How Boxing Can Make Us Better Writers–Lesson 3 STICK & MOVE

Image via Flikr Creative Commons courtesy of MartialArtsNomad.com

Image via Flikr Creative Commons courtesy of MartialArtsNomad.com

Are You Quick on Your Feet?

When I trained as a boxer, we did a lot of footwork. Dart in, hit, then get out of the way. Best way to win a fight? Simple. Don’t get punched. Or at least get punched as little as possible. When our opponent takes a swing? Don’t be there. The skill of sticking-and-moving requires endurance, strength and flexibility. Being a successful Digital Age Author requires the same.

Learn to Stick and Move

Get quick on your feet. Change, adapt, overcome. The lithe survive, especially now in the Digital Age. The big traditional publishers are suffering because their size doesn’t allow them to adapt to the rapid changes that come part-and-parcel with explosive technological advance.

Indies, in this sense, have an advantage. An author can change covers if one isn’t working. He or she can respond directly to what consumers want.

A friend of mine, who happens to be an insanely successful indie author, broke each of his three LONG novels into three SHORT ones. Why? Customer feedback. Readers said they preferred shorter books. Instead of three 120,000 word books, Aaron broke them into nine 40,000 word books. Not only did readers prefer this, but now Aaron was making money off nine books instead of three.

Stick and move.

Knowledge is Power & Helps Us Adjust and Adapt

Knowledge is power, especially these days when everything is shifting at the speed of light. Today’s trend can be gone tomorrow, thus we need to pay attention. Make friends. Read blogs. Be humble. We can learn from anyone.

Be a good listener and never think you are too big to listen to “little people.” Sometimes it’s the outsider, the novice, who holds the most insight. Readers are who told Aaron they wanted shorter books, not NYTBSAs.

When I wrote my first social media book, I didn’t get a bigger, better “social media expert” to read it. I recruited my 60-year-old mother and my 92-year-old aunt. If they could understand it and enjoy my book, then I’d done a good job.

My mother now rules Facebook. Befriend her at your peril.

Experts Can Be Overrated

I always shake my head and laugh at people who think only multi-published fiction authors can teach/comment on writing. Some of the best writing advice we will ever get is from readers.

Teaching is a Different Skill than DOING

Just because someone is a marvelous storyteller, in no way means this person knows how to teach or how to give constructive feedback to others. If best-selling authors with high sales numbers were the only ones qualified to teach or comment on good fiction, then why would the world bother with agents, editors, reviewers, book bloggers, English teachers, or even readers?

To stick and move, we need to be open and know that there are a lot of different forms of expertise.

YES! Listen to multi-published successful authors who also teach, just don’t learn from them exclusively. If we only listen to one type of expert, we’re in real danger of being myopic. We risk falling into groupthink and miss opportunities to plan and act creatively.

We lose the ability to be innovative.

This is part of what has gone so wrong in “big publishing.” They failed to listen to outside opinions and their tunnel-vision has cost them dearly.

Teaching is a totally different skill set.

I’ve met mega-authors who were phenomenal storytellers, but mediocre or even dreadful writing teachers. On the other end? I’ve met people who’ve never published fiction who were masters of understanding and teaching the craft of writing.

Margie Lawson is a stellar example. She’s not a novelist, but her classes have taken newbie writers and shaped them into best-sellling powerhouse authors. I strongly recommend her classes.

Remember, Experts are Experts, Not Omniscient

The indie movement is full of writers who have had staggering success after they finally self-published. Theresa Ragan was rejected by the traditional publishers for EIGHTEEN YEARS. The “experts” told her she wasn’t good enough. Well, 300,000 books sold in 18 months shows me that maybe “experts” don’t know everything.

She didn’t keep standing there in one spot getting pummeled black and blue by agents (“experts”). Theresa learned to stick and move. She did something different. She tried new things.

Think FAST!

Part of our job as professionals is to learn to critically think. Take in all kinds of information and advice from all kinds of people, because this is what will hone our instincts. Our gut will tell us when to punch and when to back off. When to duck and when to dive. Who to listen to. Who to ignore. What part of the advice is gold. What part is trash.

Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee ;).

What are your thoughts? Opinions? Has an expert discouraged you? Have you ever had a time a total amateur gave you an amazing stroke of insight? Who do you like feedback from when it comes to your fiction?

 I love hearing from you!

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 my book We Are Not Alone 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 once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

And also, winners have a limited time to claim the prize, because what’s happening is there are actually quite a few people who never claim the critique, so I never know if the spam folder ate it or to look for it and then people miss out. I will also give my corporate e-mail to insure we connect and I will only have a week to return the 20 page edit.

At the end of March I will pick a winner for the monthly prize. Good luck!

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  1. #1 by Mona Karel on March 28, 2013 - 1:22 pm

    I’ve had some of my very best advice from avid readers, and also some of my best plotting/planning sessions. They know what they want to read and they rarely worry about technicalities, as evidenced by the overwhelming success of books with intriguing stories and characters that could have used another edit or three.
    The boxing analogy is wonderful. It speaks not only doing your ground work but also staying in the fight. The winner is the last one standing, not the first one in the ring.
    Thanks for another great post

  2. #2 by JoAnne Potter on March 28, 2013 - 1:22 pm

    “Some of the best writing advice we will ever get is from readers.”
    I knew it! Dang! Honey….will you read this for me?…

  3. #3 by Renee on March 28, 2013 - 1:25 pm

    Kristen, another beaut. Yes! Some bestselling authors have good intentions but cannot teach. That one line, “Those who can’t, teach” always infuriated me, because some of the best teachers – can change your life. How can that be discounted?

    Best piece of advice I got was from a snide screenwriter who skewered my manuscript. I couldn’t even cry after his critique – I was numb. Yet I still managed to hear a golden nugget. He said, “You’re a good writer but weak on storytelling. There is a difference between writing and storytelling. Stories sell, not the writing.”

    Remember that old TV commercial where the dude gets slapped and says, “Thanks, I needed that!” That was my jet-slap. It was bracing and good for me.

    Two years ago, a big agent told me I was trying too hard in my first pages. Guess what? She was right. You’ve got to keep your eyes and ears open to all potential sources, amateur or pro.

    Readers are invaluable. Invaluable. “This is too hard to follow.” “You’re showing off.” “I don’t get it.” (or) “I love this.” “This made me laugh / cry.”

    With me, the stick and move are RWA contests. They don’t work for me, so I’m moving to another arena, (mentioned this on your blog yesterday). I’m getting better feedback from editors, published authors and agents. One of my pubbed friends has written cross-genre, YA, women’s fiction, middle grade. She’s incredible. And she’s encouraging.

    Margie Lawson is terrific. So is Alicia Rasley. I just took an emotions course with Alicia and it rocked.

    I’m learning from a number successful self-pubbed authors. Don’t know about other folks, but I get tired of that hyper-polished stuff that kind of sits flat. No KA-POW with emotion. No “messy” stuff. Messy delivers! It’s like watching Claire Danes on Showtime’s “Homeland.” She’s brilliant, fractured, her character’s messy. I don’t relate to perfect female characters, yet I see a plethora of them in the romance genre. When a manuscript’s been so overworked…. you get a sense that it’s been over-edited and that multiple people are polishing away the originality, the narrative voice. Raw stuff delivers emotion, and some self-pubbed authors have that quality. Bully for them.

    Your blog revs up my day. Thank you!

  4. #4 by Dennis Langley on March 28, 2013 - 1:28 pm

    A bit of related humor – Definition of an EXPERT.
    An Ex is a has-been
    A spurt is a drip under pressure. ;-)

    • #5 by Author Kristen Lamb on March 28, 2013 - 1:37 pm

      I try to always remember that I don’t know everything. It’s a big reason that I ask for your opinions and thoughts at the end. So many of you have such profound and insightful things to say, and I get the benefit of not only being teacher, but student as well. WIN-WIN :D. Thanks for taking the time to comment. Your thoughts and ideas are so precious to me *hugs*

      • #6 by Dennis Langley on March 28, 2013 - 1:41 pm

        I truly look forward to your posts because they are always helpful. Clearly you care about writers and the writing profession. Thank you.

  5. #7 by SweetSong on March 28, 2013 - 1:47 pm

    This is especially true of advice from people close to you – yes, they mean a lot to you, but you also have the advantage of knowing (or figuring out) where they’re coming from when they tell you something. And take that into account when you take their advice – the same goes for experts. If you learn more about the expert giving the advice, then you have a better idea of how well their advice will apply to you.

  6. #8 by Shirley Wine on March 28, 2013 - 1:59 pm

    Kirsten
    I read your blog every day and I learn something every day.

    While I flip through my emails every morning with a liberal dash of delete, your I always stop and read. Why because I know I will learn something. I’ve particularly enjoyed these blogs about boxing and writing.
    Some of my most insightful advice has come from readers. And I know a lot of writers cry down book reviews but I’ve found some of the most abrasive reviews have actually hit the nail, so to speak so I quietly take it in and learn.

  7. #9 by james on March 28, 2013 - 1:59 pm

    Hey this is James Young. I need to write more anyway and advice from a guy like you would be highly appreciated. Thanks!!

  8. #10 by Shea Ford on March 28, 2013 - 2:46 pm

    “I always shake my head and laugh at people who think only multi-published fiction authors can teach/comment on writing.” Sorry, gonna talk about my hubby again, who I wish would read this blog. This statement describes him to a tee. He’s always trying to tell me the “better” way to write and make money at it, his favorite point to throw in being, “find out what genre is selling and write that.” Yet not only does he not read fiction, he also doesn’t read MY fiction. How would he know how I should improve my writing? *not going to rant…not going to rant…*

  9. #11 by Val Mills on March 28, 2013 - 3:32 pm

    Such refreshing advice, thank you.

  10. #12 by Yvette Carol on March 28, 2013 - 3:41 pm

    I definitely like to listen to a broad range of commentators, and teachers on the craft and all things related.

  11. #13 by Daniel Escurel Occeno on March 28, 2013 - 5:13 pm

    Jumping Rope is the best way to train for total body coordination. The legs benefit the most. You have to bounce around on the flat part of your feet connected to your toes instead flat footed landing on the heels in order to develop the quickness and coordination instead of being flat-footed. It is the same way with leg press exercises on stationary machines and the experts claim that you cannot teach someone how to run faster and jump higher. Where you land on your feet while jogging could determine if you will develop faster speed. Push-ups and chin-ups are ways to develop the upper body without the monthly expense of a club. But to get stronger punching power “to stick” you have to do push-ups closer to the chest instead of wide and it helps in shooting basketballs at a farther distance as well. To stick the three-point shots, you have to guide the basketball into the hoop, like a nuclear missile headed for a point-point accuracy location. Feet positioning is important if you do not have the forearm and shooting arm back strength. Pushing off, it would still nail a three-point shot. Knowledge is power. Knowing how eliminates the fears of failure if one can really get better at their craft. The only expert I worry about is the editor making the final decision. Afterwards I look for a new one, if rejected. Self-publishing is a possible detour, and I am glad that I know today, how to succeed at indie. The hateful discourages everybody so do not take it personally. Bob and dodge and weave and know how many rounds it will take to succeed. A writing career is not like a private college education where your parents paid a higher institution of learning to play “fun and games” with you, which caused you to drop out with a failed education forever, forever because the players will continue to tell people.

  12. #14 by Jacquie Russell on March 28, 2013 - 5:52 pm

    my blog is all about boxing and boxers The Boxing Runner – great article

  13. #15 by genacourtney on March 28, 2013 - 6:16 pm

    We are not alone! Thanks. Gena

  14. #16 by David Erickson on March 28, 2013 - 6:38 pm

    Being a top flight auto mechanic doesn’t make you a great driver. Why would anyone expect writing to be any different?

    I’ve been with Critters.org for years and get feedback from both accomplished authors and newbies alike. I always get quite a mix when I submit anything. Sure makes you think.

    I have an opportunity to earn my MBA, but I’m thinking I’d be better off taking courses on what I really need help with – internet marketing. The MBA just seems too broad to provide me with current, up to the minute training that I’m sure i need.

    Problem is, there are so many outfits offering their services, others that will do all the marketing for you with costs are all over the spectrum. What will help me and what won’t is the question of the day. And will I gain from the experience or get raped? My first brush with publishing – PublishAmerica – didn’t go so well, so I’m a little gun shy.

    Recently I’ve been reading that blogging is a great way to boost sales and then I’m told blogging is old news, people have moved on and there are more productive ways, etc.

    I’m also put off by the enormous cost of professional editing and yet I’m hearing so much that professional editing is vastly overrated. Do you see how confusing this is?

    Either way, if I do or don’t go for the MBA, my income is going to take a hit until I can generate enough from book sales to overcome that disparity. Just wading through the surf looking for a toe hold on the beach without getting bit by a shark..

    • #17 by Daniel Escurel Occeno on March 28, 2013 - 9:14 pm

      I would hate to be accused of giving bad advice which cost you more money. Given my personal individual situation, I plan on courting the traditional way of Big Time publishers. There is much self-help for writers on the internet and one can really go it alone, (Kristen, if they want to). I believe in individual FREEDOM. For a newbie Blogging would not be old news. An MBA could get you a better job. If I had the savings (it is not an advice) and could live comfortably, I would just continue writing novels and make a decision to self-publish or submit to publishers.

  15. #18 by Brenda Harris on March 28, 2013 - 10:08 pm

    Someone who values creativity and sees things through creative eyes – I do believe that’s you, Kristen. :)

  16. #19 by Stuart Land on March 28, 2013 - 10:15 pm

    As always, I enjoy you blog, Kristin. You’re like a mythical character who is always revealing something new about herself. I love that you are so supportive. However, there was one statement in the last article that jolted me. “…Instead of three 120,000 word books, Aaron broke them into nine 40,000 word books.” The reason this bothered me is because it makes it seem like anyone can simply take a long book and divide it up in to equal (or not) sections. I come from a screenwriting background (17 scripts and 8 novels) and structure is (one of) my thing. A story needs structure to answer the initial question posed at the beginning of every story. There may be many questions, but the one overriding question for the main story must be answered by the end of the current book. To (randomly) split a book up would make each section like a Saturday matinee serial, not a novel. To me, as a reader, it would feel like I was suckered into “having” to buy the next book in order to find out what happened…then having to buy the book after that because I didn’t find out what happened. Cutting books up in this way is not the same as a series of complete books that use the same characters (and even situation), but with a new story. If you (or Aaron) have a method for this slice and dice, I’d love to learn it, because it would greatly increase my portfolio. Just think, Anna Karenina could be 9 books. :-)

    • #20 by Author Kristen Lamb on March 29, 2013 - 12:00 am

      No idea how he did it. Might have been that when he originally wrote the story, it should have been three books. But he did it successfully. Might have required adjusting the narrative arc. No idea. But I agree that it needs to be done with care ;).

  17. #21 by darsword on March 29, 2013 - 12:39 am

    Reblogged this on Darswords and commented:
    I learn so much from Kristen Lamb’s blogs!

  18. #22 by Jess Molly on March 31, 2013 - 9:45 am

    I run a Writer’s Circle that includes everyone from Newbie hobby writers to published authors, and I’ve found that everyone has amazing insights to contribute. Bringing different skills and life experiences to the table is part of the joy of having a group like this, and having friends who share the same brand of insanity is the best part. My manuscript is almost ready to send back to the publisher I desire (they asked for changes). I know 9 published authors, a good dozen more who are working on their first manuscripts, and countless hobby writers. These have been the best three years of my life.

  19. #23 by restirling on March 31, 2013 - 3:32 pm

    Reblogged this on stirlingwriter.

  20. #24 by Julie Glover on April 1, 2013 - 7:27 am

    Writing YA, some of the best feedback I get is from teens. These are definitely not writing experts, but they know when something doesn’t ring true and that is very helpful information. I think the balance is important. Getting feedback from various perspectives can help you see your book more clearly. A teenager telling me a scene doesn’t work for them is good to know, but I may need expert advice to figure out how to make it work.

    • #25 by David Erickson on April 1, 2013 - 8:15 am

      Julie: I believe my first novel would be well received by teens. Can you suggest an outlet where I can get feedback from young adults and teens?

  21. #26 by Dawn Chartier on April 1, 2013 - 10:47 am

    Yep. I’ve had professionals give me feedback, some good, some great, but once in a while not so much. And one time I realized I made a huge mistake by not listening, and should have gone with my gut. It happens. You move on. :-) Loved all these boxing lessons!

  22. #27 by S.C. Chalmers on April 1, 2013 - 2:51 pm

    Thanks so much for this wonderful series of blogs with the what you can learn from boxing. They arrived just when I needed their reminders the most. :) Have a great week.

  1. D is for Discophoran, Dwile, and Dririmancy (Thirsty Thursday) | Writing, Reading, and Life

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