How Writing Quickly Can Improve Your Storytelling

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Ah, it is National Novel Writing Month. Many of you are participating in NaNoWriMo (write 50,000 words in a month) and many are not. Either way is fine. Your call. I love doing Nano simply because I have to fast draft everything because I tend to nitpick stuff to death, especially fiction.

I fast draft all year, so November is the only time I have company and lots of immoral support.

Why do I love writing fast? So happy you asked!

Many new authors slog out that first book, editing every word to perfection, revising, reworking, redoing. When I used to be a part of critique groups, it was not at all uncommon to find writers who’d been working on the same book two, five, eight and even ten years. Still see them at conferences, shopping the same book, getting rejected, then rewriting, rewriting…..


Great, maybe Kathryn Stockett, the author of The Help took five years and 62 revisions to get her story published. Awesome for her. And yes, her book was a runaway success, but this isn’t the norm. It’s playing Literary Lottery with our careers.

For most writers, it will be hard to have a long-term successful career if our pace is a book or two a decade.

Most authors who’ve made legend status were all talented, yes. But many were (are) also prolific. 

Does Writing Quickly Produce Inferior Work?

As I mentioned in a post last week, I’m a huge fan of Fast Draft. Candy Havens teaches this technique, and it works. Write your novel in two weeks a month, whatever, but write fast and furious. No looking back. Always forward. You can fix stuff later.

I’ve heard some writers criticize this method, believing that writing at this increased pace somehow compromises quality. Many writers are afraid that picking up speed will somehow undermine craftsmanship, yet this isn’t necessarily so.

To prove my point, here are some interesting factoids about writing hard and fast, some taken from James Scott Bell’s WONDERFUL book The Art of War for Writers (pages 79-82):

  • William Faulkner wrote As I Lay Dying in six weeks.
  • Ernest Hemingway wrote The Sun Also Rises in six weeks.
  • After being mocked by a fellow writer that writing so fast created junk, John D. MacDonald wrote The Executioners in a month. Simon & Schuster published it in hardback. It was also serialized in a magazine, selected by a book club, and turned into the movie Cape Fear TWICE.
  • Ray Bradbury wrote Fahrenheit 451 in nine days on a rented typewriter.
  • Isaac Asimov was the author/editor of over 700 books over the course of his career.
  • Stephen King writes 1,500 words a day every day of the year except his birthday. He’s published over fifty novels, and I don’t even know how many short stories and novellas. Let’s just say he’s written a LOT. Could he have done this writing a book every three years? Every five?


Meet “Captain Kirk Brain” and “Spock Brain”

Here’s my explanation of why writing faster than we “are comfortable” can produce fiction just as good (if not better) than a work that’s been written slowly and deliberately. And, since all roads that don’t lead to Lord of the Rings lead to Star Trek…

When we write quickly, we get into The Zone and pass The Wall. We become part of the world we’re creating. Fatigue wears out the cerebral cortex (the “Inner Editor” which I will call our “Spock Brain”). Fatigue diverts us to the Limbic Brain (also known as the Reptilian or Primal Brain, or for today’s purposes—“The Captain Kirk Brain”).

When we get tired, we go into a fugue-like state and our reality shifts. The closest way non-writers can experience this is by licking strange frogs or chasing 20 Pixie Sticks with a bottle of NyQuil.


When we immerse ourselves and keep pressing and pushing we are there. Vested and present. We think about that place we’ve created and the people we’ve imagined non-stop. We eat, think, and dream about it.

If we slow down? We’re constantly having to reacclimatize ourselves and regain familiarity, which costs us time and makes us over think and second guess. We also end up making dumb mistakes.

I had one book I wrote many years ago and it took me so long to finish that I’d actually changed the NAME of a few of the key characters by the end of the book. How did Dave suddenly become Mark? That was how unfamiliar I was with my own story. I was letting Spock Brain put curb feelers on my cortex.

Kirk brain? Another story.

Kirk Brain is emotional, visceral and has no problem kissing hot, green alien women or cheating the Kobayashi Maru. He out-bluffs Klingons, outruns Romulans, starts brawls and throws the rulebook out the window. He’s pure instinct, raw emotion and all action. In short, Kirk is the stuff of great stories. No one ever got to the end of a book and said, “Wow, that book was riveting. The grammar was PERFECT!”

Captain Kirk Brain can do it’s job better—write fiction—when Spock Brain isn’t there saying, “But Captain, you’re being illogical. It clearly states in Strunk & White….”

The BEST line in the last Star Trek movie was when Khan says to Spock, “You can’t even break rules, how can you expect to break bones?” So, I’m going to apply this to writing.

Are you breaking enough bones?

Many writers hold back emotionally when writing. Why? They aren’t going fast and hard and so Spock takes over and he wants us to use a seatbelt and our blinkers. He isn’t the guy you want in charge if you’re going for the GUTS and breaking bones.

Kirk is Great for Action and Spock is Better for Rules

Spock Brain is a perfectionist and wants us to take our time, make sure we follow all the rules and put the commas in the right spot. He’s seriously uncomfortable with “suspending disbelief” and he tries to explain everything so others don’t get confused. He doesn’t like risk-taking and he hates going big. Thus, he downplays things and that is poison for great fiction.

The trick is to hop on a cerebral crotch-rocket and outrun Spock. He is seriously uncomfortable with speeding and you can easily lose him in the school zones or the parking lot of Walmart. Don’t worry, Spock will yell at us later….at the appropriate time which is during revisions.

Thing is, Kirk and Spock make the perfect team, whether on The Enterprise or in our head. They balance each other, but they are also antagonists. Kirk wants to put phasers on KILL, and Spock wants to check and see if the rules for the Oxford Comma allows this.

Blogging and Writing Quickly Helps Us Learn to Shut off The Spock Brain

Blogging helps us ship and get comfortable with going FAST. No maybe every piece isn’t the quality of a New Yorker article, but who cares? It’s a BLOG. We aren’t looking to win the Pulitzer. We’re looking to get better riding a Cerebral Ducati and ignoring all of Spock’s protests that “This isn’t safe” and “Where is our helmet?” and “Clearly the speed limit forbids you going this fast.”


When we get the stories out and on the screen faster, they’re more visceral. We get more practice with more stories since we aren’t letting Spock nit-pick for the next ten years…which he will do if Kirk doesn’t go running the other way despite Spock’s protests. So even if you don’t do Nano, try picking up speed. I know it’s scary but what do you have to lose?

What are your thoughts? Has your inner Vulcan taken over and edited all the life out of your story? Has Kirk been allowed too much sway and now you’ve got to let Spock whip it into structure shape? Does the idea of going faster scare you?

I LOVE hearing from you!

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. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel.

I will announce OCTOBER’S WINNER later. Hubby has had the flu and I need more time to figure out who won.

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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You Know You’re A Writer When….

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So, I am gearing up for Nanowrimo and (of course) Hubby decides to get the flu because he is plotting against me  and secretly doesn’t want me to succeed  it is cold and flu season and this stuff just happens.

Poor thing.

Anyway, this means I was up all night long and have yet to go to sleep, but I did find a way to amuse myself between 1 and 4 a.m. before the fun hallucinations kicked in.

I found…THIS! Yeah, yeah, some of you have heard it before but it still cracks ME up and since I am here to amuse myself most of the time? Pthththththth. Haters gonna hate. Usually I do just fine blogging and writing in November, but just in case y’all don’t hear from me for a bit…

I figured I’d share since we all can use a good laugh before the real fun begins. And believe it or not, there are some people who have NOT heard my jokes. I know! Right? We should totally cure that. TODAY!

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We writers are different *eye twitches* for sure, but the world would be SO boring without us. Am I the only person who watches Discovery ID and critiques the killers?

You are putting the body THERE? Do you just WANT to go to prison? Why did you STAB them? Helllooo? Blood spatter? LOO-Min-OL? Moron.

I think it’s a writer thing. So, since today I am staring at the “White Screen of I SUCK and Why Did I Want to Be a WRITER?”, we are just going to roll with it…

You Know You’re a Writer When…

You’ve learned that regular people are cute, and no longer get offended with this conversation.

Regular Person: What do you do?

Writer: I’m a writer.

Regular Person: No, I mean, what’s your real job?

You’ve come to understand that writers are a lot like unicorns. Everyone knows about them, they’ve simply never seen a REAL ONE.

You Know You’re a Writer When…

The NSA, CIA and FBI no longer bother with you. Likely, they know you by name and now outsource to the creepy ice cream truck to just make a few passes and check to make sure you’re still at your computer.


As an extra bonus, the next time the NSA passes by in the panel van? Go out and ask them for a job application and maybe even a reference if you want bonus smart@$$ points.

You Know You’re a Writer When…

Kind strangers hand you cash and sandwiches and offer to pray for you. Apparently you’re regularly mistaken for a homeless person because you haven’t bathed or changed clothes in weeks and are wandering around shouting at the air.

…aaaand, you are just doing Nanowrimo.

You Know You’re a Writer When…

You hate texting because it takes too long to use proper spelling, grammar and punctuation.

You Know You’re a Writer When…

You know what’s the best time of year to dispose of a body to confuse TOD and that seriously creeps out your friends and family.

And you know what TOD stands for and that creeps them out even more.

You Know You’re a Writer When…

You’re on such a roll with the WIP that you’ve forgotten a “real” world exists (including laundry). You’re down to wearing your husband’s socks and he’s either going commando or is forced to wear that thong given to him on his 40th birthday as a joke gift. The kids? Hell, they went feral a week ago.

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You Know You’re a Writer When…

You take a break from writing to go to the store and, on the way, begin untangling a plot problem. You finally realize you’re in the next state and have no idea how you got there. But good news is, you now know which poison is best to kill off the character modeled after that cheerleader who bullied you through high school. It’s the poison that will make her fat and wrinkly before she dies slowly from terminal acne.

You Know You’re a Writer When…

You have NO CLUE what to do in case of a flood, a fire or a natural disaster, but you are actually looking forward to the collapse of civilization because you are pretty sure you will make an AWESOME Warlord.

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You Know You’re a Writer When…

You appreciate that if Febreeze is good enough for the couch, why not hose the kids? Hey, you spent extra for the anti-microbial one. It kills germs *rolls eyes*. Now your tot smells like a Hawaiian Breeze and his cooties can’t hurt others. You should get a freaking MEDAL for this kind of creativity.

You Know You’re a Writer When…

You’ve been diagnosed with Tourette’s, Multiple-Personality Disorder or both. It’s tough to explain you were simply working out dialogue when strapped to a gurney. But the upside is when they sedate you, it’s the only vacation you’ve had in months and insurance might even cover it. SCORE!

You Know You’re a Writer When…

People believe you are a shy introvert, but you just can’t bring yourself to tell them that your imaginary friends are simply WAY more interesting.

You Know You’re a Writer When…

A casket washes up in a Houston flood and while normal people are upset how tragic it is, you are wondering if there is GOLD inside. Or missing drug money.

Or if they open open it, could they unwittingly unleash the ZOMBIE PLAGUE?

Or what if it is the WRONG BODY? And it was all to cover up a mob leader faking his own DEATH?

You Know You’re a Writer When…

You realize you are a horrible human being for getting so excited for that last one because NOW YOU HAVE A NEW STORY IDEA FOR NANO YOU SICK, SICK SOULLESS PERSON!

You Know You’re a Writer When…

“Recycling” is using the same jerks from real life in a new story. We can kill them AGAIN! :D

You Know You’re a Writer When…

You’re no longer invited to family events because they can’t take the incessant correction of their grammar.

Chickens are done, people are FINISHED.

You Know You’re a Writer When…

You’re automatically safe from any episode of Hoarders because when you get enough books? Others naturally assume you’re a LIBRARY. Hey, maybe you can apply for government funding. Scratch that. Then, you’d have to let people borrow your books.

You Know You’re a Writer When…

You willingly suffer frostbite hiding in a Costco freezer eavesdropping a couple’s fight, because dialogue that epic is worth a losing pinkie toe. Your coffee table’s already tried to assassinate it 342 times anyway.

You Know You’re a Writer When…

You’ve been mistaken for Gollum multiple times, because strangers found you in a dark corner whispering “My precious….” and it was just you and your Kindle.

You Know You’re a Writer When…

You plow over the entire Kardashian family, because OMG DEAN KOONTZ!

You Know You’re a Writer When…

Your idea of fun is reading the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, talking to your friends at the Coroner’s office or reading/writing Amazon reviews of the Bic Pen for Her or the Hutzler 571 Banana Slicer.

You Know You’re a Writer When…

Speaking of the Hutzler 571 Banana Slicer, you actually bought one, not only to support the greatest comedic writing in human history, but also to screw with the TSA. Can you get it through airport security without a full-body search? Hide it near your shoulders and FREE NECK MASSAGE!

You Know You’re a Writer When…

You’ve made it onto the Mormon and Jehova’s Witness DO NOT CALL LIST because you will only promise to convert with purchase of YOUR BOOKS (and favorable 5-star reviews).

You Know You’re a Writer When…

Every time some overblown Third World dictator threatens to destabilize the world, all you can think is, “Pfft. Amateur.”

You Know You’re a Writer When…

It’s not a question of IF you will add your OWN to the comments…but WHEN… :D

I LOVE hearing from you!

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

Also, please swing by my funny Jiu Jitsu post over at Dojo Diva. Get additional suck-up points brownie points and additional chances to win my contest (fewer comments means less competition and those comments are judged separately). I am blogging for my home dojo and your support will help the blog gain traction.

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 Single Best Way to FINISH Your Novel

Kristen's New Author Pic

Kristen’s New Author Pic

It’s my FAVORITE time of the year. I SO LOVE HALLOWEEN. It is the best of all the holidays because it is the only holiday where hanging out with family and cleaning my house are optional. There’s also candy and costumes.

This year I am going as Maleficent. Still working on my costume, and since I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to pull it off, I actually had a spare Alice in Wonderland costume.


So of course I had to put THAT to use. And, you are welcome!

Yes, I filmed myself as Alice in Wonderland in the only room in the house with lighting that didn’t make me look like Alice in Wonder-When-Botox-Will-Go-On-Sale Land. But, hey, we are all here to have FUN!

Anyway, whether we Nano or not, I want to offer you a lesson about writing a novel. Probably the BEST lesson. Editing is necessary and awesome. In fact, there are a lot of books published that could have used it…a LOT of it. But, like Botox, it can be overdone and ruin something that could have been beautiful.

Editing can and WILL kill your WIP. It WILL tank progress and, if you allow it, it WILL derail you and keep you from finishing Nano. In fact, I think perfecting and editing kill more novels than “writer’s block” ever did. We futz and fuss and fret the magic right out of the work until it dies a lonely death in a forgotten digital file on a forgotten laptop.

But how can we NOT edit? How can ignoring editing make our work better? Kristen, are you mad? What’s next? Cats and dogs living together? 

It can. Trust me. Better yet. I’m an editor, so I will show and not tell.

I dig parables, so I have a good one for you.

I love to garden, but I am terrible at reading instructions, which means I am not going to read a How To book or gardening blogs, because I already have enough to read and this would steal time from my great joy…digging in the dirt. This means that, over the years, I’ve learned a lot through trial and error.

Code for : Killing Stuff

Almost seven years ago, we bought our first home. We got a sweet deal on it, but it needed work. The yard was little more than mowed field. I couldn’t wait to get in and pretty it up. I slaved for hours in triple-digit Texas heat digging holes and clearing land for gardens. I’d always loved oleander and when I found them on sale at the local nursery, I was ecstatic.

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Normally, oleander this size were about $150 but I got each for less than $20. I planted one on each corner of the house and dreamed of how beautiful they’d be when they matured.

Then we had the most freakish, freezing winter in Texas history. I’d never even seen snow before and suddenly we were buried in eight inches of it.

The Canadians can all stop laughing now. You guys have things like PLOWS, SNOW SHOVELS, SNOW TIRES…and COATS.

Anyway, the oleanders that seemed to be doing okay during the mild fall were obliterated. When early spring came, I cleaned up all the dead stuff and dug out all the oleanders and threw them away. All except one because I ran out of energy.

Much to my horror, guess what sprouted once it got warmer?



My last remaining oleander. *sniffles*

To this day, I can’t look at that oleander without grieving the other four. I feel so foolish. What if I’d just been patient? What if I hadn’t been so quick to judge what was “dead”?

This is what premature editing can do to our story. When we start hacking away and digging stuff out too soon, we have no idea what treasures we might be tossing in the garbage.

Never underestimate what your subconscious is capable of doing. Our subconscious mind is planting seeds along the way that can eventually sprout into ideas better than we imagined. Editing too soon can ruin that magic and toss it in a Hefty bag, just like my poor oleanders.

Tips to Avoid Premature Editing

Fast Draft (Kinda Like Nano on Steroids)

Candace Havens teaches a method called Fast Draft and I use it to this day. You write the entire novel in a matter of two weeks. No stopping, no looking back. No editing. This is my preferred method, because I am notorious for editing stuff to death.

In the mystery I just sent off to an agent, I forbade content editing. There were times I thought what I was writing was ridiculous. SHEER MADNESS. But, as I got closer to the end, I realized my subconscious was far smarter than I was. I ended up with a richer, deeper story that I never would have been able to consciously plot. Because I didn’t uproot those seeds of inspiration, I was finally able to watch them bloom into something far more remarkable.

The killer I’d “plotted” was actually a red herring. My subconscious actually had come up with a twist even I didn’t consciously see. Had I gone back and “fixed” things? I would have edited out the best twist in my book.

Thus I challenge those of you who might have a tough time finishing. Give permission to simply WRITE. Your subconscious might have a miracle in store for you.

Limited Edit

Allow yourself to correct typos, punctuation and grammar ONLY. Anything else that you believe needs to be changed, make a note of it in a different color. Then keep moving forward.

I know this isn’t for everyone. Every time I talk about this topic, I get a half a dozen comments from people who just can’t bear to not edit. Of course, many of them don’t have finished books, either.

In the end, these are tips. You have to find what works for you. But I would at least give these methods a try. You can always slay the superfluous adverbs later ;).

Make Notes

If you are tempted to edit, instead, just make a note of it in a different color and keep going. For instance, maybe your protagonist didn’t have a sister when you started the book, then suddenly she does. You are tempted to edit this new character out. Instead of doing that, just make a note of it and riff with it. Your muse could be doing you a solid.

Writers often whine that they wish the muse would visit, but then when she does, they undo all her magic with edits. Let her help!

Remember that Nanowrimo is NOT about 50,000 perfect words so it is okay if there is a false trail in there. But if there IS, then you at least have some breadcrumbs to get you back on track and you haven’t wasted precious time polishing something that didn’t work OR unraveling something seriously cool your muse was gifting to you when you were refilling your vodka coffee ;).

Again, if you LOVE editing and you have finished 20 novels and bathe regularly in $50 bills, keep doing it. I am ALL about writers finding what works for them. There IS no One-Size-Fits-All.

But, if you’ve had a hard time finishing or you do get stuck, it doesn’t hurt to give this a try. I argued with pros who told me to stop editing my stuff for YEARS and I was stubborn as a goat (note the pic of me with the horns above—this is before I put ON my Maleficent costume ;) ). In all honesty, I really wish I hadn’t been such a stubborn pain in the @$$.

What are your thoughts? Have you ever gotten overzealous and edited the heart out of a story and later regretted it? What tactics do you use to keep from editing too soon? Does editing early not bother you?

I LOVE hearing from you!

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

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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In It to WIN It—Preparing for NANOWRIMO (National Novel Writing Month)

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Today we are going to talk about a GLORIOUS time of year—NANOWRIMO—which stands for National Novel Writing Month. It is meant to support creativity and encourage those who say they want to be authors to give it a go and write a novel (50,000 words) in a month. Notice the challenge is 50,000 words. No one said they had to be good words. Or publishable words. Or polished words. Or edited words.

This is actually why I believe Nanowrimo is very useful for all levels of writers. It trains out perfectionism. No half-finished novel ever made the NY Times best-seller list, but some crappy slightly-less-than-glorious novels have. The biggest threats to your finished novel (and mine) are Mr. It Must Be Perfect and his evil sister Editina.

Preparing for Nanowrimo

Have Fun and Fuel Up

Anyway, whoever chose November as National Novel Writing Month was seriously brilliant, because Halloween is like Mardi Gras for writers. If you are smart, use trick-or-treating to your advantage. After combing the neighborhoods for bags of gooey corn syrup and chocolate morsels of literary energy, be a diligent parent.

Search your kid’s candy for stuff like “illicit drugs”, “poison” and “razor blades” and “get rid of it” which of course is code for “hide it in your office.” You will need that fuel for Week Two of Nano. Tape the pixie sticks under your desk in case this goes into Week Four.

You see anything that looks like THIS? It’s drugs. Confiscate it!

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Because seriously, who’s giving their Adderall away for FREE to complete and total strangers? *rolls eyes*

No…really. I need an address.

Where were we?

Technically, taking half our kids’ candy under false pretenses is gas-lighting them, but reading and literature is vital for a civilized society. The world needs more writers and normal people make crappy writers. It’s science. So how are we going to create more literary geniuses if we don’t damage our kids just a little bit?

You’re welcome.

True, years later our kids might wonder why we continued to live in a neighborhood full of psychopaths who tried to murder them every time they trick-or-treated. And they may put two-and-two together that their lives were only “in danger” the years Mommy or Daddy did Nano. But, by then, we will be a filthy rich NYTBSA and we can buy them all the candy they want to take to therapy.

OR we can team up on our grandkids because the plan was successful and our kids grew up to become writers!

I am a freaking genius.

And if you don’t have kids? Well…yeah, sucks to be you. You’ll have to pay for your own sugar rush.

Some More Practical Tips (Other than Crockpots & Yoga Pants)

Often why writers fail to finish Nanowrimo is they don’t do the right prep work or enough prep work. They believe that they will make it through 50,000 words on creativity alone and that’s like thinking a Share-Size bag of Skittles is plenty of fuel for a double marathon.

Uh huh.

BS and glitter is good for about a day. Maybe three. After that? $#!t gets real and if we haven’t done some preparation it’s going to make finishing a lot tougher, if not impossible.

I highly recommend doing Nano. Nanowrimo gives a taste of the professional pace. It also gives a sample of the professional life of a writer (especially the weeping and drinking heavily part right around November 30th).

Most of the time we (pros) do not feel inspired. If we felt inspired all the time and were a limitless-cerebral-slushee-machine-of-cherry-flavored-rainbow-imagination-genius, no one would have ever needed to invent this thing called a deadline.

And then call it something super terrifying like DEADline.

Nano Makes it REAL

Nanowrimo gets us over our romanticized notions of “writing” and lets us fall in love with the real deal. A “WIP” (Work in Progress) does not send you dozens of roses, run you bubble baths or give you long massages.

Your WIP has no idea what a hamper is, eats the last slice of pizza and leaves the box in the fridge, farts under the covers and yells DUTCH OVEN! and shoves your head under the covers. You stick with it and love it through disease plot holes sickness adverb infestations, and infidelity revision until death—deadline—do you part.

THAT is reality. THAT is being a real writer ;) .

You can do it!

What makes it easier is we learn how to rely on skills instead of just creativity because creativity will wear out pretty quickly.

Yes, many of you were star students in school. I was too. I made As on all my papers. But, unless you had a teacher that who you turn in a paper 50,000 words long? Trust me, this is a whole new world and some preparation is going to go a LONG way toward helping you finish.

Also, I want for you to do more than finish. I want to help you create something that can actually be shaped into something worthy of publishing.

If we are going to half-kill ourselves, why not?

To help you do this, I’ve linked to one of my most popular series:

Anatomy of a Best-Selling Novel

This series is a crash course in all you need to write a novel. I go over plotting on the micro and macro scale. We discuss three-act structure, etc. etc. No, it will not make your writing “formulaic.” Formulaic writing comes from execution. This series is valuable whether you are a plotter or a pantser or somewhere in between.

I call myself a plotter :D .

There is NO way I am ever going to outline, so I am not quite a plotter. I love the freedom of being a pantser (writing by the seat of my pants). But, pure pantsing is grossly ineffective (my opinion). It is a really good way to stall and it will be a nightmare to revise.

Even if you feel you are a pantser, I recommend checking out the series. Give some plotting a try. The reason. Creativity is ignited with boundaries. We love to believe that boundaries stifle our creativity, but I strongly disagree and I will prove it.

Visit Alcatraz. People incarcerated in supermax prisons are SERIOUSLY creative.

Okay, a better example…FINE.

If I said right now, “Write me a 1000 word short story.” Most of you would either blank or would stall.

BUT, if I said, “Write me a 1000 word short story about a freak show.” POOF! Ideas would abound. With just a little bit of boundaries your imagination sparks to life.

We can still write freely, but a handful of guideposts can keep us on track and can help maintain momentum.

The Series in Order:

Anatomy of a Best-Selling Story-Structure Part One

Anatomy of a Best-Selling Story-Structure Part Two

Introducing the Opposition-Structure Part Three

Is Your Story Idea STRONG Enough? Part Four

Your Story in a Sentence-Part Five

Is Your Story Primal? Part Six

Choosing a Genre-Part Seven

How to Manage Scenes in a Novel-Part Eight

Which is the Best POV for YOUR Story? Part Nine

Of course I recommend reading all of these, but if you do have to choose one, Part Four is a good one. A major reason many people do not complete Nano is they select far too weak of a story idea. The idea might work for a short story, but it simply is not robust enough for something as long as a novel. Thus it fizzles.

If you pick two to read? Go for Part Three as well. The single largest problem most new writers have is they DO NOT properly understand the antagonist. No antagonist? No story. Waxing rhapsodic for 50,000 words is not a novel. Navel-gazing is not a novel. Bouncing back and forth in time is not a novel. Novels are about one thing and one thing only—trouble. Without an antagonist your story will collapse in on itself.

Well, there you have it. Enjoy the rest of your October. Live it up kiddies while you can. You can sign up for Nanowrimo HERE.

I am still undecided if I’m going to do it. I usually do. I will be fast-drafting a NF I have due to my publisher, but I don’t know if I want to do a fiction at the same time, though I’ve done it before. AND, I have bombed Nano (multiple times), so I’m not perfect. When I blew it it’s because I failed to prepare. Fail to plan plan to fail. When I did prepare, however, I finished in 12 days. So it DOES make a difference.

So, you going to Nano? Were you going to pass but now the peer pressure is getting to you? Have you ever completed Nano? What helped you finish? What was your best time? Or did you sneak in at 11:59 P.M. November 30? Do you think plotters have an advantage in Nano? Are you a plotter or a pantser? Or a plotser?

Planning on confiscating “drugs” from your kids trick-or-treat bags?

I LOVE hearing from you!

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

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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10 Ways for ADD Writers to STAR WARS! …Be More Productive

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Other writers frequently ask how I somehow manage to get a lot of stuff done, despite my having the attention span of a ferret…with a bad crack habit. Here are 10 ways to help you be productive even if OOH! SHINY!

…even if you tend to be a tad majorly ADD. The following tips are what help ME stay focused. I am NOT a doctor or psychologist or ADD expert. I’m a Jedi master, warp engine inspector, and WRITER so you get what you get.

We’ve been talking this week about how to be able to do all it takes to not only be a digital age author, but to freaking ROCK IT while we are here. Truthfully, the explosion of social media is just proof to me that ADD people will rule the world…which probably explains all those “End of the World” prophesies.

In the meantime? We have dreams and deadlines and most of us have grown fond of clean clothes. Also, our family is all needy and whiny and says things like, “Mommy, why is there no food?” “Daddy, why won’t the lights turn on?” “Honey, why are there people living in our basement?”

*rolls eyes*

Can you say “high maintenance”?

OKAY, so tips…

1. Make lists.

I get distracted easily, so a list reminds me of what I need to get accomplished. I make separate lists—housework, fiction, non-fiction, business stuff, global domination using sea monkeys. Then, once I have the list, I do the hardest thing on my writing and business lists FIRST (housework can WAIT).

Like Covey says, Never mistake the urgent for the important.

I also add stuff to the list I’ve already done…just so I can cross it out because it makes me smile and feel SUPER accomplished. Don’t judge me because you do it, too.

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2. Understand that feelings are narcissists and pathological liars.

Writing is a profession, not a playpen. Professionals ignore their feelings and do it anyway. Only children, amateurs and  The Long Island Medium listen to their feelings. Feelings are fickle, lazy, and secretly jealous of your work and a tad pissed that you no longer hang out with them as much as you used to. The secret to success is to work your tail off. Be willing get up earlier and stay up later than others. Be willing to do what others won’t.

But I wanna write books. I don’t wanna do social media, toooooo. It’s haaaaard.

Yes. It is. There are many reasons this profession is not for everyone.

3. Use The Force…of self-discipline.

Who cares HOW you get things done, so long as they get done?

I use the “Swiss Cheese” approach. I have my list and I take bite after bite after bite until the work is finished. Every book can be written in 250, 500, or 1,000 word bites. I CANNOT work linearly, so I don’t try and yes I was always in trouble in school but public schools were designed to train factory workers and corporate mind slaves, not people who get paid to play with imaginary friends.

4. Mix it up.

I am a writer, wife, entrepreneur, teacher, and mom who has yet to make enough money to afford servants (which sucks), and cats make lousy slaves. This means I get to do most of the cooking, cleaning, laundry and housework. Write your 200 words, fold a load of whites, empty the dishwasher, then write another 200 words.

5. Suck it up, buttercup.

Understand that sometimes we will have to sit for a long time and focus. It’s hard. Whaaaaaaahhhhh, but anyone who thinks being a writer is a fluffy hamster dream has been hanging out with their feelings…and feelings lie, sabotage and will talk you into living on ice cream and cookie sprinkles.

6. Make mean writer friends.

Yes, the Swiss Cheese approach works well for people with ADD, and yes, there are times we need to duct tape our a$$es to the chair. This is why I befriend really mean people who kinda scare me. On the surface they are funny and sweet and would do anything for a friend…but that’s the issue. They will do anything for a friend, including ordering a hit on my X-Box 360.

7. Ditch loser friends.

We all have them or have had them. People who like to complain, make excuses, indulge in their feelings all the time. People who have a new dream every other week. I wanna be an astronaut, no a writer, no a vacuum salesman, no a journalist!

Ditch writers (and other people) who believe in luck, not work. Laziness, apathy, and whining are contagious. Treat excuses like EBOLA. A friend coughs blood excuses all over you, and, within two to three days, you start coughing up blood excuses, too…until your dream of being a writer liquifies and bleeds out and I hope you’re happy with yourself.


8. Forget perfection.

Perfection is an urban legend, started by Feelings (because Feelings are a needy boyfriend/girlfriend who don’t understand the world does not revolve around them.) The world doesn’t reward perfection; it rewards finishers. Often we lose focus on what we are REALLY doing, because we are getting sidetracked with nitpicking.

9. Exercise.

Often ADD can be fueled by being too sedentary. Human bodies were not designed to sit on their @$$e$ all day. Ever have a puppy that chews everything and is into everything and short of strapping itself to a rocket is just being a GIANT PAIN IN THE @$$?

How do you get it to behave? Put on roller blades and run puppy until puppy wants to slip into something more comfortable…like a coma. ADD people are human puppies, so stop piddling on the carpet…I mean, go get a little exercise and your focus will generally improve.

Four times a week I go to Jiu Jitsu and roll around on the mats and inflict pain on large men. Sure, it is probably Freudian, but it is also fun and it helps keep the joints loose and the mind calm.

10. Drink lots of water. The clear stuff. That stuff from the faucet.

Human bodies are a hydroelectric system, and water enhances conductivity. Cool writer ideas/thoughts work this way. Muse Pixies of Awesomeness are conducted through your brain to your fingers and they bring the cool story stuff. MPAs like to travel via fairy, or ferry on WATER. They can’t travel if the waterways are too dry and moor them on a cookie sprinkle…and then you can’t focus.

It’s science. Don’t argue.


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Some experts say multitasking doesn’t work and that is simply because they suck at it.

Multitasking is awesome for ADD people namely because by definition we need at least two simultaneous activities to talk our brain into cooperating. Why some people suck at multitasking is 1) they have a normal boring brain that needs time to buffer or 2) they pick the wrong activities to pair together.

BAD IDEA: Using a chainsaw to clear deadwood while doing baby-mommy yoga.

GOOD IDEA: Listening to soundtrack to American Horror Story while clearing deadwood and making mental notes of the feel of chainsaw for future use in stories.

I’ll give an example of a great way to multitask. As writers, READING is a huge part of our job. I can almost instantly tell writers who don’t read, mostly because their writing sucks.

Audio books are our friend. I inhale audio books while folding laundry or doing mundane but necessary chores like taxes dishes.

Thing is, pair one rote activity with one that you need to do that will engage and develop your creative brain. It’s about working smarter, not harder. And, since your ADD brain likes to paint the cat when you aren’t looking, giving it story time keeps it happy and engaged and out of trouble.

What about you guys? Those of you ADD folk out there who’ve paid attention to this point, first of all, CONGRATULATIONS!!!

…now back in your hole.

It writes the words or it gets the hose O_o.

What are your thoughts? Struggles? Tips? Words of wisdom. It’s okay. You have permission to get back in your hole after you comment :D.

It rubs the elbow grease on. IT RUBS THE ELBOW GREASE ON! *pets fluffy white dog*

I LOVE hearing from you!

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

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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3 Ways to Fire Up Your Writing Career Today

My impression of writers on social media….

My impression of writers on social media…. #tinfoilhat

I am an “Old Dog” of the digital publishing paradigm. When I started out on social media, I did not want to be a social media expert. I enjoyed editing and teaching and longed to write fiction. But every a$$clown with a Twitter handle was a “Social Media Expert” and much of the teaching was nothing short of ridiculous.

Some of the advice was downright predatory (or, in my book, cheating).

In my estimation, most of the tactics were more likely to increase author suicide rates than book sales, so I finally decided to become a Social Media Expert Jedi ;) .

I’ve been through all the fads. The FREE BOOK Rush of 2010, The Great .99 Book Deal of 2011, The Amazing Algorithmic Alchemy, The Magical Metrics and the Automation Invasion of 2012-2014 (there are still skirmishes along the front).

Guess what? I’m still here.

I don’t say this really to brag as much as to make a point. Social media, done properly is not a short-term burst of gimmicky energy. There is no magic to it and it while it is simple, that doesn’t mean it’s easy. We not only have to manage the brand, we also produce the product.

Not a job for the faint of heart.

And with all the tweeting and blogging and slogging month after month and year after year, I know that it is SUPER easy for us writers to get overwhelmed. That’s why today, I’m here to offer some simple ways to inject fire back into your writing and your career.

*plays Eye of the Tiger loudly* *punches at the air*

#1—Appreciate that Writing and Social Media Branding Can Coexist

When I am on Twitter, I often get tweets like these:

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Guess what? I agree! The writing always, always comes first. But why is there an almost automatic assumption we must choose?

Social media, done the way I teach in Rise of the Machines, takes maybe 10-15 minutes a day and feel free to take off weekends. I offer no get-rich-quick advice. My author platforms take time (and discipline) to build, but they are virtually indestructible.

And the writer who tells me she doesn’t have ten minutes a day to work on her brand isn’t serious about being successful.

Whether we like it or not, social media is necessary for our job. Yes writing is fun, but it is still a profession.

Writers are in the entertainment business. Note that half that word is business. We are in the business of selling books. When I was in sales, we had a saying. Fish where the fish are. And the fish are schooling on social media. Makes sense to drop some lines.

The writer who is willing to tackle doing social media well is making a transition from hobbyist to professional. Celebrate! This means you are going places!

Thus, if the career has been sluggish, it might be time to go polish some other types of skills that are now required in this profession. Many times, the problem isn’t with the tool. We simply don’t know how to use that tool well.

#2—YES!!! The Product is All that Matters

When it comes to a brand, the surface perception is only part of the equation. I can have a fabulous website, great author pics, charming tweets and be a downright likable gal, but if my books stink?

No amount of social media magic can salvage literary dog poo.

This is one of the reasons I have written over 900 blogs. I blog a lot on craft because the product is essential. It is the most important part of the equation. Yes, write first. Take classes. Hone your art. Because your social media brand must be able to deliver an excellent product. It is okay to believe that your writing is important because…it IS.

So yes, we do need to work on our platform but you do have my “expert” opinion to focus on that end product. Relax about the social media, stuff. Really.

#3—Embrace the Social Media Trickle Down Effect

Part of embracing the new type of work we must do as digital age writers comes with redefining how we see our work. Feel free to get on social media and trudge through it like some chore, but with that kind of an attitude? I recommend just staying off altogether. We can sense a poor attitude through the screen.

Instead, I recommend you reframe what you’re doing and how beneficial that time really is. It’s an investment in you, in your success beyond simply selling books. There are all kinds of other benefits many writers never even consider.


Virtually every profession benefits from professional networking, why would writing be any different? Where else can you have 24 hour access to publishing professionals all over the world? Follow your heroes and make them mentors. What are they reading? What are they doing? How do they manage their time?

Where else other than Twitter could I start my day chatting with the former editor of Cosmopolitan Magazine (and one of my FAVORITE authors)?

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I used Twitter to follow James Rollins. It’s how I got to know him well enough to eventually contact him about giving me a blurb for my second book.

While an in-person writing group is great, often they can be a bit heavy with new writers. Places like Twitter or Facebook allow us access to the seasoned pros. We can chat with people we’d have to otherwise wait a year or more to see at a conference. Take advantage!


Every writer out there gripes about not having enough time to write. Okay. Twitter helps us work smarter not harder. Twitter can make research much faster and far more accurate.

For instance, if you want to write a sexy new story with a Navy SEAL and don’t want to lose weeks researching, hop onto #NAVY and make some connections. Experts are always eager to help writers get the facts correct. The fastest and easiest way to find them?


Being Brave

And, for the shy folks, I know social media is forcing you to do something afraid. That is good. Use this time to hone being brave. Be brave in the small moments on-line and it might make you braver in your writing.

In the end, remember that there are mega-successful authors who are using social media to reap major advantages. This notion that we must choose writing or networking is short-sighted and an excuse. We all must learn simply to use time well and be disciplined.

If we assume that platform-building is this awful horrible time-intensive thing, then we psych ourselves out of some truly fantastic benefits that can really fire up our careers. We have to remember that it is very possible to write books and be on social media. Just like we can bathe and brush our teeth. No need to choose ;) .

What are your thoughts? Do you psych yourself out when it comes to branding and social media? Do you think you need to do everything? Do you see how social media can allow you to take simple steps to fire up your future? What are some ways you add some mojo back into your routine?

I LOVE hearing from you!

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

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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Three Reasons Your Writing Career is Stuck

Original Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Mike Spasoff

Original Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Mike Spasoff

Writing is a uniquely difficult profession for more than a number of reasons. There are a lot of things we could have chosen to do that would have been easier. For instance, discovering life on Mars, developing telepathy, or inventing gluten-free dairy-free calorie-free carb-free pizza that smooths wrinkles the more slices you eat.


There are days that even I go. Really, Kristen? You HAD to be a writer? You could have been a brain surgeon by now.

Then my muse comes back and says, “What? And take the EASY way out?”

Me and my Muse

Me and my Muse

This is a tough tough job and I am here to let you know…

It never gets easier.


It’s like Space Invaders. It just gets faster and faster and harder and harder…until you DIE.

Or give up.

You’re welcome.

This is why we must do this job because we love it. Writing is not a profession we get into for any other reason other than we have a passion for one thing…writing. I’ve experienced many levels of being an author. I’ve been the wide-eyed teenager in a bookstore spending babysitting money on a copy of Writer’s Digest Magazine because one day I was going to be a writer.

I’ve been a brand new writer who had no clue that POV did not mean Prisoners of Vietnam.

I’ve graduated from being so clueless I didn’t even realize how clueless I was to being someone who writes full time, travels the country speaking to hundreds of people. I’ve written almost a thousand blogs and have three books under my belt. Five if we count the two that are not yet published.

Fifteen if we count all of those that the State Department has locked at the CDC.

This is all to say that, at some point, I’ve been where most of you are now. In my last post, Good Girls Don’t Become Best-Sellers I talked about how imperative it is that we CALL ourselves a writer, that we USE our names. There is no aspiring. When we hide behind cutesy monikers and avatars and call ourselves “aspiring” writers we are being chicken$#!t.

*If you didn’t know better, it is okay. I did it too ((HUGS))*

Fortune favors the bold.

But what happens if you have been bold? Maybe you are calling yourself a writer and you are blogging (mostly) and you just have hit a slump that you just can’t seem to get out of. Having been at this for many years, I will tell you it happens. Success is not a straight shot up and to the right.

This is why I loathe the term aspiring writer with the power of a thousand suns. Aspiring is a poseur. Aspiring wears a beret and quotes Keates in a phony accent and drinks too many cappuccinos then walks the check. Aspiring is a fake and a flake. Aspiring won’t be there in the dark night of the soul when the blood runs freely and you’re holding your own guts. Aspiring is a literary booty call and a book baby daddy. Aspiring wants all of the benefits of a “relationship” with none of the sacrifice.

The thing is, “aspiring writers” never get stuck any more that a unicorn gets stuck because a unicorn isn’t a real animal and an aspiring writer isn’t a real writer and only real writers get stuck.

And yeah, I know I just made myself about as popular as a clown at a funeral for that one, but the aspiring writers will all be too lazy or chicken to blog about it.

Now that we are left with the writers. You will get stuck and today we’ll talk about three main reasons why.

You are Still Trying to Find the Time

This happens a lot especially in the beginning of your career, especially if you are unaware of that nonsense about calling yourself “aspiring.” If you desire to be PAID for your writing then you are no longer a hobbyist, you are a writer. This means this is a job. Granted, what level of job is going to be up to you. It must be congruent with your goals.

This said, time is not loose change lying around in the couch cushions with the Cheerios and the remote control. We don’t find time, we make time. If you were attending law school, would you have to “find time” for that? If someone told you today that a NYC agent had a deal ready to sign along with a check for a sweet advance, would you wonder if you could find the time to make the meeting?

If we don’t take ourselves seriously no one else will.

Decide how much time you require to meet your goal and then everything else is scheduled around THAT.

You Aim to Please

People please, that is. I hate saying this, but I have struggled with being a notorious people-pleaser. I’ve bordered on an almost pathological need to be liked. Still do. When I was starting out, everything came before my writing. My brother and sister-in-law would drop off their young children for me to watch because I didn’t have a real job.

My mom would interrupt and expect me to take her shopping or help her paint or run errands. Everyone felt they had carte blanche to part out my day because I wasn’t doing anything anyway.

Then, later when I joined a critique group, every time someone didn’t like something, I’d change it to make them happy. Pretty soon, what probably was a good (albeit newbie story) was a Franken-novel beyond repair.

When I began blogging, the second a commenter said something negative, I’d change whatever the “offense” was. Or, I’d make my content “tamer”. Guess what I’ve learned?

Your family can find other friends and babysitters. No one wants to publish a Franken-novel and no one cares about milk toast blogs.

Why the aspiring writer is such a loathsome creature is that writers are mysterious and glamorous for good reasons. We are brave and daring and we say all the stuff that mere mortals wish they had the stones to SAY and yet we actually write and then sign our freaking name to.

Aspiring writers want to wear a purple heart when they’ve never left home, let alone been shot.

Real writers cannot be liked all the time by everyone. So, if you are stuck, it is likely you are trying too hard to be liked. Guess what? Some folks on Facebook were offended by my post Good Girls Don’t Become Best-Sellers because I didn’t include men. Well, I didn’t include iguanas or african pygmy goats either. Sorry. The blog is only so long and there are brave bold Bad Girl Guys who apparently had no trouble reading between the lines and are smart enough to think in metaphors. The rest? They are not my audience.

You Are Thin-Skinned

We all start out as baby writers and just like babies, we all start with baby soft skin. But this is a tough business and we need to put ourselves out there to toughen it up. And YES, it SUCKS! I remember the first time I attended a critique group. I cried for an hour in the parking lot and nearly ODed on Twinkies.

One of the reasons I love for writers to blog is that a blog is the ideal form of social media for writers, and in my book I teach how to do it well. Blogging plays to our strengths. Writers WRITE.

Who cares if our blog never goes viral or no one reads it? In the meantime, a blog makes you commit to a deadline. It trains you for a professional pace and puts you in a professional mindset. WRITERS WRITE.

A blog forces you to put yourself out there, to brave critique. And yes, there are trolls and we have to learn to handle them because they do no go away when we publish, they only get worse. You do not want to wait to develop thick skin once the book is out. TRUST me on that.

I was stuck for years because I was writing for the wrong reasons. I was writing because I was insecure and I needed to hear a non-stop outpouring of praise. Anything counter to that, I couldn’t handle. It made me give up. It wasn’t until I deliberately placed myself in the crucible that I began to toughen up and I started to really grow as a professional.

Very often we are stuck because we fear pain. We are experiencing pain because we have thin skin. The only way to get thicker skin is to brave pain. Place yourself where you are bound to grow the most. When I was new, I had all kinds of friends who eagerly told me that my writing was better than kitten hugs, but I knew I needed to win over the person who was the toughest to impress.

If you find a really great writing group, you know who I am talking about. Maybe invest in a writing class. Treat yourself to a Death Star Treatment with me *evil laugh*. Find an editor you respect. Don’t wait until you have to find the money to get a full edit. Get 50 pages and pay them to shred you so you don’t waste time and money on an unpublishable mess. We don’t grow unless we embrace the pain.

All three of these stumbling blocks boil down to making this profession (making YOURSELF) a priority. Time is what we make of it. When we try to please everyone, we please no one. We need to suck it up and writer up.

What are your thoughts? Do you let friends and family part our your time? Do you let them take far too much control over your schedule? Are you afraid of making waves? Do you try too hard to keep the peace and only end up resentful? OR? Are you a ROCKSTAR at putting down boundaries? What are YOUR secrets or tips? Do you struggle with being thin-skinned? Are you terrified of putting yourself out there?

I LOVE hearing from you!

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

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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