You know the answer to that question is yes.
No, I’m not advocating actual infanticide, just literal infanticide. I only have one child while she’s not perfect, her imperfections are shared by myself, so are unimportant.
But tomorrow my first novel will be published. As such I’m like a proud parent on the night before an oldest child’s wedding: my work done, happy to see the child go off into the world. I still see a few defects, but I can only hope that the new spouse (readers) don’t spot them, or see them as charming idiosyncrasies.
Yet I can’t relax, can’t put up my feet and enjoy the moment as if I’d nothing else left to do. I don’t. I do. I have ten more little bastards at home screaming for attention.
Viewing books as children is a double-edged sword: while you can take all the credit when they are good and do well, you can’t blame the other side of the family when they turn out terrible. And some of them do. Some of them should indeed have been destroyed at birth, before they got onto a page, before they sucked the time and energy out of your life.
Now that the eldest has flown the coop, after twenty years, the rest are clamouring to get out, or at least grow up. And like children, some of them are great and some of them are just impatient. I have one that I’ve been ignoring for way too long, but it just sits there, picking its nose in the corner, waiting. Poor thing doesn’t realise it’ll probably get no attention until I’ve ceased to have any other ideas.
There are stories I can trust to be ok. They know I’m getting back to them, soon enough, and when I do, they’ll be just as good as they were when I left them. The next word will be just right there. There are a few that are grown up already and are just waiting to have somewhere to go. And of these, there are one or two that never have to leave, because Daddy loves them and if nobody else wants them, well that’s just fine. Fuck them. I wouldn’t change a thing about them. Well only minor things. A word here and there. Ok, if it’s really necessary….
But can I really spend time putting up hair, ironing dresses and shining buttons for one child when there’s one right beside her with vomit all the way down his front and no pants on? Because I have one like that. I can’t take my eyes off the fucker or he’ll just be a complete fucking mess. I’ve been spending way too much time on him, neglecting much worthier children, but if I don’t stay focused, I may as well hand him a razor blade and tell him to go play.
Oh, he was great when he was small. But then I had to go and let the bastard grow up, expand a short story into a novella. Why? Don’t ask me. Of course, it probably wasn’t that great back then, either, but it wasn’t the clusterfuck it looks like now. With this guy there’s no pride, no willingness to keep him at home, in my heart. I want that fucker out the door. Now. I am going to dress him up in shiny clothes and send him out and hope to hell he slips in under the radar and someone takes him without looking too closely, without spotting the defects. And if he ever tries to come back to me I’ll take on a pseudonym and hide. If nobody is fooled, well, it’s the basement and a life of darkness for that kid. A novella? No, never written one…
And when he is gone, either away or into a drawer, I’ll breath a sigh of relief and smile, and turn back to my other children and actually, you know, enjoy this writing lark.
By the way, for the next week or so, I’ll be reposting blog interviews I’m doing on other blogs out there, talking about Leaving the Pack, apart from my own blog post about My Writing Process (still two places left if anyone is interested).