What Are the REAL Odds of Being a Successful Author?

Image via Flikr Creative Commons Hakan Dalstrom

Image via Flikr Creative Commons Hakan Dalstrom

I didn’t even consider becoming a writer until 1999 after my father passed away suddenly. Funny how death can make us take a hard look at life, right? Anyway, I recall feeling soooo overwhelmed. I mean my odds of even getting published were about as good as winning the lottery. And the odds of becoming a best-selling author? Well, mathematically speaking, I had a slightly greater chance of being mauled by a black bear and polar bear on the same day.

It was all I could do not to give up before I began.

But, after over 14 years doing this “writer thing,” I have a new perspective. Often it feels like we are the victims of fate, at the mercy of the universe, when actually it is pretty shocking how much of our own destiny we control. The good news is that if we can get in a habit of making good choices, it is staggering how certain habits can tip the odds of success in our favor.

Time to take a REAL look at our odds of success. Just so you know, this is highly unscientific, but I still think it will paint a pretty accurate picture. I will show you a bit of my own journey. And, to be blunt, this DOES NOT ONLY APPLY TO WRITERS.

Did you know most entrepreneurs fail at least three times before getting traction? Most new businesses don’t make it a year. They are fortunate to survive THREE years and if they can hit The Golden Six? Smoother from there. But WHY?

The 5% Rule

It has been statistically demonstrated that only 5% of any population is capable of sustained change.

I remember when I was a rather young writer and NYTBSA Bob Mayer introduced me to this idea. I was AGHAST! No, writers just needed nurturing, cuddling, and help. Trust me, it pains me to say he was/is right.

***But Bob is generally right and that is often why it ticks me off to admit this.***

I worked for years with self-professed writers who refused to learn, listen or even work. They had the skin of a grape and wanted to make it in an often undervalued profession that is NO place for the idle or thin-skinned.

Thus, with that in mind…

When we start out wanting to write, we are up against presumably millions of other people who want the same dream. We very literally have better odds of being elected to Congress than hitting the NY Times best-selling list. But I think that statement is biased and doesn’t take into account the choices we make.

As I just said, in the beginning, we are up against presumably millions of others who desire to write. Yes, millions. It is estimated that over ¾ of Americans say that they would one day like to write a book. And that is only ONE continent. Much of Europe, Australia and New Zealand are burgeoning markets in the new digital paradigm.

That’s a LOT of people. Ah, but how many do? How many decide to look beyond that day job? How many dare to take that next step?

Statistically? 5%

So only 5% of the millions of people who desire to write will ever even take the notion seriously. This brings us to the hundreds of thousands. But of the hundreds of thousands, how many who start writing a book will actually FINISH a book? How many will be able to take their dream seriously enough to lay boundaries for friends and family and hold themselves to a self-imposed deadline?

Statistically? 5%

Of that 5%, how many will join a critique group—A GOOD ONE—and learn instead of sulking?

5%

Okay, well now we are down to the tens of thousands. Looking a bit better. But, finishing a book isn’t all that is required. We have to be able to write a book that is publishable and meets industry/reader standards. When I first started writing, I thought that everyone who attended a writing critique group would be published. I mean they were saying they wanted to be best-selling authors.

But did they?

Or, were they more in love with the idea of being a best-selling author than actually doing whatever it took to succeed? I would love to say that I was a doer and not a talker, but I don’t want to get hit by lightning. There were a number of years that I grew very comfortable with being in a writing group as a writer…but not necessarily a professional writer.

I was still querying the same book that had been rejected time and time and time again.  I wrote when I felt inspired and didn’t approach my craft like a professional. I was, at best, a hobbyist and, at worst, hopelessly delusional.

I didn’t need craft books *snort* I spoke English, so I knew how to write. Geesh! *rolls eyes*

I was a member of two writing groups, and had grown very fond of this “writer life.” We hung out at I-Hop and drank lots of coffee. We’d all chat about what we’d do with our millions once we were bigger than Dan Brown. We talked about new ideas for books that never seemed to get written. Or if we ever did sit to write one of these ideas, we would get about 30,000 words in and then hit a wall.

Hmmm…and I thought that idea had so much promise.

Yet, after four years hearing the same talk from the same people shopping the same novels, I had a rude awakening. Maybe I didn’t know as much as I thought I knew. Maybe being a copy writer and technical writer and editor didn’t automatically make me a novel-writing genius. Maybe I needed to take this dream of being a best-selling writer a tad more seriously and not rely on bluster, BS and glitter. Maybe I needed to read craft books and scrape up enough money to go to a conference.

So, of the tens of thousands of writers who write a novel, how many read craft books and get serious enough to take classes, listen to thoughtful critique, and attend conferences?

You guys are good….5%

And of those who attend a conference (and want to traditionally publish), who are asked to send in page requests, how many follow through?

Likely, 5%

How many will land an agent right away?

5%

And of all of those authors rejected, how many writers, determined to impress, are willing to GUT their novel and wage wholesale slaughter on entire villages of Little Darlings? How many are willing to put that first novel in a drawer, learn from the experience and move forward with a new book…which they FINISH?

5%

And of the writers who land an agent or are brave enough to go indie or self-publish, how many of them get dead-serious about building a large social media platform?

Again? Probably 5%.

And of those writers who are published and doing social media, how many of them are effectively branding their names so their name alone will become a bankable asset (versus taking the easy way and spamming everyone in sight)?

5%

Of those who self-publish, how many will keep writing more books and better books until they hit a tipping point for success? (versus beating marketing one book to death)

5%

Of writers who self-publish, how many will invest in professional editing and cover art?

5%

Thus, when we really put this dream under some scrutiny, it is shocking to see all the different legs we control.

We control:

Taking the Decision Seriously

Writing the Book

Editing the Book

Finishing the Book

Learning the Craft

Developing RHINO SKIN

Networking

Following Through

Not Giving Up in the Face of Rejection

Writing Books

Writing More Books

Yes, Writing Even MORE Books

Doing Everything in Our Power to Lay a Foundation for a Successful Career

I am not saying that finishing a book is easy. None of this is easy.

This job is a lot of hard work and sacrifice, which is exactly why most people will never be genuine competition. When we start out and see all the millions of other writers I think we are in danger of giving up or getting overwhelmed. Actually, if we focus on the decisions we control, our odds improve drastically.

This job is like one giant funnel. Toss in a few million people with a dream and only a handful will shake out at the end. Is it because fortune smiled on them? A few, yes. But, for most, the harder they worked, the “luckier” they got. They stuck it out and made the tough choices.

In the Sahara there is a particularly long stretch of desert that is completely flat. There are no distinguishing landmarks and it is very easy to get lost. To combat the problem, the French Foreign Legion placed large black oil drums every mile so that travelers could find their way across this massive expanse of wasteland one oil drum at a time.

Are we there yet?

Are we there yet?

 

Want to be a successful author?

Take it one oil drum at a time.

What are some oil drums you now see ahead? Does your journey to author success seem easier now? What makes you feel overwhelmed? What inspires you?

And some HOLIDAY fun with KRISTEN LAMB!

I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of DECEMBER, 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. 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 novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of my latest social media/branding book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on AMAZON, iBooks, or Nook

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134 Comments

Why Are Certain Stories Timeless? What Scrooge Can Teach Us About Great Writing

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One of my all-time favorite movies for the holidays is The Muppets Christmas Carol. I believe I’ve seen this movie a few hundred thousand times. I’ve worn out three VHS tapes and at least three DVDs. I play the movie over and over, mainly because, well, duh,  MUPPETS! I drive my husband nuts playing this movie over and over…and over.

I’m worse than a three-year-old.

Muppets aside, I also can’t get enough of the music. I love the story of A Christmas Carol no matter how many times I see it, no matter how many renditions, and I am certainly not alone. Charles Dickens’ story of a redeemed miser is a staple for holiday celebrations around the world and across the generations.

This story is virtually synonymous with “Christmas,” but why is it such a powerful story? Why has it spoken so deeply to so many? Why is it a story that never grows old? Today, I want to talk about a couple of the elements that speak to me, because they rest at the heart of great writing.

A Little Background

A Christmas Carol is a beautiful story, but I find it’s true beauty when it’s explained in the Christian context that inspired it. My son was watching Bubble Guppies and they tried (dismally) to tell the same story inserting “holiday” so as not to offend anyone, I presume.

Yet, the story fell flat.

The PC had ruined the beauty of this tale and made it more of a lesson about embracing shallow commercialism once a year than a story of love’s power to redeem the irredeemable. Thus, this post will use scriptural and religious references to explain why I believe this story is so moving and timeless.

The Power of Names

Naming characters can be vital. Great writers use the power of parsimony. Each element should serve as many purposes as possible. A name is more than a name. It has the power to be a story within a story.

I recall the moment I was first introduced to what would become my favorite hymn, Come Thou Fount of Many Blessings. One verse stood out:

Here I raise my Ebenezer

Here by Thy great help I’ve come

And I hope, by Thy good pleasure

Safely to arrive at home.

Ebenezer? Raise an Ebenezer? I needed to know more. Ebenezer is actually אבן העזר, Even Ha’Ezer, which literally means stone of help or monument to God’s glory and is referenced in the book of Samuel.

Thus, when Dickens chose a name for his protagonist, he chose the perfect name for the redeemed sinner. What is a better testament to a God of grace, than the hardened heart melted by the power of love? The current climate of political correctness aside, A Christmas Carol is most definitively a Christian story and the theme is reminiscent of Proverbs 25:22:

If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat

and if he is thirsty give him water to drink

for you will heap burning coals on his head

and the Lord will reward you.

Very often this verse is misunderstood. “Yeah! BURN ‘EM! THAT’LL TEACH THEM TO MESS WITH ME! COALS! BURN BABY BUUUURN!” Yet, if one looks to the ancient Hebrew, the heaping burning coals is literally the holy fire of LOVE that melts the hardened heart so it can be remade (think of melting a weapon of war to remake it into something of beauty or a tool for healing or farming).

The path to redemption is love, for only love holds the power to redeem those who have committed grave wrongdoings. Only love can repair what’s been broken and “remake” it into something entirely new.

The Christian story is a story of love, of redemption, of second chances and not because one has earned it or deserved it. Scrooge is a dreadful man, yet as the story unfolds, not only does Scrooge’s heart begin to melt as he’s faced with the truth of who he is, but our hearts melt toward Scrooge as we travel through the past, present and future and see what has created such a embittered, cruel person. We empathize and start to have compassion and love the unlovely.

Scrooge has done nothing to earn redemption, but his redemption is precisely why we cheer at the end.

The spectral visits serve to show Scrooge the truth, which again is reminiscent of scripture; and then you will know the truth and it is the truth that will set you free (John 8:32). Scrooge cannot change what he cannot see and it is the three ghosts who come to reveal what he’s failed to see on his own.

Repentance is not the mumbled and counterfeit “Sorry.” Rather, it is finally seeing the truth of who we are and what wrong we’ve done. It’s a decision to make things right and turn away from wrong.

By the end of the story, Ebenezer is truly repentant. He’s a changed person determined to share the love and grace that was freely given to him when he didn’t deserve it.

Again, what a wonderful testament to God’s love. What a lovely “Ebenezer.”

Jacob Marley is another symbolic name. Jacob Marley is the name of Scrooge’s old business partner, and it is he who intervenes to try and redeem his old friend before Ebenezer is sentenced to share Marley’s fate. The name “Jacob” actually means “thief and liar.”

In the Bible, Jacob stole his brother Esau’s blessing, then manipulated, lied, stole and connived until it came back to bite him multiple times  (Jacob later wrestled with an angel until he could be given a new name, Israel and he’d become the father of a great people). What better name to give someone sentenced to roam as a specter for eternity carrying the weight of his ill deeds than a name that literally means thief and liar?

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The Power of Symbol

When the ghost of Jacob Marley visits Scrooge:

The chain he drew about his waist was clasped about his middle. It was long and wound about him like a tail; and it was made (for Scrooge observed it closely) of cash-boxes, keys, padlocks, ledgers, deeds, and heavy purses wrought in steel…

Why cash-boxes? Why deeds? Why purses? In life Jacob was a money-lender. He was ruthless in his dealings and never forgave a debt. Yet, Matthew 6:12 (part of The Lord’s prayer) reads: Forgive us our debts as we have also forgiven our debtors.

Jacob forged his chains in life. He refused to show mercy, compassion, or kindness. He was ruthless and legalistic, thus he has sealed his fate. God has promised to forgive us the same way we forgive others, which is why the scripture pleads for grace, compassion and mercy. Also, forgiveness of debts is the heart of what Christmas is about, for unto us a child is born.

Christians believe God sent His only begotten son (God in the form of Man) to pay a debt we cannot hope to pay. God loves us as His children, and our actions have left us hopelessly out off our depth, incapable of paying our debts. Yet Love cancels the debt. Christ’s last words on the cross, “It is finished” literally translate “Paid in FULL.” Jacob turned away from the grace freely offered, so now he wanders, burden by the debts he cannot pay.

Jacob now finds opportunity to warn Scrooge of the chains he is now forging with his actions (and inaction), chains that are longer and heavier than even his. The only way for Scrooge to free himself is to learn to value himself and his fellow human beings.

Smaller Truths Reveal Larger Truths

Dickens makes it a point to show us that Scrooge is a miser. Scrooge shows no mercy, has no warmth, shares none of his wealth…with anyone, including himself. Scrooge is a very wealthy man, yet he wears old clothes, lights no coals for warmth because coal costs money. His home is threadbare and his food measly and meager.

The full story of redemption is that Scrooge not only sees his fellow man differently—worthy of compassion, love and generosity—but in changing how he views his fellow man, his view of himself changes (and heals) as well. The three spirits not only heal Scrooge’s relationship with his Maker, but with himself and others. Scrooge, for the first time, becomes part of the human experience, no longer content to be “solitary as an oyster.”

The POWER of WORDS

This point should resonate particularly with writers. There is a REASON the Ghost of Christmas Future refuses to speak. Words have creative power. If one looks at the first chapters of Genesis, God created the heavens and the earth and all living things by speaking. “And God said…”

It was only humans he breathed life into. Everything else was created by speaking. Throughout the Old and New Testament, there are countless scriptures referencing the power of the tongue, of words, and warning they carry both the power of life and death.

This idea carries into Ebenezer’s story because, by the time he has this final visit, he still has choice over what his future will be. The specter cannot speak because words would cast his future and it isn’t for the Spirit of Christmas Future to decide.

Happy Ending

Scrooge deserves the death he’s shown by the Spirit of Christmas Future. He deserves to die alone with those “closest” casting lots for his garments. This is what he has sown with his lifetime of greed, hate and spite.

Yet, he is pardoned.

Scrooge is the resurrected heart, the dead brought to life. When God promises “everlasting life” it isn’t a promise that we get to float around on a cloud in Heaven after we die. Rather, it’s a promise that life begins at the moment we decide to accept mercy and love.

Scrooge has been “alive” but not “living.” He was existing. When he is redeemed, given a new chance, he changes. Out of gratitude for the mercy he is given, he reaches out to give what he’s been given. LOVE, MERCY, GENEROSITY.

Restoration

Sure, God could have rained down a miracle that healed Tiny Tim and landed Bob Cratchit a better job with a better boss, but Dickens saw God as a God in the business of finding and changing the lost, miserable and broken. Instead of giving the miracle to Cratchit and his family, God, instead, gives it to Scrooge, the least deserving of a miracle.

Why?

Because God is about working through people. Many of His miracles come from ordinary people performing extraordinary acts of kindness and sacrifice. By changing Scrooge, God could create a man who would become a benefactor. Cratchit has now a kind and generous boss, the community now had a passionate philanthropist, and Tiny Tim lives and the family thrived because one man’s heart could be melted.

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It is no great feat to love the lovely. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much (Matthew 5:46). This story is so powerful namely because it shows that every human has value and is worth and an opportunity for redemption. God is in the business of changing hearts, and Dickens wanted to show that. A Christmas Carol is a masterful exploration of the true nature of Christianity, what it should be, what it was meant to be. Love. Above all.

What is your favorite version of A Christmas Carol? What do you love about this story? What is your favorite part? I love The Muppet’s Christmas Carol (already told y’all that), but THIS is my FAVORITE part!

Also, here is my favorite hymn, Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing. I cry every time I hear this:

I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of DECEMBER, 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. 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 novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of my latest social media/branding book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on AMAZON, iBooks, or Nook

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53 Comments

Time is Precious—Are We Investing Wisely?

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We always here that phrase about time. You know the one. “Well, we all have the same 24 hours.” DaVinci, Mozart, Newton, Elvis all had 24 hours.  It’s true. Yet why is it some people seem to make so much of their time and others have little or nothing (or even negative fruits) to show for it?

Today might be an uncomfortable topic, but if it helps any, it makes me uncomfortable too.

I don’t know if any of you are like me. Your attitude is, “Instructions are for SISSIES.” So I pull the pieces out of the box and just intuitively put stuff where it goes. Being an ENFP, we love doing stuff by gut. It’s comfortable…until it’s uncomfortable.

Because when I get to the end and am ready to plug in that lamp-endtable combo? It wobbles. Ah, hell, and there are these extra parts. I just thought they were being sweet and giving me backup screws in case I lost a few in the carpet.

So I have three choices. 1) Deal with/ignore wobbly lamb that leans like the Tower of Pisa 2) take the sucker apart and THIS time read the *rolls eyes * instructions and START OVER 3) PAY someone else to do it.

When we fail to plan we plan to fail, and there will generally be three outcomes:

1. Subpar thing/situation we just deal with and cringe a little every time we see it.

2. Cost us MORE time.

3. Cost us TIME and then MONEY (to buy someone else’s time).

See, if we don’t appreciate time and how it works or doesn’t work, we can leave ourselves open to chance, pain, misery, rework, etc.

Now, there are no right and wrong answers here. Why? Because you aren’t me and I’m not you. We ALL have different lives, challenges, gifts, constraints and past experiences. We all want different things out of life.

Thus today, these are some broad strokes that I hope will help you in writing, but also in ALL areas of life, because we need to be balanced.

Balance

Having any FUN lately?

Having any FUN lately?

I’ve been the person who had a LOT of money. When I was 28 years old, I was in sales and made more money than any twenty-something should make.

But…

I drove an average of 2500 miles a week. I didn’t date, spent no time with family or on my spiritual or physical health and guess what? It cost me my job and nearly my life. I almost died from pneumonia. AND, because I had no friends, no support network, and no close relationships with family, no one was there to think to check on me (and I was too proud to ask).

Thank God for pesky mothers.

I recall lying on the couch unable to breathe and realizing that I’d invested SO MUCH TIME into being “successful” that I could die and the only way someone would know the pneumonia finally beat me would probably be a from neighbor reporting a bad smell to the manager.

Low, low, looooow place to be. But, in retrospect? The best place to be and the greatest gift I was ever given.

Only We Can LIVE Our Dreams

Image with Twig the Fairy

Image with Twig the Fairy

My father was brilliant. He wanted to be a writer, but instead he tried to fit into what family and culture said was “successful.” He died making $8 an hour fixing bicycles. Well, I didn’t want to be a “failure” like my father, so I took a job I hated because it provided the title, the car, the money, and the outward appearances of happiness.

Those of you who’ve read this blog for a while know I won an Air Force scholarship to become a doctor, because I thought it would impress my family. It didn’t. Then, I earned a premiere degree from a top university. Four people attended my graduation and I got a cake from a grocery store. So, I moved on to sales. If I made a LOT of money, surely they’d be proud. They weren’t. Then, I got into LAW SCHOOL.

Wait, do I even want to BE a lawyer?

Good thing for me the Brilliant Law School Plan came after the Near Death Experience with pneumonia. I wanted to be a writer, had known it since I was four, but I had to make others happy, right? I mean, when I said I was a writer they laughed, but if I had a LAW degree, that was writing….right?

And don’t get me wrong, I believe nothing is wasted in God’s economy. As a writer, I have used that three years as a Neuroscience major (the med school thing), and that degree in Political Economy of the Middle East and North Africa (the pre-law thing), and the many hard lessons from sales (namely that I SUCK at it).

But look at all the TIME, MONEY, and REVISION because I wasn’t brave enough to go after MY dream. Other people’s dreams cost us less, but also cost us everything.

Because my father wanted to be a writer and failed, being a writer=FAILURE. I never stopped to think he failed to plan so he planned to fail. Since I was spread all over the map trying to make everyone but me “happy” I had no focus. When it came to my end goal of being a NYTBSA, I had a LOT of lost time to make up for.

We CANNOT Have Everything

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Time is finite. The media will tell us we can have six-pack abs, cook gourmet foods, have a Martha Stewart house, perfect kids and can be everything to everyone all the time.

WRONG.

We MUST choose. If we don’t, we will live the equivalent of the cheap All You Can Eat Buffet. Lots of choices, most that gets tossed away and never really satisfies (and might even make us sick).

When we realize we can’t HAVE everything, we stop trying to DO everything. EVERYTHING is NOTHING.

And this is a lesson some of us will revisit many times. Y’all know I have been battling Shingles. Here’s the deal. We can have the carrot or the stick. I chose the stick…again *head desk*

Hey, it was ORANGE. It fooled me.

In trying to do all the cooking, cleaning, washing, yard work, homeschooling, blogging, writing, traveling, running two businesses and caring for ill and dying family members? Guess what?

I FORGOT the painful lesson I’d learned with pneumonia…so I got a refresher with SHINGLES.

And it has cost me three months of work. I’ve nearly had a nervous breakdown with all the things I couldn’t do, and things I still can’t do. But, when I pan back? This has given me the opportunity to ask:

Just because I can do it, does it mean I should do it?

In trying to repair my relationship with time, I’ve realized (PAINFULLY) that time must jive with reality.

Looking back, there was no way I could keep that pace and it not catch up. But, time is tricky. It’s like taking a toddler to the mall. We MUST keep an eye on it or it WILL get away (and we might not ever find it again).

Priorities Take Priority

Original image via NASA Blueshift courtesy of Flickr Commons

Original image via NASA Blueshift courtesy of Flickr Commons

Catchy :D . The problem is it is SO easy to mistake the urgent for the important (thank you, Mr. Covey). We wash the dishes, clean out the e-mail, volunteer for crap we don’t even WANT to do to impress people we don’t know or even like or are just too chicken to say no…and priorities take the hit.

Priorities will also shift over time…especially if you are hardheaded and been dumb like me. Since I DID NOT make rest a priority? Guess what I got to do THREE MIND-WRECKING months of? Sleep. Trust me. It is no trick for a workaholic to work more. Make them take a nap and wait for the weeping sounds.

Thus, I’ve gone back to my original list of priorities:

My Spirit—For me? I try to start every day with God. I love Andy Stanley, Joyce Meyer, and Craig Groeschel the most. I listen to their lessons while I’m waking up and getting caffeine in my system. I believe God will give me back the time I spend getting spiritually centered. I also take at least ONE FULL day off a week. Resting is now a HUGE priority.

Refreshing our souls is vital, especially creative people. Whether it is a walk, meditation, yoga, reading, or however you get spiritually grounded, ALL things spring from our well. Is our well refreshed and flowing? Or is it stagnant, stinky and floating with bugs?

My Family—My husband takes priority because the best thing for Spawn is to feel safe. Mommy and Daddy in love, working as a team is the best investment in his future. Also, I am enjoying the little boy Spawn is. I can have an aneurism over the 9 zillion Army men on the floor or that he’s sprinkled Chex like fairy dust through the house…or I can enjoy him being little. He will only be FIVE once.

My Writing—Self-explanatory. Yep, laundry needs to be done…after I make a certain word count. My mantra these days?

IT CAN WAIT. If an item isn’t in the first three of YOUR priorities? Odds are, it can wait. It’s urgent masquerading as important ;) .

My legs went to sleep an hour ago...

My legs went to sleep an hour ago…

Everything in our lives, our relationship with time, should ideally come after the first three. Writing is not my hobby, my “thing”, my fun. It is fun, but it’s my JOB. If my JOB takes over my spirit and family, bad things happen. If other “priorities” like a perfect yard, crocheting, volunteering, helping others with “their lives” creep into that top three? Time to revisit and recenter.

Time is finite, which means focus is vital. You matter. Your dreams matter. Thing is, only YOU can make them a priority. So take some time and invest in YOU. Brainstorm all the things you want then circle the top three and THAT is where I’d consider placing energy and time.

What are your thoughts? Do you feel like too little butter scraped over too much bread? Is it hard to say no? Have you lost your center and don’t even know what you want? Have you defined your priorities or are you letting others command the agenda? Do you lose too much time in helping others at the expense of YOU? Have you been through burnout? What did you do? Are you there now? Have you kept the same priorities out of habit and not thought about revising the plan? Have you ever gotten SO off-track you made yourself ill? Are you now more vigilant?

I LOVE hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of DECEMBER, 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. 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 novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of my latest social media/branding book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on AMAZON, iBooks, or Nook

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75 Comments

Can Being Tired Make Us Better Writers?

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Image via Lauriesanders60 WANACommons

Last month I participated in NaNoWriMo even though it’s the holidays and, as many of you know, I am battling the last vestiges of Shingles which makes me tired, like down to the BONES tired. But, lest I go crazy, I had to write, because that’s what writers do. We aren’t happy unless we are writing something. 

I figured in the beginning I likely wouldn’t make the 50,000 word mark not only because of feeling puny, but I also have other writing that doesn’t count toward NaNo.

Yet, the interesting thing is, being tired can have benefits. If we wait until that celestial alignment when the kids aren’t sick, our pants fit, there isn’t a heap of laundry, the garage is clean, the junk mail sorted, and we feel energized? We won’t get a lot of writing done, so here is some food for thought next time you believe you’re too tired to write.

Embrace Being Tired

Okay, first I want to take a moment to acknowledge that we do need rest. We need breaks and days off. Shingles had taught me I am seriously HUMAN. It’s actually humbled me to be better at resting because I love what I do and this makes it easy to overdo.

I’m going to be writing a new NF in 2015, so I needed to REST my left brain and let RIGHT BRAIN have some time to play (ergo NaNo).

Your Body Will Lie to You

Beyond sickness and disasters, our bodies tend to be a bit lazy, and they like to lie. They tell us we need a day or two or twenty off, and the longer we’re away from the work, the easier it is to let things slip, to see a new shiny and start a newer, more exciting project. In this business, time is our enemy. Always remember this.

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Image via JulaiLimjl Flikr Creative Commons

It Will Never Be a “Perfect” Time

We want to wait until we’re rested, the kids are out of the house, until we have total quiet, a new computer, the list goes on. To do this job at a professional level, we have to learn to write no matter what. This is a profession, not a playpen. People often groan that NaNoWriMo is in November and there is all this shopping and cleaning and cooking.

Okay, well, I used to work in sales and they still expected my tail to be on the road selling industrial paper from Mexico to Missouri until that scrawny four days off for vaca. If I was sick? I knew when I came back, I had to bust tail to catch up. Family emergency? Okay, tend it, but then back to get your $#!& done.

Coffee was for closers.

Writing (for those who want to make a living at this) should apply the same rules as other professions. Granted, it’s a LOT harder because no boss is going to write us up or chew us out if we don’t write…and most of our family and friends secretly believe all we do is play with our imaginary friends and we don’t have a “real” job. We need A LOT more self-discipline than other jobs.

I write every day but Sunday with a preschooler whacking me 47 times with a NERF sword before breakfast, all the while Paw Patrol is blazing in the background. I’ve learned to un-see the dirty dishes, the laundry that needs folding, and the Christmas tree that was attacked by my cats in the middle of the night and needs triage.

Distractions=Death

The Spawn

The Spawn

Time is the Enemy

When writing anything (but especially fiction) taking time off can kill momentum. We need to go back, reread, familiarize ourselves with the story and characters (since we’ve slept since that last bit we wrote). This can lead to editing the beginning to death and stalls forward progress. We get bogged down in the first part of the book.

Take too much time? Likely, you’ll have to start all over.

I did. Yes, even NF authors are vulnerable to time. Back in 2011 I scored a premium NYC agent and over a year and a half later? The project was going nowhere. When I finally decided to self-publish my most current social media book, Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World, I spent more effort trying to retrofit work I’d done for my agent back in 2011 than I want to admit. Finally, I just scrapped the whole thing and started over. 150 pages of wasted work all because I didn’t keep writing.

My mistake. Won’t happen again.

Sometimes Being Tired Produces Better Writing

I know a lot of you work day jobs, are full-time caregivers, and you’re squeezing in writing when you can. GO YOU! You’re superheroes, and always remember that. Keep pressing.

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Yet, one mistake we make is we don’t tackle the novel when we’re tired. We believe our work will be better if we’ve rested.

This isn’t necessarily true.

Candy runs a workshop she calls Fast Draft. In Fast Draft, you write your novel in two weeks. It is one of the toughest challenges I’ve ever done, but it works. No editing, no going back, just keep going forward. By Day Three, I promise you’ll feel like you’ve been tossed in a bag of hammers and shaken.

BUT…

One of the biggest enemies of great fiction is Conscious Mind. Our internal editor lives there and won’t let us move forward until we get rid of “was clusters” or add more detail to that “jungle scene.” Conscious Mind will have you “being responsible” and browsing the Internet looking at South American plants instead of writing.

Conscious Mind is the Bigger Sibling Who Constantly Calls Little Sister (Subconscious Mind) Stupid and Tells Her to Shut Up

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Image via Life Mental health Flikr Creative Commons

Subconscious Mind is the primal mind. It sees things we don’t, makes connections Conscious Mind, also known as “The Thinking Brain”, misses. Thinking Brain is a bit of a Bossy Pants and likes to shove Subconscious Mind around, give it wedgies and promise that it can jump off the roof with an umbrella and float down.

Hey, Penguin does it all the time.

The best way to get your Subconscious Mind to help you is to wear the bigger, bossier sibling out. This allows the Little Guy an opportunity to help you make magic without the bigger sibling butting in.

Conscious Mind is the Inner Editor, the Inner Critic, the Nit-Picker, whereas the Subconscious Mind (the Limbic and “primitive” brain) is the one who sees value in finger painting and advantages of glitter.

Subconscious Mind will thrust you deeper into the story. Subconscious Mind is like a toddler who jumps head-first off the couch. No fear. There will be greater emotion and the writing often is more visceral. Subconscious Mind plants Seeds of Awesomeness that you will see flower into something more amazing that you believed you were capable of.

But that won’t happen unless Conscious Mind is exhausted and too tired to argue and bully it’s littler sibling.

So if you’re struggling with the WIP, you might just be a little “too rested.” This isn’t to say we don’t take care of ourselves, but total immersion and pressing on even when we’re worn out and would trade everything we own for a nap does have major advantages.

It’s also why I didn’t kill myself to make the 50,000 words for NaNo, but am still plugging. If I take too much time away from the novel, I KNOW I can cause myself more grief than I care to deal with.

Have you ever done a fast draft? Did it help? Do you write even when you’re tired? What has that shown you? What are your thoughts? Questions? War stories?

I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of DECEMBER, 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. 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 novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of my latest social media/branding book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on AMAZON, iBooks, or Nook

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81 Comments

Test Your Holiday Style—Tiffany Crystal or Pre-Paid Bail Money?

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Thanksgiving has whizzed past and Christmas looms ahead. If you’re anything like me, you make this super stupid promise to yourself roughly December 24th that you will buy gifts throughout the year, so you aren’t pressed and stressed and ready to stand on a roof with a shotgun holding the entire dish of rum balls hostage…and ALL the rum. No, this year will be different. I will be PREPARED.

*clutches sides laughing*

Yeah….

Sort of reminds me of finals back in college. Next time I am going to read all my chapters AHEAD of time.

Christmas is a magical time of year, but all of us handle the season differently. So what is your Holiday Style? Here’s a helpful little quiz:

1) When cleaning before the holidays, you:

a) Might give the mantel a light dusting just so you don’t look like a show-off. The gleam from your spotless fixtures could cause retinal damage. Eloise is a rank amateur next to you.

b) Make a plan to go room by room and whip your house into shape. Once this baby is clean, you KNOW it will stay that way for good. In fact, you’ve vowed to stab your husband in the face if he leaves his towel on the bathroom floor, and have threatened your children with a tell-all e-mail to Santa if they don’t put their clean clothes away properly.

c) Get a little excited because you haven’t seen your floors, counters or pretty much any of your home’s flat surfaces since the party last New Years. In fact, you are pretty sure the Christmas tree is still up under one of the piles of laundry and unopened mail. Hey, why take down decorations you know you will need every year?

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Yes, this is um…ME *hangs head*

2) When it comes to holiday shopping, you:

a) Are already finished. You made a long, detailed list last January and have spent the year buying the perfect gift for all your loved ones. All that’s left is to enjoy the season while those ill-prepared dopes fight over the last Holiday Barbie.

b) Wait until Black Friday. Technically, you start three days before Black Friday. What better way to use all that camping equipment you got last year for Christmas, than to stake out the front of Apple, Ikea or Best Buy?

c) Dig through your closet for all the unopened crappy gifts you got at the office Secret Santa party last year and then re-gift them to your distant relatives. Sure, Aunt Edna doesn’t know who Justin Bieber is, but who wouldn’t want a singing toothbrush?

Well, other than you, of course.

Kill it with FIRE.

Tomorrow, I will do the wrapping….

3) When it comes to gifts, you:

a) Spare no expense. The holiday season is a season of generosity. All your gifts are thoughtful, beautiful, lavish, and better than everyone else’s.

b) Believe it’s the thought that counts, and most people will think you are cheap if they see the Clearance sticker on their present, which is why you LOVE black Sharpies. They can be counted on to fully black out the $4.99 on the bottom of that seashell vase from Anthropologie. Hey, we don’t have to pay retail to still give an awesome gift. You just make sure the gift recipient can see part of the original price of $89 so they feel like you “shelled” out a lot of cash.

c)  Make one trip. Dollar General has everything you need for Christmas gifts. What could be a better Christmas gift than cans of Lite Vienna Sausages (Now Made with REAL Meat!) or Low-Sodium Spam?

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4) When it comes to holiday memories, you:

a) Love capturing every moment on video, then editing the clips to music using your MacBook Pro. Then, of course you order prints from SnapFish so you can scrapbook together all the holiday magic. You have the cutest little snowman stickers that will add the perfect touch to the family newsletter you send out early morning December 26th.

b) Have them all in a big box that you will organize one day…once you locate the box.

c) Just get drunk on Jack and Coke then watch Jerry Springer reruns. The effect is pretty much the same.

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5) Of all the Christmas carols, you:

a) Know Handel’s Messiah is your all-time favorite, and you know all the words. Why wouldn’t you? You sing in the choir every year.

b) Can’t get enough Silver and Gold, sung by Burl Ives. It reminds you of being a kid and waiting all year to see Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

c) Think Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer is the funniest carol EVER, next to the Three Kings who tried to smoke a rubber cigar. In fact, you can’t even sing Deck the Walls with the correct lyrics.

6) As far as wrapping Christmas presents, you:

a) Use the tips you saved out of Martha Stewart Magazine. You bought the heavy duty paper and lavish bows last year at the Container Store After Christmas Sale and expensive ornaments 85% off at the Dillard’s After Christmas Sale. All your gifts look so beautiful, they might as well be considered Christmas decorations. No one ever wants to open your gifts until they’ve taken a picture of the wrapping.

b) Thought you were saving money when you bought the wrapping paper from Wal Mart. Of course, you didn’t foresee that it was as thin as rice-paper on a crash diet. After tearing the corners on every box you wrapped, you had to wrap everything AGAIN. This means ten gifts took 42 rolls of paper. You lost the tape, only to later find it stuck to your butt. The dog ate all the ribbon and is now pooping tinsel, and your husband has found it HYSTERICAL to put tape on all the cat’s paws instead of helping.

You make a note to buy big bottle of Maker’s Mark for next year’s wrapping.

c) The gifts you bought came pre-wrapped. It’s called a Dollar Store bag. DUH. You love the environment, so why cut down more trees when THIS Christmas wrapping paper can later be used to pick up the tinsely dog poop?

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7) When it comes to dressing for holiday parties you:

a) Buy smashing outfit ahead of time so you have time to find the perfect accessories and shoes to match. Then you make sure to get an appointment with a hairdresser and makeup artist in October before the slots fill. Why trust those holiday pictures to anyone but a professional?

b) Buy an outfit ahead of time, but completely forget about shoes and earrings…and eating less. You bought the dress even though it was too small, because it was supposed to make you be “good” this year and not overeat. Ah, but that was until the dog started pooping tape and Christmas ribbon and you leveled the fudge like a Biblical plague (Baby Jesus would have been duly impressed).

So Christmas Eve you find yourself wandering the mall searching for the last pair of Spanks in the free world. Speaking of tinsel, you can’t help but wonder what the tinsel-strength of spandex is. In your mind, you imagine a Catastrophic Spanx Failure that takes out three innocent bystanders.

And is it considered an act of domestic terrorism if you survive?

c) Just wear yoga pants and a maternity top for the extra “give.”

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8) As far as decorating for the holidays, you:

a) Hire professionals. Can’t be Yard of the Month without a little help. Your Christmas lights can be seen from space. The folks at NASA and the Soviet Space Station are your biggest fans.

b) Were going to avoid it altogether until it became evident that you were the ONLY house on the block without lights, and now you have been shamed into putting out some last-minute effort. Of course, everything was sold out, so you were forced to decorate with the Halloween lights.

Orange works, right? Hell, just put Santa hats on all the skulls. Make it a Goth Christmas.

c) Just plug them in. You left them up all year :D.

9) When it comes to your children and Santa, you:

a) Bake cookies for Santa with the kids, and Christmas Eve you take the little ones out into the yard and spread some “Reindeer Food.” Your husband dresses in a Santa costume and you “sneak” some iPhone footage of Santa at work in your living room to show the kids the next morning. Childhood is a magical time and you want to fuel your children’s imaginations.

b) Take them to Cabela’s. Free photos with Santa, fishing gear is 50% off, and they FINALLY have your ammo in stock.

c) Let your neighbor take your kids to Cabela’s. You still have to find the Christmas tree…after you level up on Halo 6.

10) When your kids question how Santa can make it to all the boys’ and girls’ houses in all the world in one night, you:

a) Tell them that Santa is the spirit of generosity and love, and that spirits have powers we mortals cannot comprehend.

b) Point the pizza kiosk in the mall and yell, “I’m buying!”

c) Inform your kids that Santa has been cloned, and reference the Star Wars Clone Wars.

11) When sending out holiday cards, you:

a) Buy cards for Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukah, and just general holiday cards and then send them to the appropriate recipients.

b) Buy generic reindeer cards, then write it “Happy Holi-Chrisma-Kwanzaa-kuh.” Your friends all know you’re weird anyway. Frankly, they are all shocked you got the cards sent at all.

c) Holiday Cards? *laughs hysterically until can’t breathe*

12) When someone gives you a dreadful gift, you:

a) Know they meant well, so you make sure they see you wearing that horrendous purple mohair vest at the church bake sale. You would never want to hurt anyone’s feelings.

b) Send a nice thank you note then return the gift for something you prefer.

c) Stockpile the crappy gifts away for next year, so you don’t have to do as much Christmas shopping. Hey, waste not want not.

Tally Your Scores!!!

Amazing Alice/Awesome Alan

If you answered mostly As, you get an A+++++ in Christmas. You, Amazing Alice/Alan, are the star of the show with the prettiest EVERTYHING, the one who has everything in order and who pulls out all the stops…which is probably why most of us secretly hate you and want to stab YOU in the face.

Normal Nancy/Typical Ted

If you answered mostly Bs, relax. You’re normal. While you probably could try a little harder, why bother? Amazing Alice and Awesome Alan are going to outdo you anyway.

Slacker Sarah/Lazy Larry

Hey, life is too short to be organized. There are video games to play.

I hate to say it but I am almost an even mix of Normal Nancy and Slacker Sarah. Every year I promise to try harder. ONE DAY I will be an Amazing Alice…yeah, no. My brother and sister-in-law are Amazing Alice and Awesome Alan so they enable my underachieving. Even why I TRY to make my Christmas packages look all awesome and professionally wrapped…they just look more like a roll of wrapping paper and Scotch tape had a drunken one-night-stand.

Sigh.

What is the worst Christmas gift you’ve ever gotten? My Aunt Iris once bought me a bright purple sweater that was so small, I think it was made for a Barbie, a child or a circus midget…then loudly commented on how fat I’d gotten when I couldn’t “try it on.”

So what about you guys?

I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of DECEMBER, 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. 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 novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of my latest social media/branding book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on AMAZON, iBooks, or Nook

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32 Comments

WHY Are We Writers? Understanding the Why Behind the Buy

 

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Now that NaNoWrMo is finished, congratulations to those who WON. I only made it to a little over 34,000 words *sad face*, but I did it with Shingles so I am grading myself on a curve :P . As a writer, being delusional is totally acceptable. I’m actually not too far from finishing the novel, so I’m happy I tried.

Anyway….

For those who might be tempted to go back and edit? I recommend stepping AWAY. Work on something different or the odds of you seeing the problems aren’t too great.

Which is why we are shifting gears here on the blog and we’re going to talk about branding and social media. Oh, the cries of despair! Hey, I am here. No worries *hands paper bag*.

Here’s the thing. Nobody has to do social media. I won’t force you. The only writers who need to create a brand and do social media are writers who want to sell books.

Simple :D .

A New Perspective

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Sally Jean

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Sally Jean

I think it was in roughly 2004 when I was fiddling around on Friendster and Gather that I saw the potential ahead. For generations, novelists had a DISMAL success rate. Why?

Unlike NF authors of the time, we had NO practical way to build a platform before the books were released. We also had a nightmare of a time keeping fan fires burning between books because NYC was tooled (and mostly still is) to produce about a book a year.

That was fine back in the 90s. We weren’t a society who could walk around shopping on our phones. We weren’t addicted to apps and gaga over downloadable content. By 2007, purchasing had changed and we needed to respect that to remain relevant.

Social media and the Internet fundamentally altered our culture. It’s a cake that can’t be unbaked. This means it’s our responsibility to change as well.

The Golden Circle

Image via Wikimedia Commons

Image via Wikimedia Commons

I’ve actually used Apple as an example since my first book years ago, because they’re a perfect illustration of what we’re talking about. One of the many reasons that Apple Inc. surpassed others in multiple industries is they understood the difference between innovation and novelty.

Innovation is long-lasting. Novelty is short-term. Rather than beginning at the outside of the circle, the WHAT, Apple began with the WHY.

Sure, a Mac had a great processor and was immune to most viruses and megabyte, tera-byte, whatever-byte….but look how COOL I look at Starbucks with my white laptop. I support innovation, creativity. I challenge the status quo…and I LOOK COOL.

Rather than relying on gimmicks and short-term novelty, Apple created a culture. A culture that was loyal and didn’t need a bunch of free stuff and was willing to cough up retail price.

Conversely…

Most of us remember the earlier days of cell phones. This one TAKES PICTURES. Oooh, this one is FLAT. The cell phones got so small it was simply ludicrous. Why? Because novelty is pretty easy to copy and maybe even “improve” upon.” Novelty is fleeting and rarely cements relationships.

One of the reasons Apple demolished the music industry was Apple appreciated the changes in the consumer climate. Tower Records was still scope-locked on creating and selling LPs. The problem was that music originally was something enjoyed at home…until the Walkman, then later portable CD players, MP3s, etc.

Music became portable.

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Consumers wanted to be able to go anywhere and enjoy their favorite songs, thus Apple spring-boarded off other technologies like the MP3 and made music personal. “A thousand songs in your pocket.” Personal, intimate, and simple. Apple invented the song industry. At first it was with the iPod, but then Apple merged music with our PHONES

Instead of blasting us with features we didn’t understand, Apple focused on WHY, not WHAT. Why carry an iPod and a cell phone when ONE is better than two?

What Does This Have to Do With Social Media?

One of the reasons I got into the whole social media business, was that it was clear that the consumer environment was fundamentally shifting. Yet too many companies were relying on tactics that either wouldn’t work, or wouldn’t work long-term. Any gains were (and still are) short-term.

Worse, the old methods are stressful for both the seller and the buyer.

To this DAY, I have to talk writers off a ledge when I mention social media.

My background is in sales, and I’ve witnessed this phenomenon time and again. Sure, lower the price. You’ll never be able to raise it. Give away free stuff, promotional stuff, t-shirts, free thumb-drives, pens, on and on and eventually? People are addicted to how much stuff they can get for nothing. There is zero loyalty.

This means one marketing tactic (algorithm) will work great…for a while. Then everyone starts using the same approach and it fizzles. This leaves the seller (author) with a panic attack and a migraine and less time to write more books.

Not only can the quasi-science of 90s-style marketing fail to cultivate loyalty, it can create something worse. Apathy. Beyond apathy, outdated marketing can poison a brand.

These tactics can create resentment, even hatred.

Just get 12 tweets in your feed about a free book and tell me you don’t see red.

Over the many years I have been doing social media, I have seen the same guerrilla tactics retooled and Bond-Oed. Marketing companies selling Facebook followers, Twitter followers, advertising, e-mail lists, promising reviews, etc. etc. And make no mistake, I’m not saying this stuff might not work. I’ve seen it work. Eh, kind of.

But what is the effect of years of making short-term decisions?

Which is WHY W.A.N.A. (We Are Not Alone) Began with WHY

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Why do people buy books? Why do regular people believe they don’t like reading? Why does traditional marketing not sell more books (and never has)? Why is spam SO ineffective?

Why do so many writers give up? Fail to finish? Why are they overwhelmed?

Once I began with the WHY, I could move to the WHAT and then the HOW.

And I am going to tread carefully here, because W.A.N.A.’s success has never been about me. Without YOU, it’s just me talking to myself (which I already do far more than is healthy :D ). But I saw so many writers running from the single greatest tool for success (a strong platform) out of fear, and this defined my WHY.

WE ARE NOT ALONE.

YOU are not alone.

I don’t build platforms or tweet for people or build fan pages. I don’t blog for people and have no services to sell that will find followers or score reviews. Never have. Never will. Yes, writers of The Digital Age need a strong brand/platform, but no one ever said you had to do it by yourself.

So today we are going to start with something SIMPLE.

WHY are you writing? What is your WHY? If it is to make money? Find another job or change the WHY. People are very sensitive these days and can smell manipulation a mile away…and it gives them digital HIVES.

So if our only goal on social media to hawk a book? Formula to fail.

We will start with my WHYs to make it clearer. This is VERY redacted for the sake of time. But our WHY is our foundation and it’s worthy of considering and even articulating. It’s our mission statement.

WHY do I write social media books and blog?

Because when I started as a writer I was VERY alone. I struggled because of poor or even totally false information. I had no system of emotional support to be there during countless rejections. I HATED being alone and never wanted others to feel abandoned and hopeless.

I also saw the “current” way of doing social media (roughly 2008) was short-term. I sought to INNOVATE the notion of how we did social media and REINVENT the idea of a brand. It was less about exposure and all about community and relationships. We’d learn to be deeper, not cheaper.

I blog because I love the community, serving, and if you guys don’t want to buy my book? Most of the information you need is free and in my archives, because my WHY is SERVICE.

***Though the book is a lot faster and I am not AT ALL opposed to you buying one :) .

WHY do I write fiction?

I love to tell stories and entertain. I like to escape, to enjoy another world, and want to use my gift with words to do the same for others. Take them on an adventure. Maybe I can even help them learn a little about themselves along the way.

So let’s talk about YOU. Why do YOU want to be a writer? Why did you choose vampires instead of werewolves? Why erotica? Romance over thrillers? Mystery over YA? Why children’s books? And why does this matter to your readers? Why should it? ;)

It’s there. We all have to dig deep for the good stuff and I would LOVE to hear your whys. You guys always inspire me, so DANCE CUTE LITTLE MONKE—-, um share your thoughts :D .

I LOVE hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of DECEMBER, 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. 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 novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of my latest social media/branding book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on AMAZON, iBooks, or Nook

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73 Comments

A Writer’s Guide to Surviving The Holiday Party

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Today, we have a holiday treat. My friend Liz Crowe (A.K.A. The Beer Wench) is here to help us make it through the holidays with our egos in tact. Liz is cool…like that zany cousin who let you watch Jaws when you were 5 and scarred you for life but then also taught you the proper was to  apply eyeliner (more always better), how to make a temporary tattoo last…and look real enough to freak out your parents.

She’s the friend who will dare then double dare you and might get you in trouble but who will also give you the best memories and help you learn to love you for YOU and feel good about telling haters to get bent.

Take it away, LIZ!

***

We’ve all been there. The highly anticipated dreaded Holiday Office Party. Or—even better—the Holiday Family Gathering.

We love ‘em. We hate ‘em. Kinda like jogging or ironing. No matter your chosen career path, they can be an exercise in one-upmanship that rivals any Kardashian backyard barbeque. Because try as we all might to deny or quash it, the innate human need to one-up each other will not be denied, especially if there are in-laws and booze in the same general vicinity.

Never fear, Grasshoppers. Liz is here to help you.

So settle down, take some notes and prepare to Be Awesome.

CAVEAT EMPTOR Moment: Because this is a Liz Crowe/Beer Wench advice post you can be assured that virtual alcohol and grossly overblown familial stereotyping is involved—for literary bloggy effect, you see. For anyone sensitive to this particular vice and sarcasm, you might just go ahead and hit the “next blog” button instead of lecturing Kristen for allowing her space to be corrupted in such a manner.

The first thing we have to accept as a pre- or eve post-published author is this: “Nobody gets what we are doing or (in the case of parents) why.”

Period. Full Stop.

During The Holidays there is a lot of dead conversational space to fill, thanks to the fact that a bunch of people are shoved together for hours at a time with nothing in common but a bit of DNA (or the fact of their marriage into said DNA string). And sometimes, these folks try to understand it by asking you questions.

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Be ready. These questions may force you to grind your teeth, grip your rocks glass so hard you break it or even…attempt to answer them.

Sure, while your body is in the overly warm room with a bunch of folks you are related to whether you want to be or not, your mind is back with your work. You’re grinning around the rim of your third glass of cheap box wine and mentally altering a Major Plot Point.

You’re sipping your over-poured, badly mixed gin drink and counting up all the word repetitions your recent editing torture session conjured. You are slamming crappy beers and quietly reliving your latest critique session—you know, the one where you cried and accused everyone of being against your future success?

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In short, you are “working,” kind of like you always are, whether you’re physically wandering the grocery aisle, at a PTA meeting full of helicopter parents, or now, at a Holiday Party—and your skinny, over-achieving sister-in-law is headed your way with a bit of a wobble in her gait and a half empty Cosmo.

“So,” she says, coming too close and breathing booze in your ear. “That book of yours…I went ahead and checked it out of the library.” She winks, guzzles the pink liquid in her glass then tucks her arm into your elbow companionably.

“Thanks,” you whisper, wondering how much closer to the bar you can stand and not be lying on top of it.

“I don’t really…you know… read all that much but thought I’d try and support the fam. Hey, hon, get over here and congratulate the Big Time Author with me!” She screeches across the room but given the general level of drunken loudness, her spouse, your super successful ER physician brother with a PhD in engineering and a Juris Doctorate on top doesn’t hear her…at first.

But finally, he leaves the group of kids enthralled by his balloon bending and banjo skills and makes his sober way over to you, still trapped by his social X-ray wife.

“Hey there,” he booms, smacking you so hard on the back you stumble and recall how much he teased you when you were kids. “So tell me about this…’job’ of yours. Writing, is it? You know, I love those Jack Reacher books, right hon? You know that guy, that Lee person? That’s one creative guy. Hey, when can I get your book at the bookstore anyway?”

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“Well,” you begin, mistakenly honestly believing you can explain the intricacies of the ‘indie publishing life’ to these people. “You see…”

“But your book was in the library,” sister-in-law slurs, hanging off her husband, your brother who is giving you that horrific, “Please explain it to me in ten words or less, I’m busy,” patient stare.

“Yes, well, I begged the libraries to take a copy. But the bookstores…”

“Hey, sweetie,” your brother says to his wife. “What about that book club you host at the club? Why don’t you offer up…um…what was the title of that book?”

“Oh, we still have to get through the Fifty Shades Trilogy and let me tell you we are having some fun with those! Grab me another, love bug,” she screams as your brother turns to the bar. “Why don’t you write books like those?” she asks, before you can escape. “Now that is some good writing…hot stuff…whew!”

 

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She fans her face before getting distracted by one of the many family spawn milling around your ankles. “Let me know when that happens!” She waves her fingers and moves away toward the sister-in-law cabal in the opposite corner, her be-supportive mission obviously concluded.

You wait a few beats, count backwards from a hundred, then get a refill and resume your mental counting of your Facebook likes and twitter followers, pondering how you’ll be so dry and amusing, recounting this little ego-smushing episode on your blog in a few hours. Just a few…more…hours…

By the time the excruciating day/evening/weekend is over, you’ve started no fewer than a dozen conversations with various family members attempting to explain why it takes “so long” to write, get edited, get cover art, get promoted for a single novel. Or how come you keep submitting to agents and publishing houses despite the growing mound of rejections.

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Or why you can’t write “like” (fill in the blank with the latest serial-flash-in-the-pan writer). Or how come they can’t get your book “for real” (read: in print form, at the local Barnes and Noble store when they buy their giant latte and grab their copy of People or Car & Driver on their lunch hour).

You’ve had to stop too many times before getting to the, “Well, Amazon’s algorithm changes mean I have to re-release every two weeks to get noticed,” bit, noting the general eye-clouding-over nature of whichever relative is attempting to make you feel successful over your little writing projects.

Why bother?

But wait! Before you run to the back bedroom and slam the door, think about it this way: No one is asking your brother to explain much about his job, or your sister-in-law(s) to relate her/their latest adventure in child rearing and crock pot meals after a long day of wage-slaving. What they do is pretty clear.

What you do…is mysterious.

And kinda cool.

Ok…VERY cool.

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Authors get to be GOD….

 

My advice is to OWN that. Crush your cool mysteriousness to your chest and do what you do best as a story-teller: make some sh*t up.

I tried this at a party once. Challenged myself to come up with two-three quick sentence descriptions of the general awesomeness of my life as “Author” – or “Novelist” which is an even more esoteric term.

It sure beats getting into long, dreary, inside-baseball discussions of “rankings,” and “formatting issues,” “crit partners,” and “blogging,” especially with your sister’s drunk boyfriend who hears you say “Amazon” and blurts out something like “I love amazons….they’re so hot!”

People who don’t work with these things every day like you will never, ever understand them. Stop trying to make them, especially at a holiday party.

So leaving out the fact that many days I don’t make it out of my sweats or brush my teeth but have written four books this year and have the entire cast chosen for the (as yet un-optioned) Netflix series, I have had some luck convincing family members that I Am An Author. 

And I Am Cool.

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You are too, be you pre-almost-post published. And even if you are one of the dreaded mid-listers at a “real publishing house,” you know of what I speak here. What you do is creative, internal, and mostly unexplainable to your average brother or sister-in-law. So grab your next cheap, badly mixed cocktail and own it, fellow scribbler!

You can get real sympathy on Facebook later.

Make it a great Holiday season, all no matter what or why you celebrate. I leave you with this, hard-learned lesson: Don’t mix red and white wines and never (ever) start with brown liquor and end with wine unless you want to celebrate a whole day completely out of commission.

You’re welcome.

*************************

Liz Crowe, A.K.A. The Beer Wench

Liz Crowe, A.K.A. The Beer Wench

Amazon best-selling author, beer blogger, brewery marketing expert, mom of three, and soccer fan, Liz Crowe is a Kentucky native and graduate of the University of Louisville currently living in Ann Arbor. She has decades of experience in sales and fund raising, plus an eight-year stint as a three-continent, ex-pat trailing spouse.

Her early forays into the publishing world led to a groundbreaking fiction subgenre, “Romance for Real Life,” which has gained thousands of fans and followers interested less in the “HEA” and more in the “WHA” (“What Happens After?”).

With stories set in the not-so-common worlds of breweries, on the soccer pitch, in successful real estate offices and at times in exotic locales like Istanbul, Turkey, her books are unique and told with a fresh voice. The Liz Crowe backlist has something for any reader seeking complex storylines with humor and complete casts of characters that will delight, frustrate and linger in the imagination long after the book is finished.

Check out her first self-published series, coming in January 2015: The Love Brothers. Already garnering raves on Goodreads, book one (Love Garage) is available for pre-order on Amazon now.

Click here for free chapters from all the books and to enter during the final days of a huge, multi-author giveaway (including some goodies from Kristen Lamb!)

Don’t ever ask her for anything “like a Budweiser” or risk bodily injury.

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