Author Kristen Lamb

Kristen Lamb is the #best selling author of "Rise of the Machines--Human Authors in a Digital World", "We Are Not Alone--The Writer's Guide to Social Media" & "Are You There, Blog? It's Me, Writer." She is the CEO of WANA International, a company dedicated to empowering artist of the Digital Age. She's also the creator of WANATribe, the social networking site for creative professionals and a contributing blogger for The Huffington Post.

Homepage: http://en.gravatar.com/warriorwriters

From Newbie to Master—Understanding the Writer’s Journey

Pirate Code=Writing Rules. Clearer now? :)

Pirate Code=Writing Rules. Clearer now? :)

The mark of a pro is they make whatever we want to do look easy. From running a business to playing guitar to wicked cool Kung Fu moves, masters rarely seem to even break a sweat. Same with authors. With the pros? The story flows, pulls us in, and appears seamless and effortless.

Just check out Ronda Rousey’s 14 second record-breaking WIN from this past weekend for an idea of JUST how EASY pros make things look…

Many of us decided to become writers because we grew up loving books. Because good storytellers are masters of what they do, we can easily fall into a misguided notion that “writing is easy.” Granted there are a rare few exceptions, but most of us will go through three acts (stages) in this career if we stick it through.

Act One—The Neophyte

This is when we are brand new. We’ve never read a craft book and the words flow. We never run out of words to put on a page because we are like a kid banging away on a piano having fun and making up “music.” We aren’t held back or hindered by any structure or rules and we have amazing energy and passion.

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Woodleywonderworks Flikr Creative Commons

But then we go to our first critique and hear words like “POV” and “narrative structure.” We learn that maybe we don’t know as much as we think we do and that we need to do some training. We also finally understand why so many famous authors drank…a lot.

Act Two—The Apprentice

The Apprentice Phase comes next. This is where we might read craft books, take classes, go to conferences and listen to lectures. During the early parts of this phase, books likely will no longer be fun. Neither will movies. In fact, most of your family will likely ban you from “Movie Night.” Everything now becomes part of our training. We no longer look at stories the same way.

The apprentice phase is tough, and for many of us, it takes the all the fun out of writing. The apprentice phase is our Act II. It’s the looooongest, but filled with the most growth and change. It’s the span of suck before the breakthrough.

I’ve studied other forms of martial arts, but I am relatively new to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Right now I am in the span of SUUUUUCK. When I started as a neophyte, I “seemed” to do better because I just muscled my way around on the ground and being naturally strong? It worked…against an equally green opponent.

Moments before Kristen gets her tail kicked….

Moments before Kristen gets her tail kicked….

But it also wore me out and gave me more than a fair share of injuries. I had to learn technique. Technique looks awesome when Coach does it. It looks easy on theYouTube videos.

When I do it? Eh…not pretty and NOT easy.

Right now, I’m losing most of…ok, all of my rounds, which is tough on the ego but easier on the joints. I’m focusing more on “rules”, finesse and drilling the basics because I know that in time? It will pay off. Right now is NOT the time for me to try and be “creative.” There is also NO substitute for time on the mat.

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Same with writing. Many shy away from craft books because they fear “rules” will ruin their creativity. Truth? They will, but only for a little while ;) .

Eventually we realize that rules were made to be broken. BUT, the difference between the artist and the hack is that the artist knows the rules and thus HOW to break them and WHY and WHEN. We start to see rules as tools.

As we move through The Apprentice Phase and we train ourselves to execute all these moves together—POV, structure, conflict, tension, setting, description, dialogue, plot arc, character arc—it eventually becomes easier. In fact, a good sign we are at the latter part of the apprentice phase is when the rules become so ingrained we rarely think about them.

We just fight write.

We’ve read so much fiction, watched (and studied) so many movies, read so many craft books, heard so many lectures, and practiced so much writing that all the “rules” are now becoming instinct and, by feel, we are starting to know where and how to bend, break or ignore them.

Like anything, there is NO substitute for DOING. Watching Ronda Rousey videos is a good idea for understanding ground-fighting, but it can’t take the place of mat time. Reading, taking classes, studying cannot replace writing crap until we don’t write crap.

At the end of the apprentice phase, writing is now starting to become fun again, much like it was in the beginning when we were banging away on the piano keyboard. Like the fighter who instinctively knows to arm bar an opponent without conscious thought, we now find more and more of the “right” words and timing without bursting brain cells.

The trick is sticking it through the apprentice phase long enough to engrain the fundamentals into the subconscious.

Master

This is where we all want to be. In fact, we all want this on Day One, but sadly, I believe this Day One Master is reserved for only a handful of literary savants. Mastery is when we return to that childlike beginning. We write with abandon and joy and, since the elements of fiction are now part of our DNA, our literary marrow, what we produce isn’t the off-key clanging of a neophyte, it’s actually a real story worth reading. Granted, it isn’t all kittens and rainbows. Masters have a lot of pressure to be perpetual geniuses.

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Portrait by Yosuf Karsh via Wikimedia Creative Commons

I believe most of us, if we stick to this long enough, will always be vacillating between the Advanced Apprentice Phase and the Mastery Phase. If we choose to try a totally new genre, we might even be back to Neophyte (though this will pass more quickly than the first time).

We have to to keep growing. The best writers still pick up craft books, refresh themselves in certain areas, read other authors they enjoy and admire to see if they can grow in some new area. Masters seek to always add new and fresh elements to the fiction.

The key to doing well in this business is to:

1. Embrace the Day of Small Beginnings—Starting is often the hardest part. Enjoy being new. Enjoy that feeling because you will reconnect with it later because you recognize it.

2. Understand We All Have an Apprentice Phase—We will all be Early, Intermediate, then Advanced Apprentices. How quickly we move through these will be dictated by dedication, hard work and, to a degree, natural talent.

3. No One Begins as a Master and Few Remain Permanent Masters—Every NYTBSA was once a newbie, too. When we understand this career has a process, it’s easier to lighten up and give ourselves permission to be imperfect, to not know everything. Many writers get discouraged and give up too soon because they don’t understand there is a process, and they believe they should be “Masters” right away.

Hey, I did.

We need to give ourselves permission to grow. If we love and respect our craft, we will always be learning, so we will continue to dip back into “Apprentice” to refine our art even further.

Does this make you feel better to know this career has a process? Are you in the Act II span of suck and getting weary? What are you doing to remain focused? Which part has you the most discouraged? Write with the abandon of the Neophyte then edit with the eyes of an Advanced Apprentice or Master ;) .

I love hearing from you!

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

The winner for February is Monica Karel. Congratulations! Please send your 5000 word WORD document to kristen @ wana intl dot com. 

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

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The Doctrine of the Doers—5 Principles of Achievement

Same can be said about writing a book...

Same can be said about writing a book…

Success has a LOT of common denominators. Whether we want to be an excellent parent, run a thriving business, earn a promotion, have great friendships, become published, lose weight, one day have enough money to build a secret lab in the side of a mountain…? There are fundamentals we are wise to understand and apply.

Thus today, we are going to talk about 5 Principles of Achievement or The Doctrine of the Doers because I dig alliteration :D .

Principle #1—Understand What We are Doing is HARD

Pros make stuff look easy. I can listen to Donald Trump ten minutes and believe I, too, could be a financial genius. When I was four, I recall being allowed to watch Wonder Woman and she did these amazing handsprings. Well, pshaw! I totally could do that…or not.

And my cousin found me semi-conscious and confused why my arm was going the wrong way.

I made this mistake of not understanding I was seeing the END result of a lot of training. Outsiders make this mistake all the TIME. They see a thriving business or someone who drives a nice car and…that person must have “inherited money.”

When I was a teen, I was in marching band, the swim team and taught karate in the evenings. This meant I was up before dawn marching until 9 a.m. I then swam laps from 2 in the afternoon until 4:30 just in time to get home and pack up my gear so I could teach martial arts at the local recreation center.

One night, I was taking a break and a woman—holding a candy bar and a Pepsi—bemoaned how I was born so naturally fit. 

Really?

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Success is NOT natural. What’s natural? Entropy. Disorder. Chaos. Those who write a book, finish a book, have a thriving blog, a strong business, great kids, a clean house, a smoking hot body often worked hard for it. 

We must do what others are unwilling to do. We are not the AVERAGE. Even those of you who are just starting out. You are NOT the average. Most people never try.

We must always guard ourselves from thinking someone “better” than us achieved whatever easily. If we don’t, we will get discouraged and are more likely to give up. The other side of that is if we DO the hard work? Expect someone to believe whatever we achieved was purchased, inherited or the result of “magic.”

Principle #2—No Company Better Than Bad Company

Lions don’t hang with sheep. Show me your three closest friends and I’ll show you your future. Complaining, excuses, procrastination, laziness are contagious because they represent the natural order of the universe—ENTROPY. When I began as a writer, I had A LOT more “friends.” Now? Not so much.

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Even in martial arts, I don’t roll with people who are reckless and lazy. It’s a good way to get injured and it won’t make me better. I won’t spar with the guy who always shows up to class conveniently after the grueling warmup is over and who needs a water break every five seconds.

Choose people who are willing to do the hard stuff. If you’re a writer, hang out with people who WRITE, who are willing to read and take classes and are always pushing their skills to a higher level. Yes, there will be fewer of those, but it’s worth it.

Principle #3—Basics Trump Cleverness

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There are always people who want the shortcut. They want the Shake Weight Success and instead of being “successful” they look more like they are….ok, *leaves that to your imaginations*.

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From music to writing to business to parenting to marriage to martial arts, there are fundamentals we should master because they never outlive usefulness. From white belt to black belt, the Kimura is one of the most successful tactics in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu even though it’s one of the first we’re taught.

Writers? Proper grammar, punctuation and tight prose never go out of style. I see way too many new writers so busy trying to come up with a plot never written in HUMAN history and they do this at the expense of learning and mastering the essentials.

Principle #4—There Will Be BLOOD

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We live in a world that tells us we can have it all. NO. We can’t. That’s a lie designed to sell us stuff. We must choose and then focus and then sacrifice. Often, people see how much I write and think everything else is perfect in my life. Nope. I gave up the idea of having a Martha Stewart house a looooong time ago. Also haven’t had my hair done since last summer. I focus on family, writing and martial arts. Anything else? I’ll get to it.

*whimpers*

*whimpers*

Principle #5—Achievement is a PROCESS

It also never ends. We have to be careful we aren’t comparing the highlight reels of others to our own “behind-the-scenes.” When I started blogging, NO ONE cared except the man-part-enlargement bots. I was thrilled to pass 40 visits in a day.

I read a lot of other blogs to hone my skills and still do. And, even though it’s common for this blog to have triple digit comments and thousands of shares, I still read blogs with 27,000 or more shares and have to maintain perspective.

Whoever is getting those 27K shares didn’t get that Day One. Just like I blogged for over a year and a half before real humans started outnumbering the spammers who commented on my blog.

I so lick your blog. Wonderful poinsettias you make. I must tell my brother about you’re genius. What web browser do you use? Is there a grate spam filter?

Apparently not “grate” enough…

Have any idea how HARD it was not to delete these comments in the beginning? Um, maybe the commenter is writing English as a second language?

THIS is how blonde I was when I decided to blog. I started my WordPress site and posted…and immediately got MY FIRST COMMENT. Proof I was awesome! *does bad Cabbage Patch dance* It was a lovely and thoughtful comment from this dude named…Akismet?

What kind of name is that? Must be foreign.

Or an automatically generated message from the WORDPRESS SPAM-FILTERING software *head desk*.

What if I’d given up? We all start somewhere. Goals will always be shifting and evolving. We never cross a true finish line unless we decide to quit.

And we’ll need to remember to take that moment where we can enjoy our achievement, but new level? New devil. I was so STOKED when I earned my second stripe on my BJJ white belt. I felt bad@$$! Those two stripes cost me a broken nose, a few broken toes, sprains, strains, time and sweat. I was EPIC (in my own mind).

Double-rainbow all the WAY!

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***For those who don’t know, in BJJ you are a white belt FOREVER—okay, about a year to a year and a half. Four stripes and then blue belt. Most people QUIT.

I basked in my awesomeness until the next class when I got my tail beaten like a drum.

With writing? Finishing a book is life-altering? Publishing it? Holding it in your hands? OMG! Then you get the scathing review from someone who loved the book, but gave you two stars because there were four typos in 70,000 words.

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Also, once that book is out? It’s back to the beginning with the next book and the next. We are always starting over and reaching higher than the last time. It’s why we need a solid relationship with being a beginner ;) .

You can DO this! I know you can. Just remember baby steps are steps and the most valuable stuff in life, money can’t buy.

What are your thoughts? Ready to rule the world? Do you get frustrated with people believing what you do is easy? Or people who want the fruits without the work? Maybe people who dismiss all the sacrifices you’ve made? Do you find you do better if you keep revisiting these basics? I do. If it can be overcomplicated? I AM your GIRL!

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).

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

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73 Comments

Going Pro—Earning Rhino Skin & Learning Which Opinions Matter

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I heard somewhere that, statistically speaking, 10% of people will simply not like us, no matter what we do or how much we try. Whenever we decide to do something remarkable or even just different, this is when we’re most likely to encounter push-back.

Also, if we enjoy any measure of success or achievement, expect to be knifed. This is reality. We cannot control others, only ourselves and how we respond and what we choose to internalize. As writers, we’ll experience this with friends, family and even strangers.

Ah, strangers…

If I met someone and told them I was an HR manager, most people likely wouldn’t reply, “No I meant, what is your real job?”

I wouldn’t have to give a resume of all my accomplishments and proof I made money as an HR manager or even a roster of how many people I had in my charge. Yet, no one seems to find this type of behavior rude to do to creative professionals.

Sometimes it’s more than a little hard not to take it personally. But roll with it. Will save wrinkles ;) .

Yet, I will say this kind of disrespect can derail us when we’re new, so we must learn to IGNORE IT. Maybe others won’t tell you this, but I will. I believe in you. You’re not Schrodinger’s Writer. You exist.

Original image via Flickr Commons, courtesy of Casey Konstantin

Original image via Flickr Commons, courtesy of Casey Konstantin

Write words? You are a writer NOT an “aspiring writer.” Aspiring is for pansies. It takes guts to do this job. Feel free to be a pre-published writer, but leave aspiring to the amateurs where it belongs.

Doctors begin as pre-med and lawyers start out as pre-law. They aren’t aspiring doctors and aspiring lawyers so I recommend deleting that word from your lexicon. Ignore these toxic “opinions.”

Also? Blog any amount of time and someone will call you an idiot. I guarantee it. They will have all kinds of Monday Morning Quarterback opinions, but they often hide behind cutesy monikers and avatars and don’t have the stones to have their OWN blog.

Why? Because being critical is way easier than doing.

There are all kinds of theories as to why humans act or react the way they do, but truth is? I don’t really care. Bluntness is my superpower. I don’t care and most times? You shouldn’t either.

I feel there are some things we’ve been taught in the past twenty or thirty years that’s just plain bunk. If we believe these “truths”? Just save up for therapy.

Every Opinion is Valid

Meme from Facebook

Nope. Sorry. Not all opinions are valid. Yes, people have a right to an opinion, but they also have a right to be wrong. Learning to separate out junk and ignore it is going to help you (and me) maintain peace when criticism comes our way. Discernment is critical.

My mom and I often talk about how stories we gravitated to as children are very telling about our character weaknesses/struggles.

My favorite was Old Man Wicket’s Donkey. The poor old man sets out with his grandson, a donkey and a load of grain. Everyone they encounter on the road has an opinion and Wicket tries to accommodate.

You terrible man. How can you let the boy walk when there is a donkey he could ride?

You dreadful, selfish man. How can you load that poor donkey with all that grain and a boy? The boy can walk!

And on and on and by the end of the story, they are all in the river, the grain lost, and the donkey drowns. By trying to please everyone, Wicket lost everything. He (and the poor donkey) paid the consequences for the decision, not every stranger with an opinion. For them? Opinions are free.

Sometimes, we just have to draw a line and if people don’t like our decision? They can get over it.

Understand sometimes others might not have enough information, the wrong information, sun spots frying their critical thinking. Who knows? Who cares? They might even have kind or noble intentions. But we’re the ones left with a dead donkey for listening to too many voices.

Every Opinion has Authority

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Again? Nope. Some people are not only wrong, but they don’t have a say. I know we live in this touchy-feely world where we’re all friends and peers but that’s a ticket to Crazyville. One of the reasons I quit running a free on-line novel workshop is I spent too much time defending my lessons and critiques against newbies.

I had people who begged and pleaded and got on waiting lists to be in my class…just to argue with me non-freaking-stop in front of others. They’d been in the writing world all of a minute when I’d spent ten years in the field. It was exhausting for me and demoralizing for others in the class.

Looking back? I shouldn’t have indulged this behavior.

I never mind questions. I LOVE teaching the whys behind my methods and new people often think of things I don’t. I learn from everyone. I believe most professionals are open and even excited to share more details.

But that’s wholly different than some neophyte being disrespectful, challenging a professional’s competency in front of others, and refusing to listen and take instructions because we’re all pals. I’ve experienced this poor behavior on the blog, in the workplace, writing groups, family, and even martial arts.

Nothing like a white belt standing there and correcting an upper belt. Le sigh. Most of my injuries in martial arts came from White Belt Know-It-Alls who believed they could correct/ignore me in Jiu-Jitsu (because they once took Tae Kwon Do for a month).

Um, no. And I was the one with the torn rotator cuff, not the noob who didn’t want to listen to how to do a throw properly.

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I learned eventually to stop this early with a boundary. If someone is reckless in the dojo and won’t listen? I won’t work/spar with them.

As a current two-stripe white belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, I know my place. If I have a question or don’t understand something, I respect Coach’s instruction and don’t argue because, “I watched a YouTube video that said…”

No.

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Thing is, some people just don’t get a vote and they shouldn’t get one. There are places even MY opinions are better kept to myself.

One of my greatest vexations in the business/writing world has been dealing with people who go to just anyone for an opinion. This erodes confidence and creates confusion.

If I write romance, it is unwise to get a middle-aged male who likes techno-thrillers to beta read. He isn’t my market. If he doesn’t like it? Fine. But don’t go rewrite the book because one person made a constipated face. This person’s opinion shouldn’t have the same authority as a respected beta reader who’s a middle-aged female and huge fan of love stories.

I had family members who felt the need to give an opinion about me leaving sales and becoming a writer. People who hadn’t talked to me five times since childhood. Really? Just…really O_o .

Okay, when we’re finished talking about my career path, we’re going to have a little chat about your relationship record and child-rearing.

Or not.

Know WHO You Are

My favorite quote is, “Tigers do not lose sleep over the opinion of sheep.” People have opinions. A lot feel the need to share them. Go team! But we don’t have to listen and take these opinions to heart. We can consider the source.

Sometimes criticism or critique is valid, but it can also be manipulation and gas-lighting with a bow. A big red flag is when others don’t address a specific behavior, they’re content to condemn you (or me) as a person. When I was in my 20s and even 30s I used to play these Reindeer Games.

No mas.

Well, people don’t like you because you talk too much.

So I’d be quiet.

Well, people don’t like you because you don’t talk enough. They think you’re a snob.

Oh-kay.

Well, you really just need to watch your topics of conversation. You’re offending people.

Apparently not enough for them to come to me in person. Which people? Which topics?

Well, I don’t want to say. Just be careful what you talk about.

I’m gonna go back to the “not talking” thing.

People don’t like you.

Why? What am I doing? What can I change?

Well, just try harder so others will like you. 

Okay.

People don’t like you because you just try too hard.

I give up.

The mark of a secure person is we don’t need to be surrounded by yes-men and drones. But just because we are open to opinions, doesn’t mean they all should get equal weight.

When it comes to doing this writing thing, we cannot listen to everyone. When we do, we end up with a Book-by-Committee, Blog-by-Committee, Career-by-Committee, etc. And, last time I checked, committees are generally known for just mucking things up.

Sometimes life calls for a benevolent dictatorship ;) .

Yes, you likely will fail. If we aren’t failing, we aren’t doing anything interesting. I fail. I fail a lot because I try a lot of new things others are too chicken to attempt. Own it. Be proud of it. Show me someone who’s never failed and I’ll show you someone who never did anything remarkable.

Rhino skin is earned by trials and we won’t last long in the world without it.

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Paul Hudson

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Paul Hudson

Guard your dreams and your heart. Be fierce. Set boundaries. Let go of the toxic stuff to make room for the good stuff, the stuff with merit.

What are your thoughts? Have you encountered this nonsense in the writing world or even maybe the workplace? Do you have family, friends or even strangers who’ve crossed a line? Do you find it hard to ignore wrong or bad opinions? Have you dealt with opinions that corroded your confidence and made you second-guess?

Do you have a litmus test for what opinions and ideas are worth time and mental energy? Have you felt torn apart by conflicting advice? Maybe even dealt with the “no one likes you” maneuver?

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).

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

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87 Comments

Hooking the Reader & Sticking the Sale—Formatting Matters

I feel so lost….

I feel so lost….

For those who are considering self-publishing, there is an element almost as important as the writing itself, but it’s a bit of an unsung hero. Formatting.

Presentation is vital. Chefs get this. Fashion designers get this. Car dealers get this. So should we. This is our art, but what makes us professional is when we care enough to send the very best.

We live in the best time to be a writer. Paper is going away. Not all the way, of course. Yet, with digital devices taking over every aspect of our lives, we need to think like business people. In sales, we used to say, “Fish where the fish are.” With the mass influx of smart phones, tablets and e-readers, the most likely place a reader will consume our work is going to be via digital. Also, when one considers we now have entire generations where paper is an anomaly? Digital is critical.

Writers often make the mistake of believing readers (consumers) are like them. We can believe they love the smell of a bookstore, the feel of paper *shivers*. This is short-sighted considering that only roughly 8% of the literate population would list “reading” among the top ten hobbies.

In fact, every novel that’s ever broken records has managed to do the remarkable—hook people who normally believe they don’t like reading (interest the fat part of the bell curve). From Harry Potter to Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, these books captured the attention of “non-readers” and that’s why they broke bank and made history.

We have a tough job as authors. We need to convince people to pay money and invest a minimum of twelve hours to do an activity they believe they do NOT enjoy. Yes, we can help this with a great story, but we must also remove what’s called friction.

Ah, friction. I’ll give an example. I loathe shopping for clothes with the power of a thousand suns. One time I saw a REALLY cute top on Facebook in my feed (one of those paid inserts). I did what I normally would NEVER do. I clicked. At this point, they’d pretty much made the sale.

But then, I had to create a log-in and then approve the password and then when I returned to the site? The shirt that captivated me was nowhere to be found and there were too many pages to search through. I deleted my account and will never return. Likely will never click on another clothing ad.

Why?

The retailer made the sale too HARD.

When it comes to our e-books, potential buyers will often look to the sample pages and, if the formatting looks like it was done by a one-eyed marsupial with a meth habit? Pass. Or maybe the consumer goes ahead and downloads or makes the purchase. Formatting is crucial.

In writing, anything that interrupts the fictive dream is BAD JUJUIf our formatting is a train wreck, odds are the reader won’t finish, let alone recommend. Also? People can give nasty reviews that have nothing to do with story, so why take the chance when that ticked off one-star review is completely avoidable?

This said, our job is to make sure everything goes as seamlessly as possible. We have two choices when we self-publish. Since we are taking on all the roles traditionally handled by a publisher, we can either learn to do it ourselves or hire a pro.

Even if we outsource, learning to do this on our own can help us be better at hiring good formatters since we understand the lingo and what to expect.

I rarely do this, but Kait Nolan is one of the most professional people I’ve ever worked with. She’s put together a fun list of 5 Things To Do Instead of Formatting EBooks. As a huge fan of outsourcing? I’m inclined to agree with her list and she is a PRO when it comes to formatting.

Take it away, Kait!

****

I have long been a proponent that formatting ebooks is not hard. I’ve talked at length elsewhere about why it’s important that you know how to do it (even if you hire out), and I even teach a class on exactly how to do it, step-by-step for those who have an industrious DIY spirit and want to learn. But despite all that, there is one incontrovertible truth about ebook formatting:

It’s a pain in the butt.

Formatting ebooks, particularly if you’re new to it, is a tedious and exacting process. Not HARD, but definitely time consuming. That’s where I come in. I format ebooks often, fast, and well–and you can hire me to take your manuscript and turn it into whatever form of ebook you want—from a basic “Meatgrinder” ready Smashwords file to every major file format available. Because I’m chained to a computer most days, I can generally offer quick turn around and ready answers to all your formatting questions. All that is to say that if you hire me, you can use your time for more important things.

  1. Instead of sorting out how you’re supposed to change out the 175,000 tab indents you used at the start of your paragraphs to correct paragraph styles, you can plot the demise of Julian Fellowes for daring to Do Something Horrible to the Adorable Bateses on Downton Abbey.

  2. Instead of digging into the code of the EPUB that Smashwords keeps rejecting to figure out what in the heck they’re talking about being wrong when the file clearly passes the IDPF validation test for EPUB 3, you can write a fanfic of the Olicity reunion that should TOTALLY happen in Season 3 of Arrow.
  3. Instead of beating your head against a wall trying to figure out why Kindle keeps indenting your block paragraphs even though they are set to block paragraphs, you can make a pie and enjoy it while watching the King of Pie Appreciation, Dean Winchester, in…pretty much any season of Supernatural (3 is my favorite).
  4. Instead of going through the whole nuking of your formatting to get rid of garbage code (and following that with tequila shooters because OMG), you can watch Pitch Perfect for the three hundredth time in preparation for getting Pitch Slapped in May. #AccaAwesome!
  5. Instead of getting an eye twitch trying to design an NCX table of contents from scratch, you can even be all responsible and stuff and use all the time you’ve saved to take care of the rest of your business concerns–promo, blog tours, writing the next book…or marathoning all of Firefly. Your call.

However you decide to spend all that freed up time, you won’t regret the investment in a professionally formatted product. So the next time you need a book formatted for publishing, look no further than The Forge Book Finishers for affordable ebook finishing.

~*~

headshot formal smallKait Nolan is stuck in an office all day, sometimes juggling all three of her jobs at once with the skill of a trained bear—sometimes with a similar temperament. After hours, she uses her powers for good, creating escapist fiction. This Mississippi native has something for everyone, from short and sweet to Southern contemporary romance to action-packed paranormal—all featuring heroes you’d want to sweep you off your feet and rescue you from work-day drudgery. When not working or writing, Kait’s hanging out in her kitchen cooking and wishing life were a Broadway musical.

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28 Comments

Does Fiction Matter? Fiction, Fantasy & Social Change

Image via Flikr Creative Commons, via Mikko Luntiala

Image via Flikr Creative Commons, via Mikko Luntiala

We had a very lively and interesting debate over the 50 Shades cultural “phenomena” on Friday. I’m deeply grateful for all those commenters who posted such thoughtful opinions, even those who didn’t agree with me. I actually am not afraid of people disagreeing with me andhave zero interest in my blog simply being an ideological echo chamber.

Yet, there are a few things I’ve “heard” in the comments or even on Facebook which leave me flummoxed and I believe these assertions call for a closer examination.

It’s ONLY a Story. It is FICTION. JUST a FANTASY.

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Mike Licht

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Mike Licht

One argument that baffled me was this idea that 50 Shades is just a book and only fantasy. I do not begrudge James her success nor am I lambasting anyone who likes the books. To each, his or her own. I never called for banning, burning or censoring.

Since I never read the book in totality, I never left a review. I also didn’t review the film because I am not a reviewer. I never commented on the quality of the prose, film, actors etc. etc. only the message.

And, as an abuse survivor and someone who has spent years working with battered women? I feel my opinion is more educated than, perhaps, many who finished the books. Grey exhibits all signs of a sociopath by Chapter Three (which is right about when I quit reading). More on sociopathy HERE.

I didn’t want to go there. Lived it. Don’t need to read it. I’ve also read many novels and watched many movies I would not recommend because I had to put down the book thirty pages in or walk out of the film in the first half hour.

In my opinion, that is as viable of an opinion as someone who gutted through all 90 minutes of Showgirls to know it was crap.

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***If I were a reviewer then it would be my professional duty to formulate an opinion based on the entire body of work…because that would be my JOB.

Yet, the reason I did feel a need to discuss this work is because it has gone beyond being a book and has become a cultural force. With over 100 million legitimate copies in circulation (not counting for borrowed copies from friends and libraries, pirated copies or used purchases) that many books will make a societal impact by sheer volume.

It’s the equivalent of a literary comet strike.

Add in a possible hit movie? Could be an extinction event.

THIS was when I felt it necessary to step in and state my analysis and at least posit the hard questions.

Fiction is NEVER JUST a Story

Hubby. Sigh.

To assert that any book that’s sold that many copies is just a story, in my POV, is naive and ignores almost all of human history. Societies have always been defined and redefined by its stories. Fiction IS NOT INERT. Why do you think dictators shoot the writers and burn the books first?

To claim that fiction is mere fantasy is to ignore the impact of every transformative work ever written. “A Christmas Carol” was not merely a sweet tale of a redeemed miser at Christmas.

It was a scathing piece of literature that eventually led to the establishment of children’s rights advocacy organizations and protection for children in the legal system (and also impacted the treatment of the poor and infirm).

During the time Dickens wrote this, children were considered property. The government regularly imprisoned and hanged small children, many of whom were orphans, for relatively small offenses from vagrancy to begging to petty theft.

Neil Postman, in his book “The Disappearance of Childhood” cites one of the first legal cases where an adult was censured for hurting a child. It was a woman who gathered orphans and fed them, but put out their eyes with knitting needles then planted them on the street to beg. Apparently, blind kids made more money.

When the woman was finally brought to court, she was not punished for cruelty, rather fined for “destruction of property.” In fact, animal rights organizations had been established a good ten years before anyone thought children might require similar protection.

A Christmas Carol was one of the many literary works that led to society establishing legal protection for children, which didn’t exist until the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Oops, Did I Do THAT?

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Sometimes the author even misses the mark. Upton Sinclair wrote The Jungle to highlight wage slavery and the horrific treatment of immigrants in the Chicago meat-packing industry. The story, however, had a very different impact than the author intended.

Readers were horrified about the conditions of the FOOD. Public outrage and political pressure led to the passage of the Meat Inspection Act and the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906; the latter established the Bureau of Chemistry, which was renamed the Food and Drug Administration in 1930.

Sinclair later bemoaned that his work had ended up helping the very institutions he’d rightly demonized and issued that famous quote in the October, 1906 Cosmopolitan Magazine—“I aimed at the public’s heart, and by accident I hit it in the stomach.”

Thus for us to say that fiction is only fantasy is to say that “Red Badge of Courage,” “Grapes of Wrath,” “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” and others are equally fantastical and benign.

And before anyone says, “Well, E.L. James is certainly NOT a literary master and no one will hail this work as a classic” we are wise to appreciate a couple factors.

First, what we today view as a classic was often mass market pop fiction of its time. It’s often only in retrospect that we can witness how a novel, a play, a movie, a whatever, shifted the trajectory of a culture. Secondly, “literary classics” aren’t the only transformative works.

Pop Culture

WOMEN on the BRIDGE? An AFRICAN AMERICAN WOMAN on the BRIDGE?

WOMEN on the BRIDGE? An AFRICAN AMERICAN WOMAN on the BRIDGE?

Star Trek only ran three seasons before being canceled in 1969, and yet I feel it did more to impact race relations and redefine women’s roles than any piece of legislation. Though as Trekkie, I FEEL Star Trek a classic, I have yet to see it on any syllabus at a university.

Additionally, Horror was once an extremely popular genre, giving us such classic tales as Frankenstein (which greatly impacted science) and H.G. Wells’ The Island of Dr. Moreau where Moreau crafts humanoid-animal chimeras via vivisection. Yet, The Island of Dr. Moreau also addressed deeper issues of pain, cruelty, moral responsibility and scientific tampering with nature. It was instrumental in forming our modern scientific standards of ethics.

But, one movie Texas Chainsaw Massacre redefined what the public viewed as “horror” and almost single-handedly laid waste to the genre.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre

Texas Chainsaw Massacre

Granted, there were probably slasher flicks like this before TSM, much like there were rape fantasy books before FSoG. But THIS one was the one that HIT and served to alter the genre.

Soon, there were no longer “Horror” sections in bookstores because the silver screen gore porn (and public demand for these movies) had tainted the genre.

Horror stories then had to be hidden under such categories as Speculative Fiction, Science Fiction, Thriller, Suspense, etc. so that these works could distance from the stain left from the plethora of slasher films that became so popular after Vietnam. Horror, as a genre, has never fully recovered since “horror stories” are too often held up next to Saw Part 15 or Friday the 13th Part 26.

How did this happen?

Follow the Money

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If no one bothered with the early slasher flicks, Hollywood would have never bothered making more. They also wouldn’t have felt the need to keep upping the ante with every movie. More blood, guts, and shock. Soon we were anesthetized to suffering because it became all too common.

And, before anyone laughs, remember those early bad 50s horror movies scared the bejeezus out of people. Now? We laugh at giant spider puppets that, at one time, had people fleeing from the theater to calm down.

Tarzan was criticized because Tarzan and Jane were living in the jungle together without being married ;) . Today, audiences would laugh at such a puritanical notion. Just watch HBO for an hour and tell me times haven’t changed.

But It’s So PRETTY, How Can it Be BAD?

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How could it be harmful? Often some of the most dangerous substances don’t show consequences until later. It reminds me of the Radium Girls who painted watch dials with radioactive paint during WWI. The glowing paint was pretty and harmless and “cool.” Their employer told them they could just lick the end of their brushes as they worked, so surely it was harmless.

Right?

The women, thinking radium was safe, painted their nails and faces so they could glow in dark for their men at home. And they all died slow horrible deaths years later.

Ideas (books) can act similarly. They can seem no big deal until they are. AGAIN, I am NOT for censorship, only critical thinking. Appreciate and RESPECT the power of art. Handle with care ;) .

The Coming Generation

Original image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Sodanie Chea

Original image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Sodanie Chea

As I stated in the last post, my concern is less for the older reader and more for the youth who will go see the movie. I am a social media expert and we have an entirely new generation that is completely immersed in multimedia.

Young people have all the impulses, hormones and emotions of an adult, but lack maturity, experience and a fully developed frontal cortex that governs critical thinking and discernment. They have a far more difficult time separating fantasy and reality.

Young people do a LOT of dumb stuff. Hey, I did. And as a teen I argued with my mother that Me So Horny was “just a song” and now as an adult, I can see why she sat down and had a LONG talk with me.

Teens or even tweens don’t see that sexting can come back to bite or that pic in lingerie on Tumblr might affect them getting into college.

My bigger concern is that, when we package sociopathy as “romance”? Sadists as Alpha male heroes? That is a confusing message (and a dangerous one) for everyone, but most especially for those still forming opinions and identities. In fact, I probably would have had NO problem with FSoG had it been in the genre of psychological thriller or horror. But slap “ROMANCE” on it? Whole ‘notha’ ballgame.

The Bottom Line

Image via Flikr Creative Commons courtesy of Zoetnet.

Image via Flikr Creative Commons courtesy of Zoetnet.

Read what you want to. Watch what you want to. I have an opinion, you have one. I’m never for censorship, EVER. But, I feel we have to at least own what we are doing as consumers, but most especially as writers. We cannot be Janus-faced over this. Either fiction is vital and transformative and matters…or it doesn’t.

History has proven we have almost no control over what will shape culture or even how it will shape it as The Jungle illustrates. We also have almost zero control over what will be considered a classic in fifty or a hundred years.

And if fiction is ONLY a story and has no power, then why should we care about literacy, libraries and freedom of speech? If fiction is only fantasy and doesn’t impact the world? Why bother? Why does it matter?

Food for thought ;) .

What do you guys think? And again, I have no problem if anyone disagrees so long as we remain polite. Do you feel we can have our cake and eat it too? That as a culture we can contain the genie? Or do we have to choose? Either fiction is powerful or it isn’t? And if fiction doesn’t change the world, then why are we even doing this job?

Do you hope your characters and stories will create a better world? Challenge ideas? Reinforce what you think is good and noble? Topple what should be done away with? Do you think (as I do) that many people are unaware how powerful writers and artists actually are? That maybe even some writers fail to appreciate the influence they could one day wield?

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).

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

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119 Comments

Is Romance Devolving?—50 Shades vs. No One Puts Baby in a Corner

Image courtesy of Lisa Weidmeier WANA Commons.

Image courtesy of Lisa Weidmeier WANA Commons.

I’d hoped I wouldn’t have to go here, but alas, here we are. Today, 50 Shades of Grey the MOVIE will open for…*record screech* Valentine’s Day. Nothing says I love you like predatory emotional manipulation, sociopathy, abuse and non-consensual sex acts.

Find THAT on a Hallmark card.

And yes, I know there have been other kinky books like this, but 50 Shades sold over 100 million copies and the movie (despite ZERO plot) is expected to gross in excess of $60 million which means I just threw up a little in my mouth this “story” has tipped from fringe to mainstream and that scares me more than a little bit.

No, I didn’t read the book. I don’t need to. Nor do I need to watch gang-rape prison porn to know it probably is unhealthy for the future of women (or even men). Guess what? I didn’t have to eat the chicken I forgot in my fridge to know it would probably make me sick.

Some stuff just stinks and that should be enough to warn us away.

And I’ve debated even blogging about this because I try to make it a policy to never talk badly about any story or book. I also hate EVEN MORE attention given to this crap than it’s already garnered, but my conscience won’t let me remain silent. We are playing with fire.

Redefining the POWERFUL Man

Image via Flickr Commons, courtesy of JonoMeuller

Image via Flickr Commons, courtesy of JonoMeuller

I watched the trailer and instantly felt the bad juju *Spidey senses go NUTSO*.

Grey doesn’t choose Ana because she is a confident, assured woman who can emotionally handle this sort of contract, um relationship, um abus…ok, hell I got nothing. A confident woman would have told him where to put his private jet.

What gets me is he sees a woman girl who clearly already has a low opinion of herself and he pounces. Wow, sounds like the beginning stages of a relationship that is going to end with a body bag, jail or at least a restraining order. He smells blood in the water and goes for it, wanting to dominate a woman who, frankly, is just looking for “love.”

And this is my old curmudgeon self coming out. HOW is that a powerful man?

I know they give him all the accoutrement of “powerful.” The surface stuff like custom suits, a job where he never really works, fast cars, etc. But, to me, that isn’t power. That’s actually small man-part behavior (which is actually deep insecurity manifesting in a fancy watch).

Powerful men. REALLY powerful men? They empower women. They don’t prey on and victimize them. It reminds me of my formative years and the movie Dirty Dancing. Sexy? Yes. Push social boundaries? Sure.

But?

Screen Shot 2015-02-13 at 9.51.46 AM

In Dirty Dancing Johnny Castle pushes Baby (Jennifer Grey :D ) beyond her comfort zones, but it’s in a way that makes her more whole as a human being. He always makes sure she is truly on board and always makes her safety a priority. Remember the fancy lifts? Practicing the lifts in the lake so if she fell she’d be okay?

And all the older gals go, “Awwww, I LOVED that scene.”

A REAL man lifts his woman UP...

A REAL man lifts his woman UP…

Johnny pursues Baby because he likes her as a human being, and, instead of preying on her, he protects and nurtures her. THAT, in my book is a powerful man. Not some trust fund baby assclown with a closet full of leashes and too much free time.

Abuse is NOT Power

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There are so many things that scare me about this book and it would take more than one post to explore them. But women have faced thousands of years of not being able to defend themselves against victimization and rape and now we have a cultural phenomenon that is redefining sex and blurring the lines of consent (which are already pretty damn blurry, especially after a drunken frat party).

I kid you NOT. I am waiting for the 50 Shades Defense when some poor college girl is brutalized and the guy’s defense is, “Well, she did sign a contract.”

And not only is this a sticky wicket for women, it’s a train wreck for men. When millions of women are fanning themselves over this crap, men are left even more confused and more vulnerable. Pair this with super destructive pop hits like Blurred Lines?

I have a son and pop culture really should be handled with care. I recall being in the car with a family member who has two impressionable sons. Blurred Lines comes on and they are all humming to it. I gasp and turn it off then asked, “Have any of you paid attention to the WORDS to this song? It’s a date rape song and it is unacceptable.”

And now it is clear why Kristen wasn’t invited to the parties in high school and college.

But you’re an animal, baby, it’s in your nature
Just let me liberate you….

Let me liberate you? How about I show you what a TRIANGLE CHOKE is?

Lowering the Standards of Expectations

It’s Grey’s lines like, “I don’t do romance” that kinda more than piss me off. Women used to be worthy of courtship and eventually a ring and a commitment. Then we decided to break glass ceilings and we’ve been fighting a battle of, “If a woman doesn’t want to be married she must be frigid or a lesbian versus any woman who wants a ring and a commitment is just out to trap a man.”

There is also the, “Women who want to be married are settling.” And was already seriously confusing without this tripe.

I remember living across from a young couple and the pretty blonde had been living with this jerk guy for EIGHT years. She wanted to be married and he wanted all the benefits of a marriage without any of the legal obligations (like having to part with HALF his stuff or having to pay alimony if they broke up).

And he’d been dangling a potential ring/proposal in front of her for EIGHT FREAKING years.

Well, I am just not ready yet, but I probably will be…

Later, Dude. Tempus fugit.

And trust me, back when I was dating, that crap was a nightmare to traverse. But, at least I could expect some romance. Now? A man who doesn’t DO romance is…sexy?

In my book he’s selfish and lazy and move on. Characters like Ana have opened a WHOLE ‘notha can of worms when she refuses to tell Grey NO or to stop or even that he’s crossing a line and hurting her because “then she’d lose him” *gags* and tolerates the intolerable.

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No one to HEAR you? How in 50 Shades of HELL is this remotely acceptable?

Ladies, when a man controls what you say, wear or who your friends are? That is BAD.

DANGER—Abuse NEVER has an HEA

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Thing is, in the book maybe it can end well. In life? A guy who won’t take no and wants total control, AND has unlimited funds when the woman does not? Watch Discovery ID and we can see the end to this story. Usually it involves an unidentified body found in a cooler in the desert.

Or, feel free to re-watch the sequel to 50 Shades, made back in 2002—“Enough.”

In fact, years ago I knew a woman who was in this sort of relationship. It began as sexy and exciting until he killed her dog (who was trying to defend her from his blows) and then he broke her jaw. She ended up working as a prostitute because every time she moved and tried to work legitimate employment? Her ex found her and hospitalized her for leaving.

The REAL Man

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My husband is a GIANT. At six foot six, he’s well over a foot taller than me. This is the man who was in Special Operations and on a military shooting team, but I’ve spent every summer helping him rescue mice, lizards and geckos out of glue traps. The man even rescues rattlesnakes who want to sun on our porch at the ranch.

And KITTENS. OMG, the KITTENS!!! Kittens are his kryptonite.

Meet, "Odin" my anniversary present and Cat Number FOUR

Meet, “Odin” my anniversary present and Cat Number FOUR

We are one cat short of Hubby being the Crazy Cat Lady. He also works extra hard so his wife can take Brazilian Ju-Jitsu and is almost always in the audience cheering me on. He isn’t afraid of a strong woman and even encourages me to be stronger.

I really hope this 50 Shades phase passes, but…

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I hope that you will spend your Valentines Day doing or watching something truly romantic. If you and your partner want to add some spice and roughness? I recommend taking a Brazilian Ju-Jitsu class together :D .

Additionally, I recommend checking out The Atlantic post by Emma Green, Consent Isn’t Enough: The Troubling Sex of 50 Shades.

So *cringes* what are your thoughts? Do you think 50 Shades grossly misrepresents BDSM? Do you see the same perils? Am I overreacting? Feel free to disagree just please be polite. Is this a dangerous trend? First with Twilight making stalking “sexy” and now this?

I know many who’ve read this book and love it are older, but should we be concerned about how this might mainstream for our youth and affect their perceptions of “relationships”? How it might even impact victims in courtrooms? Is this type of story confusing for men and women? Is this even more devolution of what we consider to be “romantic”? Or am I jumping at shadows?

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).

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340 Comments

Three NEVERS of Social Media for Writers

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These three professional blunders can hang on like the smell of dead fish and stink up our author career, so avoid them at all cost. I understand that many of you who follow this blog are new, so if you’ve made one of these mistakes, you’re learning. We all oops (especially in the beginning), so don’t sweat it. Yet, I see these three behaviors far more often than I’d like.

You’ve been warned ;).

NEVER Be Nasty in a Blog Comment

I am fully aware that my blog can’t make everyone happy. I work my tail off to entertain and enlighten but I know I can’t be all things to all people. If I’m not your cup of tea? Just click the unsubscribe button at the bottom of the e-mail WordPress sends you or e-mail me and I will happily assist you leaving (and cry later *sniffles*).

There is no need for this:

Ohhhh-kay.

Ohhhh-kay.

The irony was 1) I didn’t even write this particular post. It was a guest post and an excellent one at that 2) It wasn’t negative at all. It just wasn’t coated in glitter and fluff. Professionals don’t have a lot of time and shouldn’t need to be handled with kid gloves and 3) Was it really necessary? I’s written over 600 posts at the time, and one wasn’t her cup of tea? So we just carpet bomb?

I once wrote a humor post about my many failed attempts to join the military. It was a humor post. It was posted for Memorial Day and to honor those willing to sacrifice for the very freedom this person liberally uses…

Yes, this counts as a troll...

Yes, this counts as a troll…

Oh, and a warning. Trolls will bait you with the, “You will censor my right to free speech” to get you to approve a nasty comment. But they forget we actually don’t have universal 1st Amendment Rights or we’d be able to yell “FIRE!” in a movie theater or stand and scream profanities and threats in the middle of an Applebee’s without being arrested. Don’t fall for it. Your TRASH function is there for reason.

Also, blogs count as a benevolent dictatorship.

And my personal favorite?

Um...OUCH.

Um…OUCH.

See, the thing is, if you want to tell a blogger she has the brain of a retarded chimp, that she’s a loser-poseur fake, don’t do it in the blog comments (or at all, for that matter). AGAIN, the comment is there forever, complete with the commenter’s name and face.

Oh, and it’s spelled “expertise” by the way ;) .

Most of the time, when I get nasty comments like these I just send them to the trash. They aren’t heathy for the comment community and everyone has a bad day, which is why I didn’t include the gravatars or names of these nice people. But, remember, not all bloggers will be nice.

I have the right to be wrong and y’all have the right to un-sunbcribe, never buy one of my books and tell all your friends that oatmeal is smarter than I am. I get that I can’t please everyone, but there is a way to disagree and remain polite, respectful and professional. There’s no need for ad hominem attacks.

If someone writes a blog you don’t like? Fine. But keep in mind that this person worked hard and for free to offer you something of value. All they ask in return is for some common human decency.

People have long memories regarding those who are needlessly cruel. And sure, a blogger might be a new, unpublished nobody. Doesn’t mean he or she’ll remain that way. We never know who we might need one day, and burning bridges is a bad long-term plan.

If you do goof and hurt a blogger, just e-mail them and apologize or apologize in the comments. A lot of bloggers (I’d like to believe) are reasonable. Own the mistake and ask for gratis.

Never Be Nasty on Twitter

Twitter is a wonderful tool, namely because it can help us go viral. Yet, that’s precisely why we must handle it with care. It can go VIRAL. A random woman on Twitter tweeted a nasty remark about rapper Ice-T’s wife and millions of fans pounced.

This woman had to delete her account and practically go into witness protection. I am certain she didn’t think it was a big deal at the time, but it shows that tweets should be handled with care.

Sure, we can delete tweets, but often by the time we realize we need to delete one…it’s already too late. Twitter goes quickly, so it can get out of hand quickly.

Never Write Bad Book Reviews

Image via Hyperbole and a Half

Image via Hyperbole and a Half

This doesn’t apply to book bloggers and book reviewers. That’s your job and we love that you give us guidance on what to read. But, as authors? I believe in what Candace Havens calls Writer Karma.

If I can’t give a book a great review? I just don’t review it. Again, publishing is a small world and we all need each other. The world is already out to throw us under a bus. We need each other to keep from turning into cutters.

***And yes, I KNOW “experts” tell writers to blog book reviews, but that’s a BIG, HUGE, MASSIVE no-no in my book. First because writing reviews is a HUGE time-suck. Average of twelve hours to read a book then time to craft a review. Even if you posted once a week, that is 36-40 HOURS per month we could have spent on the novel. Second, book reviews will never go viral, EVER. And thirdly? Reviewing books muddies and undermines the author brand.

If a writer really bungled and you just cannot remain quiet? Send him or her an e-mail outlining the problems and maybe suggestions how to do better with the next book. This way correction is private and we aren’t publicly and permanently humiliating a peer.

Some writers might not respond well, but I know I’ve gotten e-mails that actually were really helpful. Readers who spotted typos or formatting errors that could be corrected. The idiot stuff? I just ignore, but I do appreciate that it was handled privately.

If you goofed on this and now feel badly, remove the review. In the future, focus on reviewing what you love.

Our BRAND is AUTHOR, not “book reviewer.” My opinion is we can’t do both.

Book reviewers have to be forthright to be taken seriously. This means some books will get shredded. This can undermine how our fellow writers feel about working with us as authors.

“Hey, I publicly shredded your first novel with a two-star but thoughtful review. I have a new book coming out. Can I guest post on your blog?”

“SURE! Just as soon as you send me a lock of your hair to complete that voodoo doll I crafted in your likeness.”

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Juha-Matti Herrala.

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Juha-Matti Herrala.

I have a post that delves deeper into this conflict of interests HERE. Remember, we can be Siskel & Ebert or Steven Spielberg. Tough trick to be both.

We Are Human

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Sally Jean

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Sally Jean

I’d love to tell you I’ve never made a mistake, that I am the shining example to all, but I’ve had bad days too. I’ve screwed up and had to apologize. Just own it and say you’re sorry.

We all need grace, let’s just try not to make a habit of needing it too often. We’re wise to remember there’s a human on the other side of that screen. The digital world is wonderful, but it takes work (and sometimes holding our tongue fingertips) to keep it a positive experience.

Have you ever had someone shred you publicly on your blog? On social media? How did you handle it? Did you cry? I used to. Have toughened up. Do you delete the comment or leave it up so everyone will know they’re a jerk and steer clear? When you see comments on a blog that are rude and in bad taste, what do you do? Do you make note of the name? Defend the blogger?

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).

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

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