WHY BOOKS ARE LIKE BABIES …
I’ve often drawn a comparison to writing books as being like having a baby – you have no idea what it’s going to look like; whether you’ll end up going through the whole nine months and then under or over time at the end, or if the birthing process is going to be 52 minutes or 52 hours (my first born took that long to get here – he’s still a lover of slow and sleepy). The dramas you have as a parent after your baby arrives are also akin to a new book. The first time you give your book to someone special and then sit on your hands, hopes and dreams as you wait for some much yearned for feedback. “Oh it was delightful having your son visit our home – he played so nicely with the other children.” or “Yes your book was great – I sat up all night reading it!” Much the same thing … as any author who is also a parent will tell you.
And books are like babies in other ways. For a start, there is no one special formulated way to do any of the following:
Get pregnant, get through your pregnancy, what you’ll crave, how hard and fast your contractions will be, whether you’ll have a few false starts, if you’ll cross your legs at the end and say “I’m never having sex again” or “Bring it on – let’s create our own basketball team honey!”
From there, it’s a question of, what kind of kid will ours be? A creative, sports player, funny kid, serious, high achiever, or regular easy-going jokester … will he or she grow up to be a little wild, studious, a romantic, a spoiled brat, or the next Mother Theresa?
You just don’t know any of this when you first contemplate having kids, and even all the way along the process until well into adulthood, you really have no idea how they’ll grow or what the outcomes will be by the time they leave home as young adults. And every kid is different – even identical twins are unique in their own special ways.
So too are books. There is no single formula for how to write, develop, give birth to, or nurture the outcomes for any single book. But you can take some leaves out of any good ‘parenting’ guide.
How long it will be, what sort of book it’s going to be, the genres it will fit into, what you want to have happen when someone reads your book. You can decide if you want quotes or summaries at the end of each chapter, or images and diagrams, placed throughout. If you want your chapter headings to look one way, and your fonts and headings to be another way, then that’s up to you.
I have Tim Ferris’ Tools of Titans beside my bed, and regularly pick up this book and read a chapter or two before starting my day. I’m always struck by how different it is from start to finish. Some chapters are really short and have completely different content styles than others. Its a feast of a book: visually, literally, and mentally. I may well still have the same well-read, falling-to-bits version by my bed in another 30 years because every page is so incredibly unique. But at 700+pages, and for the style of book it is and the fact that Tim Ferris can probably get away with just about anything by now – this book works. Because having a standardised anything in this style of book simply would not ensure it was well-read and highly prized over any period of time by book nuts like me. And that’s who it’s targeted at. Info-junkie-book-nuts.
For all you wannabe authors out there who stress over what your book ‘should’ be like – relax. It’s just like having a baby. You have only so much control over how you nurture, develop, grow it, and give birth to it. But by all means, engage the help of a good medical team, devour the nutritional diet that is best for you, breathe slowly and steadily through your aches and pains, and look at other books to see how you would love yours to ultimately turn out. And work with a publishing coach just as you would a midwife to ensure your best outcomes are achieved and to have someone on hand to ask all those seemingly dumb questions.
BTW they’ve not dumb questions at all – just outside of your own knowledge base for now. By the time you’re ready with number three, you’ll be dishing out chocolate chip cookies an hour before dinner time too!