Your Book is Not Your Baby

Sophie Playle

I hate it when authors call their book their baby.

I understand why some authors say this. I get that your book came from you, that you’ve nurtured and loved it. But still. The metaphor makes me cringe. More than that, I think it can be a somewhat damaging way to think about your book …

  • If you love your book too much, you’ll find it impossible to redraft – because redrafting sometimes requires you to brutally hack up and rebuild your manuscript. (Hmm, I suppose your book could be like a Frankenstein baby …)
  • If you hand your book over to a professional editor like me, you’ll think the treatment it receives is death by a thousand cuts. Again, being too precious about your book will make it difficult to accept that all the little changes an editor makes are to enhance (not deform) your manuscript.
  • You are not the Holy Virgin Mary; babies aren’t created by one person alone. Nor are novels, for that matter, but there’s probably way more than one father. (I’m not calling you names or anything.) But it’s useful to remember that your novel is not exclusively an extension of you. Conversations you’ve had with people, feedback you’ve received, stories or events that have influenced you … All of these things have gone into your novel, and it would be a disservice to everyone and everything involved to deny that.
  • A good piece of common advice is that once you’ve completed your first draft, stick it in a drawer and forget about it for a month or two. Please don’t do this to a baby.
  • Likewise, sometimes the book you’ve written is not the book that’s ready to be released into the world. It’s okay to keep a manuscript in a drawer forever. Not so much a human child.

That you’ve written a book is an amazing achievement. You should be immensely proud of your creation. And there’s a kind of magic to the creativity involved, just as there is in the creation of a human being. But please, don’t call your book your baby. Because, quite frankly, it does not deserve the same kind of unconditional love.

Now, go get your axe.

Sophie Playleis a professional fiction editor. She specialises in developmental editing, critiquing and copy-editing, and loves working with authors and publishers who are passionate about high-quality storytelling. Speculative fiction, fantasy, science fiction and literary fiction are her genres of choice. She's an Advanced Professional Member of the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading and has a Creative Writing MA from Royal Holloway, University of London. Find out more:

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