Last weekend, my college girlfriends threw me the most amazingly-detail-oriented baby shower imaginable. It was circus-themed, so they served caramel corn, candy-apples, veggies and fruit (including a watermelon carved into the shape of an elephant), and cupcakes in a freaking cupcake Ferris Wheel. They also created carnival games like ring toss (with teething rings and bottles), “diaper dunk,” and “bobbing for babies.” We won tickets at the games, and we could even cash in our tickets for fun prizes.
On a whim, I decided to create my own carnival game: Guess the Name of My Baby. My husband and I have had our name picked out since before we even knew if the baby was a girl or boy. Paul has started telling people because he finds it impossible to keep a secret for very long, so I decided if he was telling people, I should, too.
But, I have to admit, it was a little scary to reveal the name.
I know a lot of people keep the name a secret until after the baby is born, and for a variety of reasons: they don’t want other people to steal their name, or they haven’t quite decided on one, or – and this would have been my reasoning if we’d chosen to wait – they don’t want to jinx anything. They don’t want to speak out loud the name of a baby who isn’t quite a sure-thing yet.
Just as I was a little nervous about revealing the name of our soon-to-be-born baby (due February 4th), I often get apprehensive when people ask about my novel-in-progress. When I’m in the “first trimester” of a writing project, I rarely tell anyone anything other than perhaps the genre or the vaguest description because I know that the draft is in a fragile, early stage and may never actually go anywhere, or may become something totally different by the time I’m done.
Right now I’m in the third trimester of my pregnancy, and, I suppose, the third trimester of my writing project. At this point, my baby has all of her pieces and parts. All she’s doing now is fine-tuning her organs and senses, and putting on weight.
Similarly, I have finished a first draft of a middle-grade novel. It has all – or most – of it’s pieces and parts and now just needs some fine-tuning. I’ve gotten some great feedback from beta readers, and I’m waiting for a bit more feedback before I dive into a revision. My goal is to have a revised draft finished by the time baby comes. Maybe I’ll even write a query letter and send it out to agents before I go into labor. We’ll see.
So you’d think at this point I might be ready to tell people about my book. To reveal its name, so to speak. (Although, ironically, I have yet to come up with a good title…)
But still, it’s scary to talk about my novel out loud. To people. Especially people I know.
It’s not scary because I think someone will steal my idea. In most cases, even if someone “steals” your idea, they will use a totally different approach and write a totally different book than yours.
And it’s not scary because I haven’t decided important things about the book. That might have been true at the beginning, but now I have a pretty good idea of the shape of the story.
The fact is, it’s scary to talk about my draft because it’s not a sure thing yet. And I don’t want to be one of those people who blabs about the novel they’re writing and secretly everyone rolls their eyes because they know the novel will never actually happen.
But, here’s the thing I’ve realized lately. Talking out loud to other people about the book you’re writing makes it more real, and sometimes that’s a good thing. People might have questions or comments that point out holes in your plot or possible themes you didn’t notice. Talking about your book to other people might make you more motivated to finish it, or revise it, or seek representation for it. In a way, talking about your book can make you take it more seriously. This is not just some project you’re working on alone in your room, never to see the light of day, this is something that you are planning on bringing out into the world.
It was a little scary at my baby shower when someone guessed the name, and I said “yes, you’ve got it!” and handed her a roll of tickets. But in a way, it made this whole baby thing more real. My husband and I are to the point where we really have to get ready: buy a car seat and set up the nursery and pack an emergency hospital bag. Telling people our baby’s name is one way of saying, “hey, we’re serious about this. In a little over a month, we’re bringing a baby the world. And this is what we’re calling her.”
Sorry, I’m still not ready to talk about my novel, or reveal my baby’s name, to the Internet. One thing at a time…