It’s Not "Killing Your Children"… It’s Accepting That They’ll Work At McDonalds Forever (or become Lawyers)

I have put manuscripts, full-out novels, “under the bed.” There are multitudes of reasons why–but it mostly boils down to they just weren’t good enough.

Advice often quoted is that you must “kill your children” in order to be a better writer. This advice applies to a perfect turn of phrase that doesn’t seem to fit, it means cutting scenes that are spectacular but don’t-quite-work in the scheme of things, and maybe it means that the whole novel you’re working on has to be scrapped.

But, after a conversation with Shane, I’ve come to realize that putting a whole novel under the bed is not “killing your children.”

It’s accepting your children for who they are.

We all want our children to grow up to be doctors, lawyers, professional chefs, etc. (Okay, maybe not lawyers.) However, no matter how much we help them with their homework, show them how to groom themselves, or give them all kinds of experiences that we never had as a children, they grow up to be themselves.

We guide them, but sometimes they’re gonna live at home until they’re 34, or work at McDonald’s for the rest of their lives, or, heaven forbid, become lawyers (but the sleazy kind, ya know?). These are the novels that are under the bed. As a parent, you still love them, but you know, deep down in your gut, that they’re not gonna be a doctor. So, you let them do their thing. Accept that your expectations may have been too high for them. But don’t feel bad because they are what they are.

So, if you’ve got a book that you’re working on, and you love it, but it’s not working…Do Not Beat Yourself Up. You did the best you could. This kid just didn’t turn out. It’s got quirks that can’t be overcome. You can still love it. But don’t try to send it to med school.

You’ve got other kids.

Under the Bed Writing Thoughts

jenny maloney View All →

Jenny writes dark fiction that her mother hates. Her stories and essays have appeared in Across the Margin, Pantheon, Shimmer, Black Denim Lit, Skive, and others. When she’s not writing her own stuff, she’s reading mysteries for Criminal Element. When she’s not writing fiction or reviews, she’s writing/directing/performing/designing plays at Springs Ensemble Theatre.

4 Comments Leave a comment

  1. in the bible paul talks about how if someone won't change that you have to 'turn them loose to the devil or in other words just let them go and let fate take it's course, they might turn it around on their own, they might not. it's similar with your point in that sometimes abandoning a ms helps you not get dragged down so you can work on other things.

  2. Ah, but how 'different' does a child have to be before the parent recognizes that? Do you need to have someone close to you tell you that your child is ugly or lawyerly*?

    Conversely, are we harder on those close to us than we are with other people's children?

    **I do have to say that right now I'm loving the fact that I have a close friend with a lawyer husband.

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