Not My Baby

You'll often hear authors compare their books to their babies. I've done it myself. Recently I gave a new writer a piece of editing advice that put that notion out of my head.

Think about the editorial process. Do we really want to compare that to parenting? When our kids are young we might cut their hair, but we don't rearrange their limbs or remove anything that can't grow back. We don't mark them up with red pen...although sometimes we have to scrub off whatever they've marked themselves up with. We love our children unconditionally (or should) but that's an unhealthy relationship to have with one's writing.

Writing a novel is like planting a garden. Maybe you start with a plan, or maybe you plant willy nilly. Either way, eventually you need to weed and prune.  You have to stand back and see if there are gaps that need to be filled, or areas that need thinning out. And, even the most beautiful flower might be in the wrong place. Maybe it can be moved, but maybe it just has to be set aside for another garden.

To be honest, I'm pretty laissez-faire about my actual garden. I try to keep the noxious weeds out but, by this time of year, things have pretty much gone wild. I save my ruthless culling (and some ruthless cunning) for my writing. Later, if my editor wants me to cut more, I'm better prepared. I don't take it as a personal attack (most of the time), because the manuscript isn't my baby. It's my work. And I want my work to be the best I can do.

Question: If writing a novel is like planting a garden, is a hanging planter the equivalent to a short story?


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