Find Elsa online at www.elsawatson.net.