Posts Tagged Writing
The world around us is always pushing this notion of “perfection” and, I don’t know about you, but sometimes I wonder what “reality” looks like. All the models are tall and thin and young with poofy lips (and men have their own variety of the super model stereotype). They have fabulous clothes and new cars and go on expensive vacations.
Even our homes! When I look around my house that’s littered with toys, my sink full of dishes and two baskets full of laundry (even though I just DID laundry) I wonder what a real home is supposed to look like? Where do I fit? Sure NOT on Pinterest.
Granted, there are areas I KNOW I am slacking (*cough* Christmas tree is STILL standing) and let’s not talk about the state of my drawers and closets. But, I generally (when the washer ISN’T broken) wash the sheets 1-2 times a week. I make the beds. I clean the toilets all the time because Spawn is 4 and we are still working on AIM.
But I am nowhere near the homes in magazines or on TV, even though I live in an apron. I will never wear skinny jeans and I am unwilling to go into crushing debt to keep up with a world who portrays a “reality” that is geared to make me emotional, make me feel inferior and therefore buy stuff. Or work more, do more, more, more, more.
Why do I bring this up?
Because perfect is an illusion. There is no such thing. Our society has gotten into this GO BIG OR GO HOME attitude, and sure, that might be okay in one or two aspects of our lives…but ALL OF IT? I cannot look like a fitness model, write 4 novels a year, have perfect social media, make crafts with my kid, volunteer, drive a BMW and have a house that should be featured on HGTV.
Maybe you can. I can’t and won’t. Not worth it.
Thus, we need to list our priorities and it is okay to let the other stuff be less than perfect. But, in light of this argument, I also want to say this isn’t a pass to be lazy or mediocre. We should strive for that nice healthy balance. When we get out of balance, something or someone will suffer. I have to be careful I don’t get so focused on writing and business and cleaning that I forget to be a mom.
I have to take out time to run with Spawn through the house with NERF guns looking for zombies. The dishes will be there. I know. I’ve tested this hoping they’d disappear but they apparently mated and made more.
You want to be a writer? Great. Here’s the good news. If you’re writing, you’re already a writer so stop the angst. Just do it. This is one of the reasons I am such a huge fan of blogging. Writers write.
My mom can post on Facebook and The Spawn has been known to tweet, but neither of them blog….because they aren’t writers. Blogging is training for the professional pace.
Blogging is THE most stable form of social media and it trains us to be better writers. We can write leaner, meaner, faster and commit. No Writer Warden is going to show up and take us to jail if we don’t blog/write. To be professional, we have to be good at keeping and meeting self-imposed deadlines. Not only does blogging make us better writers and create a stable platform, it also trains those self-discipline muscles.
Even if you don’t blog, commit to writing something daily. Write a 100 words, then work up to 200 then 500. When I started, 1000 words was SO HARD, so I started with 100, but it was a beginning and we all start somewhere. The trick is to START.
I’ve read writing books and inspirational/leadership books that I wanted to punch. The last leadership book I read, the author talked about the importance of taking time to think, how he goes to his office and just sits in the quiet and thinks for an hour by himself in his special thinking chair. How cute.
I can’t even go PEE alone. 99% of the time, I have two cats and a dog fighting for attention while The Spawn hits me with a sword or begs me to help him level up on Angry Birds.
Can I JUST go to the BATHROOM….ALONE?
Whenever I hear of an author who recommends traveling to a location for a book and staying there a month or two to absorb the experience? I think, “Sure. Uh huh.” And this isn’t to be negative, because I do have that as a goal. But, for most of us, that won’t be reality for a long time, if ever. But we still have to get the words on the page. We might have to use Google Earth, Google Images, or tweet a friend in the UK to help be our eyes and help us with setting and dialogue.
And the point of all of this is the best time to do anything is NOW. Just something. Don’t wait to be perfect. Just start. Baby steps are steps and one of the reasons I feel so many of us fail is because we buy into the lie that those tiny steps don’t count. That if we can’t GO BIG, we aren’t trying hard enough. That’s ridiculous and wrong.
Learn to SHIP
Blogging trains perfection out of us. Ship. Too many blogs falter and countless books are never finished because we’re too focused on perfection. There’s no perfect book. I could win a Pulitzer and still have people who hate my book.
Finished books are far more valuable than perfect ones.
The house? Hey, if I can keep from making an episode of Hoarders? Score! Sure, my goal is to organize a drawer a
day, week…ok month. But I can make my bed. My finances? My goal is to be completely debt free. I can start by not making more debt. For instance, I’m going to the Laundromat until I can save for a new washer.
I already eat clean, because I have a zillion food allergies. But, I haven’t been working out like I used to. Why? Because I was an IDIOT. I was caught up in the GO BIG OR GO HOME and gave myself such bad tendonitis that I had to lay off all exercise, other than maybe walking or yoga, for over a YEAR to fully heal.
I decided this weekend to revisit the p90X workout. I’ve done it before but I pushed too hard and injured myself. This morning, even though The Spawn was up all night and I had no sleep, I got up to my alarm and started. Did I do the whole thing perfectly? Nope. Was kind of a flabby train wreck, but I did it.
The trick to all of this is to:
- Contemplate what is TRULY important. Might have to sacrifice the immaculate house for a finished novel.
- Make a plan and one that is BALANCED. Somewhere between mediocrity and insanity is a nice happy place.
- Give permission for failure. Failure teaches far more than success ever has.
- Learn to ship.
- Be a finisher. My mantra is “The world rewards finishers not perfection.”
- Finish small and eventually we’ll finish big.
- Just start. If we have a hiccup? Life blows up? Just start again. Simple.
I want all of you to reach your dreams and still have sanity, friends and a happy relationship/marriage/family. No perfectly clean house, no amount of money, no number of best-selling books can take the place of what’s really important. But, beyond that? REACH.
Ignore a world that’s out to tell you you aren’t trying hard enough and you aren’t good enough. YOU ARE. One foot in front of the other and celebrate the little things, because all the universe is constructed of tiny things ;).
The largest, brightest star is still made up of tiny atoms of Hydrogen and Helium. Every book is made up of a combination of 26 letters. Every healthy body is the cumulation of small, sound choices. Baby steps. Relish them and celebrate them.
Anyway, what are your thoughts? Where do you struggle? Are you bad about All-or-Nothing Thinking, too? Do you tend to go to extremes, either overdoing or being a tool slacker (raises hand)? What ways do you keep yourself pushing on? How do you handle setbacks?
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. 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).
Rafflecopter Winners who won a REFUNDED Conference Fee
FREE WANACon Registration:
- Kathy Wagoner
- MJ Pullen
- Kelley Conrad
Working on refunds today. CONGRATULATIONS!
Here are the three winners for MY Contest:
- Grand Prize of Book/Brand Combo: Gry Ranfelt
- Book Prize: Jacquie Biggar
- Branding Prize: Shan Jeniah Burton
Most of us, especially when we’re new, want our first short story to be a major contest winner or our first novel to be a runaway success. That’s natural. Of course, this is not reality for us mere mortals.
Just like most of us never picked up a violin and magically busted out a flawless rendition of Flight of the Bumblebee, most of us won’t sit down and write a work that hits the New York Times best-seller list the first go round (or that sells a bazillion copies on Amazon, if you’re an indie).
Yeah, I was bummed, too.
Writing, like most other things, follows the Law of 10,000 Hours (Read Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers for more). 10,000 hours of dedicated practice/work/study/training seems to be the magic number that separates the successful professional from everyone else.
Whether it is gymnastics, ballet, playing the ukelele, or writing, practice is key if we want to become masters of our pursuit.
*shock face* :O
This is why we need to write as often as possible, and it’s HUGE reason I am a proponent of writers learning to blog. Blogging can help accelerate the path to mastery, and has an added benefit of helping build a lasting author platform that can help drive sales.
History demonstrates time and again that it takes roughly 10,000 hours (or a million words, depending on who we listen to) to reach the status of true artist and masters of our craft.
Additionally, most authors write at least three books before they start seeing success, which is part of why successful novelists like Bob Mayer, Joe Konrath, and John Locke are constantly telling writers to do less tweeting and more writing. They’re correct. Write, write, write. Great to have a social platform, but we need books to sell or the platform is merely a monument to our Facebook skills.
Guess how long it takes to write three novels?
About 10,000 hours.
Three books minimum.
Thus, all you indie/self-pub authors who put your first book up for sale and you haven’t sold enough copies to buy tacos? Keep writing. 10,000 hours. 3 books. Traditional authors? Three books. Rare is the exception.
The more we write, the better we get (ideally). If the first novel is “eh” keep writing. To paraphrase some Monty Python:
I wrote a book! …and it sank into the swamp.
So, I wrote another book! It, too, sank into the swamp.
So, I wrote another book! …. And it caught fire, fell over…and sank into the swamp.
But the fourth book, THE FOURTH BOOK STOOD.
Happy writing! And follow The Dork Side on Facebook if you want to laugh regularly.
What are your thoughts? Do you agree? Disagree? How much practice do you do daily? How much did you write before you started actually thinking your writing was any good…and other people didn’t run away bleeding from the ears?
I LOVE hearing from you!
To prove it and show my love, for the month of September, 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).
ANNOUNCEMENT: My Antagonist Class is in four days. Use the WANA15 code for 15% off when you sign up. Packages range from $49-$249. Need help with your book? Stuck? Getting rejected? Want a plan for NaNoWriMo? Have a drawer full of half-finished books you have no idea how to fix? An idea for a story you can’t figure out how to plot. A plot you can’t repair no matter how many revisions? Struggling with a series?
I can help :D. And the cool thing, is once you’ve been through my process, you can plot and fix any book ;).
My new social media book, Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World is NOW AVAILABLE. Only $6.99.
WANACon, the writing conference of the future is COMING! We start with PajamaCon the evening of October 3rd and then October 4th and 5th we have some of the biggest names in publishing coming RIGHT TO YOU–including the LEGEND Les Edgerton.
Get PajamaCon and BOTH DAYS OF THE CONFERENCE for $149 and all recordings for anything you miss or need to hear again. Sign up today, because seats are limited. REGISTER HERE.
There are a lot of ways to try and sell books. One way? Non-stop Twitter book spam, “Buy my book! Buy! Buy! Buy! #writer #books #ineedmoney #indie #selfpub.” Just make sure you set it to automate to EVERY writer hashtag and to repeat every fifteen minutes. People LOVE THAT.
We can advertise fifty times an hour and never have to bother actually talking to people on Twitter. Hey, our time is valuable, whereas others? They have plenty of time to be on Twitter, so why not give them a GREAT BOOK?
Then there are of course, form-letters on Facebook. “Dear Valued Person, I noticed you like puppies. My book has puppies, please buy now!”
We can also
rufie invite people to FB fan clubs for our book against their will.
Me: When did I become a member of The Raven’s Chest Hair Fan Club? *scratches head* *leaves group*.
Then there’s always Goodreads Begging: “Hi, I’ve never even said hello to you and don’t know you from a hole in the ground, but my book is the best thing since Scratch-and-Sniff stickers, yet strangely not selling. I’m sure together we can make my book NUMBER ONE!”
In my new book, Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World I actually spend a lot of time explaining why advertising and marketing doesn’t sell books in the new paradigm (or any other, for that matter) and what changes to make for any advertising or marketing to be more effective. Yet, ads, banners, book trailers aside, people want to read a great book.
This means our best way of selling books is…
You ready for this? *drum roll*
Writing great books.
Price is no longer as big of a determining factor as it used to be. A couple years ago, John Locke started the .99 bandwagon and many authors jumped on. At first readers were excited, until they realized the slush pile had just been dumped onto their Kindles and Nooks.
This is good news and bad news. Bad news? Being cheap isn’t the game-changer it used to be. Good news? People are gravitating to higher priced books, because there is a presumption of higher quality. This means good books can make more money. Yay!
***Btw, I said higher priced not stupid priced. Traditional publishing has taken many a hit for this. Strange fact. Consumers won’t pay the same price for an e-book as a glossy hardback. Wow, who would have imagined that?
Yet, just because potential readers are gravitating to higher priced books, doesn’t mean an automatic purchase. It means our customer’s time is *gasp* valuable. Yes, they are browsing the slightly more expensive books…to whittle down which books they will invest time in reading sample pages. We have to earn the sale.
Our sample pages, which are the beginning of the book, are our most priceless selling tool.
I know most of you’ve heard agents and editors usually give a book one to three pages, before continuing or chunking into the circular file. You might be thinking one to three pages? But, my story really gets going on page 21.
I’ve run the first-twenty-pages-contest on this blog for about three years. Most of the samples I get? I don’t need 20 pages. I need one. I already know all the writer’s bad habits and level of education and skill (or lack thereof). It’s simply shocking how many of the same problems plague the beginning of most first-time novels.
And it’s easy to think this is all very unfair, but think of your own experiences browsing a bookstore. Aside from cover and interesting title and story description, what do we do? We open the book and scan the first couple of pages. If those first pages stink, we don’t give the writer twenty of fifty or a hundred pages to sell us.
Unless you wrote Girl With the Dragon Tattoo but he was dead.
So when you are dead, I suppose people give more gratis, because I cannot count the number of times people have said, “Well, yes GWTDT bored the paint off the walls, but after the first hundred pages, it’s awesome!”
I…am not that motivated. I gave the book more than it’s due (because the writer was dead) and gave it 20. Next! I’m aging here.
So if you are reading this blog and you’re dead? You get more leeway. Also, what’s it like on the Other Side? Feel free to leave a description in the comments :D.
For the rest of us who remain among the living? One to five pages.
I can tell 99% of what’s wrong in a book by page five, and so can agents and editors (and readers, though they might not know what is wrong, only they aren’t hooked).
It’s sort of like going to a doctor. He/She can tell from the sphygmomanometer (been DYING to use that word) which is a blood-pressure cuff, a look at skin pallor and basic symptoms to tell if a patient has a bum ticker. No need to crack open the patient’s chest and stare right at the sickly beating heart.
Most new writers (especially) have what Candy Haven’s calls a fish-head. What do we do with fish-heads? We cut them off and throw them away, unless you are my family, who are
scavengers Scandinavians and then they make soup *shivers*. This actually explains the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo mystery.
The writer was dead and Swedish. Apparently Swedish readers looove fish-head-story-soup and somehow convinced others to give it a try. Not saying these are bad books, btw. Clearly, they have a huge fan base and rave reviews. I’m just I am not patient enough to get to the good stuff (and neither are a lot of other people).
Most new novels need to lose the first hundred pages. But that’s just something I’ve gleaned from experience. Yet, who cares about the first hundred if we can’t care about the first five? Often, the problems in the next 95 pages can be fixed by knowing what went sideways with the first five. Seriously.
Sample pages are…samples. If we go to Sam’s or Costco, how many will stop for a sample of egg rolls, pizza, or Acai juice? How many will stop to sample the Fish Head Surprise?
My point, exactly.
For a fantastic resource about this, I highly recommend Les Edgerton’s Hooked. 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 webinar is recorded in case you can’t make the time and a PDF with notes will be sent to you following the class.
What makes you stop reading a book? How long do you give books? Are you patient enough to wait a hundred pages for it to get interesting? What do you find the hardest about writing the beginning of the book? Have you lopped off your own fish heads?
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 novel, or 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.
Winner of 20 Page Edit for July is EDWARD OWEN. Please send your 5000 word WORD document to kristen at wana intl dot com.
Last weekend I taught at the Crested Butte Writing Conference in Colorado. Amazing conference with fantastic presenters (highly recommend) and though it was memorable and magical…I thought it would KILL me.
It Didn’t Begin Well…
I am NOT a fan of early morning flights. Even though I had everything packed and ready to go, I wake up WHEN?
…and CANNOT get back to sleep.
So I get up, do some work and have plenty of time to get to the airport. I figure, “Eh *waves hand* I’m not presenting today, so I will just go to bed early.”
I finally get to Gunnison, Colorado, my ride picks me and the other presenters up. She’s already scouted out a restaurant that had gluten-free and dairy-free food. YAY, ME!
Whenever I go to different regions, I make it a point to try what’s local. I ordered the Trout BLT with the GF bun. I made it a point to dramatically tell my waiter how horrifically allergic I am to dairy and gluten.
“Oh, yes, yes, I checked. The coleslaw is fine for you to eat.”
Soon after lunch I felt like hell, but assumed it had more to do with being up since three that morning and traveling all day than anything else. Maybe it was because I was such a high altitude and it was altitude sickness.
Helping is Hurting
Soon after lunch, we go to the Ladies’ Room and the editor from Harper Collins picks the stall with no toilet paper. After I made her listen to my pitch….
No, I grab some paper and bend down to hand it to her and WHAM! There was a stupid, weird, makes-no-sense extension of the counter and I whacked my forehead HARD.
Yes, I am klutzy, but give me a break, I was sleep-deprived, at high altitude, and had just been poisoned (though at this point I didn’t know it). Wasn’t on my game.
So, by dinner time I am feeling pretty bad, but I washed my face, redid my makeup and went down. The only thing gluten and dairy-free is the steamed zucchini. Yay. Well, beggars can’t be choosers. I talked and had people laughing and once it was over?
I crawled back to my condo and held to my promise and go to be early. 10:30 (that’s early for a conference)…
….only to awaken at midnight violently ill.
Zucchini of DOOM
I was sick all…night…long. I knew it! That zucchini had butter. Never trust a squishy veggie!
It’s Never Been So Hard to Put On Makeup
I was shaking so badly from being sick for (by that time) 7 hours and sleep deprived that I’m a little surprised my makeup didn’t turn out more like this…
So 8:00 a.m., I walk down the mountain (in dress shoes), carrying my computer bag. At breakfast, I wolf down some bacon because it was the only thing I could trust. I start chugging water, because I am dehydrated and…?
I keep having to chat and smile and then sweetly and politely excuse myself so I can run to the closest bathroom…and thank GOD I carried makeup and a toothbrush. I attend every session I can because 1) I want to support other speakers, 2) I am eager to learn and 3) there was NO WAY I was going to make it UP the mountain to my room without, um, dying.
I tell one of the Crested Butte writers that I’ve had terrible Zucchini Poisoning, but that I will be fine. Just triple-check the future meals, please. They feel terribly guilty, but I assure them that Hey, I have food allergies and it happens.
In the meantime, I go to the hotel store and buy two large bottles of Gatorade and a packet of electrolytes and vitamins that are supposed to help with altitude sickness), and it only cost me a mere $17. Hotels *rolls eyes*
I chug all of it because it is now 11 a.m. and….I am STILL getting sick. I present in 2 hours.
I excuse myself early because I am sure the Zucchini of Doom is what poisoned me. So, I go back to that restaurant from the previous day, because “they were careful and knew how important it was to not contaminate food.”
I go to order the same thing, but the waitress stops me. “The coleslaw has dairy, and so does that dressing for your salad.”
I get sick if something with dairy brushes like zephyr near my food. I ate a half a cup of coleslaw and a half a dairy-infested salad.
How was I still ALIVE?
Sarah makes sure I get a meal I can eat without dying and I tip her 40%. Then I ask to speak to the manager and politely explain that dead patrons make lousy return customers. Then I excuse myself…
Because, yes, I am STILL SICK. By this point? 12 hours.
Um, We Thought You Weren’t Coming
So I put on my game face and head to the main lunch. I’m not eating but I can still be there to do my job. I have a table with my name and people who want to talk to me…and it’s full.
We thought you weren’t coming. They said you were sick.
I found it funny that it was my designated table and I was the only one without a seat. But they scooch me in and soon I have everyone talking and laughing. Outside Kristen is funny and helpful. Inside Kristen wants to use the 10% off the ski-lift coupon so she can throw herself off the top of Crested Butte.
The Crested Butte writers felt better because I told them it was the restaurant and not the Zucchini of Doom that poisoned me. That seemed to make them relax. I can see how trying to kill your speakers could look bad.
I was blessed that an hour before I presented I stopped getting sick. With GF, dairy-free food in my stomach and enough Gatorade to supply a lacrosse team, I was good to go and gave it my best. I presented for a little over an hour and no one would have known I was sick.
SCORE! *fist pump*
I struggle back up the mountain to my condo. I needed time to rest and regroup. That evening, I was rewarded for my diligence. I had THE BEST GF, Diary-Free Pizza ON THE PLANET at a place called, The Secret Stash. It was so good, I bought another one to bring back to the condo with me. $60 worth of pizza, I didn’t care. I needed safe food.
The French Tried to Kill Me, but FAILED
Of course, the next night we go to a French food restaurant. I go through all the Please, please please NO gluten or dairy and I get THIS…
Ah, but I am smarter now. I spot the deadly mashed potatoes lurking beneath my pork loin.
SHE SCORES AGAIN!
The rest of the conference went great, even though I was seriously puny and had knot on my head (this explains so much, right?). I am a bit sad I got so sick because I was too weak to do any of the hiking or fun stuff we had coupons for. But, I did get to help and serve a lot of writers and that’s what I love most anyway.
Why do I tell this story? First of all because it’s kind of tragic-funny. I am a person who honors my commitments to the point of lunacy, but…
Mostly I want you guys to know I pale in comparison to what other writers are willing to do for their craft. I’ve known writers who kept writing even though they were facing a double-mastectomy or going through chemo. One writer kept writing even as she cared for her husband who was undergoing chemo for brain cancer.
I’m friends with a big name author who kept writing even after three deaths in one year (two were this writers’ parents). Life will still be here. We get sick, we face hardship but we need to press on and, more importantly? LAUGH. Keep a sense of humor. Everything passes, but the writing will remain and often the thing we love (writing) can help us get through tough times. If I didn’t LOVE serving writers so much, I NEVER could have maintained my game face.
So what about you guys? Do you have food allergies and faced down the Assassin-wich? Did you learn to press on even when life threw you a hardball…in the FACE?
I love hearing from you!
To prove it and show my love, for the month of June, 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 novel, or 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 June I will pick a winner for the monthly prize. Good luck!