Posts Tagged writing tips

After the Dumpster Fire of 2016—How to Make 2017 ROCK!

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We are THANK GOD bringing a close to 2016. Though I’ve survived, I feel like I’ve dragged myself out of a Dumpster fire. Is it me or did 2016 actually last three years?

But as Robert H. Schuller once said…

Tough times never last but tough people do.

Many who read this blog desire to be professional authors and that is a great goal and it is attainable but there are some practical realities we need to appreciate. The road to becoming a pro is long and brutal and treacherous and this post is to help you prepare accordingly.

Think of it like this. If you wanted to take a leisurely stroll around the neighborhood with your dog and kids, would you pack MREs, gallons of fresh water, portable water filtration systems, tents, sleeping bags and a med kit? Would you hire a personal trainer to get you in pique condition for the journey? Would you hire a team of sherpas?

Likely not…unless you’re my husband but he just wants sherpas.

Conversely, if you wanted to summit Everest, would you just slip on the running shoes and leash the dog? You haven’t exercised since Paris Hilton was cool, but why not? Fresh air in the Himalayas might do you some good, right?

Unless you wanted a lonely frozen death on a mountain? Yeah. Again, NO.

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Yet sadly, a lot of writers fall into the secondary category. They have a dream of scaling one of the toughest goals in the Western World without fully appreciating what is required for such a journey. An idea only gets us so far and if we fail to properly prepare for what we are wanting to do, we are making an already long journey far longer and harder than is necessary.

I don’t think anyone who has ever summited Everest believes it was easy-peasy, but without the right planning, prep and gear it would surely have been impossible.

Unfortunately, I began my journey seventeen years ago with nothing more than BS and glitter and have done my share of falling off the mountain.

*long scream* *bounce bounce OUCH*

So here are some tips to help you with your journey into 2017 and though I am downloading a lot onto you, these fundamentals will make EVERYTHING work better, especially any New Year’s Resolutions…

Guard Your Dream

Often when we get a new shiny dream we are so excited and we want to go tell everyone so they can be super excited too. That is not always a good plan because humans are weird creatures who all have baggage (and not just carry-on).

When I was new, I thought others would be happy for what I wanted to achieve, that they would be supportive and we could do this together! And what I am about to say is going to be very unpopular, but it is unfortunately true.

Most people will settle for less than what they are truly capable of. But, here’s the kicker…

They really don’t want to believe they settled.

***Denial is more than a river in Africa 😉 .

These folks will have all kinds of good reasons they can’t do X, Y and Z and they will honestly believe them. So, when you come bee-bopping along all excited and start showing them they really could do better if they really wanted to? They are going to resent you. Just expect it.

Bear with me….

I want you to think back to every frigging group project you ever had to do in school. Be there. Think about it. Feel the emotions. Let the anger flow through you….

All right.

Now back to your writing dream. Do you really want it to be a group project?

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When I was new, I thought every person who said he/she wanted to be a successful writer really did. I stayed in writing groups for years with people who had no time to do any writing but plenty of time to start a lot of back-stabbing drama.

I kept trying to make it work because I really didn’t want to be alone. Being alone was terrifying. But the more I pressed and the harder I worked, the more pushback there was from those who should have been on my side (YES, even especially FAMILY).

I had to choose between pleasing others or reaching the goal I’d set out to attain.

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The problem with group dynamics is that water will find its level. If we are fortunate enough to find a group with similar aspirations and work ethic, that is wonderful. But make sure you are being honest about who you are surrounding yourself with.

Actions speak louder than words and sometimes, to summit? We need to cut some ropes.

NO Lies

One of the big lies you will hear from people (and maybe even yourself) is the I just can’t find the time lie. Here’s the deal. Time isn’t hiding in the couch cushions with the TV remote. We don’t find time, we make time. People make time for what they find important and if you don’t believe me here is an example.

You drop a buck on a lottery ticket on a whim and win twenty million dollars in the Power Ball. Would you really have to find time to go turn it in and get the cash?

So if you find yourself saying those words, “I can’t find the time” just be honest and say, “It isn’t important to me.”

Being a successful author will require time. The more time we invest, the quicker and the better the payoff. We need time to write, research, train, and build a brand. Compromise any of those and the goal is harder to reach. So be honest with yourself in 2017. If your writing dream is really important, then actions should reflect that.

***Goes for me, too 😉

Time to Write

Image via Drew Coffman courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

Image via Drew Coffman courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

We need to write. I have been running writing sprints every weekday morning on my Ning WANATribe for well over a year so that any writer willing to invest the time will get to write alongside me and experience a professional pace. I pay $70 a month out of my own pocket and out of almost 3,000 members, want to know how many regularly show to sprint?

Fewer than ten.

We do sprints 40 minutes at a time all morning every morning (sometimes all day). Even if a person did one sprint a day and only eked out a single page (250 words), that person would have a finished draft in less than a year. And while that seems like a long time to write a book, how many people have been futzing with the same novel for five or more years?

Never underestimate the power of simply showing up.

If our goal is to publish a book in 2017, we have to actually write it. I know. Hard stuff.

Time to Read

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Craig Sunter

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Craig Sunter

Reading is how we hone our skills and learn. I do a lot of editing and one of my biggest complaints with new writers is it is clear they do not read. They beat up a lot of the same words, the same tired descriptions and their dialogue sounds like a bad soap opera. Often I can tell in less than ten pages they have no plot.

But these are the same folks who will claim they have no time to read.

I read about three books a week. No I don’t sit with a nice hard back the way I would prefer. I listen to audio books and it isn’t my preference but it works with all I have to do. I can’t sit and leisurely page through while folding laundry. I can, however, listen to an audio book and with Kindle Unlimited and an Audible membership I can afford my habit.

No, not all writers are plotters, but I will be blunt. Pansters really are plotters but the reason they can get away with not sitting and outlining is they literally have read so many books that structure is hardwired into their brains and they can navigate a 60,000-110,000 word story intuitively.

Successful pantsers are extremely well read (plotters too but pantsers even more so).

If we don’t spend time reading, we will probably spend way more time with crappy drafts. Most people are not born writing savants. Stephen King didn’t become Stephen King without reading fiction and using others to refine his craft.

Time With Pros

Reading is our time with pros. We can see how J.K. Rowling or Neil Gaiman or whatever writing hero we have executed plot, character, tension, pacing, etc. We can also take classes or read books to shorten the learning curve instead of spending far more time figuring it out on our own.

You can spend ten years and three bad books figuring out all the intricacies of how to plot or take my class and get ten years of MY work in an hour.

Feel free to blog unsuccessfully for a couple years OR take one of my classes and I already did the hard work for you.

The thing is, you will spend time but there is a choice on how you spend it 😉 .

****New classes are listed below.

Time to Brand and Build a Platform

Lots of writers want to whine about social media and that it is too hard and it takes too much time. All right. But discoverability is an absolute nightmare and most people are not buying books at bookstores namely because bookstores are getting about as rare as unicorn tears. Of the remaining point of sale outlets only a small fraction of titles are available and for only short periods of time.

You really think Costco is going to let titles sit on their ONE table long enough to cultivate readers? No. They are only stocking authors who already cultivated readers. They are going for proven sellers and even those guys have a brief shelf life.

Barnes & Noble is dedicating more and more shelves for knick-knacks, toys, music and gadgets because they have a higher profitability. B&N, to me, has become less and less of a bookstore and more and more The Borg—a haphazard compilation of all the businesses their predatory behavior rendered extinct.

Just cobble a coffee shop a toy store a music store and a Hallmark together and sprinkle on some books and VOILA!

B&N 2.0.

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I know. Reality sucks. Reality dictates I can’t live on pizza and Ding-Dongs and be skinny. Reality dictates I can’t pay my power bill with my looks. When it comes to being a writer? Reality dictates we build a brand capable of driving sales and the brutal truth is this was ALWAYS the truth even before social media.

Go to any used bookstore and whose books do you really see? I mean REALLY see? Authors with multiple multiple titles. Don’t believe me? Blindfold yourself and spin around three times and see how many steps it takes to hit a James Patterson, Stephen King or Nora Roberts book.

In the olden days before social media, that was how an author became a household name. They wrote a crap ton of books.

Frankly? This is still how it is done, though social media and blogging can make name recognition that drives sales happen far sooner and with fewer titles. But branding and social media has to be done in an effective way.

There are no shortcuts. Book spam is NOT branding. Friending people on FB and spamming their wall is NOT branding. Blogging about your own book is NOT branding. Ranting about politics nonstop like a pit bull with Tourettes is NOT branding.

Well, it is. Kind of. It’s called negative branding and it is guaranteed to make people avoid us more than a Jehovah’s Witness who just joined Amway.

And I know the new trend is to buy into these services that promise newsletter nirvana but read my lips…

Without a brand it is only spam.

Authors who are successful with ads, Bookbub, newsletters, etc. are successful because they first took time to cultivate the audience.

They built a foundation with either multiple books and or meaningful social media branding. We skip that step at our own peril.

Trust me. I’ve been through all the fads. I was on Gather in 2004 when I first realized social media branding would eventually be crucial for authors. I was laughed at by agents and editors and tarred and feathered by traditional authors for years.

So I did something about it.

I very literally wrote the book on social media branding for authors, and I have stood the test of time through all the “experts” who’ve offered shortcuts. I withstood the 99 Cent Book Blizzard of 2010, the Free Book Free For All of 2011. The Triberr Tsunami of 2013, the Algorithm Alchemy of 2012-2013, the Automation Avalanche of 2013-2014 and on and on and on.

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So back to newsletters….

I’ve seen all the hype.

Forget Facebook! No blogging! No time required! Social media no longer works! A big newsletter mailing list is the ticket to fame and fortune! Build that list! We can HELP!

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No.

Just….stop.

Unsolicited offers from authors we don’t know? It’s called spam. Do newsletters work? YES. But only with a solid foundation. Without that? Mass numbers and blind luck.

So all of this goes back to my point to guard our time. Quick fixes are never quick so we buy into the Social Media Shake Weight at our own risk 😉 .

Make 2017 count and just ignore the fads. Consistent meaningful effort in small doses over time is far more effective than anything some guru will sell you. Need a manual? Pick up a copy of Rise of the Machines

My methods have literally sold tens of millions of books and even launched unpubbed newbies to NYT status. My methods aren’t fancy but they do work and they work on any social platform in any given year because my approach is not based on technology or gimmick or trickery. My approach is based on humans and humans don’t change.

I have zero interest in turning you guys into high-pressure salespeople or mega-marketers. Just be YOU and still have time to write.

Honest.

And yeah yeah I am promoting my book and classes. But I’ve also written over a thousand blogs and spent almost $6,000 of my own money maintaining WANATribe with NO fees and no ads, so I think it is safe to say I want to help you guys succeed 😀 .

So there you go! All you need to rock 2017. Guard your dreams and guard your time. Success is simple but it isn’t easy. We must spend time but if we spend it well and consistently, rewards are there.

What are your thoughts? Have you been bad about guarding your dreams? Have you allowed toxic friends, family, writing groups to drag you down? Do you get overwhelmed and forget that small actions do add up? Are you going to MAKE time in 2017?

I love hearing from you!

And 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).

November’s winner of my 20 page critique is Nancy Segovia. THANK YOU for being such an awesome supporter of this blog and its guests. Please send your 5000 word Word document (double-spaced, Times New Roman Font 12 point) to kristen@wana intl dot com.

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 in person? No excuses! 

All you need is an internet connection!

NEW!!!! APPROVED USE FOR CHRISTMAS MONEY!!!!

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 6th

Plotting for Dummies January 7th, 2017

When your Name Alone Can SELL—Branding for Authors January 13th, 2017

Social Media for Authors January 14th, 2017

NEW CLASS!!!! The Art of Character January 27th, 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 AMAZON, iBooks, or Nook

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58 Comments

Why the Reader Put That Book Down

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I do a ridiculous amount of reading because it is part of my job as a writer. My job in particular because I blog about craft. I read all genres and go through anywhere from 2-4 books a week. Audible will go bankrupt if I’m ever hit by an ice cream truck.

This said, I think I’m in a fairly good position to guide you guys on pitfalls to avoid from a reader’s POV. These are the mistakes that will have me railing at the heavens and throwing a book across the room…followed by depression because I can never get those wasted hours back.

I just returned a book so bad that I cannot believe I read as much of it as I did. It is a prime example why reviews can be misleading, even good ones.

I finally had to return it because there was just not enough blood pressure medicine in the world. I’m not a reviewer. It isn’t my brand so I’m not going to name names. Also, fiction is highly subjective so this is what pulled ME out of the story. But I’m hoping the thin silver lining from this dreadful experience is maybe I can use the flaws in this book as a cautionary tale.

Good Fiction is About Problems

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First and foremost good fiction is the path of greatest resistance. NOTHING should come easily for the protagonist. This is fiction, not a frigging Barbie Dream House for a writer to play out her dream life.

The protagonist had absolutely NO resistance whatsoever. After the death of her fiancé and childhood sweetheart, she decides to open a coffee shop. Magically she is gifted almost a quarter of a million dollars at the funeral. Okay. Plausible. Then she needed a space but her credit was bad…oh but magically mystically the owner of the space and a total plot puppet visits her house and gives her the lease and tells her he won’t charge rent until she opens and to take as long as she needs.

Oh-kay.

Then her friend—a premium designer—offers to redo the space gratis. And on and on and on. She never has a setback and the world is just bending over backward to hand her whatever she needs.

Now the book began sort of interesting. A psychic shows to the funeral to tell her her fiancé is alive. Okay, cool, that is a story. But does the protagonist pursue this? Ask any questions? Maybe fly to Mexico where the love of her life disappeared to check it out for herself? Even though she is flush with plenty of cash?

Nope.

We spend I kid you not, half the book of her essentially playing literary Barbies…including Sexy Photographer Ken who is every woman’s dream and who is willing to stop globe-hopping taking award-winning gallery quality shots….to be her barista for her gourmet coffee shop even though she refuses to date him.

Whenever we write fiction, of course we are injecting our fantasies into a book but we also need to make sure that everything isn’t going so smoothly that the reader is a Fly on the Wall of NOTHING FRIGGING HAPPENING.

Characters Who Are Too Dumb To Live

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As I mentioned, the book hooked early with the promise of a faked death and a psychic. But even after a vision of her love being in danger, in water, bullets whizzing by…the protagonist never pursues the question.

What is interesting is she (Barista Barbie) is happy to keep Photographer Ken waiting on the hook for TWO YEARS while she opens her Barbie Playhouse Gourmet Coffee Shop. The protagonist cannot date him because she still has questions whether or not her fiancé is still alive….

WTH?

YOU HAVE HAD TWO YEARS!!!!! So you keep Photographer Ken on the hook for two years because you are unsure if the psychic was right? That your love could be alive? But you NEVER look into it? IN TWO YEARS?

What…is…wrong….with…you?

Even more perplexing, what is wrong with Photographer Ken? Move on. She is a game-playing b$#@!.

Every mystery masquerading as tension was something easily remedied with a google search or a PHONE CALL. When there a deep nagging questions that can be remedied with a five minute conversation, and that conversation never happens?

*left eye twitches*

The entire premise of this book is that maybe her fiancé isn’t dead. NOT ONCE does she ever ask, “Hey those remains you found and that we buried? How did they identify it was him? Dental records? DNA?”

NOT ONCE.

*shoots self*

Dumb Factual Errors

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Right now I’m writing a Western Horror and historical is a totally new thing for me. I’m constantly stopping to research my facts and I know that one day when it is in print I will have some Curator of All Things Western probably nail me on some detail I botched. But, I tried. I did my due diligence. Thing is, we probably will all miss a fact here and there and that is all right. I really don’t mind that stuff.

But when an author has an error that could have a) been fixed with simply thinking for a minute and if still in doubt? b) GOOGLING IT…it ticks me off.

So after an absurd amount of time, protagonist FINALLY takes a break from baking and making frou frou coffees to check out Mexico and maybe see if the love of her life is still alive. What a peach! She lives in San Jose and it is a NINETEEN HOUR FLIGHT to Mexico?

Whisky Tango Hotel?

You don’t even need to be local to California to know that there is no way in hell that flight is NINETEEN HOURS. She could fly to New Zealand in THIRTEEN. This was actually the point I tapped out and gave up.

Seriously, the devil is in the details. It is too easy to get most of our facts correct in this day and age so when we bungle something that obvious? It frustrates the reader.

Word/Phrase Echoes

Again, this is something all of us do, though hopefully a good editor will help you remove them. Word echoes are my super power so I tend to be lenient when reading because I know I’m trained to see these things and so I’m tougher than most. I’ve learned to lighten up. But if we have a word or a phrase that we use to the point of distraction? It wrecks the reading experience.

When reading this book, I pondered making a drinking game out of it. You know, take a shot every time a character “rounded his eyes” (whatever that is—surprise?)…but I would have gotten alcohol poisoning in less than three chapters.

We need to mix it up and if you need help? Seriously, get a copy of The Emotion Thesaurus. 

In the end, any one of these oopses might not tank a book but these are at least some good things to keep in mind when writing and later editing.

What are your thoughts? What are your pet peeves? What makes you want to punch a book in the face?

I love hearing from you!

And 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).

November’s winner of my 20 page critique is Nancy Segovia. THANK YOU for being such an awesome supporter of this blog and its guests. Please send your 5000 word Word document (double-spaced, Times New Roman Font 12 point) to kristen@wana intl dot com.

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 in person? No excuses! Fantastic as Christmas gifts *wink, wink, bid, nod*

All you need is an internet connection!

NEW!!!! IDEAL FOR CHRISTMAS!!!!

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 6th

 

Plotting for Dummies January 7th, 2017

When your Name Alone Can SELL—Branding for Authors January 13th, 2017

Social Media for Authors January 14th, 2017

NEW CLASS!!!! The Art of Character January 27th, 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 AMAZON, iBooks, or Nook

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113 Comments

FINISH THAT NOVEL—Tips to Help You Go the Distance

Inspired author biting crumpled paper

Today, Alex Limberg is with us again, and he is talking about one of the most important and tricky issues in writing: Endurance. It doesn’t matter how well we write, how pretty the prose or witty the dialogue. WE MUST FINISH.

No half-finished brilliant manuscript ever became a runaway best-seller but a lot of finished “meh” ones have.

Alex has some very effective tactics and practical examples to help you out.

Just look at his list and pick out the ones that work for you. And if you want to see how good your story really is or what it might be missing, definitely check out his free checklist of “44 Key Questions” to make your story awesome. Post starts in 3… 2… 1… 0:

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Have you ever written an entire novel? If so, then you know that it takes a lot of stamina.

I’m not just talking about the really long ones, the brick-like ones you could kill a chicken with. Sometimes it seems like a mystery how Ayn Rand could write something like Atlas Shrugged or how Tolkien could ever complete Lord of the Rings.

I mean, did they never have to do the laundry or cut their toe nails, did life never get in the way?

Did they never get utterly frustrated by the sheer amount of pages they had to write – and by the fact they had to write them well?

I’m sure all of this did happen, but here is the important part: They didn’t let it stop them. They never ever quit. And neither should you.

Luckily, there are a couple of excellent tactics to help you if you are stuck. Here is what you can do if your writing project takes ages to come together and is starting to wear you down:

1. Maybe your story needs change

If something is fundamentally wrong with your story, no psychological recharging will help you; you would just end up frustrated anyways. Instead, your first step is to check if some elements of your novel want to be shuffled around.

Maybe there is one character too many or too few, or one of the figures is making decisions that don’t correspond to her personality.

Maybe the plot needs to be tightened or it needs more logic.

Maybe the point of view is off.

Take notes, think about it, and if you get the impression that there is something wrong with your story, try a different route.

To help you examine any wrong turns your story might have taken, you can download my free goodie about “44 Key Questions” to check your story. Use it to test your story for anything that could possibly go wrong.

2. Take a break

This one seems obvious, but you might not even see it if you are totally caught up in your novel: Leave your project alone for a couple of days or weeks and do things you normally wouldn’t do.

Take a hike, play the piano, do a bartending course; carve a sculpture, visit an origami exhibition, search for Bigfoot. After having your mind circle around your story all the time, any physical activity or mental change will feel refreshing.

Your body and mind will reenergize and open up to new ways of feeling and thinking.

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3. Don’t expect too much

When we want something really bad, we often put way too much pressure on ourselves. Then it can happen that we freeze in front of the task like a mouse in the face of a snake.

So take yourself aside for a word of clear, constructive self-talk: Reassure yourself it will be okay. No word you put on screen or paper is final. Nobody will ever see a single letter before you decide to release it into the world.

Finally, even the best writers sometimes produce garbage. Seriously, it’s all good. It’s just a learning process, like everything else in life.

But what do I hear from you? That it’s easier said than done?

True, so here is a practical exercise: Write one page of fiction, and on purpose make it as bad as you possibly can. Is it really cringeworthy? Great, you have succeeded. Hopefully you will be less outcome-dependent now.

4. Put yourself in a creative state of mind

What exactly is a “creative state of mind”?

Your creative self is celebrating its most reckless party when you feel both relaxed and playful at the same time. Again, when you get stuck with your novel, chances are you are worrying too much about getting it right.

Start by taking the pressure off yourself like outlined above. Then go play with your kids and their building blocks to bring out your playful side. If you don’t have kids, play a round of poker, tic-tac-toe or Dungeons & Dragons. Start a pillow fight. The more silly, childish and senseless you can get, the better… it will open up your carefree, curious side again. Creative people can learn a lot from how children treat the world.

Finally, start playing around with the elements of your story, just for the sake of it. Try absurd scenarios. How would that confession scene play out at a circus amongst clowns and dancing bears?

Don’t expect any results, but maybe fooling around will spark your passion for your story again. You might even come across new ideas about how to move it further along.

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5. Reward yourself

It’s also important to nurture your creative motor. Assign yourself little rewards in advance for reaching your writing goals.

Pick something you are really looking forward to. It might be a night at the movies for a chapter you finish, or a new iPad for finishing half of your novel.

6. Visualize your success

If you undergo the long, winding process of writing a book, chances are you feel a deep desire within yourself to see the finished result.

So use your desire and visualize that very satisfying outcome: What would it feel like to look at your finished novel, to know that you finally made it happen? How awesome would it be to read the best chapter aloud to your friends, how exciting to send it out to a couple of agents and publishers and see what happens?

Visualize these scenes of sweet victory. They will give you that extra boost you need to get your project done. And if you need a practical exercise, write a letter to yourself and describe what success will look like.

Also, what fascinated you so much about your story you had to start to write it in the first place? Was it a character, an idea, a scene? Remind yourself of what you found fascinating when you started your long and winding novel. Imagine that character or idea vividly before your mind’s eye.

These are a couple of tactics and tricks I found useful for my own writing. See which one of them works best for you. After all, everything you see here is just words on a screen; apply them, live them, finally stick with what really helps you and disregard the rest.

Soon enough your creative juices will be flowing again, and when you have finished your story, you will look at it and be immensely proud of yourself: You have gotten up, overcome all the obstacles and finally achieved your goal – congratulations, this is what makes you a real writer!

AL, Photo 3

Alex Limberg is blogging on ‘Ride the Pen’ to help you boost your fiction writing. His blog dissects famous authors (works, not bodies). Download his free checklist of “44 Key Questions” to quickly detect any problems in your story and keep yourself motivated. Alex has worked as a copywriter and lived in Vienna, Los Angeles, Madrid and Hamburg.

So far, so good. Now we just need to do it.

Kristen here again. I have a couple of questions for you: Which techniques work best when you feel fatigue? What do we need to add to the list? Is it hard to be creative when everyday life is upon you? Does wearing a banana peel for a hat make you more creative? Could this fashion statement also be your reward for a finished novel?

Remember that comments for guests get double love from me for my contest!

I love hearing from you!

And 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).

November’s winner of my 20 page critique is Nancy Segovia. THANK YOU for being such an awesome supporter of this blog and its guests. Please send your 5000 word Word document (double-spaced, Times New Roman Font 12 point) to kristen@wana intl dot com.

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 in person? No excuses! Fantastic as Christmas gifts *wink, wink, bid, nod*

All you need is an internet connection!

NEW!!!! IDEAL FOR CHRISTMAS!!!!

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 6th

Plotting for Dummies January 7th, 2017

When your Name Alone Can SELL—Branding for Authors January 13th, 2017

Social Media for Authors January 14th, 2017

NEW CLASS!!!! The Art of Character January 27th, 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 AMAZON, iBooks, or Nook

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44 Comments

The Blind Spot—Because DENIAL Makes for Excellent Fiction

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Last time we talked about The Wound and how this wound is what drives a character and his or her choices. But here is the thing, almost always the protagonist has no clue they even have a wound and that is because of the blind spot.

The blind spot is a critical reason most people read fiction. Fiction acts as almost a holodeck, playing out the human drama. Fiction is real life….only with the boring crap cut out. Self-actualization happens in less than 300 pages. It is why we dig stories.

We might see ourselves in a character and when the character finally notices the blind spot and sees and acknowledges the wound? They are doing it for us as well. We see how they struggle and then triumph and it gives us insight into ourselves. It gives us information, inspiration and maybe even some hope that we aren’t all lost causes.

****A note of irony. I wrote most of this post early this morning before the gym then as I was leaving? A guy backed into me because I was in his….wait for it….BLIND SPOT (my vehicle above). I can’t make this crap up. But hell we are writers so WE USE EVERYTHING!

Where were we? Oh yes….

The Protagonist DOES NOT SEE the Blind Spot

Namely because if the protagonist does see the blind spot? Then blind spot is a terrible name.

Most fiction is a journey to self awareness. We have a protagonist in his/her normal world. Everything is fine…but not really. There is a critical missing piece keeping the protagonist from being self-actualized. This is plainer to see when we realize that most beginnings and endings of novels (and movies/series) are actually bookends.

Normal world is their world with the wound festering and hidden. The denouement? The world is restored but whole.

All of us have blind spots. If we didn’t, therapists would go bankrupt and have to get a “real job.” Truth is, most therapists know exactly what our problem is the first day we sit in their office. Problem is there are all kinds of other emotions clouding our vision.

This is one of the reasons shrinks do a lot of listening, nodding and asking questions. And probably a lot of doodling and playing tic-tac-toe on their notepads to stave off the boredom while they wait for us to catch up to the obvious.

Our story problem in a sense is extreme therapy for the protagonist. Instead of our character spending years on a couch being probed with uncomfortable questions and given homework to write letters to her inner child? She is thrust into a bank heist, an alien invasion, or her family is incinerated by a dragon.

Namely because all writers are sadists.

Anyway, when we create the story problem, we as Author God aren’t giving the protagonist any problem, rather the perfect problem that will reveal the wound crouching in the blind spot.

The Hobbits are handed a ring to toss in a volcano. Luke Skywalker is given a Death Star. Sarah is handed a labyrinth. Different challenges for different blind spots.

The Blind Spot is the Boundary Between Protagonist and HERO

My favorite book on plotting is Larry Brooks’ Story Engineering and every writer needs a copy of this book (Seriously, one of the best craft books EVER). For years I struggled with structure. It made sense when teachers wrote about three acts, but then when I went to write? It all fell out of my head. How could I distinguish one act from the others? Larry answered this critical question.

And since all roads that don’t lead to Star Wars obviously lead to Lord of the Rings….

Screen Shot 2016-06-27 at 9.57.04 AM

Normal World—-We establish how the protagonist lives on any other given day. We give a hint of the hidden character flaw.

The Shire. Birthday party. Setting off Gandalf’s fireworks prematurely. Griping about having a dull life devoid of adventure.

Inciting Incident—This is the moment when the core antagonist a.k.a. Big Boss Troublemaker‘s agenda (Sauron) directly intersects with the life of the protagonist and has the potential to interrupt the flow of his/her life.

WTH is this ring and why does it glow? What is that writing? (Note: Has not yet left Shire).

Turning Point Act One—The protagonist makes a decision that is directly reactive to the antagonist’s agenda.

Leaving The Shire for the first time ever to meet Gandalf at The Prancing Pony.

Act One—Protagonist is Running (COMPLETELY REACTIVE to antagonist’s agenda which he or she might not even yet be aware of—hitting at the dark)

Hobbits endure a series of ass kickings from the enemy namely because they are so naive they believe frying bacon on the side of a mountain at night while running from dead kings is a good plan.

Act Two—Protagonist as a Warrior (Protagonist starts to be PROACTIVE, yet still somewhat REACTIVE)

Frodo makes the decision to be the ring-bearer and Fellowship of the Ring created. Now understands Sauron behind all of this and there is an active plan that includes a party of allies.

Act Three—No longer a PROTAGONIST. Now a HERO. (FULLY PROACTIVE).

The naive innocent Hobbit has been transformed into a warrior who is willing to die to do what is right and destroy the ring and save Middle Earth (and The Shire).

Now, in the beginning of the story, had Gandalf said, “Okay, you want adventure. Cool. Well I am going to need to you toss a ring in a volcano and die there because there is no way back. Bad news is you’ll be dead but the good news is…WE WON’T BE! Isn’t that great?”

No one would want that deal.

So why do Frodo and Samwise accept this charge once on the side of Mount Doom? It is because they finally see past their blind spots, notice the wound and then triumph.

Once everything is stripped away, they see all they miss and took for granted. In their naive excitement, they diminished The Shire and how much, deep down they loved it. In the beginning, they couldn’t wait to cast it off and now? It’s all they want but will never have.

They accept they are going to die but now understand that The Shire is worth dying to save.

They did NOT see that in the beginning. It was firmly rooted in their blind spot and was part of the wound. They believed they were too little to make a BIG DIFFERENCE. The Shire’s worth was clouded by this inferiority complex. They couldn’t see what The Shire meant to them because they didn’t properly understand in the beginning 1) how much they took for granted and 2) that home might just not last forever and could be obliterated.

In their naiveté, they failed to respect the real danger they were in.

Yes, This is True in Character-Driven Stories, Too…

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Some of you might be saying, “This is all well and good for those *makes distasteful face* genre writers, but my work is more literary and character-driven. I don’t have a necromancer or a special volcano.”

True, but the blind spot—-hate to tell you—-is even MORE important for you guys. See in genre fiction, the character cog can be pretty much any size. Jack Reacher isn’t doing a whole lot of internal development as much as he is throat-punching bad guys and blowing $#!* up.

I read a lot of emerging writers who want a protagonist to go on and on and on about his inner turmoil and wax rhapsodic about inner demons and, speaking of throat-punching…that is pretty much all readers will want to do to that kind of character. Remember last time we talked about plot and character being cogs? Your character cog is larger, but the plot cog still needs to be there.

No one wants to read 300 pages of navel-gazing. We don’t like people who drone on about their inner struggles in person and we sure as hell don’t want to spend money and 15 hours of undivided attention to listen to self-indulgent tripe.

This is why that character needs a wound located in a blind spot that is eventually revealed when under pressure from a plot problem.

One of the best books I have ever read is A Man Called Ove and it is a great example of what I am talking about. Ove is a 59 year old man who just wants to die. He spends the entire book unsuccessfully trying to kill himself.

Who is the Big Boss Troublemaker? The government represented in the proxy of “Men in White Shirts.”

Ove has always been on the losing end when grappling with the power of the government. When he was a young man, “Men in White Shirts” stopped him from saving his home from burning, then different “Men in White Shirts” stole the land the house was built on. As an older man, more “Men in White Shirts” tried to take his wife after she was crippled in an accident. They also refused to build a wheelchair access ramp for her at the school where she taught (and Ove finally did it himself after he gave up fighting them).

Every time Ove has taken on any “Man in a White Shirt” he has failed.

But, the reason he has failed against the “Men in White Shirts” directly relates to the wound and the reason why Ove wants to die.

He is alone. To defeat the Men in White Shirts? He cannot win on his own and the core story problem (he finds out his neighbor and old friend is being forcibly put into a home by the state) is nothing he can conquer alone. But the problems thrust in his way serve to peel back what is wrong with Ove and make him come to understand that why he has always failed is because he keeps people at a distance and some battles need a team.

All good stories are a peeling back until the character finally sees what he or she has been missing all along. That is the purpose of PLOT even in a character-driven story. There must be an outside catalyst that disrupts the world, forces action, then generates change.

What are your thoughts? Other than POOR KRISTEN AND HER POOR CAR! LOL. It’s all good. The guy was nice and was just bad timing. But back to fiction, can you think of great stories and nail the blind spot covering the wound? Can you do this with your own writing?

I love hearing from you!

And 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).

November’s winner of my 20 page critique is Nancy Segovia. THANK YOU for being such an awesome supporter of this blog and its guests. Please send your 5000 word Word document (double-spaced, Times New Roman Font 12 point) to kristen@wana intl dot com.

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 in person? No excuses! Fantastic as Christmas gifts *wink, wink, bid, nod*

All you need is an internet connection!

NEW!!!! IDEAL FOR CHRISTMAS!!!!

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!

Blogging for Authors December 9th, 2016

Pitch Perfect—How to Write a Query Letter & Synopsis that SELLS January 6th

 

Plotting for Dummies January 7th, 2017

When your Name Alone Can SELL—Branding for Authors January 13th, 2017

Social Media for Authors January 14th, 2017

NEW CLASS!!!! The Art of Character January 27th, 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 AMAZON, iBooks, or Nook

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24 Comments

The Wound—Because Damaged People Make the BEST Stories

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Many emerging writers come to me when they find they are struggling with their WIP. I always begin with the same question, “What is your story about?” Often, I get this response, “Well, my story isn’t plot-driven. It is a character-driven story.”

Translation?

I have no plot…and please stop asking me because it makes me want to drink heavily.

There really is no such thing as a purely character-driven story. Character and plot are like two keyed cogs. One drives the other. The plot pushes the protagonist to grow and as the character grows, this in turn drives the plot.

For instance, in The Lord of the Rings the plot problem (Toss evil ring in a volcano before power-hungry necromancer takes over Middle Earth) is what forces the Hobbits to leave The Shire. Ah, but once they leave, how they respond to escalating threats determines plot.

For instance, they are barely out of The Shire when Merry and Pippin nearly get them all captured/killed by The Black Rider because they are running from an angry pitchfork-wielding farmer.

That is an ok place to begin, but what if they all remained the same reckless naive Hobbits they were in that scene? Their decisions would impact the story and they would fail.

To succeed, they must grow.

Granted, though we do have two cogs, depending on genre, this will impact the SIZE of each cog. In a Jack Reacher thriller? The plot cog is larger (but the character cog is still there). Similarly, in a literary fiction, this will reverse. In Cormac McCarty’s The Road there is still a plot objective (Make it to the ocean) but the character cog is larger because reaching the goal is far less important than HOW they reach the goal. If Man and Boy stop to snack on people? They fail. The torch of humanity is extinguished.

Thus, a literary work (character-driven story) might work like this…

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For genre fiction, it would reverse and, depending on the story and the style, the relative size of the cogs will change accordingly. Yet there will always be two cogs.

Regardless of genre, once we have an idea of what our story is about and have set the stage for the dramatic events that will unfold, we must remember that fiction is about PROBLEMS. Plain and simple. Furthermore, it is about PEOPLE who have problems. But not simply ANY problems. Very specific problems, which we will talk about in a sec 😉 .

I will say that plot is very important. Our characters are only as strong as the crucible. Ultimately, all stories are about people. We might not recall every detail of a plot, but we DO remember characters. Ah, but here’s the sticky wicket. WHY do we remember characters? Because of plot. Stories are more than about people.

Great stories are people overcoming great odds.

If we’re missing emotional connection between the audience and our characters, our story loses critical wattage. What are some ways we can help form that connection? Today…

The Wound

Real humans have wounds that drive our wants, needs, perceptions, and reactions and so should all our characters (even the Big Boss Troublemaker-Antagonist). Maybe your character is a control-freak. Perhaps he avoids. Maybe she is battling an addiction or is a loner or is a people-pleaser. Maybe he is a user or a manipulator.

My question is WHY?

Yes, genetics will have a role in forging our personality, but genes do not a good story make. Having a character be a certain way simply because we need them to be or act that way will work, but so will a heart with damaged valves.

Wounds drive how we perceive our world, what we believe we want, and how we will (or won’t) interact with others. This is critical for generating story tension and character arc.

I used the meme of Dr. House and his motto, Everybody lies. Yet, part of why that character was so successful is that we know something happened somewhere in the past that gave House that core belief.

This belief is what made him a superlative doctor, but it also hobbled every single relationship he ever had. We wonder about the wound because in every episode?

We see that wound in action.

Wounds are the NOTCH That Engages the GEAR

Back to my gear metaphor, but let’s expand it a bit. Think of plot like gears on a bicycle. So long as the gears are engaged and moving forward we have story momentum. Character is like the chain winding around those gears.

Some of you might be old enough to remember riding a ten-speed with the old shifters. You had to practice shifting gears to get the chain to engage a larger or smaller gear and if you didn’t get it right? The pedals spun and the bike just made weird noises. That’s because the chain has to be able to meet with the teeth of the gear via a space or a hole…or it won’t work.

Character functions similarly. We can have the gears (plot) and the chain (character) but if there is no notch (wound) that allows them to ever mesh and create tension? The story has no momentum and just makes weird sounds while we fruitlessly spin literary pedals.

Wounds are the sweet spot, that hole, that allows plot and character to merge into dramatic momentum.

Some writers start with characters and others start with plot. It doesn’t matter so long as you let either be forged with “the wound” in mind. If you have a mental snippet of a rebellious renegade bad@$$ heroine and want to put her in a story, then think of a plot situation that will make her utterly miserable. She can’t grow if she’s comfortable.

Maybe instead of chasing bad guys, she is forced to become the caretaker for her three young nephews after her sister dies. This PLOT is going to force her to be vulnerable, maybe have a softer side, and lighten up. Now, character (chain) and plot (gears) are linked.

Same if we go the opposite direction.

Maybe you have a great idea for a story. You want to take down a mob boss. Who can you cast that will be the most uncomfortable and thus grow the most? A former hit man who’s given up killing because he promised his wife before she died? An agoraphobic ex-cop who can’t leave her house? A sweet, naive soccer mom who believes that Bedazzling makes everything way more AWESOME?

Genre will dictate some of the casting, but note if we cast someone who would reach our story goal with relative ease, we risk having a one-dimensional talking head. We also diminish tension because remember, readers LOVE seemingly unbeatable odds. So, if we cast a highly decorated detective to take down our mob boss, make sure there is something about him (a wound) that puts the odds against him.

Wounds Don’t Have to Be Big to Be BIG

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Thomas Ricker.

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Thomas Ricker.

Often, new writers will default to wounds like rape or death or some big tragedy to create the wound. To be clear, I am not saying these aren’t viable wounds, but never underestimate the “smaller” and more relatable emotional injuries. The more a reader can empathize with one or more characters, the deeper that connection becomes.

Not everyone has lost their family to a sudden alien invasion— 😉 — but they can empathize with maybe never living up to expectations, being bullied, or not fitting in. LOTR rests on a small band of Hobbits who believe they are too little to make a BIG difference.

Perhaps the character is the invisible middle child trying to forge an identity, the eldest trying to hold the world together, or the baby who “got away with murder” and “was handed everything.” Never underestimate family dynamics as sources for realistic and powerful psychic wounds.

Wounds Will Distort Happiness

Wounds generate illusions. Because I grew up poor and lived hand-to-mouth all through college, I “believed” that money and financial security would make me happy. At 27, I made more money than any person in their 20s should make…and I was miserable. I was eaten alive with emptiness. I’d achieved all that should have filled that hole—the college degree, the premium job and premium pay. And yet?

I was the person stranded in a desert gulping sand I believed was water from an oasis.

Am I "there" yet?

Am I “there” yet?

Character arc comes when a protagonist is placed in a problem strong enough to challenge the illusion and break it. The protagonist believes X=happiness/fulfillment. It is only through the story problem that the protagonist rises to become a hero, a person capable of realizing they were wrong and that they’d been coveting a shill at the expense of the gold.

Thus, when creating characters, keep the wound at the forefront of your mind.

How does it affect what he/she believes about their own identity? What do they believe will make them happy? What is it that you (Author God) know that’s really what will make them happy? What needs to change for that character to lose the blinders? What is the perfect problem (plot) to force the protagonist to see the hard truth of the unhealed wound?

What are your thoughts? Writing can be healing and therapeutic. Have you ever siphoned from your own hurt-reservoir to deepen your characters? Can you think of how even small hurts can become super-sized? What are some ways you’ve witnessed wounds driving people in wrong directions toward false happiness? Have you been there, done that and earned the t-shirt?

I love hearing from you!

And 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).

November’s winner of my 20 page critique is Nancy Segovia. THANK YOU for being such an awesome supporter of this blog and its guests. Please send your 5000 word Word document (double-spaced, Times New Roman Font 12 point) to kristen@wana intl dot com.

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 in person? No excuses! Fantastic as Christmas gifts *wink, wink, bid, nod*

All you need is an internet connection!

NEW!!!! IDEAL FOR CHRISTMAS!!!!

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!

Blogging for Authors December 9th, 2016

Pitch Perfect—How to Write a Query Letter & Synopsis that SELLS January 6th

 

Plotting for Dummies January 7th, 2017

When your Name Alone Can SELL—Branding for Authors January 13th, 2017

Social Media for Authors January 14th, 2017

NEW CLASS!!!! The Art of Character January 27th, 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 AMAZON, iBooks, or Nook

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64 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

Your Novel as a Movie Part 2—Writing Novels that Translate Well Into Film

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Last Friday I introduced my movie producer friend Joel Eisenberg who has been generous enough to teach a class for me over at WANA International (and yes the recording comes with it for free if you cannot make the class). This is an important class to have. Why?

The entertainment industry is booming right now, namely because audience demands are higher than they have ever been in human history.

Big screen, small screen, smartphone screen, YouTube and countless niche cable channels are all looking for that next big thing.

Filmmakers have always looked to books for inspiration, but let’s face it. The pace at which they could make a movie thirty (or even twenty) years ago made it where they could only handpick a select few to put on screen. CGI was in its infancy and computers were not part of the filmmaking process making the movie business a very expensive one to run. This meant they had to choose far more carefully and were not as eager to take risks.

Additionally, we had only a handful of major networks (y’all remember Thorn Birds taking up a whole week on television?) and the cable networks were really only there to regurgitate whatever had once been a major motion picture. HBO played the same movies over and over and….over (a big reason I have seen Stripes 978 times). They weren’t yet into creating their own series.

Thus, there are now a ton of opportunities for writers who understand the industry (ergo the class I begged Joel to do) and also who understand how to write in ways that will naturally translate well into film.

Thus the tips I am offering today really have to do with solid writing. Sure this helps if we ever want our stuff to be made into a movie, but it also makes for a solid novel as well.

Thinking and Waxing Rhapsodic Falls Flat

Literary fiction that does a ton of internalization is really difficult to put on film. The lack of clear external problems and a lot of navel-gazing just isn’t going to make a good movie wide audiences will enjoy. Sure Melancholia was hailed for its cinematic brilliance (the actual film shots) but I wanted all the characters to die badly twenty minutes in because they were utterly self-absorbed and unlikable. It was a snooze-fest of whining and bitching and yeah I guess I am a troglodyte that doesn’t “get” art and I can live with that.

When we pick up a book and a character is doing a lot of thinking, emoting, and more thinking? We just start to drift off. Most of us don’t like people who do nothing but think about themselves/problems in life. We sure don’t want to read a book or watch a movie with these kinds of folks.

The best character-driven stories need true external conflict (I.e. As Good as It Gets). The story (crucible) is what is going to highlight the talent of the actor. Problems show growth and evolution.

Otherwise we end up with Gwen Stefani’s terrible acting. This music video is three and a half minutes of watching her make constipated sad faces. Ohhhh-kay.

Thus our story has to be capable of more than constipated sad faces if put on film.

We Must Root for the Protagonist

Sometimes we might hear a teacher say that we (the audience) need a likable protagonist. Yeah, no. Never said that. Said we must root for the protagonist and in fact one of the trends I am seeing is the trend of horrible people. We (audiences) have matured beyond rooting for the guy/gal with the white hat. We like gritty horrible people who make us question ourselves.

I think it’s because, in life, we know life ain’t all black and white and good people sometimes do some pretty awful stuff. Additionally, damaged people are interesting. The old television series where father always knew best were good for their time, but they just don’t hold water today because we know life is not that simple. People are not that simple and people who are that simple don’t make interesting stories.

Filmmakers LOVE the multi-dimensional and ever HORRIBLE character…because AUDIENCES love them.

Look at the fiction that has exploded and have been or are about to be made into movies/series: Gone Girl, Luckiest Girl Alive, Girl on a Train, Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Big Little Lies, Game of Thrones.

This said, gritty and dimensional characters are in demand. If you don’t write characters like this that is fine, but remember that we want 15 hours of film to watch a character grow. Harry Bosch is a good guy but he has a crap ton of emotional baggage. His mother was a murdered prostitute who the system forgot. He didn’t grow up with a white picket fence and a dog and a life that was sunshine and rainbows. He drinks. He has anger issues and he is always in trouble because he resents the system he works for.

But remember we need to root for the character and this is done any number of ways.

The Big Baddy is Badder

In Chronicles of Riddick Riddick is NOT a nice guy, but when compared to the Necromongers who are dismantling planets and enslaving the population? He ain’t all that bad.

In Luckiest Girl Alive (optioned for film) Tif-Ani is a truly awful person, but she is very, very damaged and when compared to those who have done this damage? Her actual heart of gold shines through.

They Have a Sympathetic REASON for Why They Are How They Are

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Again, Luckiest Girl Alive is a superlative example but I don’t want to ruin it so seriously read the book. For an example in film, we go to The Girl on the Train.

The protagonist is a raging alcoholic. She is bitter and angry and self-destructive. She drinks until she blacks out and that creates problems…BIG problems. Then she lies to cover up her failures. She is conflicted—the person she is trying to be (sober) versus the person she ends up being despite her best efforts (drunk).

She has very sympathetic reasons for why she is that way and this is what terrifies the reader/movie audience. Because the way it is written, we all take a breath and know that under the right circumstances, that could be us. Strip enough of us away, lay our world in ruins and we, too might be that drunk asleep on a park bench. Good stories draw us in because they promise to show us what terrifies us.

Rachels’ flaws shine a light on the dark places of US, the places we fear to go, the places we fear we could go.

But this is also why we root for her. We want her to win. We want her to be sober because if there is hope for her, there is hope for us.

One of the best books I’ve read in ages and is now a foreign film is A Man Called OveOve is a curmudgeon. He is litigious and angry but this story will expose your heart, lay it bare and make you cry and know what it is to be human. This would never have happened with a “likable” character.

Ove is interesting because we all see a little bit of him in ourselves or those we know and love.

They Do Bad Things for Good Reasons

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Game of Thrones is all about this. In one episode we are screaming at the television wanting X character to die and the next episode we are rooting for that same character to win. Cersei Lannister is a terrible, horrible, awful and probably irredeemable character…but she does what she does because she is a mother and will do ANYTHING for her children.

And frankly, you know you cheered when she leveled half the city and took out the High Sparrow in last season’s finale.

In Breaking Bad, Walter White doesn’t one day go, “You know what? I am going to enter the world of crime!” No he is a struggling high school chemistry teacher who takes to making and selling meth in order to secure his family’s financial future when he finds out he has terminal cancer. Do we agree with his decisions? Probably not, but they make for fascinating film.

Never Write for the Market

I hear this all the time and, my POV? It is terrible advice. Or at the least incomplete advice. If you are only writing about vampires because vampires are selling and frankly you hate supernatural stories and really want to write cupcake bakery mysteries? Then don’t write vampires. It isn’t your passion and that will show through and make for a blah book (and then forget about film optioning).

But then I also see the converse side of this where writers are writing what THEY love…and only entertaining themselves. They aren’t reaching out and serving the audience and so we just feel like unwanted guests on this writer’s personal holodeck.

Remember we (writers) are in the entertainment business. Business is the other half of that word and business is about supply and demand and we are wise to study what is in demand and give it to them.

And there is no reason we can’t get super creative on this. The same but different. Offer up something audiences didn’t know they wanted until they saw it. But even in those cases? If we look, the hallmarks of great story were still there. Writing a novel in second person is just being pretentious. Writing a fantasy series with a young boy as the protagonist (Harry Potter)? That is genuine risk-taking.

What are your thoughts? What are some of the best risks you have seen filmmakers take on? What were some one that fell flat?

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 YOURSELF!!!! 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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20 Comments

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