Posts Tagged getting published

Want More Writing Success? Learn to Be a QUITTER

Image vis Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Yuya Sekiguchi.

Image vis Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Yuya Sekiguchi.

Ah, the New Year is upon us. Most of our resolutions revolve around grabbing hold with a death-grip and vowing to never let go. When it comes to losing weight, getting out of debt, or discovering if our closets actually have floors? This is a good plan. Yet, when it comes to our careers? Never giving up might keep us from ever succeeding.

Want to know the secret to success? Quitting. Yes, you heard me correctly. And, if you’re a creative professional, it is in your interest to learn to get really good at quitting. Maybe you’ve felt like a loser or a failure, that your dream to make a living with your art was a fool’s errand.

Ignore that junk and understand…

Winners Quit All the Time

I posit this thought; if we ever hope to achieve anything remarkable, we must learn to quit. In fact, I’ll take this another step. I venture to say that most aspiring writers will not succeed simply because they aren’t skilled at quitting.

Ooooohhhh.

Learning Discernment

One problem many artists have is we lack discernment. It’s easy to get trapped in all-or-nothing thinking. If we defy family in pursuit of our art and something stops working properly, out of pride often we will persist even when the very thing we are attempting is the largest reason we will fail.

We keep reworking that first novel over and over. We keep querying the first novel and won’t move on until we get an agent. We keep writing in the same genre even though it might not be the best fit for our voice. We keep marketing the first self-published book and don’t move forward and keep writing more books and better books.

Learning to Quit is the Surest Insurance Against Failure

I like to say, “Persistence looks a lot like stupid.” The act of never giving up is noble, but never giving up on the wrong things is a formula to fail. We have to learn to detect the difference between quitting a tactic and quitting a dream.

Original image courtesy of flowcomm, via Flickr Commons

Original image courtesy of flowcomm, via Flickr Commons

If I am trying to climb Mt. Everest, but I am repeatedly failing at climbing the one side, which is a sheer rock face with no way to get a footing, then it is suicide to keep trying the same thing. If, however, I regroup, hike back to the bottom and take another way up the mountain, I am a quitter…but I am NOT a failure.

In fact, in order to “win” I must “quit.”

Learn to Quit from the Best

Most of us are lousy at knowing how and when to quit. This is one of the reasons it is a good idea to surround ourselves with successful people, because successful people are expert quitters. When I started out, I had all the wrong mentors. I had writer pals who quit writing when it was boring or who quit querying after a handful of rejections. They quit attending critique because they got their feelings hurt when people didn’t rave their book was the best thing since kitten calendars.

All this wrong kind of quitting is easy to fall into. Excuses are free, but they cost us everything.

My Life Changed When I Changed the Quitters in My Company

It all started with the DFW Writer’s Workshop. I attended and met people living the life I wanted to have…the life of a professional writer. They were the same as me, and yet very different. When I went to DFW’s conference–which I HIGHLY recommend so sign up NOW for the May conference (I will be there, oh and Donald Maass and Les Edgerton, too)–I found myself being pushed to yet a higher level.

I met and stalked Candy Havens. Candy is an excellent quitter. She wrote her first bad book and didn’t spend the next six years trying to resurrect it. She sought training and experts and moved forward. She quit outside hobbies and friends that took away from her goal of becoming a professional author. Theresa Ragan was rejected by traditional publishers for over twenty years. She finally self-published and has now sold hundreds of thousands of books. NY tried to offer her a contract and she turned them down. 

I turned in a hundred page proposal for Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World in the summer of 2011. But, after NY ignoring it for over two years? I published it myself. We need to always be moving forward, and sometimes pressing on requires letting go. We can’t grab hold of the new if we are hanging on to the old.

If something isn’t working QUIT. Move on! If we have to defend and justify what we are doing there’s something wrong.

Everything is Our Enemy

It’s hard to know when to quit. I’m a loyal person. I’m loyal to a fault and I struggle every day with this lesson. But I’ve recently come to a conclusion. People who reach their dreams don’t get there by doing EVERYTHING. Everything is dead weight. Everything will keep us from focusing. Everything gets us distracted.

Everything is the enemy.

Sometimes we need to let go of inefficiencies or false trails, and if we don’t let go, then failure is just a matter of time.

Artists Actually Need More Quitting

Quit your day job. Today. This moment. Now, by quitting, I don’t mean you should throw your laptop in a waste can and take a bat to that copy machine that’s eaten every presentation you’ve tried to photocopy since the day you were hired….though that might be fun.

No, I mean mentally QUIT, then hire yourself to the dream. Screw aspiring. Aspiring is for pansies. It takes guts to be a writer. It takes guts to be any kind of creative professional. Hire yourself to the job you dream about. TODAY.

A couple years ago, I presented at the North Texas RWA Conference and I heard the best term EVER. No aspiring writers, only pre-published writers. If you want to be a professional author, you must quit to win. The day job is no longer the ends, but rather the means. The day job is just venture capital funding the successful art-making business…YOU.

You are a pre-published author…who happens to also be a stay-at-home-mom, a computer programmer, a salesperson, a whatever.

Learn to Quit Being “Everything”

Again, Everything is the enemy. Friends and family will want you to keep being the maid and the taxi and the babysitter and the buddy who can spend all day shoe-shopping. Many of us will try to keep being Everything to everyone and we’ll just try to “fit in” writing, but that is the lie that will kill the dream. We can’t be Everything!

We must learn when to quit and to be firm in quitting. Others have the right to be disappointed, but they’ll get over it. And, if they really love us they will get over it quickly and be happy for our resolve to reach our dreams. If they don’t? They’re dead weight and it’s better to cull them out of our life sooner than later.

Yes, this is hard stuff. Reaching our dreams is simple, but it will never be easy ;).

So what are some of your quitting stories? Did it work? Were you better off? Tell us your quit to win story! Do you need help sticking to your guns? Hey, your family doesn’t get you, but we do! Do you have a problem and you don’t know if you should stick or quit? Put it in the comments section and let us play armchair psychiatrist!

I LOVE hearing from you!

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

December’s Winner is Chris Weston. Please send 5 page synopsis (1250 words) one page query (250 words) or 20 pages of novel (5,000 words) in a WORD document to kristen at wan intl dot com and congratulations.

I hope you guys will check out my latest book Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World and get prepared for 2014!!!!

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Doubt, Fear, False Alarms & “Giving Birth” To Our Dreams

The "False Alarms" from the movie Labyrinth.

The “False Alarms” from the movie Labyrinth.

If you’re a writer, then you have a dream. You also have a lot of work ahead. I heard an interesting quote this morning from Joyce Meyers. There are dreamers who don’t work and workers who don’t dream. That hit home for me.

After having been around the block a few times, I can say I’ve met both types of writers. Some writers have all these ideas and generally a stack of unfinished work to show for it. They aren’t willing to dig in when it gets hard, when the “fair-weather friends” fall away. On the other side, we have those who write, but are afraid to dream. They’re terrified to dare ask if they could be great.

To be successful we must learn to dream and to be finishers. Starting is easy. There are a lot of people to cheer us on, but watch what happens when the heat turns up? Most fall away. To be successful, we must remain focused so we can remain standing at the end (often alone).

Win, lose, or draw, if we finish? We’ve still won.

WANA, Kristen Lamb, We Are Not Alone, WANA International, how to be successful writer

Image via Marie Loughin WANA Commons

The Beauty of Finished “Failures”

Many of you who’ve followed my blog any length of time know I like to pick on my first novel. It’s now chained in the garage and keeps burglars away. I thought it was going to be an instant runaway success, and my largest concern?

Learning the craft? *giggles* You guys are funny.

Becoming a professional? *clutches sides*

No, my largest concern was how to handle all the agents that surely would be fighting over this “masterpiece.” Time, experience and failure gave me a solid pop on the snoot and a hard dose of reality.

Now, I could have cried that I failed and staggered back to the corporate job I loathed, but I didn’t. Call me an eternal optimist, but I took my lumps then searched for the success in the ashes of my greatest “failure.”

Sure, I’d written a book so bad it was banned by the Hague Convention as torture, but, for the first time in my life?

I FINISHED something. 

Yes, the book was an unfixable mess, but it was a big first step in an entirely new direction.

Warnings to Those Who Want to Be Finishers

When you lock on your dream, you must be centered in what you want and who you are. One of my favorite scenes from the movie Labyrinth is when Hoggle is guiding Sarah out of a jam (the oubliette) and they head down a passage with talking stone faces saying things like, You’re going the wrong way! Turn Back! Soon, it will be too late!

Hoggle tells Sarah to ignore them, that they are false alarms put there to scare people heading the right direction.

False Alarms Abound

We just finished the second WANACon and it was FABULOUS. Words cannot describe the experience. It is SO surreal to be in a class and having fun from home, in jammies while learning from top experts…in the company of other writers from all over the world. We had attendees from Saudi Arabia, Australia, New Zealand, Europe, Canada and the entire continental US, all in the same virtual classroom.

I cannot tell you how many people told me a conference like WANACon was impossible. I’ve had people quit with no notice. I’ve had contractors take money and then disappear.

But by grace and support from the WANAs? I’m still here :D.

I can guarantee you that, every time I attempt to do anything BIG (teach a class, publish a book, host a worldwide digital conference), about two weeks before go-time? All hell breaks loose.

You’re going the wrong way!

You don’t know what you’re doing!

You’re going to FAIL!

Focus on the Goal

Those voices (or e-mails or blog comments) will always be there. Often people are projecting their own fears or insecurities on to us, and that’s normal. We’re wise to give others permission to be afraid without personalizing it. If I handed you a plate of rotting meat to ingest, you DO have the option of saying, “No, thanks.”

Know who you are and what you want and focus on that. Focus on the people who still believe in you (because we CANNOT be successful alone—*waves to Jay Donovan, Jamie Gold, all the WANA volunteers and the wonderful speakers and attendees*).

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Be Accountable, Not a Doormat

Criticism will always come to those attempting anything remarkable. In fact, the only way to completely avoid criticism is to never attempt anything interesting. Criticism isn’t always bad. It can help us grow and learn where we need to come up higher. Often, those who criticize aren’t very skilled at it, so don’t expect it to come with a bouquet of flowers.

Image courtesy of Cellar Door Films WANA Commons

Image courtesy of Cellar Door Films WANA Commons

But, we do need to sift through the hurtful stuff for the gold. People want answers, not excuses. It is perfectly okay to not know everything. And, guess what? It’s okay to be learning, to not be perfect.

There is nothing wrong with saying, “Thanks for the feedback and I will make sure to work on this.” If you can do something to fix or help fix the problem, go ahead, but sometimes? It’s too late, and all that is left to say is, “I’m learning. I will do better next time. Thanks for pointing out la la la.”

Doormats and Drama Queens Rarely Succeed

We have to remain grounded in where we’re going and what we want. There will ALWAYS be people to point out where we fall short, because criticism is easy. Acknowledge it, work on it, but remind yourself that there are areas you DO shine.

Doormats take everything to heart and, as a result, just lay there and collect dirt. We DO need to take action when possible, even if that action is as simple as vowing to do better the next time.

Be proactive, not reactive. Drama Queens are reactive. They plunge ahead with rash emotional decisions (often to their own demise). Take time to calm down, then press forward. No decision is better than bad emotional decisions.

Dreams, Like Pregnancy, Require LABOR and THEN Birth

Men? You’ll just have to use your imagination here. I can attest that when I first got pregnant, it was awesome. I glowed. I got to have fun shopping for all kinds of cutesy baby things. By month TEN?

KILL…ME…NOW.

The Spawn had to be evicted, even though he’d already ordered his Ikea futon and digital streaming cable. He liked the Mexican food he regularly ordered being delivered instantly and had no intentions of changing the plan.

Mommy?

Mommy was DYING. I couldn’t sit, or sleep or think (I could only run to pee every three minutes). I hurt everywhere and I didn’t care what they had to do if I could just get THAT STUBBORN BABY out into the world.

And it would have been great if they’d invented a Newborn Transporter System, but they HADN’T. So I had 98 hours of induced LABOR. By the time Spawn came into this world, I looked like I’d gone a round or two with Mike Tyson.

The Spawn after "eviction."

The Spawn after “eviction.”

But it was ALL worth it. Once you have that baby (or dream), it’s funny how soon you forget the pain. You forget the fear, the doubt, the thoughts of Okay, exactly HOW is that baby going to get from IN HERE to OUT THERE?

But, remember, babies aren’t born Day Three. We get nine or even ten months to adjust and take on more struggles (like not being able to see your feet). Same with a book or even an on-line writing conference. Take it a step at a time. Breathe. Focus on the “baby” and do your part.

Ahhhh, what pain?

Ahhhh, what pain?

In the end? You get no sleep and to change diapers revisions and all the tough steps to publication. But if you press, you gain the joy of holding that dream in your hand and knowing you toughed it out.

No one can take that away.

What are your thoughts? Do you have a hard time finishing? Do you fall prey to self-doubt? Outside criticism? Do you have to watch letting outsiders discourage you? Did you finally hold your finished book in your hand and forget all the trauma?

I LOVE hearing from you!

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

Announcements: There are a handful of people waiting on their 5-Page revisions. My goal is to have those finished by tomorrow. Between a stomach flu and WANACon, I am running behind and I didn’t have enough brain power to do your pages justice. I’d rather be a little late than return junk. I want to give your work 1000%. I am also FRIED from working all weekend, so I will announce September’s contest winner on WEDNESDAY. Yes, Kristen IS human.

 

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95 Comments

A Final Word from Les Edgerton–Fortune Favors the Prepared

Les Edgerton

Les Edgerton

Today, is Les Edgerton’s last post in this series. We’ve been extraordinarily blessed to learn from him, so I hope y’all will give him a digital hug or round of applause. Les will soon be teaching on-line classes for WANA, so I’ll let you know when those are available.

Take it away, Les!

All of the points we’ve covered in this dialogue series are intended for one purpose only—to help writers avoid the red flags that improper dialogue can create for agents and editors… and readers.

And that’s what they are—red flags. That doesn’t mean that breaking any of these “rules” or conventions will doom your mss from being taken, but it does mean the presence of them can cast a negative light on your work. And, I imagine we all want to avoid that!

Also, there will be a great many examples of novels that break these precepts. There are many reasons for that. Contrary to popular opinion, novels don’t make it into print simply because they’re quality writing. There are many other factors at work. Factors that the writer may or may not have control over.

For instance, novels are published because the author has made a personal connection with a publisher. When an editor knows someone and likes that person, it’s not uncommon for that person’s book to be taken over another more worthy one. Happens all the time.

Or, an author may have had one or more successful novels already published and the current one may not be as good as the mss lying on the same desk as an unknown author, but the lesser quality novel will be taken. Again, happens all the time.

Sometimes, even though the novel breaks all kinds of rules, something in a novel like this may simply appeal to an individual editor. Maybe it’s the voice. Maybe it’s the setting—my first novel was taken by accident because of its setting. The Death of Tarpons had been rejected 86 times before I sent it to the University of North Texas Press.

That’s EIGHTY-SIX times!

That was in the days of snail mail submissions, where you had to pay the postage for the mss to the editor and also provide return postage. That was during a time when my family ate a lot of beans and really couldn’t afford to buy the tons of stamps I needed. I had made my mind up that once I reached 100 rejections, I would “retire” the manuscript.

What happened was that it landed on the desk of UNT’s publisher, Fran Vick. Unbeknownst to me at the time, UNT had never before published fiction. If I’d known that, I never would have sent it. Anyway, Fran’s secretary had unwrapped the day’s mail and as it by chance happened, mine was the first mss on Fran’s desk. Her normal routine when presented with a fiction mss, was for her to not even read it, but just stick a standard rejection notice in it and have her secretary send it back.

Luck was on my side!

As Fran related to me later (I’ve just revealed a happy ending and taken all the tension out of this, haven’t I!), her secretary was bringing her her morning cup of coffee and something happened where she had to remake the pot. That gave Fran an extra five minutes or so before she began her “official” day, so, for want of anything else to do, she picked up the first page of my novel and began idly to read it. If it wasn’t for her secretary’s failing to deliver her that cup of coffee, none of what happened next would have ever happened.

It’s what she read on that first page that induced her to keep reading. The novel was set in Freeport, Texas, the town I grew up in. Like most first novels, it was an autobiographical, “coming-of-age” novel (there’s a cliché for ya!). The thing is… Freeport was Fran’s hometown!

What editor can resist reading about their own hometown, especially when that town is a tiny burg like Freeport? A New York City editor, glancing at the first page of a mss and seeing it’s set in NYC isn’t going to be nearly as intrigued as an editor from Freeport, Texas reading a novel set in… Freeport, Texas!

As it turned out, Fran also knew my grandmother who was prominently on the page immediately and was instantly drawn into the story and read it all the way through, got on the phone, and offered to buy it.

So, there’s luck involved sometimes. Although, the book was well-written, so it also pays to be ready for luck when it appears. Fortune favors the prepared! The book went on to be well-reviewed and sold very well and earned a Special Mention from the Violet Crown Book Awards.

The point is, there are so many factors out of your control that can lead to or prevent publication. But, there are factors that you can control and among them are adhering to contemporary writing styles and conventions. And that is the impetus behind these precepts. To help you avoid many of the red flags that may prevent your mss from getting a fair and thorough reading.

Okay? Best of luck to all of you and your writing endeavors!

Blue skies,

Les

Les, THANK YOU SOOOOO MUCH. We really appreciate you taking so much time from your packed schedule.

I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of April, 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 April I will pick a winner for the monthly prize. Good luck!

Les Edgerton is the author of HOOKEDTHE RAPISTTHE BITCH and others.

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Writing Tip #1–How Much Detail Should Writers Use?

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Lesson

When it comes to writing great fiction, less is often more. Think of modifiers and detail like perfume. Perfume can be lovely, sexy, attractive, and make one irresistible. It can also give others a headache or an asthma attack and have them looking for the closest bookmark exit.

Action

Comb through your prose and look for adverbs. When possible, replace them with stronger verbs.

She stood quickly out of the chair.

She bolted from her chair.

Look for redundant adverbs.

He yelled loudly.

Um…no, duh. How else would he yell? Softly?

Not all adverbs are evil. Adverbs are fine when they denote some quality that is not inherent in the definition of the verb.

She whispered conspiratorially.

Describing Characters

When it comes to character descriptions, you aren’t talking to a police sketch artist. Give the basics and let the reader fill in the rest. Trust your reader’s imagination to be far better than anything you can supply. Think of it this way, when your book is one day made into a movie, casting will be far easier :D.

Adjectives—Handle with Care

Like adverbs, try to use adjectives sparingly and only when they are truly going to punch up a sentence. Avoid adjectives your reader would automatically supply on her own.

It was a dark night.

Ok. Glad you told us that night was DARK. Our brain doesn’t need holding, really. We are not stupid.

It was an evil night, a night of reckoning.

Oooooh, oh. I can go with this. See how the adjectives hint at the story instead of stating the obvious?

Details Can Negatively Affect Pacing

We do need some details. Few things annoy me more than having no idea about the setting, or what people look like, but…

If we spend three paragraphs describing the weather and the setting, this gives readers a chance to see something shiny and then you are OOH! SQUIRREL!

We are in an increasingly ADD world and need to appreciate the reader of the Digital Age. Yes, use detail, but spread it throughout the story. Big chunks of detail get boring very quickly to everyone but the writer.

Imagine this scenario. You can’t wait to watch a movie. The opening scene is of a breathtaking sunrise, the most beautiful sunrise you’ve ever witnessed in the history of sunrises, but the camera just focuses on the sun rising over the mountains, and rising, and *yawn* more rising…for the next FIFTEEN minutes. You would be throwing popcorn at the screen.

Loads of detail heaped together have the same affect.

When We Modify Everything, We Modify Nothing

Too much detail/too many modifiers are like a person speaking/shouting in monotone. Remember Billy Mays, the Oxy Clean guy, and EVERYTHING WAS EQUALLY LOUD AND IMPORTANT?

When we modify everything, we modify nothing. Use detail/modifiers sparingly and purposefully so that readers can more easily enjoy why they bought your book in the first place…for the story.

Happy writing!

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NaNoNowWHAT? Small Steps for BIG Change

Ah, we are closing in on the end of National Novel Writing Month. Congratulations to those of you who finished 50,000 words, and congratulations to those who were brave enough to try, even if it didn’t go the way you would have liked. Whether you finished or didn’t finish NaNoWriMo, you are probably thinking NaNoWHAT NOW?

Do I give up because I couldn’t even finish NaNo and therefore I SUUUUUCK?

I did finish, but I have a 50,000 word monster that peed on my rugs and chewed up my favorite shoes. Oh, the editing! I don’t even know where to start! HELP!

No matter where you are, I can tell you that there is a lot of work ahead.

*groans*

I hear you, but I’m here to help.

Magic Ingredient for the Successful Life

One thing I hear people say over and over is, “I wish I had self-discipline.” I even hate to admit that those words often come out of my mouth, too. In fact, I used to be reigning queen of Do-It-Later Land, a sad realm nestled in the Post-It Note Mountains. Over the past few years, I’ve managed to change a lot of bad habits, and I am much more productive. How did I do this? I finally understood a couple of core principles, which I am going to share with you guys today.

Heart of Genius

I have a magazine addiction read a lot of magazines, particularly the nerdy stuff like Popular Science, Popular Mechanics, Discovery, Psychology Today, and Scientific American. Okay, I confess I mainly look at the pretty pictures, but occasionally I do READ the articles. There is a special issue of Scientific American I picked up while stranded for ten hours in the Seattle airport. The issue was entirely dedicated to exploring the topic of “genius.”

One article had a line that really resonated with me.

Becoming an Olympic champion requires more than just athletic prowess; it also depends on the ability to focus, mental toughness, drive, optimism and emotional control.

We could just as easily reword this statement:

Becoming a successful author requires more than just creative talent; it also depends on the ability to focus, mental toughness, drive, optimism and emotional control.

If we look at any successful anything, writer included, we will see a lot of similar traits. Perseverance, self-discipline, and the ability to put off short-term gratification for long-term reward. The ability to be self-directed. The exact character traits that make a successful doctor, lawyer, soldier, mother or consultant are no different than the character traits that make a successful writer.

It is all in a change of mindset.

In my almost 10 years of working with writers, I’ve met a lot of highly intelligent, supremely gifted writers. But, after talking to them fifteen minutes? I know they won’t be around very long. It is clear that despite talent, they have life attitudes and habits that will always keep success beyond their reach unless they change their approach.

Successful people are willing to get up earlier, stay up later, work harder and never stop. They will outpace their competition every time. Why? Because self-discipline isn’t a once in a while thing, “Oh, I was so good today.” Self-discipline is the foundation of the successful life…not an accessory worn when we feel particularly inspired.

So do you have self-discipline?

It is easy to say “no.” I know my nature is actually quite lazy. If left to my own designs, I am so lazy I think my heart might stop. For years, and years I had so much trouble staying focused. I would “be good” for a day or two and then would fall off the wagon, roll under the wheels and get caught up in the axle of said wagon until someone heard me whining and cut me free.

Yeah…not pretty.

Then one day I understood something so fundamental that it changed everything.

Self-Discipline is Already Inside Us

You have self-discipline. I have it. It is part of who we are. Confused? It’s okay. Try this.

Unless you have suffered a birth defect or tragic farming accident, you have a bicep muscle. If you can use your arm, it means you have a functioning bicep. Now, it might be puny and withered and buried in fluffiness…but you have a bicep. So do I. So does every person on the planet with functioning arms. Yet, unless you USE your bicep, train it, feed it good nutrition and vitamins, it won’t do much more than move your arm. To have strength and tone…you must exercise your bicep so it can grow stronger.

Same with self-disciple. The more we use it, the stronger it becomes until it is tough as iron…just like our muscles. So some simple principles:

We Must Be Wise How We Train

Just like working out our biceps, we must be wise how we train our self-discipline if we hope for long-term success. If I wanted to build my bicep and I went to the gym and did 500 curls with a heavy dumbbell, then who is the REAL dumbbell? My arm would be sore and likely injured, and it certainly wouldn’t inspire me to want to return to work out. Self-discipline is the same. Don’t start Day One trying to have the discipline of a Shaolin Monk. That is a formula to fail.

Right now we are at the end of NaNoWriMo and some people are feeling like loser-failure-jerks because they didn’t finish, but why? NaNoWriMo is a typical professional pace for those of us who do this for a living, but news flash. A lot of us started out with 300-500 words a day. We didn’t jump into 2,500 words or more in the beginning. This is one of the reasons I really encourage new writers to take my blogging class. Blogging is great training for a professional pace.

Great if you finished and still great if you didn’t. Now show up tomorrow and the next day and the next.

We Must Be Mindful To Progress

Just like curling the same dumbbell eventually can cause a plateau, self-discipline is the same way. Make sure your goals get progressively more difficult as time goes on until you reach a point that works. Then it’s all maintenance :D.

Start with small goals and progress from there. Small successes inspire us to try harder, bigger, better tasks. Too many writers start out with some stupid word count goal (yes, I did this, too) that is destined to fail long-term:

Wheee!!!! I am going to write 5000 words a day.

Uh, no.

What happens is we burn out and hate our writing..and hate puppies. It’s bad when we reach the point of hating puppies. Again. Been there, done that got the T-shirt. Start with 250 words (one page) six days a week and go from there. If 250 was way too easy (like curling a 1 pound weight) then adjust until it is slightly beyond comfortable. Once that word count becomes easy, increase by 15%…just like weightlifting.

This works for any self-discipline. Don’t go on a diet and cut every last unhealthy thing out at one time. Start with lowering the number of sodas and increasing water intake. Then no soda. Then onto no fast food. Easing into these life changes helps make them life-long habits. Just like writing 5000 words a day cannot sustain a career, eating nothing but celery and protein shakes is no way to eat for life.

Learn to Fail Forward

Failing Forward by John Maxwell is one of my favorite books. Successful people are successful because they have a healthy relationship with failure. They view it as a learning experience, reevaluate and then try again, and again and again, each time modifying the approach. Persistence is more than not giving up. There is a fine line between persistent and stupid.

If my goal is to climb Mt. Everest but I’m on Mt. Shasta and refuse to give up even though I’m on the WRONG mountain, I am not persistent, I’m a moron.

I have a saying, Persistence looks a lot like stupid.

Yet, how many writers keep shopping the same manuscript that’s been rejected time and time again? They refuse to dig in and do the tough revisions or move on to a new book and in the end it kills their success. The first book is often a learning curve. Use it. Learn from it. Fail forward.

Failures must be stepping stones, not tombstones.

Don’t Let Feelings Vote

How I managed to change my life around was I learned to stop consulting my feelings. They no longer get a vote. I don’t wait until I feel like writing. I write. Writers write. I don’t go to yoga or the gym only when I feel like it. I get exercise. I plan on being a career author and that requires me to be fit, healthy and relaxed.

I look at the old Kristen and want to go hide my head in shame. I waited for inspiration on everything and that’s why I had a lot of messes and very little victory.

People have a mistaken understanding of how life works. Most of us believe the feeling comes first, then the action and then the change. Heck, I did.

WRONG.

Action is always first. Action, then the feelings will change and finally the results change. Showing up is most of the battle. Trust me.

Feelings are a horrible guide. Feelings can be affected by diet, weather, activity level, the news, traffic, PMS, kids, a full moon, cat puke in our slippers. Feelings are a terrible compass. Are they important? Sure. The bumper on my car is important, too, but it makes a lousy navigational system.

Just remember:

“Amateurs wait for inspiration. The rest of us get up and go to work.” ~Stephen King.

So the next time you look at those authors you admire so much, you might rest easy knowing that you very well could be just as talented. Talent isn’t something we can much control. But, this is good news. This means, then, that the only things separating us from the Author Big Leagues are life habits that we can control. And that is FANTASTIC news!

What stumbling blocks do you guys face? What challenges? Any tips or tricks to share? Great books to read about self-discipline? What is your success story? I want to hear! Are you a reformed slacker, too? Are you afraid of your NaNoMonster?

I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of November, 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 November I will pick a winner for the monthly prize (will announce October’s winner at the same time. Been on the road too much to effectively tally). Good luck!

I also hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in the biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left to write great books.

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