Archive for category Success

Failure, Betrayal & Setbacks—Sometimes the Only Way Out is THROUGH

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Setbacks. We all have them and, strangely, they like to cluster together and dog pile us at once. The trick to setbacks is to adjust our perspective of what happened and use them to to make us stronger, wiser and grittier.

You might not believe me, but instant success is not always good for us. There is something about the process of learning and doing and failing and starting again and again even when we want to give up that is healthy. In fact it is vital for any kind of long-term achievement.

I know because I’ve encountered my share of people who were promoted too soon, beyond the scope of their abilities and far past the strength of their character. And it ended badly every…single…time.

Growth is a Process

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All human growth is a process. It has steps. We skip steps at our own peril. Everything we are doing is training for something bigger. If we get the promotion too soon? We are going to be ill-prepared for the dream.

And this is what I want you guys to keep in mind when you face setbacks.

There are all kinds of stories of folks who won the lottery who then ended up bankrupt. Stories of athletes or musicians or actors who got promoted too fast too soon before their skills and character could develop. We even have writers who by some fluke, saw vast success with a book only to never be able to duplicate that lightning in a bottle.

Don’t get me wrong, this is sort of like the whole “Money can’t buy happiness” line. I sure would love my chance to test that theory 😉 . And instant success? Would love me some of THAT. But since instant fame and fortune are not the norm, and since I assume most of you have no desire to be flash-in-the-pan-successes…

We must learn GRIT.

Today I want to talk about the three most common types of setbacks and what they can teach us if we are open to the lesson.

Setback #1—The Judas Kiss

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E tu, Brute?

I’m pretty sure anyone who’s lived longer than a few years has been through a betrayal. And not just any betrayal. The one you never saw coming.

Writers are emotional creatures. Our art springs from our heart and if our heart just got rammed through a Vit-A-Mix? It’s really hard to focus. Maybe it was a writing partner who bailed halfway through the novel you were co-authoring together. Maybe someone in your personal life took major advantage of you and you’re reeling from it. Maybe you got majorly screwed over at work.

Thing is? It happens. And it is never ever pretty.

I’ve been through my fair share of betrayals, but guess what? We can cry and whine and feel sorry for ourselves or we can use it. I just absolutely love the song “Fighter” by Christina Aguilara regarding betrayal:

‘Cause it makes me that much stronger
Makes me work a little bit harder
It makes me that much wiser
So thanks for making me a fighter
Made me learn a little bit faster
Made my skin a little bit thicker
Makes me that much smarter
So thanks for making me a fighter

Humans are flawed. Many come with baggage (and not just carry-on). The only way to avoid ever being hurt is to isolate ourselves, but then we are deprived of the many wonderful people out there who can and will make excellent friends and partners.

The same fire that will boil out the users is the same fire that will also reveal the gold around us.

If I hadn’t been through four other crappy writing partners who totally flaked? I would never have found my current gem, Cait.

So yeah, just expect that knife in the back. As you get older and wiser it does happen less frequently and hopefully we will get to a point it never happens. But the blunt truth is risk and reward are related and so it can still happen to the wisest among us.

Just expect it, plan for it and learn to roll with it.

Setback #2—You Just Aren’t Ready

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Most of us have been there as writers. We have worked and worked and edited and polished and we think THIS! THIS is the book that will make it…only to realize we still have no idea what the hell we are doing.

Before the digital age, becoming published was a very slow, private, and painful process. Most aspiring writers remained just that.

Aspiring.

The process of querying and being rejected and rejected and rejected…and rejected again weeded out those who were not truly committed. It forced us to get better, to go to conferences, to take classes and try again and again.

Thus, by the time we actually were published (if we made it that far) the book was actually pretty decent. Granted there is no accounting for taste (so I am not claiming everything NY published was better than unicorn tears), but when we compare the books published 15 years ago against this modern era where publishing is instant and no gatekeepers are required?

Vastly different quality.

And before anyone shouts me down, I am an indie. I love many indie books and think some of the best writers of our time are not traditionally published. But we ALL have seen the books that probably should have had more work before being offered for sale 😉 .

Here’s the deal. Some writers still are not ready even once “published.” Maybe we need to write more books to become better storytellers. Maybe we write great books but we just do not have a platform/brand that can drive sales.

Hey, my first book We Are Not Alone—The Writer’s Guide to Social Media was an excellent book. It was groundbreaking and desperately needed. But, my first royalty check was good for a dinner at Chili’s. I didn’t have a solid platform yet. I hadn’t built my brand enough.

In short? I wasn’t ready. And the reason I mention this is, what if I had gotten discouraged and given up? What if I hadn’t just faced this setback for what it was? I needed to grow.

Sometimes we need outside help to see if we are ready and where and how to grow. My mentors did it for me and now I pay it forward to you guys.

This is why I am offering my favorite class Hooking the Reader—Your First Five Pages. Instead of rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic, sometimes those outside professional eyes can help us work smarter, not harder. I am offering two upgrades where you get me ripping through your pages to help you get better. I am a master at taking out little darlings 😉 …

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Setback #3—Burning Bridges

Ah, the burning bridges

Now there are two types of burning bridge situations. In one? We hold the box of matches. Maybe this is when we decided to quit the day job to write full time. We are in control of said bridge burning.

But then there is the other scenario.

This is where you go over the bridge to maybe pick up some nibbles for the family and stretch your legs…and you come back to your bridge ablaze with no way home.

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I’ve been here, too. This might be the job loss you weren’t expecting, or a death or an illness. In my case, I was misdiagnosed with epilepsy thereby ending my career in corporate sales. I had no choice but to sink or swim. Only after I’d lost everything was I willing to dare to pursue my childhood dream.

I mean, why not? I had nothing left to lose.

I would love to say I was always that evolved when I faced this, but I wasn’t. I spent a year crying and in depression that I was a failure. Bemoaning my lost career and whining so much I couldn’t even stand myself.

It wasn’t until I quit crying over my burned bridge that I could harness the freedom it gave me. I had no way back and nothing left to lose. It made me much braver than I ever would have been with some kind of a safety net in place.

And trust me, this is probably THE most terrifying of all the setbacks, but we have to make a choice. There is no un-burning the bridge, so the only thing we can control is our attitude. So cry, call a prayer hotline, gripe in my comments and get it all out…then dig in. Sometimes the only way out is through.

What are your thoughts? Have you ever had a betrayal SO bad you thought you wouldn’t make it? Did it make you better? What did you learn. Do you struggle with knowing if you are ready? Have you ever attempted something too soon? What did you learn? Have you ever had a bridge blow up on you? I want to hear your stories!

And remember next week at W.A.N.A., we are starting that Master’s Class series with Hollywood Producer Joel Eisenberg so make sure to get your spot!

I love hearing from you!

And 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).

SIGN UP NOW FOR UPCOMING CLASSES!!! 

Remember that ALL CLASSES come with a FREE RECORDING so you can listen over and over. So even if you can’t make it in person? No excuses! All you need is an internet connection!

NEW CLASS!!!! Hollywood Producer Joel Eisenberg’s Master’s Series: HOW TO MAXIMIZE YOUR EARNING POTENTIAL AS A FULL-TIME AUTHOR (Includes all classes listed below) Normally $400 but at W.A.N.A. ONLY $199 to learn from Joel IN YOUR HOME.

OR, if it works better, purchase Joel’s classes individually…

Potentially Lucrative Multi-Media Rights $65 February 21st, 2107

How to Sell to Your Niche Market $65 February 28th, 2017

It’s Not Who You Know, It’s Who Knows YOU $65 March 7th, 2017

Making Money Speaking, Teaching, Blogging and Retaining Rights $65 March 14th, 2017

Individual Classes with MOI!

Blogging for Authors $50 February 23rd, 2017

Plotting for Dummies $35 February 17th, 2017

Pitch Perfect—How to Write a Query Letter and Synopsis that SELLS! $45 March 20th, 2017

NEW CLASS!!!! The Art of Character $35 February 24th, 2017

Hooking the Reader—Your First Five Pages $40 March 18th, 2017

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

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31 Comments

Wisdom from a Hollywood Producer—IT’S ALL B.S. UNTIL THE CHECK CLEARS

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I am unbelievably blessed to call some of the biggest names in the industry my friends. What is even MORE awesome is that these experts are willing to give so generously to me and to you guys.

The goal of this blog is to train y’all how to be PROs. So many writing books are addressing the hobbyist. Though there is nothing wrong with that because writing is the best hobby EVER—and that is mostly why all of us want to be PAID to do it—we need much more than the average, Gee, I’d love to write a novel resource.

We have ALL been there. When someone asks, “So what do you do?” and we tell them, “I’m a writer.”

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Yeah.

When the world rarely takes us seriously, we gotta be extra careful that doesn’t rub off. Above all, if we don’t take ourselves seriously, no one else will.

We have to step up our game and I don’t care about all the arguments that “real” writers are legacy published or have awards or an MFA. At the end of the day, real writers get paid (or are on a trajectory to BE paid). Because when people are using the term “real” it’s really just a poor synonym for “professional.”

Which is why today, y’all are getting a treat. My close friend, author and producer Joel Eisenberg is IN PRODUCTION right now. His book series The Chronicles of Ara is being made into a television series, and right now he is in production on “Then Again with Herbie J Pilato” for Decades—so VERY busy man—yet he took time to be here and give the real digs on what we do…which is why he is pretty epic.

Take it away, Joel!

***

Welcome to my world. A world of promises upon promises, of big-talk and scant return, of endless parties and meetings …

My world, that is, of 15 years ago, though I remain what I’ve always been: a writer.

I’ve been a writer for as long as I can recall. I remember my first short story too. The plot went a little something like this: The crew of the Starship Enterprise teams with the Six Million Dollar Man to save the world from the Planet of the Apes.

No, not kidding at all. And then, in 2015, about 30 years later, this happened (though I had nothing to do with it):

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It was not exactly the same, but close enough.

Clearly, I was ahead of my time. But up to 15 years ago, I was also flat broke. I owed tens of thousands of dollars in credit card bills, and was nearly homeless. Daily breakfast and lunch was a tuna sandwich from my local 7-11 and dinner, if I was lucky, was a canned meatball ravioli, courtesy of Chef Boyardee.

And then I got smart.

I had just worked (and quit) my 100th day job. I was sick and tired of being … You know the rest. Thing is, that day would define me moving forward. I told my new wife, who was understanding but not thrilled with the idea, that I could not do this anymore. Not for her, not for me.

If there was any chance of my career moving forward, if I had any real opportunity for an upward trajectory, I needed to place our lives where my big mouth was and write a book. I would call it, “How to Survive a Day Job” and I would interview celebrities about how they made their own creative dreams come true.

My success would only help us in the future, I argued.

“But you don’t know any celebrities,” she said.

“Uh, you’re right,” I replied. “But I’m doing it anyway.”

I kept that promise. I interviewed 70 some-odd public figures for the book, from actors to writers to producers and more. I sabotaged them at local book signings. I emailed them through their personal websites. I tortured personal assistants.

I did what I needed to do.

I self-published the book in 2005, under a horrid branding but nonetheless: Aunt Bessie’s How to Survive a Day Job While Pursuing the Creative Life. Don’t ask about the title. It was my first effort and a mistake. The book is long out of print, but I kept in touch with nearly everyone who participated.

That was the second best thing I’ve ever done. I still cannot believe any woman ever put up with me for so long, but nonetheless.

Through the years, I’ve referred to that volume as my “mentors in a box.” Since then, I’ve opened networking groups of my own, that were ultimately hosted by Paramount Studios, Warner Brothers Studios, Sunset-Gower Studios and more. I moderated groups of maybe 200 film and television professionals monthly for ten years, having only recently left the endeavor for a partner to run due to an increasingly insane schedule.

Thing is, my book, and that networking business, changed my life.

Going full-circle, back to the beginning of this diatribe: Everyone talks. Everyone yaps in this business about having money to finance your film, or having the ability to get your book to a major publisher. There is so much unbearable talk, it’s easy to believe that no one could ever make a living in this business.

I’m reminded of an ex, who meant well but did not understand that my path was a need and not a want. I needed to be a writer. There was no other way for me.

“You should be a school psychologist,” she said. “You’re great with students and, let’s face it, you’ll never make it as a writer. You’re already in your thirties. It’s time to be realistic.”

Another life-changing moment. I ended the relationship two days later and immediately decided to move from my native Brooklyn to Los Angeles, to dig in and truly work towards my goals. That was 1989. I began my book in 2003. It took me some time, but the time it took proved invaluable.

I’ve been my own boss for nearly 15 years now – save for one more gig to help a friend – and I’ve never looked back. Money and satisfaction happens and, frankly, it’s an awesome feeling being paid to practice your passion. I wake up at 3 or 4 (I know), hit Starbucks and write for hours before anyone in my house is awake. It’s great having the freedom, however, discipline is every bit as important.

***

When you tell people you are a writer, in certain circles you become an instant celebrity regardless of your output. You will be wined and dined. You will need to learn the difference between what is real and what is not and yes, there are groupies on both sides of the equation (and no, I’ve never indulged, thank you very much).

My point with this post is simple. I found my way. I’ve since been traveling around the country teaching others how to find theirs. I write novels, and produce movies and television.

Certainly beats telemarketing, I tell ya.

One more thing. My friend Kristen and her organization, W.A.N.A., consistently delivers the most truthful, and helpful, of all online seminars for writers. It is for this reason that I happily offer my teaching services. If anyone reading this would like to attend my upcoming Master Classes, check them out below.

It’s your life, and your career is precisely what you want it to be. Do what you need to do. Work on your craft daily and, as Steve Martin once said:

Become so good at something you cannot be ignored.

And if the world gets you down, remind yourself of this: John Lennon, Mark Twain and Stephen King have the same number of hours in the day as you. So what’s your excuse?

Trust me. I’ve been there.

***

Thanks so much Joel! Joel will be around for those commenting so here is your chance to rub elbows with an amazing person and one of the top talents in the world. Networking is a HUGE deal, so what are your thoughts? Questions? Do you struggle to believe you could be paid to write? Do you feel overwhelmed at all of it? Do you have a similar story of how everything changed in your attitude/world? DO NOT BE SHY! Joel is fantastic to talk to!

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Hey, Valentines is coming up. Chocolate will make you fat but these might make you rich. Hey, why NOT? Someone has to be! 😛

Joel is running his Master’s Class HOW TO MAXIMIZE YOUR EARNING POTENTIAL AS A FULL-TIME AUTHOR for $199 (this series is normally $400, but Joel loves me 😀 ).

Or you can take each of the four sessions individually for $65 a piece. All are recorded and is included in purchase price. Potentially Lucrative Multi-Media Rights (February 21st), How to Sell to Your Niche Market (February 28th), It’s Not Who You Know, It’s Who Knows YOU (March 7th), Making Money Speaking, Teaching, Blogging and Retaining Rights (March 14th)

Thanks for following and as always I reward the faithful!

I love hearing from you!

And 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).

SIGN UP NOW FOR UPCOMING CLASSES!!! 

Remember that ALL CLASSES come with a FREE RECORDING so you can listen over and over. So even if you can’t make it in person? No excuses! All you need is an internet connection!

Joel Eisenberg’s Master’s Series: HOW TO MAXIMIZE YOUR EARNING POTENTIAL AS A FULL-TIME AUTHOR (Includes all classes listed below)

Potentially Lucrative Multi-Media Rights February 21st, 2107

How to Sell to Your Niche Market (February 28th)

It’s Not Who You Know, It’s Who Knows YOU (March 7th)

Making Money Speaking, Teaching, Blogging and Retaining Rights (March 14th)

NEW CLASS!!!! How to Maximize Your Earning Potential as a Full-Time Author Learn from Hollywood Producer Joel Eisenberg in your HOME. This series is normally $400 but W.A.N.A. is offering it for $199.

Individual Classes with MOI!

Blogging for Authors February 23rd, 2017

When your Name Alone Can SELL—Branding for Authors February 10th, 2017

Social Media for Authors February 11th, 2017

Plotting for Dummies February 17th, 2017

NEW CLASS!!!! The Art of Character February 24th, 2017

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

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45 Comments

Never Tell Me the Odds—Getting Your Head Right for Success

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I read a lot of books on business, sales, and success. I love motivational books and yes, even self-help. Why? Because so much of success is mental. Study the sports greats and the practice on the field is only one component of their overall performance. The truly great players spend countless hours getting their head right.

And this makes sense if we think about it. Take a horse for example. No matter how large that beast is, man can control the direction that animal goes with ONE thing…controlling the head. Where the head goes the rest will follow.

So I challenge you with this question each and every day…

Where is Your Head?

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Granted, there are days, I don’t know if I could find my head. I have been down with a really bad cold for a week and I think I finally found my head in the couch cushions all sticky and plastered in dust bunnies and Cheerios. I am all over the place this morning, still foggy with cold medicine.

And guess what? That is okay…so long as I get my head cleaned off and put back on straight.

This is not an activity we do ONCE. Life is not static.

At times? Our head WILL fly off the wrong direction. It is just up to us to be aware of the fact that it needs to be put back right.

See we need to have a different kind of self-awareness when we decide to go pro at anything. We can’t afford the mindlessness of mediocrity. We can’t afford day after day of being reactive and permitting life to happen TO us.

We need to get our heads on straight.

Now, to do this, we have to adopt habits that are very different to the rest of the world and that might even seen a bit strange. And guess what? They are strange! Habits of the 5%ers are GOING to seem odd to regular people. Being excellent is going to force us where it is uncomfortable. In fact, the more uncomfortable it is, the better the results.

So to make y’all super uncomfortable…

Declare What is Untrue Until It BECOMES True

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Did you know that the subconscious mind cannot tell the difference between truth and lie? It just believes what we tell it. Yet how many of us are in a habit of constantly talking about our faults? We are constantly declaring weakness and so the subconscious shrugs and says, “Okay, well if you are disorganized then I will make sure to put that important paper where you will never find it.”

Our subconscious mind dictates our unconscious habits. The mind and the body are connected and we need to appreciate this fact or we are doomed to self-defeating behaviors.

This is one of the reasons my left eye twitches when people declare they are “aspiring writers.” Go look up synonyms for “aspiring” and you will see words like “wishful” or “trying” or “longing” and so is it any wonder that writers groups across the world are filled with aspiring writers who never finish (let alone publish) anything?

By contrast look at synonyms for “professional” and you will see words like “efficient” and “skillful” and “competent.”

When we declare we are professionals, then our subconscious will 1) match our behavior with our words and/or 2) convict us when our behavior is out of line with what we have declared to be true.

We will get that niggling sinking feeling when we don’t do our job.

But guess what? Keep acting like a pro long enough and people see us as a pro and so guess who gets the paying work?

I keep a notepad where I constantly write things that are untrue and it has been shocking to me over the years how often reality has caught up with what I might have written off as a pipe-dream if I hadn’t known this trick.

Almost ten years ago when I was first starting out as a blogger and wanna-be expert, I was living with my mom and writing software instructions for a living *shoots self*. I was a total newbie with two regular commenters on my blog. If I didn’t have spam bots I wouldn’t have had a following at all. But I wrote:

I am the definitive voice in branding and social media for authors.

I didn’t even have a book finished. Now? I’ve written three and Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World is the definitive guide for branding for authors. I had a goal of writing a branding and social media book that would be evergreen and was told it was impossible.

Well, yeah about that 😉 .

I also wrote…

I am regularly invited to speak at conferences.

Then it happened. So I wrote something SO unrealistically big I erased it four times before I finally left it.

I am the keynote for the Romance Writers of New Zealand.

Guess where I am keynoting in August?

I have 55,000 subscribers to my blog.

Looking back? Maybe should have dreamed bigger but I wrote that when my mom was my only fan.

My writing heroes come to ME for advice.

And this still freaks me out when they do, LOL.

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Was this some sort of hoo-doo-voo-doo magic? Not really. It was getting my head on straight and focused on where I wanted to go. I listed out the habits and behaviors I needed to support these assertions. I blogged week after week after week even when no one read and there was no evidence to support what I had declared to be true.

This doesn’t mean I just kept posting crap. No, I studied other blogs, read books, read articles, asked questions, tried new things and above all I was consistent. Then once I reached my goals, I didn’t remain there. I dreamed bigger dreams, different dreams.

Now that social media has become part of our culture as I once envisioned, and I have provided the ONE manual necessary for owning that space. I’ve adjusted my goals back to fiction.

I am a #1 New York Times Best-Selling Author.

I am a #1 USA Today Best-Selling Author.

Is it true? Not yet 😀 . But guess what? If I keep declaring this it holds me accountable to WRITE THE BOOKS. I can’t become a best-selling anything with NO BOOKS. And since I want to hit these lists, not only do I have to write the books (finish the books), I also am wise to study what sells. When I am not writing, I am very literally reading the best-seller lists.

I have made my MISSION from these declarations.

So even though I might look silly to you claiming, I am a #1 NYTBSA! don’t you think my odds are vastly different because I have claimed this then adopted the behaviors of someone obsessed with this goal?

Head Trauma

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I see so many writers out there focused on all the wrong things and they are psyching themselves out. Remember if we declare it to be true then it will be.

There is too much competition. My book can possibly be seen.

Okay.

People just don’t read anymore. 

As you wish.

No one makes money writing books anymore. At least I can do this as a hobby.

See where I am going here?

I know when people like me start talking about the power of the mind, folks start rolling their eyes but tell me this. When did you ever see a sports superstar who declared, I am the best basketball player in the world who then became successful without shooting any hoops? You know, he wrote out affirmations and went to positive thinking camps and watched inspiring movies and never had to get on the court but he still rose to become an MVP?

Yeah hadn’t heard of him either.

Conversely, show me any super star anything who constantly complained and declared failure who then succeeded. You know, he shot a thousand hoops a day and said, “I’m terrible. Look at all I missed. Why do I even bother? The odds of me playing pro basketball are the same as winning the lottery and being struck by lightning on the same day.”

Hell, I am depressing myself just writing that.

Being a successful writer has a lot of moving parts and is not for the faint of heart. But declare what is untrue until it becomes true. Align your actions with your mission. Yeah discoverability is a nightmare, so learn how to do social media, how to build a brand, how to do what it takes to overcome the odds. Hey, I got sick and had to move up the dates for two of my social media classes, so sign up and let me help you!

In the meantime, just say….

People might not read books, but they DO read MINE 😀 .

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What are your thoughts? Do you find yourself getting off track? Focused on all the wrong things and bogging your spirit down? Do you find yourself talking about all the things you aren’t instead of what you could be? Do you feel strange declaring success? Heck, I do. Feel like a loon. It’s okay to be crazy here. Do you find it easier to believe all the bad? Have you overcome being your own worst enemy/critic?

I love hearing from you!

And to prove it and show my love, for the month of JANUARY, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

SIGN UP NOW FOR MY UPCOMING CLASSES!!! 

Remember that ALL CLASSES come with a FREE RECORDING so you can listen over and over. So even if you can’t make it in person? No excuses! 

All you need is an internet connection!

Branding Master’s Class Series with Kristen Lamb THREE social media classes, ONE low price. Only $99. It is literally getting one class for FREE!!!! 

Craft Master’s Class Series with Kristen Lamb THREE craft classes, ONE low price. Only $89. One class is FREE!!!! Includes my new class The Art of Character.

Individual Classes with MOI!

Pitch Perfect—How to Write a Query Letter & Synopsis that SELLS January 28th

When your Name Alone Can SELL—Branding for Authors February 10th, 2017

Social Media for Authors February 11th, 2017

NEW CLASS!!!! The Art of Character January 27th, 2017

Blogging for Authors February 3rd

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

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49 Comments

13 Things Mentally Strong Writers Don’t Do

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As y’all know I do a ton of reading and this includes lots and lots of blogs and articles. Over the holiday I ran across one article that just had me jumping up and down and yelling, “YES! THIS!” The Business Insider article “13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do” is based off Amy Morin’s book (which I highly recommend).

It doesn’t matter if we strive to have a healthy marriage, strong kids or a killer career, these tenets cross-apply to all areas of life. Mental toughness is a key component to being successful. Yes, even for writers.

So I figured I would tinker with this and make it more directly apply to writers and what we must do (or not do) if we long to do well in this career. Thus, today we are going to discuss 13 Things Mentally Strong Writers Don’t Do.

#1 They don’t waste time on self-pity.

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of David Rogers

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of David Rogers

This is a tough job with more than its fair share of rejection and insult. Even once we are successfully published, most people don’t take our job seriously. It’s easy to get trapped in doubt and negative self-talk when, for the 10,000th time a stranger asks you what you do and you tell them you’re a writer and their answer is, “No, I meant your real job.”

Mentally strong writers kick the dust from their feet and move on.

Ruminating over rejection letters, bad reviews, blog trolls or insensitive family members wastes valuable creative energy and is toxic to the muse.

#2 They don’t give away their locus of control.

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We are in charge of our attitude and for doing the work. This means we are going to have to get really good at setting emotional and physical boundaries. Successful writers guard their writing time and guard their creative energy. They also know they are the only ones in charge of their dreams.

Years ago, when I decided to go pro as a writer, I had a church elder scoff at me and essentially tell me that I had a better chance of being hit by lightning than being a successful author. I went home, dusted off the resume and was about to give up and get a “real” job when I realized he was not the boss of me. He wasn’t God and didn’t know everything. Instead of giving up, I threw every ounce of energy into proving him wrong.

Really glad I did 😉 .

#3 They don’t hide from change.

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This has been especially critical in the past decade as the digital revolution has changed everything we thought we knew about the industry. A business that hadn’t changed much in over a hundred years was rendered unrecognizable in the span of 6 years.

This world changes fast and we can harness the wave and ride it, or let it toss us into the reefs and drown us.

#4 They don’t focus on what they can’t control.

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We can’t control Amazon’s rules or Smashwords’ terms of service. We can’t control whether an agent accepts us. We can’t control whether Barnes & Noble lives or dies.

We can control getting the words on the page. We can control building a brand capable of driving book sales. I see a lot of writers wasting a lot of energy over issues where they don’t have any control. That energy is better used elsewhere.

#5 They don’t try to please everyone.

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No one will ever write the perfect book that everyone reader loves. This is one of the dangers of critique groups. We work and rework and rework trying to take everyone’s suggestions and all we end up with is an unmarketable mess known as the Book By Committee (a.k.a. Franken-Novel).

Mentally strong writers also realize they can’t please everyone on the home front. Some friends/family are just going to have to get used to you not being available for everything and anything.

#6 They don’t fear taking calculated risks.

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Fortune favors the bold. If you’ve shopped that first book four years and no agent or publisher has signed it? You might want to try self-publishing. Let it go and move forward and let your work be tested. If it sucks? Pull it and learn. But maybe it doesn’t suck.

I had one of the top agents in NYC for my book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital WorldHe couldn’t sell it because NY feared change, but good thing I didn’t. My book has risen to become the definitive guide for authors who want to create an on-line brand and platform and actually have time left to write lots of books.

RoM is still as relevant today as the day I published it, but where would it be had I feared change and waited on permission?

#7 They don’t dwell on the past.

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This can be a tough one. We are wired to learn from failure but failure, frankly, is not pleasant. I’ve made tons of mistakes and in doing so? Learned a lot of ways NOT to do things. There was a time I did too much crying over what I did wrong, of what I’d failed to see. Of people I’d allowed to take advantage of me.

But this is a fruitless use of energy. Energy that can better be used elsewhere.

Dwelling on the past might mean we are holding onto a manuscript we need to just stick in a drawer. Maybe that book was a learning curve and never meant to be published. We can spend another 5 years rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic or we can use what we learned and write more books and better books.

#8 They don’t make the same mistakes over and over.

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Notice in #7 I pointed out we needed to learn from the past. Sure, don’t camp out there but also? Take good notes. I think it is a fallacy to tell writers that the more they write the better they will get.

That is only half-true.

There has to be some guidance and reflection and readjustment. Sort of like if I swing a golf club 10,000 times and do it with terrible form, I won’t be playing pro golf but I likely WILL have blown disks.

If your writing isn’t working? Take classes, get feedback from experts on your areas of weakness. Pros in ALL fields do this yet we writers are notorious for believing if we need help or take classes we aren’t “talented”. That is bunk. Pro athletes have coaches and trainers. Pro musicians go study in conservatories. Pros learn where they can do better and get to work.

#9 They don’t resent other writers’ successes.

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Jealousy is one of many emotions all of us will feel in this profession. It is natural. Feel it then move through it and use it. The great part about our profession is we are really not in competition with other writers. Books are not so cost-prohibitive readers won’t buy more than one.

Just realize success will come in due time and channel envy into inspiration.

#10 They don’t give up after the first failure.

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Or even the 100th. Want to feel better? Check out 20 Brilliant Authors Whose Work was Initially Rejected.

#11 They don’t fear alone time.

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Writers have historically done better at this since many of us are natural introverts. But social media has altered our profession and it is really easy to get caught up in FB drama or Twitter rants and fail to spend enough time alone. We need alone time not just for writing. We need that quiet time of reflection to power up the muse and also to take stock of mistakes and learn to do it better the next time.

#12 They don’t feel the world owes them anything.

All of us have read books that made us go, “WTH? WHY is THAT book a runaway hit?” We have also probably read other books and said, “Why not THIS book? This book is awesome and yet it isn’t popular!” The problem with publishing is it is not a meritocracy.

No one owes us anything, not even a book sale. The more we go back to those earlier habits like focusing on what we can control, the better. I’ve run into more than a couple pissed off resentful writers because the book isn’t selling despite strong reviews and heavy marketing. Again, anger is energy better used to write the next book.

#13 They don’t expect immediate results.

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This is a BIG one. It is very unusual for the first book to be a runaway success. Most authors (traditionally and nontraditionally published) only start really seeing results with compounded sales. Three books seems to be a minimum.

The same thing goes for an author blog. Aside from the actual books there is no stronger way to build a brand and a platform (see class on this below) but a blog is not going to take off overnight. It will take time and consistency….then it will seem to take off overnight.

I blogged to the ether for over a year and a half until I had ONE post that changed everything. One post went viral BUT since I already had hundreds of posts in my archives, I gained MAD subscribers.

Who would have subscribed though if I had ten posts I’d long abandoned to the spam bots?

What are your thoughts? Have you developed better mental toughness over the years? How did you do it? Do you think toughness trumps talent? Do you still struggle with some of these? I know I do. I am a work in progress, too!

I love hearing from you!

And to prove it and show my love, for the month of NOVEMBER, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

TREAT YOUR MUSE!!!! Check out the Upcoming Classes

Remember that ALL CLASSES come with a FREE RECORDING so you can listen over and over. So even if you can’t make it because the holidays are crazy? No excuses! Take time to be good to yourself! All you need is an internet connection!

How to Get Your Book Made Into Film

Class Title: How to Get Your Book Made Into Film
Instructor: Writer/Producer Joel Eisenberg
Price: $45 USD Standard
Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom
When: WEDNESDAY November 30th, 2016 1:00 PM E.S.T. to 3:00 P.M. EST

How do you cull the essence of your novel into a feature film? How do you expand your short story for a television series? Finally, when the written adaptation is complete, how do you navigate the Hollywood maze for real money and credits?

Joel Eisenberg has been there. As an independent producer of over 20 years, Joel has developed content or sold projects to networks such as TNT, CBS-Decades, FOX Studios, Ovation TV and more. As the former head of EMO Films at Paramount Studios, Joel is also a professional networker, having hosted entertainment network events at the Paramount lot, as well as Warner Brothers, Sunset-Gower Studios and more. His work has been featured in many media outlets, including CNN, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, NBC, The Los Angeles Times, TV Guide and even Fangoria.

Important Class for After NaNoWriMo! You might have a New Year’s Resolution to query a novel. Doesn’t matter. Treat yourself to an early Christmas present!

Pitch Perfect—How to Write a Query Letter & Synopsis that SELLS

Class Title: Pitch Perfect—How To Write a Query Letter & Synopsis that SELLS
Instructor: Kristen Lamb
Price: $45 USD Standard
Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom
When: FRIDAY December 2nd, 2015 7:00 PM E.S.T. to 9:00 P.M. EST

You’ve written a novel and now are faced with the two most terrifying challenges all writers face. The query and the synopsis.

Query letters can be daunting. How do you sell yourself? Your work? How can you stand apart without including glitter in your letter?

***NOTE: DO NOT PUT GLITTER IN YOUR QUERY.

Good question. We will cover that and more!

But sometimes the query is not enough.

Most writers would rather cut their wrists with a spork than be forced to write the dreaded…synopsis. Yet, this is a valuable skills all writers should learn. Synopses are often requested by agents and editors and it is tough not to feel the need to include every last little detail. Synopses are great for not only keeping your writing on track, but also for pitching your next book and your next to that agent of your choice.

This class will help you learn the fundamentals of writing a query letter and a synopsis. What you must include and what doesn’t belong.

So make your writing pitch perfect with these two skills!

Plotting for Dummies

Class Title: Plotting for Dummies
Instructor: Kristen Lamb
Price: $35 USD Standard
Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom
When: SATURDAY December 3rd, 2016 2:30 PM E.S.T. to 4:30 P.M. EST

Are you tired of starting book after book only to lose steam and be unable to finish? Do you finish, but then keep getting rejected? Do you finish, but it takes an ungodly amount of time? Sure, great you land an agent for your book, but you don’t have FIVE YEARS to write the next one?

This class is here to help. The writers who are making an excellent income are not doing it off ONE book, rather they are harnessing the power of compounded sales. This class is designed to help you learn to plot leaner, meaner, faster and cleaner (even for PANTSERS!)

Learn the basic elements of plot, various plotting techniques, how to test your seed idea to see if it is even strong enough to be a novel and MORE!

Blogging for Authors

Class Title: Blogging for Authors
Instructor: Kristen Lamb
Price: $50 USD Standard
Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom
When: FRIDAY December 9th, 7:00 PM E.S.T. to 9:00 P.M. EST

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.

The best part is, done properly, a blog plays to a writer’s strengths. Writers write.

The problem is too many writers don’t approach a blog properly and make all kinds of mistakes that eventually lead to blog abandonment. Many authors fail to understand that bloggers and author bloggers are two completely different creatures.

This class is going to cover:

How author blogs work. What’s the difference in a regular blog and an author blog?
What are the biggest mistakes/wastes of time?
How can you effectively harness the power of algorithms (no computer science degree required)?
What do you blog about? What topics will engage readers and help create a following?
How can you harness your author voice using a blog?
How can a blog can help you write leaner, meaner, faster and cleaner?
How do you keep energized years into your blogging journey?
How can a blog help you sell more books?
How can you cultivate a fan base of people who love your genre?
Blogging doesn’t have to be hard. This class will help you simplify your blog and make it one of the most enjoyable aspects of your writing career.

 

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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62 Comments

The Single Largest Secret to Success

Image courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Steve Snodgrass

Image courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Steve Snodgrass

All of us start out writing for different reasons. Perhaps we have dreams of seeing New York Times Best Seller or USA Today Best Seller in front of our names. Perhaps we long to be a household name like Stephen King or even a legend like J.K Rowling.

Some of you might want to see Winner of the Pulitzer Prize on the cover of your books or see your books made into television or major motion pictures. Some writers simply want to finish that one novel and publish it so they can say they wrote a novel.

Every dream is equally noble. There are no right or wrong goals only your goals (and goals evolve as we do). Yet, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that the level of sacrifice and self-discipline required to Write a Novel in a Year is different from the author who longs to be the next Neil Gaiman.

When I started writing I thought I knew everything. It wasn’t until I went to my first writing conference that I understood the truth. I was too dumb to know how much I didn’t know. When I later gained genuine mentors (professionals) I was horrified to realize my writing wasn’t the only thing that needed a major overhaul. My character, habits, and attitudes did too.

In all bluntness, I began as a lazy unteachable ass who believed in luck not work. Most of all I had no concept of how important it was to set and maintain boundaries.

I hadn’t yet learned to guard the muse.

That had to change if I was ever going to reach my dreams. Our muse is precious and there are some critical habits we must learn to keep her healthy. We need to feed her good things—rest, books, classes, music, good friends. But at the same time? We must also protect her. This is critical for success in writing (or actually anything for that matter).

Guard Your Energy

Image courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons via Michele Africano

Image courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons via Michele Africano

Energy is to the muse what blood is to the body. Drain out 3 quarts from your wrists and see how you feel. Similarly, we need to make sure we aren’t dragging the muse through emotional razor wire.

Trust me, legendary authors guard their energy the way a concert violinist guards her hands. Energy that leaks out into unproductive endeavors is stealing vital life-force from the muse and pros get that.

Yet how many emerging writers are clinging to writing groups filled with folks who complain and never write? Holding onto family members or friends who are addicted to crises? How many writers are reckless with posts or comments on social media?

All that mental energy hemorrhaging into drama or onto social media in fruitless ways is taking away vital creativity that could be going into their work. But instead of their talent being focused in a novel, it is being bled into arguments on Facebook threads, tweets or in a blog’s comment section.

Cut OFF Toxic People

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Ted Van Pelt

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Ted Van Pelt

The best way to have a healthy muse? Don’t poison her. If a friend or family is emotional gangrene? CUT THEM OFF.

Toxic people always have problems and they really aren’t interested in solving them. They might say they want advice or support but this is a lie. They simply want an audience to nod to their excuses and indulge their anger, self-pity or addictions. Hanging out with them is like volunteering to be in a constant emotional full contact sport.

And yeah I am mixing the hell out of metaphors but I want you guys to understand how important this all is.

Negative emotions are not only draining, but after prolonged exposure, we can become physically ill and damage the muse (sometimes permanently).

Toxic people are always in a heightened emotional state. Their behavior creates stress and stress is something our bodies will react to in a primal way. When we sense danger, blood transfers from the cerebral cortex (higher thinking centers) to the reptilian brain (fight or flight). This serves a purpose. If a car is on our child, this isn’t the time to remember all our clever Nietzsche quotes.

But the problem is our bodies can’t tell the difference between outrunning a bear and merely arguing with a recalcitrant sibling or a troll on Facebook.

Lizard Brain is NOT creative.

Additionally we are who we hang around. Thoughts become actions, actions become habits, habits become character and character becomes destiny.

Got people in your life who want to complain? Make excuses? Still partying like it’s 1999? Just let them go lest they rub off.

Beware of Overconfidence

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Over the weekend I saw the movie Doctor Strange and loved it! But how did Dr. Stephen Strange end up battered and broken in a temple in Nepal instead of being the world’s richest and most renowned surgeon? He grew overconfident and believed he could drive on rainy roads at high speed while talking on the phone and looking at e-mail.

And he ended up with two crushed hands.

Out of ego, he failed to guard what was most precious to doing his job. And yeah it is a Marvel story but there is a neat lesson we can use.

When we rant on social media, tweet whatever flies through our head, get tangled up in friend drama or family fiascos, that is being reckless with the muse. And sure maybe the first 393 times we speed down that wet highway talking on the cell phone and texting goes fine. But it only takes something going wrong once for us to drive off a cliff and crush the muse.

And most of us don’t have Plan B of living in a temple learning to fight in other dimensions.

Choose Our Battles

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It’s easy to believe that “we can handle it” but in all honesty? That is a dangerous game.

Toxic people have more access to our lives than ever before. One of the reasons I recommend writers avoid ranting about politics on Facebook (unless one longs to be the next Bill Maher or Anne Coulter) is that, among many other reasons, it is a tremendous mental drain that can have devastating consequences (refer to guarding energy).

One of the biggest reasons many emerging writers will never bear fruit is they lack the discipline to choose their battles.

We are anointed to change the world with books, not argue with idiots on social media.

We can get pulled into on-line tiffs with folks who have no intention of changing their views. Many are on there for the sheer joy of being contrary or even cruel. I even have a mantra on Facebook when I see something that someone posts that upsets me and I feel the need to “say” something and “set them straight.”

I am NOT the Jackass Whisperer.

Then I unfollow them out of my feed and move on. We must understand that social media and building a platform is our job, but we need to manage distraction and compulsion. Sure we might initially get that “feel good” zing, but the cost of fruitless battles are far higher than the payoff. Every time we do this we are stealing energy from the true payoff—our finished and published books.

Toxic people are a great distraction on-line but also in life. We might think, “Oh I will write after I help Such-and-Such” get sorted. The problem is Such-and-Such has zero intention of ever being sorted. Misery just loves company.

So why are we handing them our limited and precious creative energy?

Where the Mind Goes the Muse Follows

Image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Tequilamike

Image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Tequilamike

Years ago I had the pleasure of working with Ferrari and was invited to some pretty amazing events, including getting to meet professional race car drivers. When drivers are racing, the most important component to winning is not crashing. Seems silly, but it’s true. If your car is in flames, odds are a trophy is not in your future.

But when race car drivers train, the most vital lesson is to keep the eyes where they want the car to go. Where the mind goes, the man follows. Look at the wall? Hit the wall. Look at the finish line? Cross the finish line.

Thus, a big way we can guard the muse from crashing is to keep focusing on where we want to go.

In the end, any kind of success is all about discipline. Like anything else, our muse gets stronger the more we feed her the good stuff and the better we guard her from the bad.

What are your thoughts? Do you struggle with distraction? In person or on-line? I know this time of year is hard on a lot of us when it comes to setting boundaries. Did you have to let go of writing friends who always complained and never wrote? Who couldn’t take criticism? Who refused to learn and grow? Did you find that you did better once you got away?

What are some ways you guard your muse?

I love hearing from you!

And to prove it and show my love, for the month of NOVEMBER, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

TREAT YOUR MUSE!!!! Check out the Upcoming Classes

Remember that ALL CLASSES come with a FREE RECORDING so you can listen over and over. So even if you can’t make it because the holidays are crazy? No excuses! Take time to be good to yourself! All you need is an internet connection!

How to Get Your Book Made Into Film

Class Title: How to Get Your Book Made Into Film
Instructor: Writer/Producer Joel Eisenberg
Price: $45 USD Standard
Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom
When: WEDNESDAY November 30th, 2016 1:00 PM E.S.T. to 3:00 P.M. EST

How do you cull the essence of your novel into a feature film? How do you expand your short story for a television series? Finally, when the written adaptation is complete, how do you navigate the Hollywood maze for real money and credits?

Joel Eisenberg has been there. As an independent producer of over 20 years, Joel has developed content or sold projects to networks such as TNT, CBS-Decades, FOX Studios, Ovation TV and more. As the former head of EMO Films at Paramount Studios, Joel is also a professional networker, having hosted entertainment network events at the Paramount lot, as well as Warner Brothers, Sunset-Gower Studios and more. His work has been featured in many media outlets, including CNN, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, NBC, The Los Angeles Times, TV Guide and even Fangoria.

Important Class for After NaNoWriMo! You might have a New Year’s Resolution to query a novel. Doesn’t matter. Treat yourself to an early Christmas present!

Pitch Perfect—How to Write a Query Letter & Synopsis that SELLS

Class Title: Pitch Perfect—How To Write a Query Letter & Synopsis that SELLS
Instructor: Kristen Lamb
Price: $45 USD Standard
Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom
When: FRIDAY December 2nd, 2015 7:00 PM E.S.T. to 9:00 P.M. EST

You’ve written a novel and now are faced with the two most terrifying challenges all writers face. The query and the synopsis.

Query letters can be daunting. How do you sell yourself? Your work? How can you stand apart without including glitter in your letter?

***NOTE: DO NOT PUT GLITTER IN YOUR QUERY.

Good question. We will cover that and more!

But sometimes the query is not enough.

Most writers would rather cut their wrists with a spork than be forced to write the dreaded…synopsis. Yet, this is a valuable skills all writers should learn. Synopses are often requested by agents and editors and it is tough not to feel the need to include every last little detail. Synopses are great for not only keeping your writing on track, but also for pitching your next book and your next to that agent of your choice.

This class will help you learn the fundamentals of writing a query letter and a synopsis. What you must include and what doesn’t belong.

So make your writing pitch perfect with these two skills!

Plotting for Dummies

Class Title: Plotting for Dummies
Instructor: Kristen Lamb
Price: $35 USD Standard
Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom
When: SATURDAY December 3rd, 2016 2:30 PM E.S.T. to 4:30 P.M. EST

Are you tired of starting book after book only to lose steam and be unable to finish? Do you finish, but then keep getting rejected? Do you finish, but it takes an ungodly amount of time? Sure, great you land an agent for your book, but you don’t have FIVE YEARS to write the next one?

This class is here to help. The writers who are making an excellent income are not doing it off ONE book, rather they are harnessing the power of compounded sales. This class is designed to help you learn to plot leaner, meaner, faster and cleaner (even for PANTSERS!)

Learn the basic elements of plot, various plotting techniques, how to test your seed idea to see if it is even strong enough to be a novel and MORE!

Blogging for Authors

Class Title: Blogging for Authors
Instructor: Kristen Lamb
Price: $50 USD Standard
Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom
When: FRIDAY December 9th, 7:00 PM E.S.T. to 9:00 P.M. EST

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.

The best part is, done properly, a blog plays to a writer’s strengths. Writers write.

The problem is too many writers don’t approach a blog properly and make all kinds of mistakes that eventually lead to blog abandonment. Many authors fail to understand that bloggers and author bloggers are two completely different creatures.

This class is going to cover:

How author blogs work. What’s the difference in a regular blog and an author blog?
What are the biggest mistakes/wastes of time?
How can you effectively harness the power of algorithms (no computer science degree required)?
What do you blog about? What topics will engage readers and help create a following?
How can you harness your author voice using a blog?
How can a blog can help you write leaner, meaner, faster and cleaner?
How do you keep energized years into your blogging journey?
How can a blog help you sell more books?
How can you cultivate a fan base of people who love your genre?
Blogging doesn’t have to be hard. This class will help you simplify your blog and make it one of the most enjoyable aspects of your writing career.

 

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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48 Comments

Is Perfectionism Killing Your Success?

Screen Shot 2016-08-02 at 7.23.57 AM

Last time I wrote about stress and how it can kill creativity. Many “normal” people (code for “non writers”) see our job as play, as fun. They really don’t grasp what goes into creating the stories they all enjoy and that it is a lot of work. Also, because our field is so subjective, writers must endure an onslaught of “enemies” no one else can see because often they are in our head. Sometimes, in our effort to produce the best work we can, we invite in a very dangerous enemy.

Meet….Perfect.

All of us want to do a good job. We want to put our best foot forward. We all say that we want feedback and critique, but deep down, if we are real honest, we want people to love everything we say and do. Unfortunately, this isn’t the reality. We can’t please everyone, and it is easy to fall into a people-pleasing trap that will steal our passion, our art, and our very identity.

I’ve seen this happen time and time again with writers. They rework and rework and rework the first chapter of their novel, trying to make it “perfect”—which is actually code for “making everyone happy.” Here is the thing. Not gonna happen. Ever. Oh and trust me, I am giving this lecture to myself as much as anyone.

One person will say our book is too wordy. Another wants more description. We add more description and then another person is slashing through, slaughtering every adjective and metaphor.

Lessons from Aesop

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I find it interesting that some of my favorite childhood stories were about character issues that I’ve struggled with my entire life. My favorite story Old Man Whickett’s Donkey and was loosely based off one of Aesop’s fables, The Man, The Boy and The Donkey. The story in a nutshell is this.

An old man and his grandson head to market with their donkey carrying bags of grain for sale. A passerby says, “What a fool. Why buy a donkey if you aren’t going to ride him?” In response to the critic, Old Man Whickett and the boy load up and ride the donkey into the next town where another passerby says, “You cruel lazy people. That poor donkey carrying all that weight. You should be ashamed.” So Old Man Whickett and the boy dismount and carry the bags of grain and the donkey (which seriously freaked out the donkey).

Anyway—and I am probably butchering this story, but give me a break, I’ve slept since I was five—Old Man Whickett and the boy keep trying to please everyone who passes and what happens?

The bags of grain burst open and spill all over the road from being moved around so much (and in Aesop’s version the donkey falls in the river and drowns). They never make it to market and all of them are exhausted and half-dead from trying to please everyone.

Moral of the tale?

Try to please everyone and we please no one.

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The Fine Line of Fools

We have to walk what I will call the Fine Line of Fools. There are two different types of fools. There are fools who plunge ahead and don’t ask for any feedback and ignore anyone who tries to warn there might be a problem. But then there is the other type of fool who can never seem to make up her mind. She keeps changing direction every time someone has an opinion (been there, done that).

All of us are in danger of being one kind of fool or another. While the wise writer is open to critique, she also needs to know when to stand her ground. If she doesn’t learn to stand firm, that’s when the donkey hitches a ride.

I would love to tell you guys I’ve never been either of those fools, but I don’t dig getting struck with lightning.

Perfectionism and People-Pleasing Mask Fear

I have learned through a lot of trial, error and stupidity that perfectionism and people-pleasing really are just an extension of fear. If we get everyone’s opinion about our book, web site, blog, color of fingernail polish, if someone else doesn’t like it, then we don’t have to own it.

“Well, that wasn’t my idea. That was Such and Such’s idea.”

We Can’t Please EVERYONE

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Over the weekend I took a short family trip to get away and reset my head after the trauma of last month. I love mysteries and detective novels so I hastily just downloaded a book Audible recommended to me based on other books I’d enjoyed. I had never head of the author but there were 14K reviews and overall 4 stars.

So I started listening and the story was just moving at a snail’s pace. In my opinion it was wordy and pretentious and gave me no good sense of place. I kept listening for three hours until I just could’t give any more time to the book. When I looked the book up again, I realized that the author was actually the legend J.K. Rowling writing under a pen name.

I thought that it had to be me. I was just being picky. Maybe I hadn’t turned off my editor’s brain. But when I glanced at the one and two-star reviews, the commenters were saying the same things I was feeling about the story.

But isn’t that just more than a little amazing?

Not that poor J.K. had to endure one-star reviews, but that she isn’t…wait for it….wait for it…she isn’t perfect. Even the famed J.K. Rowling can’t write a book that pleases everyone. Many other readers (far more actually) enjoyed the book. So good for her! She still did her job and did it well.

***As a quick side note this is one of the many, many reasons I never leave a review unless I can give it four stars. There is a person on the other side of that review and for all I know it really could just be me. Maybe Mercury is in retrograde, my underwear is too tight, or I needed to try this book after a vacation.

Learn to Drop the Donkey

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In this new publishing world, all of us need to learn to be leaders and leaders own everything, the good and the bad. That is no easy task, and I have to admit there are times my neck starts hurting and I get this lower back pain and then I realize…I’M CARRYING THE FREAKING DONKEY! DROP THE DONKEY, YOU IDIOT!

We have to be aware that there are jerks and there are also people mean well. Humans offer constructive criticism to show love, even if there is nothing wrong. I’ve seen perfect works of fiction get eviscerated by well-meaning “helpful” critique groups.

This is why it is critical to really understand the rules of writing, why it is essential to really know what our book is about, and to learn to be confident in our brand. This way, when well-meaning folk offer us poles and twine to tie up the donkey on a sledge, we can say, “No, thanks. I think my donkey can walk.”

This is one of the many reasons I love for authors to have a blog. It really does help us develop rhino skin and trains us to publish even when the writing isn’t worthy of a Pulitzer. One mantra I have when I find I am afraid to move forward is:

Perfect is the enemy of the good.

So are you carrying the donkey? Do you find him difficult to drop? Do you fall into the trap of carrying your donkey? I know I am a notorious donkey-toter, but getting better every day. What tools, suggestion or advice would you offer to other who struggle with their respective donkeys? What are warning signs that you are carrying a donkey?

I LOVE hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of AUGUST, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

rattheearnestpainter is JULY’s WINNER! Please send me your 5000 word WORD document, double spaced and in 12 point Times New Roman to kristen at wana intl dot com! Congratulations! You can also choose to send a one-page query letter (250 words) or three-page synopsis (750 words) instead.

Check out the other NEW classes below! 

All W.A.N.A. classes are on-line and all you need is an internet connection. Recordings are included in the class price.

Upcoming Classes

Blogging for Authors  (August 26th) will teach you all you need to know to start an author blog good for going the distance. Additionally I would also recommend the class offered earlier that same week (August 22nd) Branding for Authors to help you with the BIG picture. These classes will benefit you greatly because most blogs will fail because writers waste a lot of time with stuff that won’t work and never will and that wastes a lot of time.

I am here to help with that 😉 .

We are doing ANOTHER round of Battle of the First Pages!!! August 5th THIS FRIDAY!

The first time we did this we had some tech issues doing this new format and we’ve since worked those out, but for now I am still keeping the price low ($25) until we get this streamlined to my tastes.

LIMITED SEATS. This is an open workshop where each person will submit his or her first page of the manuscript for critique. I will read the page aloud and “gong” where I would have stopped reading and explain why. This is an interactive workshop designed to see what works or what doesn’t. Are you ready to test your page in the fire?

Hooking the Reader—Your First Five Pages August 12th

The first five pages are the most essential part of the novel, your single most powerful selling tool. It’s how you will hook agents, editors and readers. This class will cover the most common blunders and also teach you how to hook hard and hook early. This class is 90 minutes long, 60 minutes of instruction and 30 minutes for Q&A.

Your First Five Pages Gold Level

This includes the webinar and a detailed critique your first five pages.

Your First Five Pages Platinum Level

This includes the webinar and a detailed critique of your first twenty pages.

Bullies & Baddies—Understanding the Antagonist September 2nd–September 2nd

All fiction must have a core antagonist. The antagonist is the reason for the story problem, but the term “antagonist” can be highly confusing. Without a proper grasp of how to use antagonists, the plot can become a wandering nightmare for the author and the reader.

This class will help you understand how to create solid story problems (even those writing literary fiction) and then give you the skills to layer conflict internally and externally.

Bullies & Baddies—Understanding the Antagonist Gold

This is a personal workshop to make sure you have a clear story problem. And, if you don’t? I’ll help you create one and tell the story you want to tell. This is done by phone/virtual classroom and by appointment. Expect to block off at least a couple hours.

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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59 Comments

Do You Have TRUE GRIT? If Not, 7 Ways To Get It

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In my tenure in this profession it is sad how many truly talented writers I’ve seen who never made it. The reason? Talent is useless without mental toughness. It takes true grit to make it in this business.

Too many writers are simply not going to make it because they don’t have the sticking power. And while this is an easy observation to make, I am here to do more than point out the obvious. I’m here to give some practical ways to improve psychological toughness, get better at being disciplined, and eat goals and deadlines for breakfast (they have ZERO calories, btw).

Relax and enjoy the holidays. Refueling is vital. Bookmark this. Let it soak in and then be ready to act come January 1st. These tips work for anything you want to accomplish, btw.

So…

Seven Tips for True Grit

One—Set Goals

No really and don’t roll your eyes at me 😛 . Set them. I know you hear this all the time but it’s true. Write them down and make them real. How can you map a course if you don’t know were you are going?

When I was in sales we had a saying, Fail to plan. Plan to fail.

If you have a goal to eventually replace that day job with being a full-time writer? Write it down and then plan your escape. Studies have shown that we’re far more likely to reach goals once we have written them down and that isn’t shocking.

To write them down we have to name them, claim them and define them. We take them out of the “nebulous gray.” It is far easier to reach for concrete benchmarks than existentialism.

Forget Realistic—Realistic is For Wimps

Most of us underestimate what we can accomplish. When you write your goal, rewrite it just a little bigger. What’s the worse that can happen? You accomplish more than you thought you could?

 

Years ago I did this. I wrote down, In 2011 I am going to get an agent. Then I crossed it out and wrote In 2011 I am going to sign with one of the best agents in NYC.

See, we never know what is going to happen or what chain of events might open what door. In early 2011, I wrote a little book called Are You There, Blog? It’s Me Writer. I was still an unknown and this was also during the days that most people were unconvinced social media was fundamental shift in global civilization we all NOW know it to be.

When I wrote the book, I needed blurbs, so I made up a Hail Mary List. These were authors who I loved, who were SO BIG I doubted my e-mail would ever even get through.

On that Hail Mary List was NYTBSA James Rollins. Not only did I get through, he’d actually read  my first book We Are Not Alone—The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and was MY FAN *falls over dead*. He asked if it would be okay of he sent my book to HIS agent…who later that year signed me (who happened to be one of THE biggest agents in NYC). I not only got a blurb and a friend, I got an agent.

What if I’d limited my goal?

Visualize Process NOT Fantasy

A critical mistake I made when I first decided to become a writer was I spent far too much time “visualizing” the success. In my head I dreamed of sales, wealth, book tours and being able to travel the world to research and people lined out the door to meet me and seeing stacks of displays of my books.

Nothing per se wrong with that but just that is fantasy and can be unhealthy.

To reach any big dream, we must fall in love with the process. 

I am up almost every morning at 4:15 a.m. That seriously sucked in the beginning. I had to learn to fall in love with it. Blogging? SUCKED for the first 2 years. It was so hard week after week, month after month writing thousands of words to entertain CheapXanaxANDYoungCoeds.com.

But I knew I was honing my skills. I was learning to write leaner, meaner, faster and cleaner. I was training myself to eat deadlines for breakfast. I was training out my perfectionism that held onto things instead of shipping. I was opening myself to public criticism, gaining fans, feedback and thicker skin.

Original Image courtesy of HeikoHartsuijker Flickr Creative Commons

Original Image courtesy of HeikoHartsuijker Flickr Creative Commons

Through a lot of really humbling lessons, I had to fall in love with all of it, not just the fantasy of what “one day” might be. Writers’ groups are all filled with people who never have pages to read, who never finish what they start. They don’t blog, don’t build a platform, but all have dreams that HBO will be replacing Game of Thrones with their series.

Nothing wrong with that goal, btw. Just don’t leave it at that. Do the WORK.

To the Pain—Set Accountability 

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In the New Year we all have goals. Maybe you want to finish the novel by a certain day or query by a certain day or publish by a certain day. I love pleasure but pain is good for the soul. Put some stakes on it. Go purchase something you really want. Preferably something a close friend (ideally a mean friend) also wants.

Maybe it is a $50 gift card. Maybe a new gaming system, spa package, or 90 minute massage. Whatever.

Put it in the pot and then, if you make your goal by the date it’s yours, if not? It goes to your accountability partner. Yes, rewards and treats are all fabulous but they are a tad too easy.

Often we are far more motivated when it will cost us something. The more it costs us, the more motivated we are to accomplish said goal.

So if a loved one gives you a fat gift card for Christmas, maybe throw that in the Goal Pot and take a gamble for a greater ROI. Use that $100 Amazon card for cool stuff you want to reward yourself with, but also as fuel to finish all revisions by February 15th 😉 .

Ditch Negative People, Whiners & Complainers

Image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Memekode.

Image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Memekode.

Seriously. You wouldn’t let someone bring their dog in your house and let it crap on your floor, would you?  Yes, if someone brings a pet over and once in a while there is an oops? OKAY. But that is very different than someone bringing over their dog and using your living room as a kennel floor.

So why let people crap non-stop in your head? Sorry for the gross image but that’s what that is. Whining and complaining do nothing but increase stress levels which shrinks the size of the hippocampus leading to us being progressively more stupid.

Yes, science has proven that hanging out with whiners makes us stupid.

Everyone has a bad day and that isn’t what I’m talking about. Give them 60 seconds and then enough. Start talking about solutions. People who are chronically negative or addicted to whining? Bye.

I’ve learned to determine the ASKHOLES in my life and get rid of them. You know what an askhole is? That is a person who is always in a crisis, who always needs advice and after they have derailed your life and gotten your advice? Does whatever the hell stupid thing they are going to do anyway…often leading to the next crisis that you WARNED them would happen.

Turn them loose.

Surround Yourself With Accountability & Excellence

Original image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Stoere Schrijfster.

Original image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Stoere Schrijfster.

We are who we hang around. Character is contagious. When I was new as a writer I didn’t understand how important this was. I thought I could fight the inertia of mediocrity with sheer willpower. I also thought that if I was part of a group of people who said they wanted to be writers, well then they wanted to be writers. Right?

No.

Actions speak louder than words.

Writers write. Not all critique groups and writing groups are good for you. If you want to join a writing group, look to how many people in the group are published, multi-published, awarded, writing full-time, blogging, etc. If it’s just a bunch of people who meet and have coffee and talk about writing? Your time is better spent at home writing. Hanging out with that garbage is like hanging around radioactive material and thinking you are fine.

NO.

Negativity and mediocrity are invisible particles that punch your will and your dreams full of tiny holes until they collapse and die. Yes, you can try to ward it off and buffer from it but the best course of action? Stop growing strawberries writing dreams at Chernobyl crappy writing groups.

One of the things I’ve worked hard to do is to make myself available on W.A.N.A.Tribe. Back in November during Nanowrimo I introduced writing sprints in the Main Room IM field.

I rallied everyone at 8:45 a.m. CST and we did as many as 5 sprints. 30 minutes per sprint. Write as much as you could. Report back the numbers. Then we took a break and came back at 3:30 p.m. CST and did more sprints.

Everyone who participated finished Nano. I finished in 16 days WITH the flu while blogging.

Once Nano ended, I changed the plan. We now still meet every morning at 8:45 a.m. CST and we do what I call Blackouts. 40 minutes to do as much work as you can then report back to the group what you accomplished.

Writers now get to see MY operational tempo, since I’m almost always leading the team. We do as many as five Blackouts before lunchtime. Then, we rally back at 3:30 after I get Spawn for more Blackouts. I generally do about 3 more.

Writers get to see what I accomplish in that 40 minute block. What is my word count? How much did I get edited? How many Blackout sessions did it take to get my blog written and posted?

This doesn’t mean people need to copy me, but I tell you, it helped me TREMENDOUSLY when social media peeled back the curtain and I started seeing how authors I admired worked and got so much accomplished.

Also, this current system offers accountability and makes all of us push harder. There is a level of healthy competition and since we are a TEAM, it is far harder for me to say, “Eh, I think I will take today off.”

Up Your Operational Tempo

Believe it or not, I am not the strongest member of my team, merely the best looking #ITSACURSE. There are writers on our Blackout Team who blow ME away. Always look to surround yourself with people stronger than yourself and don’t buy your own excuses.

Get comfortable being uncomfortable.

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You may not be able to do this on your own. You may lack the discipline so come over to W.A.N.A.Tribe and join out Blackouts. Sometimes, you need guidance from a pro. Take one of the classes listed below. Or, feel free to e-mail me at kristen at wana intl dot com. I do consulting for social media, blogging and branding, but I also can help with your books. Instead of wasting another year revising or rewriting, a small investment in time with me might save you months or years of work.

This job is never easy, but it is always AWESOME.

What are your thoughts? Do you see some suggestions here that might improve your odds of reaching your goals? Do you try to go it alone too much? Do you give negative people too much permission to crap in your life? Do you think you might go a tad too easy on yourself? I hope to see y’all over at W.A.N.A. Tribe! No excuses this year that you have no system of support 😛 .

Remember to check out the new classes listed at W.A.N.A International. Your friends and family can get you something you need for Christmas. Social Media for Writers, Blogging for Writers, and Branding for Authors. 

Also, I have one craft class listed. Your Story in a Sentence—Crafting Your Log-Line. Our stories should be simple enough to tell someone what the book is about in ONE sentence. If we can’t do this, often there is a plot problem. This class is great for teaching you how to be master plotters and the first TEN SIGNUPS get their log-line shredded for free, so you will be agent ready for the coming year.

Enough of that…

I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of DECEMBER, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. 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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