The Hard Truth About Being a Professional Writer

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I happened to see this meme (above) on Facebook and I lost it laughing. This is such a great metaphor for what it is like to be a writer. In the beginning I was a rose, then I learned to become the dandelion. The dandelion might not be as pretty, but it is prolific and it is a survivor.

When I decided years ago to leave sales and become a writer, I had a far more glamorous idea of what it was like to be a professional writer (pieced together from movies). Additionally, it didn’t help that my first “novel” was so much fun to write.

Of course it was fun! I didn’t have to be constrained by these pesky things called “rules” and “craft.” I was like some kid banging away on a piano believing I was, in fact, making music.

Yet, when I joined a writing group and quickly learned how little I knew, there was this interesting change in my energy and how I approached writing.

Because now I had to think of things like “genre constraints”, “plot points”, “pinch points”, “pacing”, “scene and sequel” I found that all the fun rushed out of the process with the violent force of a depressurized jet liner. I started getting stuck. Then I’d flit from new idea to new idea trying to recapture the magic I’d once had.

Like all newbies I too started wanting to know how the pros found “inspiration” because the only thing I felt inspired to do was drink heavily and complain.

Thus, today we are going to talk about what it is really like to do this job.

When we are new, there are elements we believe we MUST have to be successful, when in truth? They are great, but seriously overrated.

Well, at least for the dandelion😉 …

Inspiration is Overrated

Seriously. I do believe inspiration is there and it is a necessary and vital ingredient of what we do, but it’s like trying to bottle a rainbow. We enjoy it when it appears then move on when it’s gone.

When I was new, I had to feel in the “mood” to write and if anything interrupted that mood? I withered.

I was like the rose in the image, needing the perfect Ph to bloom. When I got good, though was when I became the dandelion. Any crack I could work in? I did.

CONCRETE! WHOO! HOO!

Talent is Overrated

I have met countless writers far more talented than I am. Problem was, they never sat down and got their a$$es to work. Talent is useless unless it is employed. We still have to do the work. And, the more we write, the more “talented” we become.

I know what it is like to sit in a critique group and hear another (more talented) writer read…then to feel discouraged. But, what I found happened more times than not was that super talented writer rarely finished. So me getting discouraged was just a waste of writing time.

Bees (readers) visit a lot more dandelions than they do rose bushes with no blooms😉 .

Feelings are Overrated

Feelings lie. They are fickle and fleeting and secretly jealous when you pay attention to other things (like doing the work). One of the reasons I love writers (especially new writers) having a blog is it trains in discipline. Writing is a seriously tough job, especially in the beginning.

There is no evil boss who will write me up and fire me if I don’t get in my word count.

I have to be self-motivated.

Blogging trains in the discipline of a journalist. Journalists can’t wait to feel inspired to write about that five-alarm fire. They don’t have the luxury of reworking and reworking a piece because it isn’t worthy of a Pulitzer. Journalists have a finite amount of time to get the work done…then they SHIP.

Perfection is Overrated

One thing that will kill “inspiration” is to try to make the writing perfect. When we stop and fuss and futz with every sentence, we stall out. We leave a space for self-doubt, negativity and depression to creep in. Here’s the deal. No half-finished perfect book has ever become a NY Times best-seller, but a lot of crappy finished novels have.

Too may writers just are not giving permission to write that crappy first draft. Just write. Finish it. Then feel free to go back and refine. There is some really ugly hard work that is no fun that HAS to be done.

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Guess what? The more you write the better you get. The only way to become really good at writing novels….is to write novelS. As in plural. This is science so don’t argue.

Seriously, would you trust a brain surgeon who’d only performed surgery once?

Think about it.

Pretty Prose is Overrated

One thing that stalls a lot of writers is they are too busy trying to craft every sentence to be so beautiful it makes angels weep. This is problematic for a number of reasons.

First, this verbal glitter often comes at the expense of a story. Pretty prose does not a novel make. I’ve gotten lots of submissions from writers who had glorious prose…but there was no hook. No story. Nothing to draw me in.

Fiction is about one thing and one thing only. PROBLEMS. No problem? No story. Now, if we do have a problem and also the ability to weave in glorious prose? Awesome. Just we have to make sure we are not trying to substitute fancy language for actual story.

The next reason pretty prose is overrated is that if we use too much, it can actually harm the story. It’s jarring to the reader and adds nothing but confusion. Remember that this kind of prose is like super rich food. It’s incredibly tasty but we have to limit it and balance it with other lighter pairings or it’s too heavy (and makes the reader sick).

So what I hope you will take away from all of this is that writers write. Plain and simple. There are good days and bad days and days you will wake to the sound of your cat puking and the toilet overflows and the kid is sick, but it is still a job. It is a job that can be wonderful and rewarding and everything listed above—inspiration, talent, good feelings, perfection, pretty prose—are great when we can get them, but not necessary to bloom😉 .

What are your thoughts? Are you busy waiting for inspiration instead of writing? Do you find yourself procrastinating because you don’t think your work is good enough? Do you suck at finishing? Are you giving your feelings too much of a vote? Or did you once struggle with all of this stuff and now you are a proud DANDEFREAKINGWEED of a writer?

I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of MAY, 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).

Upcoming Classes!!!

Remember that all WANA classes are recorded so if you miss, can’t make it or just want to refresh the material, this is included with purchase price. The classes are all virtual and all you need is a computer and an Internet connection to enjoy!

Blogging for Authors MAY 20th. Blogging is one of the most powerful forms of social media. Twitter could flitter and Facebook could fold but the blog will remain so long as we have an Internet. The blog has been going strong since the 90s and it’s one of the best ways to establish a brand and then harness the power of that brand to drive book sales.

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  1. #1 by Hannah Brown // SPW on May 18, 2016 - 10:16 am

    Great post! I’m saving the pie chart graphic! I’m still a newbie, and I know one area I really have to work on is self-motivation, but it’s always, well, motivating to see someone else write about it! I think it’s time to (once again) go home and make myself work on my current piece…

  2. #2 by cpbialois on May 18, 2016 - 10:17 am

    Reblogged this on The BiaLog and commented:
    Some excellent insights.🙂

  3. #3 by Patricia Robertson on May 18, 2016 - 10:24 am

    Another great post. Perfect timing as I need this to get motivated today!

  4. #4 by Patricia Robertson on May 18, 2016 - 10:27 am

    By the way, I posted recently about learning to love dandelions, https://patriciamrobertson.com/2016/04/19/learning-to-love-dandelions-and-farts/. You’ve just given me another reason to love dandelions.🙂

  5. #5 by russtowne on May 18, 2016 - 10:30 am

    Reblogged this on Imaginings of a Grateful Man and commented:
    I found this post to be quite interesting and thought many of you would too.

    With Love,
    Russ

  6. #6 by K.J. Harrowick on May 18, 2016 - 10:34 am

    Bahahaha… That pie chart made me laugh out loud. I’m looking at the negative space (editing) and swearing it should take three more pies stacked next to it.😛

  7. #7 by kimberlywenzler on May 18, 2016 - 10:34 am

    Great post, as usual. I’m finding myself comparing my work to other’s and it’s hard to get past it. I love the dandelion growing through the concrete. Needed the laugh. Thanks!!

  8. #8 by mcm0704 on May 18, 2016 - 10:41 am

    Loved the connection to the dandelion. I have always believed tenacity wins out.

  9. #9 by edireland on May 18, 2016 - 10:42 am

    Reblogged this on CrazyEnoughToWrite.

  10. #10 by R. M. Donaldson on May 18, 2016 - 10:53 am

    I love this article! A TON of my writer friends aren’t going anywhere because they won’t get their butts in a chair and write no matter what. Writing is hard. This is the only real way to do it! I spent years editing my first book and only a year (likely less) writing the first draft. It’s messy, but also a different kind of fun.

  11. #11 by wwhdbdechen on May 18, 2016 - 11:14 am

    You nailed it, sister! I learned a lot of these lessons in the art studio: Don’t be afraid to get lost in the image. Perfection is a chimera. At some point, you just have to sign the mf painting and hang it on the wall!🙂

  12. #12 by gingersea on May 18, 2016 - 11:20 am

    Thanks, Kristen! That is just EXACTLY what I needed to hear this morning! Now . . . back to work!

  13. #13 by Tiffinie Helmer on May 18, 2016 - 11:21 am

    This post was extremely timely for me. Thank you.

  14. #14 by jhwinterauthor on May 18, 2016 - 11:35 am

    I love the “How Writing A Novel Actually Works” pie chart. It is so true! I am once again revisiting the white piece of the pie called editing and then will be sending out more queries. Luckily, I haven’t had a bite of the wishing I’d never started the book pie, but self-doubt can’t help but creep in from time to time. Just picked up your ‘Rise of the Machines’ book and can’t wait to dive in!

    Julianne
    Ink & Stitches – http://blog.jhwinter.com

  15. #15 by brnjen12 on May 18, 2016 - 11:42 am

    Reblogged this on Jeannie Hall Suspense and commented:
    Essentials For Being A Career Writer

  16. #16 by suzanna on May 18, 2016 - 11:44 am

    Oh, this made me laugh deliriously because it is soooo true.
    Let’s be dandelions, eh?

  17. #17 by gilmiller on May 18, 2016 - 11:45 am

    There’s an episode of Castle where he takes a first-time bestselling author to his poker game with other authors, and Michael Connelly asks the new author, “You know what I did after I sold my first novel?”

    The author’s eyes go wide. “What?”

    “I shut up and wrote twenty-three more.”

    As they used to say in the Marvel Bullpen ,’nuff said.

    • #18 by Author Kristen Lamb on May 18, 2016 - 12:01 pm

      I LOVE that! But I am a HUGE, HUGE, HUGE fan of Connelly.

      • #19 by gilmiller on May 18, 2016 - 12:44 pm

        Yeah, in the extras, he said he loved delivering that line. And I’m a huge Connelly fan too, so those episodes tend to be my favorites.

  18. #20 by 50at70 on May 18, 2016 - 12:05 pm

    Great piece. So true and why each one almost has to live it to know it is a mystery. I have read all this many times and put many ways but it just doesn’t sink in far enough to stick. I am at the standing at the dandelion looking at it. I know this is so true but so far I haven’t sit down in my chair and dived in. Isn’t it fun to start a fresh new story. I have 11 good ones started with the full intent of finishing each one but wait another is in my brain pounding to get out. Now I have to get into the dandelion stage and go to work. WORK is a 4 letter word you know. Can I at least put a butterfly on it, I do so love BLING or how ever you spell it (I’m getting better I didn’t stop and look it up). So Kristen wish me luck at becoming a DAndefreakingweed.

  19. #21 by IchBinMeisterin on May 18, 2016 - 12:09 pm

    I was smiling and nodding as I read through the list of pitfalls faced by most “roses” because they definitely match what I have suffered for over the last year. I am currently trying to get back into the habit of writing right now and feeling discouraged because I will have to “re-learn” all the technique I studied a couple of months ago. I need to re-read my story notes and revisit technique a little at a time.

  20. #22 by Jennifer Withers on May 18, 2016 - 12:09 pm

    Thanks Kristen. How I needed a pick-me-up pep talk, and a good laugh along the way! I’m a proud dandelion, although I was very much the rose when I started out. When people ask me what advice I’d give other writers – it’s this: write. I always get strange looks because surely it can’t be that simple? It is. Bum down. Fingers on keyboard. Write.

  21. #23 by Joseph E Bird on May 18, 2016 - 12:28 pm

    I’m so glad you’re part of my writing group.

  22. #24 by lovelyhazelife on May 18, 2016 - 12:33 pm

    I love this metaphor. I need to be a dandelion. Everything you said is so true!

  23. #25 by Secnarfl on May 18, 2016 - 12:35 pm

    Kristen we live a parallel life. This really had me laughing!

  24. #26 by Sandy Toes and Writer Woes on May 18, 2016 - 12:50 pm

    Thank you for another great post. I’m doing my MA at the moment and a big part of the course is critiquing each others work. It’s nice to be reminded that we all just have to persevere. Love the pie chart too!😉

  25. #27 by beeorganizedwithpamela on May 18, 2016 - 12:54 pm

    Great post. I really enjoy your style. I too am a dandelion! We sometimes get in our own way.

  26. #28 by mamalisa4 on May 18, 2016 - 12:57 pm

    I love this post so much and it is exactly what I needed to hear, or read for that matter. I want to be a dandelion!! Great post! Thank you so much for sharing, it really gave me insight.

  27. #29 by P.D. Workman on May 18, 2016 - 1:07 pm

    Absolutely. Write, edit, publish, promote. Then do it some more.

    Take any one step out of the process, and it’s not going to work. Most indie authors are going to drop out in the first three years from publication. How can you succeed if you do that? It takes longer than that to build a business from the ground up. The ones who succeed are the ones to go beyond two or three years.

    Succeed by virtue of persistence and tenacity! Be a dandelion!

  28. #30 by Cheryl Ammeter on May 18, 2016 - 1:55 pm

    A rose by any other name – still needs editing! Loved this article, Kristen. On. The. Nose! I had a pretty successful swing at writing my first novel, but as I learned more about the difference between script and literary writing, I realized that I had to go back and bring the first book of my series up to a higher standard before moving forward. I have loved the work, but it can be overwhelming and exhausting at times.

  29. #31 by ariefarnam on May 18, 2016 - 2:19 pm

    For once I agree, pretty much. All those things are overrated. Talent… well, as my old journalism mentor used to tell me, “Talented writers are a dime a dozen.” I didn’t believe him at the time, but I learned. There are even about ten talented, skilled and experienced writers for every writing job or slot in the market for an author who can make enough to eat and pay the rent. That’s the hard part.

    On genre conventions, that is one thing I am really struggling with these days. I am dying of boredom trying to find books to read in the modern genre conventions. Read ten pages and you can predict every single detail of the upcoming plot. The authors who appear to be making bank these days have got a formula and they might as well just plug it in and let computer programs write their books. It is utterly predictable and often devoid of passion and tension. I can see why the passion gets sucked out of it when today’s conditions require a writer to crank out a “novel” every three months in order to afford to write full time (if they are extraordinarily lucky). Just as I can’t put the fear of God into every single newspaper article, day in and day out without a break, that kind of novel-regimen is likely to take the punch out of the writing.

    But occasionally I find books–every now and then off in the corners–which are great but don’t fit a genre. They are marketing pariahs and their authors invariably have other jobs and write few books simply for lack of time, but they are the books worth reading in my view. I understand that I must not be a typical reader. There have to be readers out there buying the AI-written books because if there weren’t, there wouldn’t be buyers. I am simply not sure that writing these formulas is any better than technical writing and or the late-night newsroom of the 1990s.

    The bottom line remains the same regardless of how bad things get for writers. If you have to write, you write. And if you write every day for ten years, you’ll get better at it. Blogs are great for that, as newspaper newsrooms used to be.

  30. #32 by mandibelle16 on May 18, 2016 - 2:43 pm

    You make excellent points and in the end I agree, it comes down to doing the work, even if you’re not in a perfect writing mood.

  31. #33 by mandibelle16 on May 18, 2016 - 2:43 pm

    Reblogged this on Mandibelle16 and commented:
    Truth About Writing

  32. #34 by jademwong on May 18, 2016 - 2:49 pm

    Fantastic post, and those pic charts crack me up.

  33. #35 by travelingamericablog on May 18, 2016 - 2:51 pm

    Great post Kristen! Truly an inspiration & helps me realize you have to keep your proverbial “nose to the grindstone” and eventual writing will grow. I write & blog non-fiction features, but some of the same lessons apply even though I do not write fiction. Terrific rose/dandelion metaphor…Loved it!

  34. #36 by coldhandboyack on May 18, 2016 - 2:54 pm

    These are all such excellent points. I love the floral comparisons, and the bees weaved in perfectly. I’ve always had the ability to finish, I hope each effort is a degree better than the last. In any case, I keep doing it.

  35. #37 by wallacecass on May 18, 2016 - 2:57 pm

    Reblogged this on Writing in Real Time and commented:
    SO much to like about this post, I don’t know where to start.

  36. #38 by Liz Crowe on May 18, 2016 - 2:59 pm

    Not that you need more affirmation (Dandelions drink air) or anything but this is awesome and spot on. shared all the hell over the place, as usual.
    Love ya
    Liz

    • #39 by Author Kristen Lamb on May 18, 2016 - 5:23 pm

      Oh I am infinitely insecure (that whole writer thing) so affirmations rock😀. Thanks for the support!

  37. #40 by sharonhughson on May 18, 2016 - 3:31 pm

    Not sure I have much in the way of inspiration on most days, but I put my seat in the seat and hack out some words. I completely agree that we become more “talented” as we use our writing muscles. Thanks for this reminder to STOP reading blogs already and WRITE something.

  38. #41 by Cindy Sample on May 18, 2016 - 3:35 pm

    A perfect post, Kristen. Once I discovered how much fun it was to revise, it made that first “stream of consciousness” draft so much easier to produce. And now I have no problems putting myself in front of my laptop and plotting away. All glitches will be fixed at the end!

  39. #42 by Newt Johnson on May 18, 2016 - 3:41 pm

    Kristen, honest to Pete, if you are ever anywhere in the Charlotte NC area, call me. I would love to go out to lunch with you and just listen to you talk about writing. We’d probably eventually get thrown out of the restaurant, but that’s all right, we can always find a tolerant Panera Bread spot somewhere.

    You absolutely make my day (not to mention giving me an excuse to not look at the WIP for a while). — Thanks for making writing fun, even when it seems like college English class all over again!

  40. #44 by Juli Hoffman on May 18, 2016 - 3:46 pm

    Needed to read this! Thank you!!!!!!!

  41. #45 by ebeler on May 18, 2016 - 3:54 pm

    Good advice. I’m still a newbie myself and I’m trying to accept that my writing will never be perfect and that no matter how many times I rework it, I’ll still find flaws when I reread it. But I am working on that dandelion status because it is important to me.

  42. #46 by James on May 18, 2016 - 4:06 pm

    Nice article, and I can relate to most it. Reading this was a “A Memorable Experience” and “Hauntingly Awesome!”

  43. #47 by Southpaw, HR Sinclair on May 18, 2016 - 4:31 pm

    Love the rose/dandelion analogy! Now, to put all that into practice.

  44. #48 by varniit nigam (@ThisIsVarniit) on May 18, 2016 - 4:39 pm

    Thanks Kristen mam for these overrated issues of writing that we take too much into care… Will now force myself out of the hell to write something that I can cry upon😊😆😣😣😣😣

  45. #49 by Heather Heyford on May 18, 2016 - 5:48 pm

    This is why I love you so much. My last book, the ending felt so rushed, to meet deadline. I submitted it with all kinds of apologies. And then I read the copy edits, expecting to cringe. And I was like, where are all those horribly rushed passages I was embarrassed to hand in? I couldn’t find them. My editor hadn’t mentioned them. It was my fifth professionally published book, and I had come through the hoop of flames and out the other side. And it was okay. Kristen, I am a trained teacher. But you are a born teacher.

  46. #50 by Kim on May 18, 2016 - 5:56 pm

    I enjoyed this one. I felt down to earth and real. Thanks.

  47. #51 by Deborah Makarios on May 18, 2016 - 6:16 pm

    I lost a whack of writing time to the ED yesterday, but I ain’t dead yet, so I should get on with some writing, try to make up for lost time. Though I should probably get that prescription filled at some point too…
    Funnily enough, one of the characters in my WIP actually turns into a dandelion when he’s worn out. I guess I should take a leaf (hur hur hur – sorry) out of his book.

  48. #52 by cwaugh212 on May 18, 2016 - 6:20 pm

    Great help for a first time author with one book self published and the second in the trilogy well underway. How do I afford publishing the second when the first is hardly selling? I spend all of my time marketing and very little writing, trying to recoup publishing losses. Perhaps I should just finish the second and push it out there only in eBook mode. Who knows?

  49. #53 by Janice on May 18, 2016 - 7:11 pm

    Perfection is my primary struggle. My mantra as I write is ‘just keep moving’. Great post. As always.

  50. #54 by Elizabeth Rose on May 18, 2016 - 7:39 pm

    I get 45 minutes a day to write. I write when I’m sick. I write when I’m tired. I write when I had a bad day at work. Sometimes only a few sentences come out, sometimes a thousand words. I take what I can get. If I can get 15 minutes here or there, I take those, too. Even if it’s waiting for DDs gymnastics class to end.

    I stared blogging back in January. I feel like I cheat a little with blogging as I will write a week of posts ahead of time and schedule them so I don’t have to squeeze it into the work week.

    It took me three months to write my novel. I’ve spent the last 9 months revising it. Still crafting a query letter for it.

  51. #56 by Selma P. Verde on May 18, 2016 - 9:36 pm

    I loved your post! Very true on many counts! I just posted a thought about just write on my Facebook page. I have learned that the first draft is just for getting the story out. After that, you mold it to become great. I would love to do your blogging for authors some time down the road. I’ll have to keep an eye out for the next time you offer it. Thanks for the post and all your thoughts! Good luck with your writing.

  52. #57 by 1authorcygnetbrown on May 18, 2016 - 9:39 pm

    Isn’t there a rule that says that you don’t become an expert of anything until you have at least done it for 100K hours? I think I have also heard that we authors don’t get good at that until we have written a million words. Its not just any writing either. Its writing that has come through education, discipline and lots and lots of editing..

  53. #58 by c.i.Edwards on May 18, 2016 - 9:54 pm

    I discovered I wanted to write fiction while working on my MLA. I shifted my whole focus to writing and did a collection of short stories as my final project. Now, I actually take community college Creative writing courses to make sure that I keep up at my craft by giving me deadlines. I’ve learned so much in the 3 years since I’ve started and the main thing is that you HAVE TO WRITE.

  54. #59 by robakers on May 18, 2016 - 10:53 pm

    There are so many variables in the writing world that make it rare for anyone to find success but the good news is there is no glass ceiling holding anyone back. But there sure is a lot of concrete.

    Thanks for pointing out that we need to be looking for cracks.

  55. #60 by ellieholmesauthor on May 19, 2016 - 2:57 am

    Great post. Sometimes I listen to new writers and remember how I used to feel like that before I learned what the real world was like, then I feel old, then I gently try to tell them how it really is without frightening the living daylights out of them. I can tell they often don’t believe me but one day, if they keep going, they will!

  56. #61 by Alexis on May 19, 2016 - 4:49 am

    That pie chart is the TRUTH. A coworker once pointed out to me that we think writing is 90% first draft and 10% editing, but it’s actually the opposite. I’m so grateful to have heard it early in my journey, even if it took me a while to wrap my head around it. Great post.

    Creative Staycation

  57. #62 by Fleur on May 19, 2016 - 5:26 am

    SACHOK
    This is Cassandra Clare’s advice to writers. Sit at chair. Hands on keyboard.

  58. #63 by kerriemckinnel on May 19, 2016 - 5:27 am

    Great post! I’m in the final stages of a postgraduate degree in creative writing, and one thing it’s taught me is exactly what you’re saying here – writing is HARD WORK and takes dedication. Some days I’m still the rose, making excuses because of family life or not feeling great or whatever else, but I’m on the way to the dandelion!

  59. #64 by kingsoracle on May 19, 2016 - 5:56 am

    Reblogged this on The king'soracle. and commented:
    Trying to figure out my writing, then Kristen Lamb had this to say. Informative and Insightful. worth reading!

  60. #65 by Anna Kopp on May 19, 2016 - 7:50 am

    Reblogged this on Words Matter and commented:
    One of the best posts about writing I’ve ever read!

  61. #66 by Claire Morley on May 19, 2016 - 9:15 am

    Great post, love the pie chart, so very true. I published my first novel on Amazon last year and gave myself a minimum word count every day, I think it was 500 words, sometimes I wrote a lot more if it was flowing and sometimes the 500 words was a challenge and completely rewritten next time I read them, but it meant I was disciplined to write every day and that’s what got me through to finishing it.

  62. #67 by Lynne on May 19, 2016 - 9:40 am

    I needed to hear this today. I struggle with finding just the right words to say, and the spark of inspiration drives me mad. Pie charts were amusing!!

  63. #68 by Sharon Bonin-Pratt on May 19, 2016 - 10:24 am

    Love your pie chart, got my morning off to a hilarious start. Thanks for your wisdom, especially about the problems a book must have. No problems in the book equal major problems for the writer.

    I’m not published – yet – but I’ve completed 3 novels, am working on a 4th, and stumped by the query process which seems to be akin to thrusting my hand in a box and getting bitten by spiders or totally ignored.

  64. #69 by janarichards on May 19, 2016 - 10:56 am

    I’m working on being that dandelion. I used to think I had to write a perfect, or nearly perfect, first draft. I spent so much time on the first three chapters that I never finished anything. Once I learned to write a crappy first draft and embrace revision like it was a long-lost sister, I was finally able to finish novelS. That’s plural.

  65. #70 by Ontyre Passages on May 19, 2016 - 1:00 pm

    Total gnarly, stubborn, determined, and obnoxious weed here. Yeah, I’m busting up your concrete. You don’t like it? Tell it to my agent…if I had one. I don’t need one because I’m a weed. Think you’re going to spray my hide? Go for it. Make my day. I’ll just do my little shrivel dance and pop up somewhere else. Why? Because I’m a weed and that’s what I do. I keep coming back because I don’t know how to surrender. It isn’t in my dictionary.😀

  66. #71 by Elizabeth Hogsten on May 19, 2016 - 8:29 pm

    Encouraged by this post to dig down and get back to work on the second draft of my novel! Trying not to let my perfectionist side get in the way of going through this process of becoming a better writer.. Love the pie chart and the meme🙂

  67. #72 by oneta hayes on May 19, 2016 - 9:15 pm

    Sure liked the image of bottling the rainbow. Didn’t like having all the “fun stuff” labeled as overrated and replaced with work! Just kidding. But that is probably I’ve never dreamed of writing novels. Too much work. 😀

  68. #73 by TKS on May 19, 2016 - 11:24 pm

    Yes, it’s a cute analogy and I can see why everyone likes it. We need, as writers, to be hardy weeds. In fact, it works too well for writers indeed are weed-like, cluttering and seeding the publishing meadow. There are too many of them – hence the weeding out process. Having worked for a small press for a number of years I can tell you that the ratio of writers to readers is getting out of wack – some days we get more people seeking to publish than seeking to buy books. The market is flooded and the day you release your novel will also be the day you immediately have to compete with a thousand other such ‘weeds’ – all choking each other out. Also, sitting on a submissions board, I have to disagree with Kristen’s contention that talent, craft, voice, and working towards perfection are overrated.

    The veracity of this post depends on what sort of writer you are. We have multitudes of people hoping to be the next J.K. Rowling and 95% of them won’t even become the next Jan Karon. I suppose if you want to have a little short term sales splash or perhaps even a middling run – then bang out those books with story hooks and easily digestible words. She is right to point out that the Best Seller lists often feature hastily written and rather imperfect novels. Most popular fiction is poorly written so it’s fair to say that the publishing industry is not a true meritocracy when it comes to writing talent. But some readers are more discerning… dare I say literary… and require more from a reading experience. Not all publishers are looking for the next big short term splash either. Some writers write for reasons beyond marketability and quick fame – and should chase perfection in their craft. It’s also rather reductive to say that fiction is all about story and problem. If that were the case there would be no Joyce, no Beckett, no Pynchon, no Borges, no Calvino… no Infinite Jest! OK, these might not be high on your reading list… they may not be flavour of the month bestseller fodder…. but they’ll all be around longer than the legion of dandelions akin to Jan Karon!

    • #74 by Author Kristen Lamb on May 20, 2016 - 8:51 am

      Whoa, hold on. I never said anything was wrong with working towards perfection. But what happens is people can be paralyzed with every sentence being “perfect” and perfect doesn’t exist. The metaphor here is for the character and work ethic of the author…not the product. Dandelions are hardy, resilient and don’t need a crap ton of coddling to produce.

      Now, the product? We can find other metaphors for that😀 .

    • #75 by Frankie Hambrick Capers on May 25, 2016 - 5:05 pm

      If only I could write like Jan Karon. Her Mitford series are my favorites. I get totally involved in that quaint little town. I feel privileged to have met her, had my picture with her and gotten her autograph. What a lady, and what an awesome author. As one of the “legion akin to her”, I’m sure we’ll be around long after some of the unknown authors mentioned.

    • #76 by teleprechaun on June 6, 2016 - 4:28 pm

      Wow, seems like this poster has really lost sense of context.
      This is an instructional blog, that helps people motivate and learn. Yes, many of us aspire to craft beautiful works of art. However, our world these days isn’t always conducive to that, so we must be flexible and tenacious.

      “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work that hard,” is a reality that I see played out often. That’s the point here. And getting myself to work consistently on projects is facilitated by having technique. Eventually, we all hope to leave someone else’s rules behind. But they help in the beginning.

      It also seems silly to get mad at people taking an opportunity to follow their dreams and be creative. Doesn’t the world need more creativity?
      If this is just a matter of publisher frustration, I get that. The market is tricky for you guys these days. Bombing the site with elitist hate is unnecessary, though.

      And Kristen, thanks for this kick-in-the-a– metaphor.

  69. #77 by John R. Paterson on May 20, 2016 - 12:49 am

    Thanks Kristen. Another spot-on post. The bloom is definitely off my rose. I’m going for cracks in the concrete.

    John R. Paterson, author *The White Limousine * http://www.johnrpaterson.com

    On Wed, May 18, 2016 at 8:07 AM, Kristen Lambs Blog wrote:

    > Author Kristen Lamb posted: ” I happened to see this meme (above) on > Facebook and I lost it laughing. This is such a great metaphor for what it > is like to be a writer. In the beginning I was a rose, then I learned to > become the dandelion. The dandelion might not be as pretty, but ” >

  70. #78 by Delores Feeken-Schmidt on May 20, 2016 - 6:30 am

    I really enjoyed/appreciated/felt encouraged by your post. You touched on so many of the issues writers face. Well, at least I know I do! I’m still at the rose level, new to the idea that I might be good enough to be published…I hope! Thank you for your wisdom. I look forward to reading more.

  71. #79 by Simon on May 20, 2016 - 7:16 am

    Always love your posts Kristen. I like the common sense and reality you bring to the writing table. I especially agree about perfection killing inspiration, being creative isn’t about perfection to the nth degree.

  72. #80 by bethkfortune on May 20, 2016 - 1:36 pm

    Great post. Now to find a crack in the cement and get to work!!! Thanks for being real🙂

  73. #81 by Alex on May 20, 2016 - 3:06 pm

    I linked to this post in my post for today rather than re-blogging, since it was related to what I was going to talk about. You can decide whether or not that counts for the contest, I don’t mind either way!

    Excellent post, and a nice reminder because it’s definitely something I’m still working on. I don’t do well with feeling like I HAVE to do something, but doing something when I don’t really want to because I know that it’s one step towards something I do want? That’s slightly different, and something I can do. In theory, once I stop making it feel like an obligation.

  74. #82 by Nikki Brock on May 20, 2016 - 9:53 pm

    All my life I wanted a flat stomach. You know, the one where when you laid down, it was concave? When I was a teenager, I dieted and starved myself and exercised and didn’t drink enough water in hopes that i would get one. Every great once in a blue moon I would. It would last for about a day.

    It seems to be like inspiration, the Visitation from the Muse is like that. You know what I mean, the kind of inspiration that makes you run to the computer because the ideas are flowing like juices out of a fifty dollar steak. It, too, lasts about a day. The vast majority of the time I just sit there, plodding along by myself.

    Live with the stomach you have. Don’t wait for the Flat One. I need to put that on my bulletin board.

  75. #83 by katharinetrauger on May 20, 2016 - 10:00 pm

    Totally inspiring of awe and fear.😉

  76. #84 by Marsha on May 20, 2016 - 10:55 pm

    Great post. I loved the meme, too. It helps to read this right when I was getting discouraged. I just have to look up, and keep working.🙂 Thanks!

  77. #85 by Carrie R on May 21, 2016 - 2:01 pm

    So true. The pie chart says it all. I can’t count the number of times I’ve said, ‘Am I done editing yet?…Am I done editing yet??..PLEASE can I just be done editing.’

  78. #86 by Scott on May 21, 2016 - 8:55 pm

    I am busy waiting for the voice in my head to stop telling me “You’re not Stephen King; you’re not JK Rowling or Barbara Kingslover.” But I suppose I could slosh together something of a draft until they shut up.
    Much appreciation for these cheer leading posts. They are incredibly helpful to folks like me, wound up so tight with self doubt…despite all the passion and love for writing.

  79. #87 by Allison Luther on May 22, 2016 - 10:09 pm

    What a timely posting, as I’m midway through my first draft and am eager to get on with the editing. Thank you!

  80. #88 by Peter Rey on May 23, 2016 - 6:14 am

    Your post is right to the point. Besides, the juxtaposition of roses and dandelions is definitively a great one.
    Opportunities to write are all around us, but often we tend to overlook them. We wait for inspiration. Not sure about why this is the case. Maybe because a crack in a slab of concrete is immediately perceivable, it creates a sort of discontinuity able to wake we, the dandelion-writers, up…

  81. #89 by Maggi Fox on May 23, 2016 - 8:34 am

    Terrific post. Inspirational. Thanks.

  82. #90 by aquariusinkslinger on May 23, 2016 - 9:23 am

    Reblogged this on … in a land far, far away….

  83. #91 by Cindy M Jones on May 23, 2016 - 12:02 pm

    Reblogged this on Storyhaunts and commented:
    So Needed this today. As a writer, it can be lonely business and tuff days can make you question your path.

  84. #92 by Cindy M Jones on May 23, 2016 - 12:10 pm

    Well, I’m sort of speechless because I had made a statement in my mind this morning, “I don’t think I’m cut out for writing, I need to do something else.” Then I open my emails and yours was the first one. I’m not sure if I’m calling it coincidental or a miracle. I had my mind made up to “Move On.” Thank you, I believe this was a sign : ) not to give up. I’ve reblogged and shared on all my SM. I felt more like a dandelion pulled up by the roots and sprayed with weed killer this past couple of weeks. Good to know, I’ll be blooming again. Dandelions don’t give up.

  85. #93 by jamiewauthor on May 23, 2016 - 2:56 pm

    Reblogged this on White's Wyrd World and commented:
    I really enjoy her blog posts, and she makes a lot of great points. In this one, she talks about the hard parts of being a writer. I love to point these things out, not to discourage people from writing, but to give people a realistic expectation of what to expect once they start writing that first book.

    Realistic expectations are a must that will keep you going through the tough parts. Why? Because, while I love dreaming big and expecting abundance to come, for so many, it doesn’t. If you’re grounded in a love of storytelling, you’ll be so much more prepared to handle the tough parts.

    This doesn’t just apply to writing, either. Whatever you dream or goal is…. go for it for the love of doing it.🙂

  86. #94 by headoverwriting on May 24, 2016 - 8:43 am

    Great post! Thanks for sharing. Particularly loved the pie charts.

  87. #95 by Georgina Chaplain on May 25, 2016 - 3:21 am

    Great stuff! I love the pie charts. Too much true! I haven’t written anything for ages, in fact, since my one an only publication to date! Time to get down to some work, I guess…

  88. #96 by Sarah on May 25, 2016 - 1:57 pm

    Preach it! Posts like this are incredibly encouraging!! Thank you!

  89. #97 by Frankie Hambrick Capers on May 25, 2016 - 4:34 pm

    Thank you, Kristen. Your words are encouraging. I’ve had two children’s story coloring books published (which are on Amazon), so they wouldn’t come under a “novel”, but I love writing. I have two more books being illustrated at present, with six more ideas and titles waiting for my itching fingers and ten great-grandchildren to get to them. I’m new at this, and don’t have a blog yet, but you have inspired me to start one.

  90. #98 by Britt Skrabanek on May 25, 2016 - 10:32 pm

    I sympathize with the cat puke wake-up call…just did that this morning, actually!

    Such sound advice…”Too may writers just are not giving permission to write that crappy first draft. Just write. Finish it.” The perfectionism thing has to go. Otherwise, we’ll be trying to write one novel our whole lives. I’d go crazy!

  91. #99 by bindmoggled on June 5, 2016 - 5:30 am

    Very encouraging and inspirational. This kind of puts/keeps things in perspective. I thank you.

  92. #100 by malevolentdreamer on June 11, 2016 - 9:10 pm

    I could not have found a better post and this was exactly what I needed to read right now. I write on and off but have only recently become serious about it and wanting, not a career from it but a hobby that, I don’t want to say pays because I’m not in it for the money. But I do know I have potential. I have the ideas and the story line. Anyways I’m beginning to ramble. Thank you for the post and giving me some things to think about and work on!

  93. #101 by Terri Benson on June 13, 2016 - 11:21 am

    I want to be a big, yellow, indestructible weed! This is a perfect analogy of writing – if you don’t write, you’ll never have a chance at that best seller list, and get to “the end” and THEN going back to edit is the most efficient way to do it. Thanks for the tough love reminder!

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