The four things I wish I could tell debut me – Amber Brock

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By Amber Brock

Almost everyone has wished for a time machine for one reason or another. Sure, we tell ourselves that we’d use it to do something truly noble to change the course of history but, if we’re being honest, more than a few of us would like to go back to warn our past selves about a few things. Though my experience as a debut author two years ago with the publication of A Fine Imitation was the culmination of a lifelong dream, there are a couple of things I could have done to make the debut year a little easier on my starry-eyed self. If I could go back to 2016, I’d tell her:♥

1.Don’t read reviews — they’re not for you.

Yes, it’s amazing to read a glowing review, but seeking them out will only lead to stumbling across reviews from people who didn’t so much care for your labor of love. That hurts. Keep in mind that reviews are for readers as they search for books that appeal to their personal taste. If you want feedback, lean on a critique partner or editor. You can’t write the perfect book for every reader, so it’s best to stay away.

2. Say yes to opportunities.

There will be a lot of opportunities to meet readers and other writers in your debut year. As much as possible, you should say yes. Since I have a full-time job, it can be tough to get all dolled up on the evening or weekend, but I inevitably have a blast attending book clubs, festivals, and events. If your schedule allows, accept those invites! The connections and friendships I’ve built have been invaluable in my writing life and beyond.

3. Every time you sit down to write a novel, you learn how to write a novel.

I wish I knew who to credit with this nugget of wisdom, because it was my salvation while I was writing my second published novel. Even though Lady Be Good was my sixth completed novel, the entire writing and editing process still felt like I was learning to ride a bike — so wobbly and so many skinned knees. What I didn’t realize for the longest time is that each novel comes with its own demands and challenges. Though I drew on my past experiences, and I relied on strategies I’d built over the years, I ultimately worked every bit as hard on Lady Be Good as I did on my earliest efforts.

4. Be kind to yourself.

If I had to strike three pieces of advice from this list, I’d keep this one. It’s the most important for any author at any stage of her career. I wrote Lady Be Good in a year where I was juggling promotion of A Fine Imitation, a demanding workload in my day job, and some personal hardship. I’m proud of what I accomplished, but I wish I’d been gentler with myself in my moments of failure (and there were many). Ultimately, if someone is working hard to achieve her dreams, she’s already a success.

Amber Brock teaches British literature at an all-girls’ school in Atlanta. She holds an MA from the University of Georgia and lives in Smyrna with her husband, also an English teacher, and their three rescue dogs.

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