Monday, February 3, 2014

Guest Blogger Jennifer Walkup on 11 Ways Publishing a Book is Like Having Kids

 I met Jennifer Walkup for the first time at a gathering at The Writers Circle in northern New Jersey, where we both teach, and was immediately drawn to her warm humor and generous spirit. She is the author of Second Verse, a young adult romantic thriller (Luminis Books 2013), winner of the Gold 2013 Moonbeam Children's Book Award for Teen Mystery. Jennifer's work has also appeared in Genre Wars Anthology, and Gloom Cupboard, and she serves as fiction editor for The Meadowland Review.  A fellow New Jersey resident, she lives with her husband and two sons, and is at work on her next book.

Please welcome Jennifer Walkup.

There are two things I blog about most – having babies and writing books, which happen to also be the two most wonderful and difficult things I’ve done in my life. Here are the top 11 ways I have discovered that having a baby and being a parent, and writing and publishing a book, are eerily similar.

1. You're never done. Almost as soon as you give birth, everyone asks when they can expect the next one. You’re barely home from the hospital and Dear Aunt Martha is peering over her glasses asking when the little bundle will have a sibling. Same for books and readers. At every book signing, at least one person asks about the next book. I do love that people are interested in my books and my babies, but can I breathe?  Anyway, it takes me a bit longer to write a book than have a baby – but I am most certainly always at work on my next (book that is)!

2. You think you're done for good.  Speaking of doing it again – there’s something curious about both books and babies. After delivering either one, it’s nearly impossible to imagine going through it all again. By the time I’m on my last draft of a book, I’m looking forward to a break, letting my mind rest. I’m also usually exhausted and swearing I can’t go through this process again. But then, soon enough, there I am, opening a blank document. Same goes for babies. I am a classic example of this. My older son wasn’t even two before I starting yearning for another. And as for writing, I can’t stop. At this moment, my latest draft of the Second Verse sequel is out with my trusted beta readers for one last critique before turning it over to my editor. This was going to be my take-a-break-from-writing time. But guess what I did this weekend? Yep, 5k words on a new novel. I can’t help it, it’s what I love!

3.  It hurts. Childbirth and parenting – both are painful. Writing can be too. Critique hurts, rejection hurts, reading through and revising each and every draft can be cumbersome and painful. BUT! There is good news indeed; the pain, in both cases, is always, always worth every second.

4.  Work, work, work.  The amount of work required to get books or children into presentable shape is intense. Whether you’re a two draft writer or a ten draft writer, it takes lots of practice, skill and incredibly hard work to make a book a book. Same goes for kids, they don’t come out knowing how to function and behave. And figuring both out is often trial by fire – flying without a net.

5. And more work. Books and babies = Sleepless night and lots of coffee.

6.  Everyone's a critic. Ah yes, book critics are a necessary part of the publishing process, and sometimes if the right critic likes a book enough, it can help launch or revive an author's career. As for parenting critics, there are plenty of those too, though not nearly as useful!

7.  But not everyone is an expert.  There are way too many writing and publishing experts out there telling you how to do it better or do it “right.” While there is often value in such advice, too much can easily be overwhelming and stifling (and a lot of it is sometimes downright wrong). With both writing and parenting, you sometimes need to just trust your intuition.

8. You will never be the same again. For better and for worse, birthing a baby or birthing a book will leave you a changed person. Both are incredible accomplishments that take a lot out of you, and give a lot back as well. Life changers, through and through.

9.  Comparing yours to theirs is futile.  Some other author, some other parent always seems to be doing it better or with more ease. Comparisons are lethal and dangerous. Don't do it. Seriously. This is some of the best advice I was ever given in life and I try and stick to it. Keep your nose to the ground and work hard, learn as much as you can, hone your craft, find your path and soak in all the knowledge. But don’t compare your book to someone else’s, or your parenting path to another's. Some people get huge advances, some people get an agent on the first try, and others write five or 10 books before they break out, or self publish, or land an offer from a small press. Some kids walk and talk early and some don’t. It’s okay, just live your life.

10.  The fruit of your labor: pretty fabulous!  While the work is hard and relentless, it is beyond rewarding. For me, writing books is very much like raising my kids—it's what fills me up and puts life in my days, what make me whole.

11. Do your job well and poof, you're invisible. Making it look easy is the goal. If you do a good job with either parenting or writing, you end up with a smooth and seamless finished product – one that seems to have sprung into perfect form with  hardly any work on your part at all. Right.

You can follow Jennifer on Twitterconnect on Facebook, or Goodreads.  


Heather Button said...

I think there's probably something to be said about the inevitable vulnerability and exposure you feel when your book and human babies are out into the world, getting criticized and knowing there's little you can do about.

Jennifer Walkup said...

Heather - I think you're absolutely right. The vulnerability in both instances is very similar!

Lauri Meyers said...

Great post! Since we are on another SNOW DAY and I'm losing my mind, I might suggest adding: At some point you may want to lock them up in the closet under the stairs for a while. A little distance can give you a renewed love for your book and renewed energy to spend time together.

Jennifer Walkup said...

Lauri - That's a really great addition to the list! And I feel your pain - I hope these snow days are done for this year.:)