I started writing fiction when my kids were junior high and high school, therefore I marvel at the moms who write books with small kids under foot—sometimes literally. And then there’s author Andrea Lochen — who was getting ready to launch her second novel, IMAGINARY THINGS, while waiting for her first baby (I know! I know! How productive can one woman be?).
Below, Andrea shares with us three important points to remember when you’re expecting a book baby–or honestly, this is good advice at any stage of the writing life.
I have to pay much closer attention to #2, celebrating the small moments. I don’t do it often enough.
What about you? Share your thoughts in the comments, and please welcome Andrea Lochen to WFW!
What to Expect When You’re Expecting (A Book Baby)
by Andrea Lochen
As I write this, I’m nine months pregnant and looking forward to two exciting arrivals in 2015: the birth of my first child and the “birth” of my second novel, Imaginary Things. Certainly I am not the first to make this analogy between the two life-changing, creative events; C.S. Lewis famously mused, “I was with book, as a woman is with child” and a wonderful blog called Book Pregnant was devoted to giving advice to aspiring and first-time authors (with posts divided conveniently into the three “trimesters” of the writing and publishing journey).
It’s a particularly apt metaphor for many reasons. I still remember vividly the feelings of love, pride, awe, and a tremendous sense of accomplishment that washed over me as I held the finished, bound version of The Repeat Year in my hands for the first time back in 2013. (“Did you just hug it?” my husband asked. “Maybe,” I replied, only a little bit sheepishly.) This amazing moment can be compared to cradling your newborn in your arms after 40 long weeks of pregnancy and several hours of grueling labor. I somehow made this, both a new author and a new parent thinks in a daze of euphoria. This now exists in the world because of me.
After experiencing the birthing process of my first “book baby,” I feel a lot calmer, saner, and wiser about going through it the second time around. Therefore, I’d like to share the few pearls I gleaned from my debut book’s release, in the hopes of encouraging other aspiring and newbie authors to stress out less and simply enjoy the ride.
1) Have realistic expectations—Just as I’ve had to de-program myself that my postpartum life is not going to look like a Huggies commercial (complete with perfect hair and makeup, a white couch, and a flawless and peacefully sleeping baby), it’s really important for first-time authors to rein in their expectations of how having a book published is going to change their life. Yes, the chances are probably slim that your book will land on the New York Times Bestseller List and you will be invited to appear The Today Show. Just like you probably won’t sell the movie rights and get to schmooze with Cameron Diaz on the red carpet at the premiere. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t dream big; it just means you should also keep in mind your more modest goals of what success means to you. Remember back when you were querying agents, desperate for someone to read your manuscript? Well, now you will have actual bona fide readers who are meeting your characters and entering the world that you created, and that is a huge triumph in itself!
2) Celebrate the small moments—As parents of young children are fond of saying, “The days are long, but the years are short.” With all the sleep-deprivation, cycle of frequent feedings and diaper changing, anyone with a newborn can easily fail to appreciate all the wonders of parenthood and instead focus on the drudgery. The same is true of a book launch. After the initial excitement of your first interview, your first reading, your first positive review, etc. it can be easy to take these little delights for granted until it’s too late. So make sure to remind yourself to bask in all the little, unexpected pleasures. Say thank you. Express gratitude. Take photos. Create a scrapbook. (If you worry you’re oversharing with family and friends, don’t feel like you have to post everything on social media. Just keep some of these more precious, special moments to yourself.)
3) Cut yourself some slack—Repeat after me: you can’t control everything. Just like a well-intentioned pregnant woman might have her ideal birth plan all worked out, when it comes right down to it, it’s really out of her hands. The baby will arrive when and how he or she wants to arrive, and the best-laid plans aren’t going to change that. There’s no such thing as the “perfect mother,” just like there’s no such thing as the “perfect writer.” Some debut authors put too much pressure on themselves, thinking that the more publicity and marketing efforts they do, the better their book sales will be. And while there’s some truth to this (obviously establishing an author platform and cultivating an enthusiastic group of friends, family, and fans is always a smart idea), it can also be a problematic way of thinking, because you can blame yourself if your book doesn’t sell as well as you hoped. So do your best, but at the end of the day, remember that this is an amazing accomplishment you have achieved, and just like being a parent, it’s more of a life-long journey that will continue to bring you new challenges (hey—how about that second or third book?), but also more rewards than you can fathom.
Andrea Lochen is the author of two novels, Imaginary Things and The Repeat Year. She earned her Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of Michigan. She teaches at the University of Wisconsin-Waukesha and lives in Madison with her husband. For more information, visit www.andrealochen.com.