Posts Tagged publishing success

Irrefutable Law of Success #3—We Learn By Doing

Original image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Gabriel Amadeus

Original image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Gabriel Amadeus

Theory is great, but it may or may not jive with reality. My goal as a blogger, author, teacher is to equip you guys for success from all angles—craft, brand/platform, and business. Yet, want to know what all these have in common?

We have to DO them to get better.

We can read all the craft books in the world, but we only grow as writers by writing. We improve on Facebook or Twitter with practice. As authors, we are corporations of ONE. We need to make business decisions. The more decisions we make, the more we grow.

One of the biggest business decisions we’ll make is which publishing path to take. This is why I dedicate a lot of time to educate you guys about how all forms of publishing work in my new book. We have to choose a path that fits our personality, our lives, how much time we have, and any operational constraints (four kids, day job, genre, budget, fear of clowns).

Writing can feel a little like THIS...

Writing can feel a little like THIS…

Sometimes our plans can have the best of intentions, but we don’t know what’s going to work until we try. For instance, my first books were published indie and I’d hoped this would translate into a traditional deal. I wanted to experience all forms of publishing so I could connect better with my readers.

After two years of a proposal going nowhere in NYC? Time to change plans. Thing is, I didn’t know it wouldn’t work until I TRIED.

Some Things Can ONLY Be Learned By DOING

As an author and business owner, I can tell you that hindsight REALLY IS 20/20. I look back at dumb moves, missteps, mistakes and go, “Yeah, that was stupid.” Yet, here’s the thing, it seemed like a good idea at the TIME.

Any of you who’ve ever DATED know the feeling.

We learn by DOING. We can’t learn to ride a bike reading Internet articles. We have to hop on and expect a lot of skinned knees and elbows.

Blogging is one of the best (and most stable) forms of social media. Yet, we only get good at it by doing it. Yes, readers love this blog (and I SO THANK YOU for that), but I’ve written over 700 blogs. My first blogs?

*insert crickets chirping*

I remember not wanting to delete spammers, because it meant I’d have NO comments.

This is the best infermentation ever. You are change my mind. What is your browser? You are brilliant person! My brother recommended me here. Your site has great spam filter.

He could just be foreign, right?

As I mentioned yesterday, plan your work, then work your plan. Plans are only good if we are using them. By using them, we see the flaws, the stuff that doesn’t work and then we can CHANGE direction. That author (I mentioned Monday) who was sniveling about spending a bazillion hours on social media and his book wasn’t selling?

CHANGE THE PLAN, DUDE!

All of us start with great ideas and intentions. That’s the prototype. Yet, once we build the prototype, we need to try and wreck it. Some flaws only come to the surface when rubber meets the road.

Do Stuff that Makes Sense—CONTEXT

All righty, we’ve talked about making a plan and testing a plan, but let’s start with not making a STUPID plan. I can’t count the number of times that social media, PR and marketing experts have cited examples of success that are OVER TEN YEARS OLD. If something was successful ten years ago? Likely NOT a good plan in a completely different paradigm.

Recently I had a conversation with an Old School PR person (A BIG PR person). I was trying to impress the importance of an author blog. Actual conversation:

Expert:  Well, sure a blog is great. It worked for Julia & Julia. Blog a topic and get a book deal.

Me:  Blogging a topic will pigeonhole a modern author and burn them out. Blogs need to be more dynamic. The Julia & Julia example is outdated.

Expert:  What do you mean outdated?

Me:  Okay, the blogger had to start the blog. Then she had to blog for well over a year to capture enough interest for a book deal. So that’s another year to two years to write the book and get it to market. Then the book needed time to take off in order to be optioned by Hollywood and, last I checked, films take time to make. Another year to two years to turn the book into a script, cast and then produce the film. And aside from all of that, it’s already a four year old film. The example isn’t relevant because it’s easily eight years old. Modern audiences have been spoiled by Reality TV and want to connect emotionally as people. They want to talk about cats and zombies and laundry with their favorite authors.

Expert: Yeah *laugh* I don’t see how blogging about cats is going to get you very far.

Me: Haz Cheezburger just sold for a couple million dollars and it’s simply cat memes. Also, Jenny Lawson not only hit the New York Times best-seller list, her readers crashed Goodreads when she tried to do a Meet the Author. She blogs about cats, zombies and her fetish for taxidermy.

Expert: Jenny Who?

After the conversation, we were on the same page and the expert was awesome and generous and grateful for the help, but this illustrates a point. When people (experts) cite what worked for The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood? Use critical thinking skills. Remember that success happened in THE 1990s.

Yes, Rebecca Wells traveled to the indie bookstores and created relationships and did readings, etc. but this was before Borders and Barnes & Noble all but wiped out independent bookstores. Granted, Borders is dead and buried and B&N is hemorrhaging. This means the small bookstore is making a comeback…but it still isn’t the influencer it was in the early 90s (but feel free to pounce if it makes sense for your book). 

Remember, in the 1990s most people couldn’t afford computers, the Internet was in its infancy, and the bookstore was the main point of discovery. That’s no longer the case. When we make any plan, yes look to other successes for ideas. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Yet, at the same time, be smart. Your time is valuable.

This is why it is incumbent upon us to be knowledgeable. What is the market climate? Who are our readers? What do they want? Where are they congregating? Is my plan relevant or am I trying to recreate ten or even twenty-year-old magic?

Then try it. Put a foot in. If The Red Sea doesn’t part? Step…out (thank you, Joyce Meyers).

What are your thoughts? Have you been Wile E. Coyote and tried stuff that just went BOOM! Stuff that seemed like a good idea at the time? Do you look back at some of the people you dated and ask, “Was I on DRUGS? How did I EVER think that was a good idea?”

I LOVE hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of August, 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: I have a class coming up SOON, Creating Conflict and Tension on Every Page if you want to learn how to apply these tactics to your writing. Use WANA15 to get 15% off.

Also, August 21st, I am running a Your First Five Pages webinar. Bronze is $40 and Gold is $55 (I look at your first five pages) and use WANA15 for 15% off.

The webinars are all recorded in case you can’t make the time and a PDF with notes will be sent to you following the class.

Also, my new book, Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World is NOW AVAILABLE.

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33 Comments

Authors of the Digital Age–What It Takes to Be a Real Author CEO

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Were you doing something? I’m bored. Can I help? I’m hungry.

I do a lot of reading of other blogs, particularly blogs that aren’t about writing. I think this keeps my information fresh. As many of you might know, financial blogger Steve Tobak is one of my favorites, and he regularly inspires my writing.

This past week he had a neat post What It Takes to Be a Real CEO, and there were so many of the principles that applied to being a Digital Age Author. We are now Author CEOs, no matter what path we take. So what does it take to be a REAL Author CEO?

Passion for Work

We must have a passion for writing and a willingness to work hard. To be blunt, being a professional writer is a lot of HARD work. Writers are CEO of a company of one, and many times our writing work is on top of a day job, family, children, and other responsibilities. Going pro isn’t all floating around on a unicorn cloud hanging out with the muse.

All professional authors have to read, learn the craft, make work count, finish the books, and be ruthless and relentless in our edits until the work is complete. We have to build a platform, promote, keep up with taxes, accounting, deductions, receipts, spending, write-offs, mailing lists, etc.

This means we need to get up earlier and stay up later than most people, and we will have to sacrifice a lot. This is why we need passion. Passion takes the sting out of sacrifice. While others are whining, we are working.

Relentless Pursuit of the Dream, Even When Others Think You’re Nuts

In the beginning, this is particularly important. No one will take you seriously. Accept it and sally forth. Brush the dust from your feet.

Others want us to fail, because if we succeed, then we are proof success is a choice. Others will resent us because they want to believe they aren’t in control of their futures. They want to keep their victim mentality because it’s safe and absolves them of personal responsibility for their own futures.

Expect push-back.

Courage in the Face of Adversity

The new paradigm is changing and can be just as scary as the old one. Those who choose a traditional path know the odds of finding an agent and landing a publishing deal are not the best. Most writers who query will fail.

When it comes to a non-traditional path, we have to learn so many new things and wear frightening and unfamiliar hats. Again, the odds are better, but competition is staggering, discoverability is a growing nightmare, and the workload is daunting to even the best of us. But, we must have the courage to do what scares us if we want the dream.

Stickwithitness

There will be setbacks, and again, there is a lot of hard work ahead. When writers complain that all they want to do is write, I understand. I wish all I had to do is write books, too. Would be much easier. But that isn’t reality and we have a lot of other non-writing work that needs to be done every single day.

One foot in front of the other day after day. We must hold fast to the idea that days become weeks, weeks become months and months become years. We are what we do. Behaviors become habits, habits become character and character becomes destiny.

Willingness to Do Other Jobs that Aren’t Writing

The competition is steep. If we want to stand apart from the crowd, then we need to be willing to do what others won’t. We can’t have everything. This job involves sacrifice.

I’ve had one date night with my husband in a year and a half. Instead of a night on the town, we play XBox together for an hour each evening because it costs less time (I need) and money (we definitely need). I blog 5 days a week here, once a week for my city and once a week for SocialIn (29 major cities) all different content because I am sowing seeds for success.

I run a full-time family business, I tweet, I FB, I write books, teach, travel, speak, and write fiction as well. I give this job all I have, and it has a price. I work 14 hour days, 6 days a week, and I don’t get a lot of days off. I don’t watch a lot of television. I see a mall three times a year, and only when my shoes wear out so much they are no longer wearable. Don’t ask me about the laundry or my closets and yes, my Christmas tree is STILL up. Apparently after Valentines Day, Christmas Trees transform into Bogan Trees.

***Bogan is a word for “white trash” in Australia *waves to Cole Vassiliou* :D***

Stop standing there like a GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEE and get me a BEER!

Stop standing there like a GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEE and get me a BEER!

But all of it is worth it because I love my job and am willing to give up the extra stuff to do what I love.

Determinedness to Overcome Never-Ending Obstacles

New level, new devil. It will never get easier, only different. We grow in some areas, cheer 5 minutes then find ourselves tipped head-first again into alien territory. Goes with the job.

Last year, we had someone working for us who was very integral to our family business up and quit with no notice. We nearly lost the business and it cost months of doing double-duty and calling every favor I could to salvage and rebuild. I am better and stronger for it, and though it seriously sucked at the time, I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Our job will always have obstacles, often BIGGER obstacles. Get used to it, expect it and train for it. It will toughen you for the next level.

The Ability to Make Smart High-Risk Decisions

As the paradigm shifts we have to be educated to make the best decision for our career. Yes, I am a fan of non-traditional publishing, but it fits what I write. I support all authors, no matter the path. I merely want it to be the path that’s best for YOU. Indies will all think traditional authors are taking a risk going with big publishing. Traditionals will generally feel indies are insane going it alone.

Again, it depends on preparation and the author. Publishing is now no longer a One Size Fits All Snuggie, but no path is a panacea, either. All decisions carry risk and we need to educate ourselves, be honest, and then DECIDE. Choose a path, then give it all you have.

What are your thoughts? Opinions? Experiences? What have you had to sacrifice to live the writing dream? Do you have friends and family who sabotage or give you a hard time? What kind of push-back have you been through? How did you triumph or are you still struggling?

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!

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87 Comments

7 Things Confident Writers Don’t Do

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One of the reasons I encourage writers to blog and to read blogs is that you will find inspiration all around you. A dear friend of mine, Steve Tobak, has a MASSIVE blog following and is the business blogger for CBS, Fox Business and Inc.

I love reading his posts about entrepreneurs because so much applies to authors (we are entrepreneurs of a different sort, but still entrepreneurs). The other day, he had a post called 7 Things Confident Leaders Don’t Do, and I am going to take the liberty of retooling this for writers.

In a world full of wanna-be best-sellers, confident writers don’t:

1. Do What Everyone Else is Doing

Find your own voice and tell your own story. Don’t write to the market. Find the publishing path that works for you. If self-publishing works for you, your budget and your personality, great. The stigma is fading, so be bold. If you want creative control and yearn to make the kind of living you see other indies making, go for it!

But, if you really want to go traditional, then feel good about that choice. Just make sure you have a great agent or lawyer (like Susan Spann) who can negotiate a contract that is favorable to you and your goals.

2. Worry About Weakness

Writers all suffer from an odd mix of narcissism and deep-seated insecurity. We have to have a big enough ego to believe that we have a story others will want to pay money to read, yet at the same time we worry the world will hate it and throw digital tomatoes at us.

Acknowledge weakness. Work to strengthen it, but don’t lose sleep over it. I see a lot of writers who are so terrified of failing, it paralyzes forward momentum. They edit the same book for six years trying to make it perfect instead of just shipping and moving on to the next book.

They bank everything on one book and spend hours looking at sales and reviews instead of just doing the one thing that will help them be successful…writing MORE books!

3. Waste a Lot of Time

If we want to have what no one else has, we can’t do what everyone else does. When others are going to the mall, watching television or goofing off playing Farmville, we need to be working. Real artists have a vision and go after that vision with focused intensity.

4. Try to Be Successful

Successful writers write. They know that success in this business rarely comes with one book. John Locke didn’t sell a million books in six months with ONE book. He did it with 12. I see too many writers publish one book and then beat the hell out of all of us spamming about their books. In trying to be successful, they do a lot of dumb moves that common sense would dictate is a bad idea.

Yesterday, I was on Twitter when I saw this:

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I don’t know this writer and have never read his books, yet it didn’t stop him from trying to use MY NAME to sell books. On what planet is this a good idea? When writers TRY to be successful, they listen to dumb marketing advice and spend more time selling instead of writing.

5. Breathe Their Own Fumes

Be open to criticism. Surrounding ourselves with yes-men is dangerous and keeps us from growing. That’s one of the reasons I ask for thoughts and opinions at the end of my posts (other than I do LOVE hearing from you). I never mind disagreement so long as it’s respectful. I can’t grow if I don’t know what needs to come up higher.

When I wrote my short story Dandelion I sent it to people I knew would be brutal. All of them loved the story, but most saw things I didn’t. The changes took a good story to a fantastic story that I am very proud of. But I am human. I wanted a fluffy kitten hug of “Kristen, all your words are GOLD!” yet, I didn’t. The problems they pointed out were dead on, and I was able to make the right changes.

Too many new writers are publishing books without going to people who will give them honesty. The problem is that instead of getting the rough truth in private, they get the brutal truth PUBLICLY and PERMANENTLY in one and two-star reviews from ticked off readers.

6. Fear Competition

Competition is just part of what we do. Good for us that books are not so cost-prohibitive that people can’t buy more than one. Thing is, there will always be someone who is a better writer than we are. Learn from them. I hear a lot of new writers (and I was once guilty, too) groan about certain best-sellers and tear down the writer and the book. Instead, read it. Try to see why that book resonated and broke out.

7. Try to Be What They’re Not

Most writers aren’t doing this “writing thing” until our dream job in sales comes our way. A lot of the reason that so much writer marketing is annoying and lame is artists are trying to be “power marketers.”

Less marketing and more writing.

Talk to people and build community and leave the mega-marketing to Madison Avenue. WANA methods don’t try to change your personality, so you have far greater odds of success because people will feel your social media activities are authentic.

What are some other qualities of confident authors that I might have missed? What are your thoughts? Opinions?

Note about PajamaCon Winners: We are giving the week for those who want to send in an entry to send it in. Will announce winners on MONDAY.

I love hearing from you!

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

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94 Comments

How Do We Handle Rejection and Keep on Pressing?

LOVE Tard. Seemed appropriate.

LOVE Tard. Seemed appropriate.

Rejection sucks. There is no other way of saying it. Of course, the clincher is that rejection is not only part of life, but it is a necessary ingredient to the life well-lived. But, how do we handle rejection in a way that is constructive? A lot of how we handle rejection stems from how we view rejection.

I have a saying: If we aren’t failing, then we aren’t doing anything interesting. Of course, there are those individuals out there who will never suffer from rejection, but they never try. These people never dare and never step out of the comfort zone. Thus, I suppose all of us face a choice daily—pain of rejection or pain of mediocrity.

Either way, there will be pain.

A Closer Look at Rejection

How many of you applied for a dream job? Went on a first date with someone you were CRAZY about? Entered that dream contest? Queried that mega-agent?

…only to fall flat on your face?

Okay, but how many of you:

Applied for a job that was beneath your skill level? Went on a dreadful date as a favor? Queried an agent you really didn’t want, but you promised yourself that you’d query at least 10 agents a month?

…only to get rejected.

O-U-C-H, right?

All of us have been rejected when we’ve reached for the stars, but then there is the time where we totally were going to reject the other party…and they beat us to the punch.

What? He didn’t feel a spark with ME? He doesn’t want to go out with ME again? He can’t dump me, I was going to dump HIM.

It’s bad enough getting dumped, but getting dumped by the guy who lives in his mother’s basement and who’s never had an actual job stings just a wee bit…ok, a lot more. And I know that it is ego and a tad of narcissism on our part, but that just goes with being human. We all feel the sting in our pride.

Statistics show that 10% of people won’t like us, no matter what we do.

All of us want to be well-liked, loved, accepted, but 1 out of 10 people probably think you were dropped on your head. Don’t feel bad, 1 out of 10 think that about me, too…because they were dropped on THEIR heads, LOL.

Kidding.

I subscribe to the Underwear Too Tight Theorem. Wearing ill-fitting undies is probably responsible for most road rage, violent crimes and likely a couple wars. Hey, you ever buy the wrong size bra and try to be pleasant? Just saying that, if someone doesn’t see how awesome you are, the odds are they should have chosen boxers over briefs.

Don’t argue, it’s science :D.

My first meme. Seemed appropriate for today.

My first meme. Go Grumpy Cat!

We Really Are All Winners

Look, you are special, unique, precious YOU, and yeah, I can guarantee that, when you try to do something amazing, odds are you’re going to fall and skin your ego more than a few times. Happened with rollerskating, learning to ride a bike and with querying an agent. The trick is perspective. Learn to back up and look at the big picture.

Closed Doors Can Be Some of the Best Gifts

Sure, we all have failures and setbacks, but I promise that some of the best gifts in life are closed doors, missed opportunities, or rejection.

In 2008, I went through the nastiest, most hellish breakup. There is being dumped, and then there is BEING-DUMPED-AND-WHILE-I’M-HERE-I-WILL-CRUSH-EVERY-GOOD-THING-YOU BELIEVE-ABOUT-YOURSELF-AND-RIP-YOUR-BEATING-HEART-OUT-OF-YOUR-CHEST-AND-SHOW-IT-TO-YOU. I’d never been through anything so cruel. My ego was so bruised I was seriously open to the idea of living out the rest of my days in a convent. A month later, I met my husband who is the love of my life and the most perfect man for ME. Thank GOD that jerk dumped me!

If I’d had instant success as a novelist, I would never have become the Social Media Jedi who gets to help you guys shine your brightest, and I wouldn’t trade that joy for a hundred NYTBS novels. When I started as a writer, I had no idea that, though I was a strong fiction writer, my real gift was in teaching, shaping and nurturing others. If I hadn’t been rejected on one path, I would never have found my true path.

Some Cool Stuff About Rejection

Cool stuff? Kristen, have you been licking frogs? There is nothing awesome about being rejected.

Um, no, I gave up licking frogs last New Year’s Day, and YES, rejection can be awesome.

Rejection Shows Us Where We Need to Grow

When engineers design a new car, they create a prototype. That prototype is then built and…tested. The place to find out of the brakes don’t work is NOT on 1-95 when a family of six is inside counting on being able to stop in a rainstorm.

There are plenty of people with the talent to take them to the stars, but they lack the character to stay there. All of us have rough spots, bad habits, or areas where our character or work ethic could come up higher. It is best to sort this stuff before The Big Game, when the stakes are so high that failure is catastrophic.

Rejection Can Show Us That We Are Doing Something Right

I happen to be one of those people who dances to the beat of her own ukelele. It’s hard to be different, but “fitting in” often comes at the expense of greatness. When we pursue our dreams, often we will meet resistance. In fact, I guarantee you will meet resistance. A lot of times it is because when we step out and dare, we remind others that mediocrity is a choice, not fate.

Also, people are generally afraid of change, so anything we do that is different or challenges the status quo can be viewed as a threat. It isn’t personal. It’s just human to be afraid of change.

Rejection Can Be a Sign of a Pending Promotion

One of my favorite jokes goes like this:

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Image courtesy of Sarah Madison WANA Commons

Scientists wanted to understand more about pessimism versus optimism. Was it nature? Nurture? Or both? They scoured the country looking for a set of identical twins, but one needed to be a pessimist and the other an optimist. Once the scientists found their set of twins, they separated the two and put them each alone in a room where they were chest-deep in manure. Then, they sat back and watched through a one-way mirror to see what would happen.

The pessimistic young man wailed an cursed and pouted. He moaned, It figures. This kind of stuff always happens to me. My brother always has it so much easier.

The scientist looked in on the optimistic twin and the young man was grinning ear to ear as he dug through the piles of manure. He laughed with glee as he flung large handfuls of the stinky stuff in the air, and then he’d dive in for more.

Baffled, the scientists had to know what the heck was going on. They peeked in the room and asked, What on earth are you so happy about? You are up to your chest in manure!

To which the twin replied, I know! Isn’t it great? With all this horse#$%&, there has GOT to be a pony in here somewhere!

Often it gets the darkest when we are actually doing the right thing. In fact, before every promotion, I know I’ve suffered the worst setbacks. Hey, a new level a new devil. Just count on it. Life is all about choices and success comes from how we interpret failure. Is it a tombstone or a stepping stone?

So, the next time it feels like life is using you for a punching bag, the next time you fail or face rejection, just think: With all this horse#$%@, there has GOT to be a pony in here somewhere!

Remember, we are WANAs. We are not alone. And when you get hit, lean on us…and play this song a few hundred times until you remember how amazing you are.

What’s your story? Have you ever been through a rejection so devastating you thought you’d DIE? What did you do? Did it turn out to be a blessing in disguise? Have you ever been just about to dump someone and they dumped YOU first? Have you ever failed, but that failure led you to something even BETTER?

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. 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 December I will pick a winner for the monthly prize. 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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87 Comments

Unlocking Your Great Future—5 Keys to Writing Success

The gateway to your destiny lies within.
(Image courtesy of Maddelena on WANA Commons)

Happy Monday! Okay, since I have a LOT more responsibilities on my plate, I am, once again, working on brevity. *sounds of cheering* I love teaching you guys and talking to you, but there just are not enough hours in the day to accomplish all I want to do. Also, I have yet to locate a cloning machine. I know one exists, because someone is using said machine to clone dirty dishes and laundry in my house. I can only assume this is in an effort to cloak the location of the cloning device. This said, we are going to make another try at short and sweet!

….and there was much rejoicing.

Okay, you can stop cheering now.

Today, I want to talk about some fundamentals to writing success. We can have all the talent in the world, but without these five ingredients, we will be hard-pressed to ever reach our dreams.

Passion—This should be a, “Yeah, no duh,” but, sadly, it isn’t. I meet a lot of people who say they want to be a professional author, but the second they face any opposition or criticism they give up. Here is the thing, if we really LOVE it, we won’t give up.

One of my favorite stories is about a music master who traveled village to village in search of proteges to train. A young boy who played the violin practiced extra hard in anticipation of being chosen. On the given day, he played for the master and, at the end, the master said, “No, you don’t love music enough.” Heartbroken, the boy ran home.

A year later, the same master came to the village and spotted the boy. The master asked if he was going to audition. The boy crossed his arms and replied, “No. Your comment hurt me to the core. I put the violin away and haven’t touched it since.” To which the master replied, “I told you you didn’t love music enough.”

If we love writing, NOTHING can stop us. My motto in regards to writing comes from Hannibal:

Aut viam inveniam aut facial. 

I will either find a way or I will make one.

Self-Discipline—Again, writers write. One of the main reasons I am such a proponent of blogging is that it trains writers for a professional pace. It trains us to meet deadlines. Disciplined people work no matter what, and they finish what they start. Amateurs and the immature flit from thing to thing. Professionals and genuine artists dig in and complete the task.

Will all of us have this self-discipline in the beginning? No. Most of us don’t. Self-discipline is a muscle of character, and it needs to be trained and built just like biceps. Every time we stick to something when the siren’s song of a new shiny tempts us to start something new, we get stronger.

Humility—Great writers know they always have more to learn. Read, find mentors, and learn to admit shortcomings. None of us are perfect. We all have strengths and weaknesses. Those who readily admit flaws and seek help and training? They stand far better chances of succeeding long-term.

I used to have a problem with deadlines and self-discipline. I had the attention span of a crack-addicted fruit bat. That was why I began blogging. I knew that those character flaws would always limit me. Even though it was embarrassing to admit I had some deep flaws, it would have been impossible to ever combat that weakness if I hadn’t mustered the courage and humility to recognize where I fell fatally short.

It is okay to be imperfect. It is okay to be new. It is okay to not know everything. When we are humble enough to admit we need help, that is the first step toward authentic growth and change.

Healthy Relationship with Failure—I have said this many times, If we aren’t failing, then we aren’t doing anything interesting. Expect failure. Better yet, embrace failure.

Image courtesy of David Farmer WANA Commons.

Scientists once tried to do a biome experiment where all the plants lived in a perfect world. There was the perfect amount of water, sunlight, and nutrients. Sealed beneath the benevolent dome, there were no droughts, no diseases, no thunderstorms, no high winds, and no floods.

They expected the trees in the bio dome to be much healthier and grow much taller than those poor trees exposed to the outside world. But, to their astonishment, the trees never grew very tall. In fact, they looked downright pathetic, whereas the trees in the hard, cruel outside world grew far taller, were more resistant to disease and were, overall, much healthier.

Baffled, the scientists investigated, and they discovered that, every time a tree faced drought, it dug its roots in deeper. When it experienced disease, it developed resistance. When wind broke off branches, the trees in the outside world were forced to channel more nutrients to reinforce the affected areas. This made them stronger…so they grew taller.

The sheltered trees had never been tested, thus they never had to become stronger. Sadly, they never grew to their full potential.

Failures=storms. Embrace the storms. They make you grow ;).

Yeah, I promised 5…but then I also promised to make it short. And I am tired and a writer, ergo bad at math.

What are some character traits that you might add? What do you struggle with? What area gives you the most trouble? What have you done to make it better? What is some advice you would like to share?

I love hearing from you!

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

July’s Winner is Heather Wright. Please e-mail me your 5,000 word Word document to kristen at wana intl dot com. Or, if you choose, you can send your query letter or novel synopsis (no more than 1250 words). You have until August 30th to send me your submissions.

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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90 Comments

The Secret to Success–Quitting

 

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.

Maybe, if you are anything like me, just maybe you had friends and family and people around you telling you that you were a dreamer, that you needed to get your head out of the clouds and to let go of your “magic beans” and learn to be something practical that made a good paycheck and came with dental benefits. Maybe, in an effort to counteract all this negativity, you found yourself wandering the inspiration books in Half Price Bookstore (namely because you were too broke to buy books full-price). And maybe, just maybe, you clung to the little dog-eared quote books full of really bad advice.

Bad advice?

Yes. Bad advice like:

Pain is temporary. Quitting lasts forever. ~Lance Armstrong

You can never quit. Quitters never win and winners never quit. ~Ted Turner

You know what you call the writer who never gives up? Published. ~J.A. Konrath

Okay, well I won’t say this is exactly BAD advice, rather it is incomplete advice. Yet, this incomplete advice can get us into a lot of trouble.

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

In fact, in my book Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer I even 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.

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, to win I must quit.

Learn to Quit from the Best

Most of us suck 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 friends 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 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.

The next great quitter I met? Oooh, this guy was a real turning point in my life. In fact, I regularly give thanks I met this person because his kind of quitting took me to a whole new level in my career. NYTBSA Bob Mayer. Bob is the best quitter I’ve ever met.

Bob taught me the importance of setting goals, because goals help us know when and what to quit. Bob showed me that it was okay to quit. It was okay to walk away from things that weren’t working and try something new. He walked away from the author life he’d always known, the safe route, and he quit. He decided to start a publishing company. It was the bravest kind of quitting I’ve ever seen. I know it was hard for him, and I am so thrilled to see him reaping the rewards for his hard work and bravery.

New York publishing should pay attention. 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.

As you guys know, recently I had to let go of my critique group. It just wasn’t working. It wasn’t that I didn’t love every person in there, but with gas prices at $5 a gallon (and nothing in Texas is close) the attendance just was never great. Then, there were all the other dreams I wanted to achieve, so I had to let go. No bad feelings.

I love teaching blogging classes, but I had to let go of doing it the way I was doing it. It was too cumbersome and it was affecting how well I could teach. The tactic was endangering the outcome.

I had to realize that to win I had to quit. Sometimes our goals are correct, just how we are trying to get there is flawed. There is nothing wrong with having a goal of going to Florida from Texas. I can start out on a pogo stick, but no one would blame me for trading it for a car.

Sometimes we need to let go of inefficiencies, 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.

When I was at the North Texas RWA Conference 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 ;).

Next week we’ll explore some more ways to know how and when to quit. In the meantime, I do recommend Bob Mayer’s Write It Forward. This is an excellent book to teach how to set goals and make a plan for success. I also recommend Seth Godin’s The Dip–The Little Book That Teaches When to Quit and When to Stick. I do have to say that I loved Seth Godin’s book, but I was a tad annoyed to spend $11 on a 50 page book. It is a wonderful book with loads of great advice, but I suggest getting a used copy. I felt a bit gouged.

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!

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

Last Week’s Winner of 5 Page Critique–Rachel Sullivan!!! Please send your 1250 word Word document to author kristen dot lamb at g mail dot com.

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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119 Comments

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