Author Nightmares–Product Trumps Promotion

Welcome to WANA Wednesday, the day I dedicate to teaching you guys how to rock it hard when it comes to social media and is based off my best-selling book We Are Not Alone—The Writer’s Guide to Social Media. My methods not only help you build a platform that can grow with your career, but they also leave time to write more books.

Speaking of writing more books, today I want to make something clear. I have always stated that I am a writer first, social media expert second. Why is that? Because the product is the most important. No social media platform can help us if our product is crap.

This past weekend I taught at the DFW Writers Workshop Conference, and I happened to sit in on a class with Colleen Lindsay who works in the business development department for Penguin Group (USA). She said something that really caught my attention, and, I must admit, she convicted me.

Blogging is probably THE best way to build a platform, but we must always be vigilant that it does not take over our main job…writing books. Blogging is instant gratification, whereas a novel or even a NF book might not give us warm fuzzies for months or even years. It is very easy to get so focused on the blogging, that the real writing never happens.

I love to watch Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares, and have used his show as a parallel for the world of writing in numerous blogs. Every episode begins the same. A new restaurateur sits eagerly awaiting the great Chef Ramsay. Keep in mind that this restaurateur is only on the show in the first place because he sits on the verge of losing everything—business, house, car, kidneys, etc.

Most restaurant owners who participate have waited until the situation is so dire that Vinnie the Crowbar is only kept at bay because of the presence of Gordon’s camera crew. Gordon is there to sample the food, take a look around. Once he has enough information. Gordon then offers his professional opinion and a plan to turn things around (if that is even possible).

I’ve watched at least eight seasons of shows and almost every time, the problem is simple. The food sucks. No matter how pretty the décor or how clever the promotionals, all that matters in the end is good food. Not rocket science. Yet, time after time, Chef Ramsay discovers the chefs are serving frozen, old and even rotten food.

The owners have no idea why the dining room is empty, no clue that it might have to do with the spoiled crab and rancid chicken they are serving the customers. In 50 or so episodes I cannot recall a single episode where the restaurant was serving quality food. The problem always came back to the core…the food.

Good news spreads fast, but bad news spreads faster. Same with our books. This past weekend, one of my favorite quotes was from PR expert Rusty Shelton. He said, “Social media helps bad books fail faster.” One of the biggest reasons I blog about writing on Monday, is that the single best thing we can do for our image and to sell books is to write great stuff. That simple. No magic formula.

The best thing we can all do for our social media platform is to focus on the product—our writing—FIRST. Everything else is a supporting goal.

But back to blogging. Blogging is a two-edged sword. To a degree we need a little instant gratification. It keeps us encouraged and makes us work harder. It could be years before we get any sense of fulfillment from our novel. It is hard to stay on track without a little boost, and blogging is definitely good for that. We get rewarded almost instantly for good behavior, and blogging offers the validation and the encouragement we need.

Be careful.

Blogging can be masking our fear. I love to blog. You guys are the highlight of my day and you have no idea how your comments uplift my spirit. Yet, I have to make a deliberate effort to get back to the writing you guys can’t see (yet). Since I don’t get that instant validation on the other work, it is easy to become fearful of failure and use blogging as busy-work. I can be “productive” without being productive.

In Kitchen Nightmares it is very common for Gordon Ramsay to inspect the walk-in refrigerators and find something out of a horror movie—buckets of decaying meat and crates of vegetables that have rotted to ooze. In some cases, I find it amazing these establishments haven’t killed their customers.

Yet, despite the hot zone in the fridge, the owner is ordering more and more and more food. Crates of fresh food are perched on top of the putrid slime that once was chicken. Why? Because the owner is so afraid and so overwhelmed that all he knows to do is order more food. He is throwing away thousands of dollars to “feel” productive, and is too overwhelmed and terrified to get to the heart of the problem.

Blogging, if we aren’t careful, can be our way of throwing fresh food on top of rotten product. Writing is scary. Admitting we don’t know everything or even facing that we might not be as talented as our family thinks we are can be terrifying. But in the end, if we want to succeed at this writing thing, then the tough work must be done. We have to get rid of the rotten—the bad habits, the info dump, the POV problems—and that will take hard work.

Sometimes it will even require professional help. Ramsay has had restaurants with kitchens and refrigerators so filthy that he had to call in professional cleaning crews to handle the bio-hazards correctly. The owner was so overwhelmed that he simply could not dig himself out.

Our first novel might be that bad. Hey, we’re learning! I know my first novel (years ago) required professionals to properly dispose of the remains. My book just couldn’t be saved, and there I was, putting a halt to my writing future by holding on to something rotten.

I would love everyone to blog. I love blogs. But I want to make it clear that it is easier to be a great blogger if our bad novel isn’t clawing at the inside of our computer screen trying to escape and bite others.

Blogging can be a short-term high that can sabotage long-term success. There are few things that will make you feel better about your career than watching your following grow on your blog. But the point of all of this social media stuff is to eventually sell our books. Otherwise we are working for free and then we are right back where we started. We are hobbyists and not true professionals.

In the end, this is a tough job. There are many, many reasons this career is not for everyone. We are much like the restaurant owner. We must focus on content that is fresh, new, inviting and tasty. But, until we are an established name, good food will only take us so far. We need to market as well. It will take years of producing a great product (books) balanced with great marketing to give us a reputation that needs no introduction.

What do you guys think? Do you find your blogging distracting or does it help you focus? What are some things you struggle with? Tips? Suggestions? I love to hear from you. Here is a quick clip of Gordon at work. If you have a weak stomach, don’t watch. But think of this video every time you try to put off those edits ;). Details on how to win a free critique from moi below.

I love hearing from you guys, and to prove it and show my love, for the month of March, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention WANA in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

I will pick a winner every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end on March I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck!

Mash-Up of Awesomeness will resume next Wednesday.

Happy writing!

Until next time…

In the meantime, if you don’t already own a copy, my best-selling book We Are Not Alone–The Writers Guide to Social Media is recommended by literary agents and endorsed by NY Times best-selling authors. My method is free, fast, simple and leaves time to write more books.

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  1. #1 by Bob Mayer on March 2, 2011 - 3:32 pm

    Blogging is a lot of work. I have no idea how you manage to post as much as you do. At Write It Forward we go for at least twice a week and Jen Talty has done the last two posts. One thing a person can do to make a blog useful is actually write a book on it– not a novel, but a nonfiction book. That way you are accomplishing two things.
    Just this morning we’re preparing a new blog, separate from Write It Forward, totally dedicated to promoting my new trilogy of ebooks getting published on 12 April: Duty, Honor, Country. Since the novels are about West Point and the Civil War, the blog will be focused on interesting information and discussion about those topics as we’re just 40 days away from the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.
    I think a blog must inform and entertain and I’ve found just mentioning the Civil War can get people’s blood flowing. So I expect a lot of interesting dialogue there in the coming weeks.

    • #2 by Author Kristen Lamb on March 2, 2011 - 3:42 pm

      The only way I blog as much as I do is that I harvest it for my NF social media books. The blogs get the thoughts, ideas, and explanations on the page. Then I can more easily organize the NF book on social media. Also, for me, writing short and condensed work takes a lot of time. My blogs tend to be on the long side because I am writing quickly. Every person is different. That is why I recommend taking days that are dedicated to writing only blogs and getting them loaded ahead of time. Most of the time, I have at least a week’s worth of blogs loaded. When I take breaks on other stuff, I go flesh them out.

      I think a blog about the Civil War will be awesome. Look forward to reading it.

      • #3 by Patrick Thunstrom on March 2, 2011 - 4:33 pm

        I think there’s a hidden lesson in this statement, Kristen. I’ve put my game design blog on hold for a number of reasons, number one being that my schooling is more important than the modicum of success that blog can output eventually. Beyond that, I hadn’t played one of the games I was trying to design in months. Without being exposed to my topic, I was feeling rusty, and the time I was putting into my blog, could get me into getting back into the hobby of games, which in turn would make my designs better.

  2. #4 by Christine Ashworth on March 2, 2011 - 3:42 pm

    Oh my. Great post. Okay, I’m back-burnering the blog and going for the writing today…thanks!

  3. #5 by Patricia on March 2, 2011 - 3:44 pm

    I found my personal solution to the problem. I write my novels as a blog (in German). My publisher knows and likes the idea. This way I get my instant gratification. Also, readers motivate me to keep going. They get impatient when the next chapter isn’t coming. They tell me when they don’t understand something, think something boring or I’ve left out important information. They give me ideas. They correct spelling mistakes. And, in the end, they buy the book in print anyway and write nice things about it on their own blogs because they have come to love the story.
    When the book is in print, I delete the last two thirds and leave the first chapters as an appetizer.
    For me, it works.

    • #6 by Author Kristen Lamb on March 2, 2011 - 3:49 pm

      There are numerous problems with that, though. If it works for you, fantastic, but I always recommend against posting our fiction for numerous reasons. I explain it in this post.. Thanks for taking the time to comment and I am happy you have found a way that works for you.

  4. #7 by Bridgette Booth on March 2, 2011 - 3:54 pm

    Ah, Kristen, your posts are so encouraging! Like so many others, my daily writing time is limited, so I’ve had to push down my enthusiasm for blogging (and other social media pursuits) and accept that I’ll move at snail’s pace on my social media goals. However, each teeny tiny step *is* progress. You’ve reaffirmed my own decisions and silenced the Guilt Goons, at least for a today. Thank you. :)

  5. #8 by Christine Glover on March 2, 2011 - 4:05 pm

    I love my blogging world, but it is very time consuming. I’ve had to cut back on a lot of my blog activities while still maintaining a blog presence because I must focus on my writing first. There are only so many hours in the day and I have other obligations. I recently cut my blog posts from 3 a week to 2. This has helped. I’m a guest blogger on two group blogs. I’ve done “retro” blogs for one of them. And have developed a theme for the other one which helps generate ideas. I have noticed that some people are very focused on getting a following. I haven’t actively tried to get followers. I feel like that is a waste of my time. I have a decent following of about 80 people. That’s up from 24 since September 2010. But I never tried to get them. I just wrote my blogs and used the other social media to promote them. I want to be ready for the day I get the “call” but the only way I will receive the call is if I write a great book that sells.

    Back to my revisions I go–thanks for the great post!!

    • #9 by Author Kristen Lamb on March 2, 2011 - 4:10 pm

      I do not recommend cutting back on blogging days. What I might suggest is that one blog is very short. A mash-up for example. Just on Fridays make a list of the top 5 blogs you read for the week. Then you get the benefit of blogging 3X a week without it getting too overwhelming. I would try something like that first before cutting back days. Thanks christine. You are such a great supporter. Good luck!

      • #10 by Christine Glover on March 3, 2011 - 12:31 am

        That’s a great idea. I might try that to keep my presence up in the cyberworld.

        You rock!!
        :-)

  6. #11 by Anne-Mhairi Simpson on March 2, 2011 - 4:14 pm

    I find that I can only get anything done on my novel if I do the writing first. So I do my two chapters or whatever (today hasn’t exactly gone to plan, but I still wrote about 1500 words on other stories) and then I go online and do my blog post. Then, because I’ve been a good girl and already done the day’s writing, I am free to wander around Twitter, RT my stuff and others’ and generally relax, knowing that the day’s work is done.

    The blogging has to come secondary to the writing. As you say, the writing is meant to be the Primary Goal. Without it there is no point in blogging.

    And that video from Gordon Ramsay freaked me out. I’m so glad I don’t have any seafood in my fridge right now :D

  7. #12 by dtrasler on March 2, 2011 - 4:25 pm

    Blogging as a displacement activity? Who’d have guessed? I felt triumph this week, actually going in and writing some pages of a sidelined project, instead of gazing raptly at my blog stats, but I already have a back catalogue of published material that I want to keep selling. Building the blog following should be helping me push my past material, as well as paving the way for sales of future plays, right? Not to mention the excellent Script Appraisal Service I offer. Sorry, using your comment to advertise. I’ll advertise your services instead : I signed up for the Write it Forward workshop this month and I’m REALLY EXCITED about it!

  8. #13 by cegrundler on March 2, 2011 - 4:28 pm

    I write several times a week for my own personal blog and for Write On The Water, which is a blog of boaters/writers. I’d been guest-blogging there for a few months, but as of next week I’ll be doing weekly posts. I view both blogs as a writing ‘workout’ that keeps the blood flowing and my writing healthy, as they take me outside the fictional world of murder and mayhem. To me they are a way to attract readers by discussing facts that may creep into my fictional world, such as sailing experiences, unusual locations I’ve visited, and odd nautical trivia. Topics might be my dogs or my ongoing boat restoration (which draws in a good deal of traffic). Other times, such as yesterday, I simply posted a vintage advertisement I found for from 1944 for Mobil Oil for PT Boats. The menu might be a bit eclectic but it all compliments the flavor of my novel and gives readers a taste of my writing.

  9. #14 by Nancy Sima on March 2, 2011 - 4:36 pm

    Have you been hanging around my house Kristen? I recently started blogging a month ago and it has indeed taken over my writing time. I wrote my first novel draft last November (nanowrimo) and have now been moving at a glacier’s pace through the revisions. The instant gratification or so I think of blogging has definitely intruded. Like Anne I am trying to blog only after I’ve gotten some writing time in for the day. I really do enjoy both because they are so different but I have to admit those stats are such a curiousity to me…wondering about them though is getting in my way and I know it.

  10. #15 by Anne R. Allen on March 2, 2011 - 5:05 pm

    So true on all points. Blogging is always trying to chip away at my writing time. I have to fight hard. I tell my readers–don’t start a blog until you’ve got at least one book ready to query. It’s like opening a store before you have any inventory.

    • #16 by G.H. Edwards on March 4, 2011 - 12:26 pm

      I think Annie has hit on the mistake I have made. I am working on my first novel and after several other authors in my writers group started blogging, I started one last November. My thinking was that I would use it for the research related to my novel, but it has been more distraction than help at this point. I want the quality of the writing on the blog to be very good, so I was spending an inordinate amount of time on each post. I work at a very demanding technical editing job and have only 1.5 hours in the morning before work each weekday and a couple of hours on weekend days to write. That’s 10-12 hours a week so I can’t really afford to sacrifice any of them for tasks other than the novel. Since my story is so complex and I am using two POVs, the craft is taxing me, so my of writing time is actually learning time. I was fired up after starting to read Kristen’s blog in December and wanted to incorporate ALL of her suggestions. It became a huge time and emotion suck. But now I don’t know what to do with it. I don’t have many regular readers, so I could just take it down but that would feel so much like failture. I get the impression though that leaving it up and moving slowly with it might make me look worse rather than better as a writer, so I’m stuck.

      • #17 by Author Kristen Lamb on March 4, 2011 - 1:18 pm

        This week I am going to write a blog about how to post without ending up in a time suck. I hope it helps :D.

  11. #18 by cegrundler on March 2, 2011 - 5:22 pm

    I posted, then realized I’d digressed terribly! In ‘exercise’ I meant that I use it as a warm-up before the day’s actual writing, and then an end of day exercise for editing. The short posts like the vintage ads and postcards make quick content that gets good feedback, and I can offer new and interesting posts without it taking over my schedule.

    • #19 by Author Kristen Lamb on March 2, 2011 - 5:26 pm

      I like that idea and do kind of the same. The blogging primes the pump and gets me warmed up ;).

  12. #20 by Anna DeStefano on March 2, 2011 - 5:48 pm

    Blogging daily is my creative journaling time. I enjoy all the categories I write into: How We Write Wednesdays, Publishing Isn’t For Sissies, I Hear the Craziest Things, The Psychic Realm, Dream Theoiries, Things My Teenager Says, etc..

    All these things come organically from my creativity, which is fed by my writing, which always comes first. Blogging and all forms or social media promotion are essential to the working writer, and your advice is a great resource for those already working hard at their craft.

    But as you allude to in your post, the craft and the business and the working hard at your publishing/writing has to be the source. I’ve seen very few people successfully promote and blog and social media themselves into a platform and a career that didn’t first begin with an excellent product.

    We have to be careful about giving inexperienced writers the impression that anything else is the case.

    • #21 by Author Kristen Lamb on March 2, 2011 - 6:05 pm

      Well, yes and no. If you are an aspiring NF author, you have to build your platform and be seen as an expert first. No one cares about our opinion or our book. How can we make people care about our book? By blogging and growing a following of people who want to hear what we have to say. Yes, we need to get magazine articles and speaking engagements, but those aren’t just going to be handed our way. A blog following is a great way to be taken seriously in NF.

      In fiction, I have tried to always emphasize that the writing comes first. But we cannot write on our book all hours of the day, and blogging or doing social media is the other part of the 21st century author’s job description. A new restaurant doesn’t have to take out ads or promote. Good food could be enough to keep the dining room full. But, it is probably wiser to have a marketing plan to go with that great ravioli :D. Thanks for the awesome comment.

      • #22 by Anna DeStefano on March 2, 2011 - 11:11 pm

        Kristen, you actually have to be an expert at something before you tell the world you are, or people who ARE experts will know the difference instantly. A blogger doesn’t get anywhere posing and winging it and making up experteise as he or she goes along to fill in the gaps. It’s key to be authentic, in both fiction and non-fiction self-promotion, otherwise no one who can help you get where you need to be will take you seriously.

        Early gains pretending to be an expert will eventually catch up to someone over time. If nothing else, the pretender will know that he or she are not who they portray themselves to be. And that will come out in a person’s blogging, in that very important writing, no matter what century the person is blogging in.

        • #23 by Author Kristen Lamb on March 3, 2011 - 1:26 am

          I completely agree. Being called an expert is something we earn. When I started blogging almost two years ago, I started with what I knew, which was editing, namely line edit. I did a lot of blogs on grammar, punctuation, POV, etc. I had several years as a copy editor and a technical writer so that’s where I started. As I grew in my skill by reading, attending classes, and editing more and more novels, I eventually blogged on deeper issues in craft, but was always careful to cite experts who could expound. I used many of my fiction blogs to fill classes for great writing teachers like Bob Mayer and James Scott Bell…and I still do. I promote other great writing teachers’ craft books every chance I get.

          I had a hard time being called a social media expert, and some days still do. But we blog and teach what we know and hope people like it. I worked hard for two years helping other writers, writing groups, and non-profit organizations build their social networks (often for free) before I felt even confident enough to blog on social media.

          I never recommend for anyone to pretend to be something they are not. First, it it far too stresssful. We as writers already struggle with feeling like frauds as it is. But, blogging is a way to gain expert status without going to Harvard. We can take a grain of what we know or our passion and then work like crazy to build that into something meaningful.

          A mother of an autistic child can blog about her experience and, over time, as her following grows, so will her status as an expert. Someone who loses a hundred pounds and blogs about the journey has an authenticity we trust.

          I had a follower who was an avid runner. She wanted to write about running. I recommended she blog about it–her tips, advice, experience. Several months later she was offered a column in a running magazine because her blog was popular and the editor liked her writing voice. Without that popular blog, it would have been far harder to distinguish herself from every other runner with a laptop and an idea for an article.

          In NF, unless we have special letters after our name like M.D. or PhD, we don’t get an instant ticket to expert. No one will care about our book until we earn that status. Blogging is a great way to develop our voice and style and build our platform where a publisher will care about our book…because we can tangibly demonstrate people care about our blogs. So in my opinion, the NF process is still reversed.

          But thanks for bringing this up :).

  13. #24 by Amy D Shojai, CABC on March 2, 2011 - 5:57 pm

    I’ve always hated “journaling” and never saw the advantage. But now that I’m blogging ALMOST every day, it’s becoming both therapeutic and economically advantageous (boy does THAT sound pretentious!). Heck, I write dog and cat nonfiction, so I blog about behavior, training, health, furry foibles–and I harvest content from my newspaper columns (print) so it’s actually serving double duty. I also tease with the blog to drive visitors to online content at cats.About.com or AOL’s PawNation–and of course, for the whole story, the books.

    Hopefully once I get my fiction done, there also will be a built-in audience willing to give it a chance.

  14. #25 by Tamara LeBlanc on March 2, 2011 - 5:57 pm

    kristen,
    i’ve never watched Kitchen Nightmares, but my daughter and I keep meaning to. Granted, we look forward to seeing Ramsey yell and throw sharp utensils across the kitchen, but after reading your post, I realize there is so much more to be learned from the show than how to crinkle my forehead in disgust while holding a rancid lobster.
    I don’t have a personal blog. I know I should. I read WANA and refer to it like a Bible, but blogging is not my cup of tea. I’m afraid I’d do more harm than good. I have, however, embraced Facebook, and Twitter. And I’ve utilized your teachings there.
    But, not blogging, doesn’t mean I don’t sometimes throw fresh food on top of spoiled. I’m guilty of visiting many, many blogs, reading the posts and then commenting.
    This, of course, is very good for the blogger, but a time killer for me.
    What I’ve done to rectify this is I try only to visit the blogs that teach me something (yours, Bob Mayer’s, and a few others) So normally I’m not distracted by the visits. On the contrary, I’m often more driven to write after I link on.
    So, in a way, blogs are very helpful to me.
    Thanks so much for the clip! I’ll have to share it with my 14 year old. She’ll get a kick out of it.
    And also, thanks for the post!
    Have a lovely, productive day!!
    Tamara

    • #26 by Author Kristen Lamb on March 2, 2011 - 6:07 pm

      Blogging only works if we can do it well. If we know we don’t have the time, focus, energy? I would rather you didn’t blog than toss up a crappy half-a$$ attempt :D. It isn’t for everyone. But if we DO blog, the focus must always be the book.

  15. #27 by Marilag Lubag on March 2, 2011 - 6:06 pm

    I’ve watched the video and I could smell the stink from here! Phew. I could eat at a C class restaurant but I don’t think I’ll ever eat there. The food doesn’t look good. I mean rancid lobsters and snails?

    Blogging somehow leads to a lot of life lessons. Sometimes, the life lessons are just a realization. Other times, these life lessons are a painful kick in the rear. I might have to scale back on my blogging from 3 to 2. I don’t think I could sustain my writing if I blog 3 times a week. Instead of doing the mishmash, I plan on reblogging other bloggers’ works with a little bit of introduction about them on one of those days when I’m supposed to write. I mean, I usually write about them at the end of my Friday articles anyway so why not give authors their own days in the spotlight?

  16. #28 by Lisa Ullrich on March 2, 2011 - 6:49 pm

    I didn’t watch the video cause I’m eating lunch! :)

    I’ve been blogging (and keeping on schedule) for 3 months now. Some days are easier than others. Actually, since I work full-time, it’s much easier to blog on the weekends. I haven’t gotten organized enough yet to have written blog posts in advance. Sometimes lack of time gets the better of me. I blog 3 times a week and I don’t think I could do more than that. I’m going to have to start planning cause I’ll be signing up for school and that will also eat up my time. I guess it all comes down to good time management and setting priorities. Anything can be a distraction if you allow it to be.

  17. #29 by Sanna on March 2, 2011 - 6:52 pm

    Now this is kinda spooky, Kristen. ;)

    Just on Monday I blogged about how I think, that I really need to focus on the writing again.
    That I took too big a task in trying to do everything -now- and -at once- and that my blog will be on hold for a while.

    So, I just can agree with what you wrote 100%.
    And now I go back to writing. ;)

  18. #30 by sharla on March 2, 2011 - 6:57 pm

    Hey chica!!! Okay, I’ve taken your advice….again…. LOL. I started today with a 3x a week theme. Today starts a Women Who Write Wednesday. Mondays will be about writing and Fridays will be something on topic. Sometimes on Saturdays I’ll do a personal rambling just for fun.

    And you’re right…blogging does give us that quick fix. I feel all happy and accomplished when I post mine. I need to feel that with my wip!! I do keep my posts short though, both for me and for my readers. I personally have very little time to read blogs so I end up skimming long ones and moving on to the shorter ones. So I try to keep it brief and throw in a pic or two to break up the visual. Or maybe that’s just what I like to read and I’m projecting! LOL.

    By the way…I love Kitchen Nightmares! I love Gordon Ramsey, he’s a trip.

  19. #31 by Karri Justina Shea on March 2, 2011 - 6:59 pm

    Such a timely post as I’ve just finished reading WANA and am reevaluating my blog’s purpose – far too little time has gone to my fiction writing and far too much into writing blog posts that other people – ahem – can do better (writing about social media, for example). What I hope to do now is invest more energy into my fiction WIPs, and focus my blogging energy on topical content that I’ll actually enjoy blogging about! Thanks for the reassurance that this is perfectly okay. :)

  20. #32 by Madison Woods on March 2, 2011 - 7:03 pm

    Right now my blog is being used as a tool to sharpen my editing skills, which I am then applying to my WIP. For example, on Fridays I do a 100 word flash fiction. Getting a story across in 100 words is hard, but it forces me to choose strong verbs and eliminate unnecessary fluff words. The habit carries over into my novel’s editing, so I find it very helpful.

    I also use my blog to just get distractions out of my head. It’s been an excellent way to learn how to express emotion, set tone and all the while maintain voice. It carries over to my writing.

    Doing it daily keeps my writing gears lubed up nicely, too.

  21. #33 by Nathan Anderson on March 2, 2011 - 8:40 pm

    Thanks for the great tips from someone who sits on both sides of the writer/editor fence!

  22. #34 by laradunning on March 2, 2011 - 8:43 pm

    I do find that blogging can be very distracting from my writing. I have a day job and write at night and on weekends, so keeping up with the blog can be very time consuming. I try to post 3 times a week and sometimes struggle to come up with ideas. When I do have ideas flowing I make several blog posts, that way there is a backlog of blogs to use later on. I partisipate in #fridayflash, which then takes up one post a week. I have also started writing book reviews and author interviews which benefits me in a couple of ways. It helps me build relationships with other authors and works as a blog post. But, that to is double-edged as I have time dedicated to reading for the book reviews. One of my new years goals was to be more focused on my writing and not let social media take over my life. I have come to realize that with family, my job and my writing it is better to realize that it is something that will never quite be balanced perfectly and just do the best that I can by keeping a positive attitude.

    • #35 by rising writer on March 2, 2011 - 9:14 pm

      This looks a lot like my situation. I also write blog posts ahead so that I can keep a consistency in terms of the frequency of my posts, but it’s not always easy. I have to admit that blogging has taken over my writing and having a regular job and other responsibilities sometimes I get burnout in the process. I’m trying to read more and organize my days differently to keep up with all of it.

  23. #36 by Danielle Meitiv on March 2, 2011 - 8:45 pm

    Wow this post was so on it was scary. I’d have thought that you were eavesdropping in my house except tha I’d only admited that I have a problem earlier today and not out loud. The insant gratifcation it is for me. I’ve discovered that I’m good at social media so I want to do more more more! That’s especially true when I’m going through a slump on my WIP. The worst is whe I feel guilty for not writing so I don’t blog either. Like um last week.

  24. #37 by screen_scribbla on March 2, 2011 - 9:36 pm

    Blogging helps me focus.
    I use it as a daily warm-up for the real writing I want done. My blog is a practice ground; a symbolic circle inside of which I can explore themes and weaknesses in my writing without having to worry about the outcome. I find that, like exercise, if I write a short piece on my blog each morning I am more inclined to continue writing later in the day once I am back from work.
    Thanks for your thoughtful post and words of encouragement that beginning writers like me seem to need so much. And I wish you the best of luck in your own endeavours.

  25. #38 by Pamela Skjolsvik on March 2, 2011 - 9:43 pm

    I blog very rarely, but after your class this past weekend, I was inspired to write on both of my blogs. I tweeted them, I facebooked them and then I waited. And waited. And waited. Nada. One measly response. Okay, I wasn’t focused. So, why do I do it? I just like to write and use my blogs as a form of therapy because that big project I’ve been working on is so damn depressing and requires a lot of work. In real life, I like to make people laugh and it’s really hard to make people laugh about death.

    If anything, I am an undisciplined writer. I write when I feel like it and that’s not really getting me anywhere. I need to write everyday on the big project and then do a little bloggy poo maybe once or twice a week. I think I need to be proactive with both types of writing. I wholeheartedly agree with you on if the product stinks, there’s no amount of buzz that’s gonna make it smell any fresher. Or better.

    Loved your post. Thanks!

    • #39 by Author Kristen Lamb on March 3, 2011 - 1:21 pm

      As I recommended to another commenter, start with this blog. blogging is something we need to do with a plan, and our blogs must serve the reader or there is no real motivation to come to your blog, unless they happen to be a friend or know you.

      This post is part 1 out of 9 and will give you a good walk-thru. I also have a book on blogging coming out soon. It was so fantastic to meet you and I’m happy to see you here. I have some really awesome peeps who comment on this blog. Chat with them. They are awesome.

  26. #40 by R. Wenday on March 2, 2011 - 10:51 pm

    I have a few questions…
    My first question is… What do you mean, Colleen Lindsay “convicted” you, was it some Writer’s Block Prision? And what did she convict you of? The theif of intellectual property? I don’t get it.:) I assume you meant she “convinced” you of something, but you haven’t told us what her lecture was about.

    My second question is… I have noticed you use the same examples that I have seen bestselling authors use when they teach. I was wondering why you were not using your own examples?

    • #41 by Author Kristen Lamb on March 2, 2011 - 11:03 pm

      Colleen convicted me of the fact that I like the instant gratification, and that blogging can eaily take over my projects. The verb “conflict” is transitive and can mean to convince someone of guilt. As a social media expert, it is easy to only see the positive side of blogging. Yet, Colleen’s lecture convicted me that I had been guilty of putting off my fiction writing for blogging. In my case this isn’t as bad in that I am a published NF author with NF books due. But I realized I needed to retool so that my fiction didn’t just collect dust because the blogging was more fun.

      As far as using the same examples of best-selling authors, I only know of one who has used the Chef Ramsay example and that is Bob Mayer. If you go look back through my archives, I used the Chef Ramsay comparison before he did, so I am not guilty of “copying” anyone (knowingly) if that makes you feel any better :). Maybe we use the same examples cuz they’re darn good examples. I dunno.

  27. #42 by Patti Mallett on March 2, 2011 - 11:31 pm

    Well worth taking the time to read, as always, Kristen! Thanks for the reminder that the writing must come first. Having just jumped on the SM Wagon, my writing is suffering. It is nice to connect, and I will continue reading and commenting on my favorite blogs, but only after the Real Work is finished. One piece of advice I am going to take to heart was from Anne A. who suggested we have a book ready to query before we start our own blog site. (Finding time to read all of the books I want to read is another challenge with being online so often.)

    • #43 by Author Kristen Lamb on March 3, 2011 - 1:30 pm

      I don’t agree. I know everyone has to do what they are comfortable with. But, we can’t work on our book all the time. Blogs don’t have to be long. They can be 250-500 words or just a mash-up or even a photograph that sparks discussion. Blogging will make you a stronger, more disciplined writer. Best of all, it will make you a more CONFIDENT writer. This job is tough and there are loads of reasons why it isn’t for everyone. But, with a little bit of planning and time-management, blogging is not that hard.

      What I have found is that, when we decide to become writers, weak areas in our character and bad habits suddenly bubble to the top. I used to be a HORRIBLE procrastinator. It was fine to write my papers the night before in college, but once I became a writer and was looking at a LIFE writing? I couldn’t live that way. I had to learn to do things immediately. Blogging will do the same. If we have time-management problems, we will see it quickly. But I feel it is a better idea to get better at managing time than it is to just say, “Oh blogging isn’t for me.”

      If we have a book ready and query and get an agent and 3-book deal, then we are trying to build a platform in haste and from scratch. We will be competing against writers with stories just as good…but they have a large social media following. I think social media is like any other investing. Start with small consistent deposits early to reap MAJOR dividends later.

  28. #44 by Piper Bayard on March 3, 2011 - 12:17 am

    I do enjoy blogging, but, yes, it does take away from my productive time working on my novel. I’m still pretty new at it and working on sorting out the time management issues. Thanks for another great blog-full of advice.

  29. #45 by educlaytion on March 3, 2011 - 1:57 am

    Wow. You just kicked the crap out of that metaphor. I’m feelin all Paula Abdul right now cause your teaching is Straight Up. [insert Debbie Downer sound for simile fail].

    I worry about too much blogging and not enough book writing. That whole teaching thing gets in my way too. Stupid job.

    Anyway, a couple of ways to limit my blogging time are 1) useful guest posters and 2) posts that are about what readers have to say. I’m learning to ask questions and get out of the way. Let the fun happen in the comments. I love hearing what others have to say rather than listening to myself blather on all day.

  30. #46 by Jami Gold on March 3, 2011 - 2:27 am

    Love this! I purposely limit my blogging days to Tuesday/Thursday for this very reason. Could I grow a readership faster if I blogged more frequently? Maybe. But readership is just a bonus to the fiction writing.

    Now having said that, you’re absolutely right about short-term gratification aspect of blogging. I’ve gotten *fan letters* for my blog for crying out loud! How awesome is that? :)

    The really funny thing is that I was just having this very conversation with my family 2 weeks ago – Am I a writer who blogs? Or a blogger who writes? I kid you not, within 30 seconds of that conversation ending with the renewed dedication to my writing, I received the email with my deadline. :) Be careful what you wish for… LOL!

  31. #47 by jesswords10 on March 3, 2011 - 2:44 am

    You’re on a role for timely posts for me! Thank you again! I just posted how I needed a contest deadline to focus my fiction writing and complete it on time. I love this newfound blogging world and the writing schedule it’s created, but I had lost the drive working on my other writing pieces for awhile. I’m in the midst of finding a renewed balance now. I find making resolutions with a timeline on things I need to put first helps me a lot. Definitely liking this post, and will read again!

  32. #48 by Joanna Aislinn on March 3, 2011 - 4:06 am

    Hey Kristen,
    I look forward to M, T,W, &F: all your blog days. (Esp, love the mash-up.)

    Blogging is putting me in touch with my ability to write articles (vs fiction) and recently helped me put together a few short presentations for the day job. I started a handout, but wrote the notes with the same chatty tone i’d use in a post. Also keeps me feeling productive when story flow ain’t happenin’. Now, to get to a regular 2-3-day/week blog routine…

    As always, thnx!!!!!!!

  33. #49 by kristinegoodfellow on March 3, 2011 - 4:51 am

    Hi Kristen! I took both your classes at the DFWCon. Fantastic information. Thanks! I started a blog tonight. I have no idea what I’m doing, but I’ll try to figure it out. I wanted to take advantage of the discount you offered, but by the time I got back up to the display area, ya’ll were gone. I could use all the help I can get! Meanwhile, I’m wingin’ it.

    • #50 by Author Kristen Lamb on March 3, 2011 - 1:18 pm

      Careful winging it. Blogging is something we need to go into with a plan. Time management is key. Start with this blog . I have a whole series on launching a blog. Do some work. Write at least 15 entries ahead of time or this will make you crazy and, instead of a career benefit, you will have a huge time suck.

      So glad you enjoyed. I blog here every Wednesday on social media to help you out.

  34. #51 by Robert Riedel on March 3, 2011 - 12:53 pm

    Wow,
    This gave me a lot to think about. I don’t even have a blog but I read madison’s on a regular basis and I have a book I’m working on. Let me ask you one question. As a writer, has the perspective of “reading” and books in general changed? What I mean is can you still sit down with a nice book and a cup of coffee without your writer “eye” cutting the book to pieces? In other words are books and reading them still enjoyable to you?
    When I started first grade my mother was a librarian. I had to wait after school for her to get off work. I would finish my homework and then look at books I wanted to read. By the fourth grade I had read well over a thousand books. This continued through my life and I lost count somewhere in the ten thousand range. I don’t ever want to “not” enjoy just sitting down and reading a book without having a critical eye. Can you still do this?

    • #52 by Author Kristen Lamb on March 3, 2011 - 1:24 pm

      LOL…I had a while that it wasw tough. Not because I was a writer, but rather because I was an editor. My eyes would lock on passive verbs and word echoes. But eventually I was fine. I just had to will myself to relax and enjoy. It is so awesome that you read like this. The more you read the better you write. I can always tell writers that are voracious readers :D.

  35. #53 by Darlene Steelman on March 3, 2011 - 4:07 pm

    Kristen, I can always count on you to give great advice while being humorous. Your posts have helped me find flaws in my writing as well as strengths.

    I currently have three blogs. One is for personal and the others are me trying desperately to get my name out there. I am not having a good go at this.

    I have been procrastinating on a current book project. It’s time to focus on my project more, as well as putting time into one blog.

    Thanks for helping narrow my focus.

    Darlene

  36. #54 by Sonia M. on March 3, 2011 - 4:07 pm

    Very inspiring and somewhat terrifying post! And now I want to watch Kitchen Nightmares too. Thanks a lot because I really needed another time suck :) . I guess I can DVR it and watch it while I cook dinner. Or maybe not.

    I loved this post because it was a bit of a kick in the pants for me. I started a blog at the end of January because I wanted to chronicle my journey as newish writer and to build a platform (why does it always seem a little shameful to admit that?). I do find that, sometimes the reading of other blogs and writing for my own, eats into my limited writing time. I’ve begun to accept that I need a firmer schedule and that I need to give priority to my writing.

    I guess it’s time to dust of the manuscript that’s been on the back burner and finish it…so I can rewrite it a few times. Oh boy. :)

  37. #55 by K.B. Owen on March 3, 2011 - 5:16 pm

    Thanks, Kristen, for another “grounded-in-reality-while-ROFL” blog. I wish I’d started sooner than the day an editor asked my agent “What’s her platform?” Your book and blog have helped me do some catching up, so I’m hoping things will still work out (fingers crossed).

    Time management is certainly a problem for us all. I’m more vulnerable to the blogging (reading others/writing mine) and Twitter time-suck at certain stages of my writing than others: when I’m revising, it’s easy to stay on task; when I’m plotting the new novel and hitting snags, it’s really hard.

    Although I’m blogging consistently on the same day once each week, I know it would be better to post more often. However, it’s so time-consuming as it is (my topics involve a lot of research – you’ll see what I mean if you check my blog) that I can’t imagine doing more without my novel-writing taking a hit.

    Any advice?
    Thanks!

    • #56 by Author Kristen Lamb on March 3, 2011 - 5:50 pm

      Part of why I want you to blog on topics that involve your book (whether fiction or NF) is that you can recycle your research which will save time. If you are writing a crime book, you have to research police stuff. Slap it on the blog and get people chatting. Also feel free to do shorter blogs or jus Mash-Ups. Sometimes you can repost the blogs of others like I talked about last Wednesday. I am going to do a blog about this next week.

  38. #57 by kerrymeacham on March 3, 2011 - 6:20 pm

    Great analogy Kristen. Gordon is a pill, but like Simon Cowell, he’s usually bang on. Those darn Brits (I hope Donna sees this). Anyway, if you refer to my evo being “rancid and unpalatable” I’ll know exactly where you’re coming from. ;-) Great post.

  39. #58 by Gene Lempp on March 3, 2011 - 8:51 pm

    Great post Kristen. The Gordon Ramsey analogy was perfect. I just saw in the arrival of your WANA book and look forward to digesting it, creating a plan and joining the blogsphere in the near future. Thanks so much for all the work you put in here!

  40. #59 by Sarah on March 4, 2011 - 2:24 am

    Terrific post! You’ve touched upon the very things I’ve been thinking about and questioning ever since I entered the world of publishing–and noted that my writing, once effortlessly prolific, has slowed to a snail’s pace while I post updates, tweets, and blog entries instead. Thank you for putting it so clearly and eloquently!

    • #60 by Author Kristen Lamb on March 4, 2011 - 2:28 am

      We still need to do all of this stuff….we just have to keep it in perspective. For the first time in history we control both Ps–Product AND Promotion. That is an amazing advantage over writers in the past. But, it takes time-management ;)

  41. #61 by Tracy on March 4, 2011 - 9:44 am

    Giving myself permission to write very short blogs (sometimes just a quotation) has really helped me keep to my goal of blogging at least 3X a week. I’ve also stared documenting ideas and useful links as I come across them. That way I don’t have to be like, “Oh, that was a great thought and now I’m ready to blog about it, but where the heck is that link.”

    Before I stared doing those things, I was also spending more time blogging than writing the book the blog is supposed to promote. Things are a bit more balanced now.

  42. #62 by kadja1 on March 5, 2011 - 3:06 am

    This is very encouraging and I really enjoyed it…Now after I watched the clip, that song “Livin’ in the Fridge” by Weird Al played through my head for a bit! I noticed that my blogging has nothing to do what what I am writing about–usually. Sometimes I go on a streak to where I put a bit up. I do realize one thing. I feel we spend our entire existence learning and growing. That never stops. There is much I have yet to learn, but I am very grateful that I found you, Piper and Bob!

  43. #63 by Jenyfer Matthews on March 8, 2011 - 5:26 am

    OMG – I may never eat out again!!

    I started blogging because I *had* to and now I love it more than I ever thought possible. I’m chatty and it’s a good outlet for that – but there are times when it does take up time that I could use to write my WIP instead. My world was recently turned upside down and so was my nice, productive routine. Working to get into a new groove at present…

  44. #64 by dolores gordon-smith on March 8, 2011 - 10:42 am

    Hi Kristen
    What a great post about Gordon Ramsey. It’s a very fresh way to look at the problems of going wrong at the beginning. I’ve got five commercially published books and another one self-published on Kindle, yet I still have to go over and over my work, throw away the parts that aren’t working, and – basically – clean out the fridge!
    By the way, I bought and read your book on social networking – ot was very good – and I’ve now in the process of getting a Twitter account!

  45. #65 by Diana Murdock on March 16, 2011 - 4:55 pm

    Great segment! However, I’m on the other end of this one. I dive into my writing to avoid blogging. I have the irrational fear that I have absolutely nothing to blog about. Still…something I need to make time for! :)

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