The “graphic” novel

Open disclaimer: This is about to get graphic…

Okay, disclaimer aside, I came to a realization while driving to work this morning — writing fiction, or more appropriately attempting to publish fiction, is a lot like giving birth. I’m not talking about the beauty of creating life and all that other sentimental shit. I’m talking about the physical process of regular visits to the gynecologist and then the actual act of birthing a child.  (Oh, now you see why it’s graphic) Just hear me out.

So as a young woman grows into her body, she gets the all too unpleasant experience of regular visits to the OBGYN. It’s kind of like dating. You get comfortable with your doctor slipping a cold metal apparatus up inside you, poking and prodding with a finger or two. You learn to live with the discomfort of a Pap smear. You and your OBGYN create a silent truce not to talk about the workings of your lady parts beyond the exam room. Thank you HIPAA. I equate this very close to trusting your diary, or computer, or any other vessel you trust with your novel. You trust that both your vagina and your story are discreetly locked away.

One day it happens — Dammit! (or Fantastic!) You’re pregnant. You see your OBGYN more frequently. You’ve got that story in you. It’s growing. Whether you’re ready or not, your journey is about to begin. There’s still little exposure of your lady parts, but it’s coming. Just as with your novel, you are writing and researching. You’re preparing yourself for the great reveal.

Your third trimester is coming to an end. I’d talk about the exhilaration of sonograms and feeling the baby rolling around inside you, but that’s not my point here. I’m talking about physical exposure and nakedness. Your OBGYN will check for dilation and effacement. Now those fingers are reaching way up inside your more frequently than you’re comfortable with. You’re getting updates on your progression and how close you are to actually giving birth. For your novel, you need betas, test readers. And with each beta reader, you’re getting feedback. Hopefully, it’s all good constructive criticism. Hopefully, you’re getting accustomed to the touch, accustomed to sharing bits and pieces of your writing. You should be psyching yourself up to share your vagina and your novel with the world. Because as terrifying as it seems, that’s exactly what’s coming.

Now you’re in the delivery room, but your OBGYN is nowhere to be found. In fact, he’s on vacation this week, soaking in the tropical sunshine. The truce is broken. You’re open to the elements, and you’re pushing. Your story is out there with beta readers, with friends who want to be part of your privileged test group. You have queries out, prospective agents and publishers reading your creation. They’re all up inside you. Nurses, medical students, and interns are all getting a gander at your vagina to see if you’re crowning. Multiple hands have made their way between your legs. Discretion got chucked out the door long ago.

Here’s the deal. Like pregnancy and childbirth, writing a novel is a process of creation. The down and dirty of it all is people want to read your work. They want to get up in your story and see what is about to be born. Expect to feel exposed. Expect to feel vulnerable. Because you are just that. In the end, you will hold your creation in your arms. You won’t give two shits how many people have seen your vagina. Hell, tape it for health class. The goal is to have your book published, right? So take in a deep breath, spread those legs, and flash your vagina with pride. Your baby is about to be born.