When our eldest children began middle school, we decided to streamline our parenting approach by giving them only three rules. (I stole the idea from a book). Word lover that I am, if left to my own devices, I might have issued a multi-chapter tome of Do and Don’ts, with subparts, references and a multi-step process for requesting exceptions. The three-item strategy worked like a charm.
Since brevity and the list of 3 worked so well back then, I’ve used it many times since, not only as a parent but as a lawyer, negotiator, and writer. And so, I have three pieces of advice for you, O Debut Author. No long list of Dos and Don’ts, no subparts, no references--just the three things I think are most important for you to keep in mind:
1. Breathe it all in. You slogged for 2, 5, 10 years on your novel, and now you’ve made it: your book is (or is about to be) published! It’s a dream come true, isn’t it? Take time every day to honor that.
It’s easy to let the joy of a book deal get swallowed up by the slog of being a debut author. Suddenly, there are edits, first-pass pages, cover choices, blurbs to beg for, a launch to plan, blog posts and interviews to write, sales figures to worry over. Those things are important, and writing is a business, and blah blah blah. But it’s so much more than that, isn’t it? Try not to get so caught up in the slog that you completely bypass the joy of having your dream come true. Breathe in the joy. Every day.
I’m not talking about one-off, capital-C Celebrations like that bottle of bubbly you popped open or the fancy dinner you had with your family. Those things are easy. I’m talking about the more difficult, smaller-c moments: the daily period of quiet reflection where you sit still, and breathe, and remind yourself that all of the slog that comes with being a published author is in your life for this reason: you just had a dream come true.
2. Hashtag, be yourself. Even if you’ve mastered this one in real life, it can be a surprisingly tough thing to stick to online, where adding “published” to your profile gives you entrée into new groups and circles and lists. All of your new publishing insider “friends” are tweeting and posting and favoriting and sharing and bragging. If they’re all doing it, shouldn’t you?
If that’s not you offline, don’t try to make it you online. #itwillonlymakeyoumiserable
3. Get back to work. You’re reading this because you wrote a book, and got a book deal. There’s only one way to make that happen again.
Julie Lawson Timmer grew up in Stratford, Ontario, Canada. She lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan with her husband, their four teenage children and two rescued dogs. By turns, she is a writer, lawyer, mom/stepmom, and dreadful cook. FIVE DAYS LEFT (Putnam 2014) is her first novel. Her second book, UNTETHERED, will be published by Putnam in 2016.
FIVE DAYS LEFT (Putnam September 2014): Mara Nichols is a successful lawyer, devoted wife and adoptive mother who has received a life-shattering diagnosis -- Huntington's disease. Scott Coffman, a middle school teacher, has been fostering an eight-year-old boy while the boy's mother serves a jail sentence. Scott and Mara both have five days left until they must say good-bye to the ones they love the most. FIVE DAYS LEFT explores the individual limits of human endurance and the power of relationships, and shows us that sometimes loving someone means holding on, and sometimes it means letting go.
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