Posts Tagged Writing

The Seven Deadly Sins of Prologues—What Doesn’t Work and What Does

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We writers have a vast array of tools at our disposal to craft stories readers will love. But like any tool, it helps if we know how to use it properly. Theme is wonderful. It can keep us plunging a story’s depths for years when used correctly. Applied incorrectly? It just makes a story annoying and preachy.

Description! Love me some description! But pile on too much and we can render a story unreadable.

The same can be said of prologues. Now, before we get into this, I want to make it clear that certain genres lend themselves to prologues. But even then, we are wise to make sure the prologue is serving the story.

So, to prologue or not to prologue? That is the question.

The problem with the prologue is it has kind of gotten a bad rap over the years, especially with agents. They generally hate them. Why? In my opinion, it is because far too many writers don’t use prologues properly and that, in itself, has created its own problem.

Because of the steady misuse of prologues, many readers skip them. Thus, the question of whether or not the prologue is even considered the beginning of your novel can become a gray area if the reader just thumbs pages until she sees Chapter One.

So without further ado…

The 7 Deadly Sins of Prologues

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Evil Odin.

Sin #1 If your prologue is really just a vehicle for massive information dump…

This is one of the reasons I recommend writing detailed backgrounds of all main characters before we begin (especially when we are new writers). Get all of that precious backstory out of your system.

This is a useful tactic in that first, it can help us see if a) our characters are psychologically consistent, b) can provide us with a feel for the characters’ psychological motivations, which will help later in plotting.

I have a little formula: background–> motivations –>goals–>a plan–>a detailed plan, which = plot and c) can help us as writers honestly see what details are salient to the plot.

This helps us better fold the key details into the plotting process so that this vital information can be blended expertly into the story real-time.

Many new writers bungle the prologue because they lack a system that allows them to discern key details or keep track of key background details. This makes for clumsy writing, namely a giant “fish head” labeled prologue (which we editors will just lop off).

Sin #2 If your prologue really has nothing to do with the main story.

This point ties into the earlier sin. Do this. Cut off the prologue. Now ask, “Has this integrally affected the story?” If it hasn’t? It’s likely a fish head masquerading as a prologue.

Sin #3 If your prologue’s sole purpose is to “hook” the reader…

If readers have a bad tendency to skip past prologues, and the only point of our prologue is to hook the reader, then we have just effectively shot ourselves in the foot. We must have a great hook in a prologue, but then we need to also have a hook in Chapter One. If we can merely move the prologue to Chapter One and it not upset the flow of the story? Then that is a lot of pressure off our shoulders to be “doubly” interesting.

Sin #4 If your prologue is overly long…

Prologues need to be short and sweet and to the point. Get too long and that is a warning flag that this prologue is being used to cover for sloppy writing or really should have just been Chapter One.

Sin #5 If your prologue is written in a totally different style and voice that is never tied back into the main story…

Pretty self-explanatory.

Sin #6 If your prologue is über-condensed world-building…

World-building is generally one of those things, like backstory, that can and should be folded into the narrative. Sometimes it might be necessary to do a little world-building, but think “floating words in Star Wars.” The yellow floating words that drift off into space help the reader get grounded in the larger picture before the story begins. But note the floating words are not super-detailed Tolkien world-building.

They are simple and, above all, brief.

Sin #7 If your prologue is there solely to “set the mood…”

We have to set the mood in Chapter One anyway, so like the hook, why do it twice?

The Prologue Virtues

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Still Evil Odin but with “Cute Face.”

Now that we have discussed the 7 Deadly Sins of Prologues, you might be asking yourself, “So when is it okay to use a prologue?” Glad you asked.

Virtue #1 Prologues can be used to resolve a time gap with information critical to the story.

Genre will have a lot to do with whether one uses a prologue or not. Thrillers generally employ prologues because what our hero is up against may be an old enemy. In James Rollins’s The Doomsday Key the prologue introduces the “adversary” Sigma will face in the book. Two monks come upon a village where every person has literally starved to death when there is more than an abundance of food.

Many centuries pass and the very thing that laid waste to that small village is now once more a threat. But this gives the reader a feel for the fact that this is an old adversary. The prologue also paints a gripping picture of what this “adversary” can do if unleashed once more.

The prologue allows the reader to pass centuries of time without getting a brain cramp. Prologue is set in medieval times. Chapter One is in modern times. Prologue is also pivotal for understanding all that is to follow.

Prologues are used a lot in thrillers and mysteries to see the crime or event that sets off the story. Readers of these genres have been trained to read prologues and generally won’t skip. The serial killer dumping his latest victim is important to the story. It’s a genre thing. Yet, still? Keep it brief. Reveal too much and readers won’t want to turn pages to learn more.

Virtue # 2 Prologues can be used if there is a critical element in the backstory relevant to the plot.

The first Harry Potter book is a good example of a book that could have used a prologue, but didn’t (likely because Rowling knew it would likely get skipped). Therese Walsh in her blog Once Before A Time Part 2 said this:

J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is told in a close 3rd person POV (Harry’s), but her first chapter is quite different, told when Harry is a baby and switching between omniscient and 3rd person POVs (Mr. Dursley’s and Dumbledore’s). Rowling may have considered setting this information aside as a prologue because of those different voices and the ten-year lag between it and the next scene, but she didn’t do it. The info contained in those first pages is critical, it helps to set the story up and makes it more easily digested for readers. And it’s 17 pages long.

This battle is vital for the reader to be able to understand the following events and thus would have been an excellent example of a good prologue. But, Rowling, despite the fact this chapter would have made a prime prologue still chose to make it Chapter One so the reader would actually read this essential piece of story information.

Food for thought for sure.

Yes, I had Seven Sins and only Two Virtues. So sue me :P . That should be a huge hint that there are a lot more reasons to NOT use a prologue than there are to employ one (that and I didn’t want this blog to be 10,000 words long).

Prologues, when done properly can be amazing literary devices. Yet, with a clear reader propensity to skip them, then that might at least make us pause before we decide our novel must have one. Make sure you ask yourself honest questions about what purpose these pages are really serving. Are they an essential component of a larger whole? Or are you using Bondo to patch together a weak plot?

But, don’t take my word for it. Over the ages, I’ve collected great blogs regarding prologues to help you guys become stronger in your craft. These are older posts, but timeless:

Once Before a Time: Prologues Part 1 by Therese Walsh

Once Before a Time Part 2 by Therese Walsh

Agent Nathan Bransford offers his opinion as does literary agent Kristin Nelson

Carol Benedict’s blog Story Elements: Using a Prologue

To Prologue or Not To Prologue by Holly Jennings

If after all of this information, you decide you must have a prologue because all the coolest kids have one, then at least do it properly. Here is a great e-how article.

So if you must write a prologue, then write one that will blow a reader away. Take my First Five Pages class (below) and I can give you some expert perspective of whether to keep or ditch or if you want to keep your prologue, then how can you make it WORK?

What are some of the questions, concerns, troubles you guys have had with prologues? Which ones worked? Which ones bombed? What are your solutions or suggestions?

What are your thoughts?

I LOVE hearing from you! And REMEMBER TO SIGN UP TO HANG OUT AND LEARN FROM HOLLYWOOD PRODUCER JOEL EISENBERG! Details are below. This is EIGHT hours with one of the hottest producers in Hollywood teaching everything from craft to how to SELL what we write! Recordings are included with your purchase for FREE!

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

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

SIGN UP NOW FOR UPCOMING CLASSES!!! 

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

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

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

Potentially Lucrative Multi-Media Rights $65 February 21st, 2107 (AVAILABLE ON DEMAND)

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

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

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

Individual Classes with MOI!

Blogging for Authors $50 March 30th, 2017

Plotting for Dummies $35 February 17th, 2017

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

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

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

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

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Three Ways to HOOK a Reader & Never Let GO

Image courtesy of Randy Heinitz via Flickr Creative Commons.

Image courtesy of Randy Heinitz via Flickr Creative Commons.

How do we sell our stories? That is the big question. It is the reason for craft classes and editing and cover design and agents and editors and all the time on social media. And while platforms and covers and algorithms do matter, there is one tried and true way to sell more books.

Write a great story.

And not just any story, but a story that hooks from the very beginning and only continues to hook deeper.

Think of great stories like concertina wire.

The danger of concertina wire is not just in one hook, but hundreds. And it isn’t even in the hundreds of hooks. It is the tension created by the coiled structureIf a person is snagged even a little, every effort to break free (turning a page for resolution) only traps the victim deeper in a web of barbed spines.

Now granted, this is a morbid visual, but y’all are writers and there is a good reason our family doesn’t like us talking at the dinner table.

So I was researching sucking chest wounds today and, hey, pass the spaghetti please?

Moving on…

We’ve talked about this before, but it bears repeating. Many new writers finish their first novel and I know as an editor that odds are I am going to chop off the first 50-100 pages. We dream killers editors call this the fish head. What do we do with fish heads? We toss them (unless you are my weird Scandinavian family who makes fish face soup out of them).

Image courtesy of David Pursehouse via Flickr Creative Commons

Image courtesy of David Pursehouse via Flickr Creative Commons

Often, when I go to do this kind of cutting, new writers will protest. “No, but you need this and the story really gets going on page 84.”

My answer? “Then let’s start on page 84.”

Too many stories fall flat because they lack the barbs necessary for snagging the modern reader who has the attention span of an ADD hamster with a meth habit. Additionally, a lot of us writers fall into bad habits of assuming readers are stupid, that they need all kinds of brain holding to “get” what we are talking about which means we not only lack barbs…but necessary tension.

I will prove readers are really smarter than we give them credit for 😉 …

Hooking with a Problem

One morning, on my way to take Spawn to school, as I stopped at my stop sign at a major business highway, a VW van passed at 50 mph and another car pulled out in front. BAM! Car parts, exploding glass, tearing metal, right in front of me. One driver screaming because his legs were crushed and he was pinned. All of this in less than 15 seconds.

Do you think I was hooked?

Did I need to know the history of the drivers, where they were going, what had the one driver so distracted that he would pull out into traffic? Did I need a description of the balmy, normal morning and a weather report? A description of the pale azure sky? Nope.

Now this is an extreme example, but it shows how even in life, we stop everything in light of a problem. A scream, a child crying, someone falling over a curb. We immediately halt everything.

Good fiction always begins with a problem because that is ALL fiction really is. Prose and descriptions and symbol and theme are all various delivery mechanisms…for PROBLEMS.

I cannot count the number of new manuscripts I read where the author spends most of her opening playing Literary Barbies. We really don’t care as much about your protagonist’s flaming red hair as much as we care about that warrant for her arrest. This is drama not a doll house.

Go look at books that have launched to legends and you will see this.

Andy Weir’s The Martian:

I am pretty much f**ked.

That is my considered opinion.

F**ked.

Six days into what should be the greatest two months of my life, and it has turned into a nightmare.

We don’t start the book on Earth or in the astronaut program at NASA. We don’t even start when they land on Mars and hint that trouble eventually will come. Nope. Weir tosses us face first into a problem.

Hooking With a Question

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I have a mantra that all modern novelists must live and die by.

Resist the urge to explain.

One of the reasons emerging writers get that fish head is they do a lot of flashbacks and explaining and “setting up” the story and they are unwittingly destroying the single strongest propulsion mechanism for their story—curiosity.

If we look at the opening page of Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone, the opening paragraph has a small character hook but six lines down we read:

The Dursleys had everything they wanted, but they also had a secret, and their greatest fear was that somebody would discover it.

When we craft any story, we are wise to harness the power of human nature. Humans are curious. Heck, we are downright nosey. Imagine sitting at a Starbucks and prepping the computer to write. Two women sit nearby chatting and one has obviously been crying (hooking with a problem). We might eavesdrop a little, arrange Post Its, set out our lucky thesaurus but the second one of the women says, “He would kill me if he ever found out.”

There went the writing.

Then we would be doing “research” 😀 .

Hooking with Question and Character

What the HELL, HANNAH?

What the HELL, HANNAH?

Sometimes the problem or question isn’t so obviously stated and there is a lot left between the lines. We humans love to fill in the blanks, so LET US.

We will use an example from my all-time favorite book Luckiest Girl Alive.

I inspected the knife in my hand.

“That’s the Shun. Feel how light it is compared to the Wustof?”

I pricked a finger on the blade’s witchy chin, testing. The handle was supposed to be moisture resistant, but was quickly going humid in my grip.

First of all, this is a great opening line. It hooks, but then it leads to another hook and another and another. The character is testing the blade. Why? A blade being moisture resistant obviously is a plus if you are planning on stabbing someone because less chance of slippage (Stuff Writers Know).

Who is she planning to stab? How is she planning on using the blade? What has her so nervous her hands are going moist?

And on PAGE ONE we realize the protagonist is out looking at knives with her fiancé. Why? That is unusual. China? Normal. Curtains? Normal. Knives? Not normal.

Especially since in paragraph FOUR, we read:

I look up at him, too: my fiancé. The word didn’t bother me so much as the one that came after it. Husband. That word laced the corset tighter, crushing organs, sending panic into my throat with the bright beat of a distress signal.

Don’t Eat Your Own Bait

There are any number of reasons we as writers are failing to gut hook with our stories and often it is because we are falling prey to the very bait that is going to trap a reader. Problems bother us (because we are human) so we feel a need to “lead up to” something bad. We don’t like questions. We want to know…which is why we feel the urge to explain.

Just know that that clawing feeling inside that is driving you to pad the text is a good sign you are probably doing something right 😉 . For more on how to hook the reader, I am once again holding my First Five Pages class with upgrades available to get me shredding through your pages to help you start strong and stay strong.

The tricks we use to hook on page one we should continue to use until the final page. Coil that barbed story all around and no escape until you’re cut free.

Ain’t no rest for the wicked 😉 .

What are your thoughts?

I LOVE hearing from you! And REMEMBER TO SIGN UP TO HANG OUT AND LEARN FROM HOLLYWOOD PRODUCER JOEL EISENBERG! Details are below. This is EIGHT hours with one of the hottest producers in Hollywood teaching everything from craft to how to SELL what we write! Recordings are included with your purchase for FREE!

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

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

SIGN UP NOW FOR UPCOMING CLASSES!!! 

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

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

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

Potentially Lucrative Multi-Media Rights $65 February 21st, 2107 (AVAILABLE ON DEMAND)

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

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

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

Individual Classes with MOI!

Blogging for Authors $50 March 30th, 2017

Plotting for Dummies $35 February 17th, 2017

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

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

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

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

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Description—Writer Crack & Finding the Write Balance

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Description. Ah the crack for most writers. Many of us never met a modifier we did not love. Forget a BLUE sky. Why would you have a BLUE sky when you could have a cerulean sky?

*chops up line of metaphors with a razor and snorts*

Granted, there is also the other side of the writer coin; those who never use description or very sparse description.

Also known as…freaks.

I am KIDDING!

….kind of.

But even if you don’t use a lot of description, don’t fret. That’s just your voice. Readers like me who looooove description will probably gravitate to other books and that is OKAY. This doesn’t absolve y’all completely though. If you use very little description, then it is more important than EVER to use the right description.

Personally, I’m not a fan of austere modern houses with stainless steel everything and weird chairs no human could sit in and most cats would avoid, but? There are plenty of people who dig it. I also don’t like a lot of knick-knacks and clutter. Makes me want to start cleaning.

Same with books. Not too little or too much. Yeah, I’m Literary Goldilocks.

Plain fact? We can’t please everyone. Description (or lack thereof) is a component of an author’s voice. BUT, the blunt truth is it is almost impossible to tell a story with NO description. That is hard on the reader. She needs some kind of grounding. So, whether you use a little or you lay it on heavier than a Texan with hairspray? These tips will help you be a master at description…

Avoid “Police Sketch” Description 

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I assume most of you have watched TV. A witness is asked to give a description of the mugger, murderer, whatever. Well, he was tall, with dark hair and dark eyes. Very muscular.

She was short, blonde and fit.

The reason I (as an editor) don’t care for this kind of description is a good writer is a wordsmith and we should be able to describe characters better than someone who’s been at the wrong end of a purse-snatching. Is there anything wrong with this description? Nah. Just it’s something anyone can do. It isn’t anything unique.

Avoid the “Weather Report” or “Google Maps”Description

Weather can be vital and even its own character (which we will get to). But putting in weather just to tell us it’s a hot sunny day? Again, surface. Same with describing a location. Cities, streets, stores can come alive with the right description.

Avoid “Info-Dump” Description

I was really bad about this when I was new. I described everything in a room. I believed the reader needed to know all the positions of the furniture, what was on the bookshelves and end tables, the colors of the walls, just to “get” what I was talking about. They didn’t need all that and likely lost interest in the point I was trying to make anyway.

I didn’t give my readers enough credit and most of that information was for me anyway. Novels are for the reader not for us, which is important to remember and easy to forget.

Good description doesn’t automatically mean MORE description 😉 .

What Makes GOOD Description?

Again, this is subjective, but I read…a LOT. I need a 12 Step Program for the sheer number of books I buy. Since I dig description, I often highlight it when it’s done WELL (which is why I cannot check out books from the library or EVER yell at Spawn for coloring in books). The common denominator I see in great description is it delves beyond the surface and evokes some kind of feeling.

In this post, I’m merely giving some of MY favorite examples (from many different genres). I recommend that, if you want to use description, go to those stories that spoke to YOU. Those highlighted spots can be telling about your voice, preference and style. You don’t need to copy, but you can deconstruct how the author did something WELL. And likely, if you are a fan of that kind of writing, others are too and you might share the same kind of readers.

Characters

One of my favorite authors is Jonathan Maberry. He describes people in a way that instantly evokes a visceral resonse. Sure there is a tad of physical description, but not much. Most is left out and yet we SEE these people.

For instance, Rot and Ruin (which is a YA series about our world 12 years after the Zombie Apocalypse. A teenage boy is the protagonist and my entire family is now INHALING this series, too).

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This is a scene in the first book when the young protagonist Benny goes to hang out with his zombie-hunting hero, Charlie Matthias:

“It was a 1967 Pontiac LeMans Ragtop. Bloodred and so souped-up that she’d outrun any damn thing on the road. And I do mean damned thing.”

That’s how Charlie Matthias always described his car. Then, he’d give a big braying horselaugh, because no matter how many times he said it, he thought it was the funniest joke ever. People tended to laugh with him rather than at the actual joke, because Charlie had a 72-inch chest and 24-inch biceps, and his sweat was a soup of testosterone, anabolic steroids, and Jack Daniels… (Page, 24)

In this example, other than the size of Charlie’s muscles, we get very little literal description. Everything in this is “feeling oriented.” We get a real sense of who Charlie is and who he might be. As a zombie-hunter, he seems the epitome of who we’d want taking out the undead, but there is an undercurrent of tension that makes us (readers) uneasy.

To me, this is far more powerful than:

Zombie-Hunter Charlie Matthais was well over six-feet tall with bulging muscles and wild red hair. (Zzzzzzzzz. Btw, I have no idea what color C.M.’s hair is, but did I really need to know?)

For the Literary Folks: Cormac McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men:

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(Sheriff Bell) came across a hawk dead in the road. He saw the feathers move in the wind. He pulled over and got out and walked back and squatted on his boot heels and looked at it. He raised one dead wing and let it fall again. Cold yellow eye dead to the blue vault above them.

It was a big red tail. He picked it up by one wing and carried it to the bar ditch and laid it in the grass. They would hunt the blacktop, sitting on the high power poles and watching the highway in both direction for miles. Any small thing that might venture to cross. Closing in on their prey against the sun. Shadowless. Lost in the concentration of the hunter. He wouldn’t have the trucks running over it (Page 44-45).

In this story, a good lawman is after a soulless criminal who is nothing short of pure evil. This above description is important. The red tail hawk is a parallel of Bell. Bell is also a hunter who’s in danger of being so caught in the pursuit, it could get him killed. Even though the lawman is tracking a criminal, he takes time to honor a fallen hunter even though it’s “only” a bird, something the psychopathic antagonist, who has NO VALUE for any life, would ever do.

Part of that “Show, don’t tell” thing ;). We don’t get a description of what Bell looks like, but through action, we know who he IS.

If you are into the “Less-Is-More-Description” here’s an example from Daniel Suarez’s cyber-thriller Daemon:

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Merrit stopped short and turned to glare at the man—a federal bureaucrat type, late twenties. The kind of person you forgot even while you were looking at him (Page 242)

Short, sweet and we all know this kind of person. We fill in the blanks and it’s emotive (or rather non-emotive, which is the point).

Weather/Setting/Information Without Being Info-Dump

For the sake of time, we’ll bundle three into one. Depp does a fabulous job of weaving weather, setting, and information in a tight cord of emotion. This selection is from Daniel Depp’s Loser’s Town.

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The protagonist, Spandau, is a P.I. is following a Hollywood agent to a movie set to meet a client who’s being blackmailed:

Spandau smoked, and thought the city gliding past was much like an overexposed film, too much light, all depth burned away and sacrificed. All concrete and asphalt, a thousand square miles of man-made griddle on which to fry for our sins. Then, you turn a corner and there’s a burst of crimson bougainvillea redeeming an otherwise ugly chunk of concrete building. Or a line of tall palm trees, still majestic and still stubbornly refusing to die, stubbornly sprouting green at the tops of thick dying stalks, guarding a side street of bungalows constructed at a time when L.A. was still the Land of Milk and Honey….There was a beauty still there, sometimes, beneath all the corruption, like the face of an actress long past her prime, when the outline of an old loveliness can still be glimpsed through the desperate layers of pancake and eyeliner. (page 23)

In this description, we get more than a play-by-play of the L.A. streets he passes. Additionally, I feel the description is very telling about the character. Note the contrasting biblical references or even the tension inside the character. He hates this place, but can still see the loveliness that tears at him and keeps him there, keeps him coming back.

The description is an extension of the feel of the city—no depth, manmade, hardened, lost (but still something beautiful worth staying for).

Note the description is processed through the feelings and backstory of the character. Instead of sounding like a travel brochure, there is emotional flavor adding depth. We pretty much know the weather—bright and hot. We experience the place rather than just “seeing” it in a boring “and then he turned on this street and then that street” fashion.

The description also shows us Spandau is likely an excellent detective—he sees more than the surface and instinctively searches deeper.

Again, description–how to do it, how much, how little—is subjective.

But, I believe that good description can make the difference in a caricature verses a “person” or “place” so real we’re sad to say good-bye when the book ends. Also, I hope I’ve given examples of how we can describe a character or a place without “describing” it.

Are we describing with the same depth as any literate person with a laptop could do? Or are we digging below skin and into marrow?

What are your thoughts? Do you find yourself skimming description and didn’t know why? Do you highlight great description, too? Or are you a minimalist? There aren’t any wrong answers, btw. Who are some of your favorite authors who ROCKS description? What are maybe some tips/thoughts you have that takes description from blasé to beautiful?

I LOVE hearing from you! And REMEMBER TO SIGN UP TO HANG OUT AND LEARN FROM HOLLYWOOD PRODUCER JOEL EISENBERG! Details are below. This is EIGHT hours with one of the hottest producers in Hollywood teaching everything from craft to how to SELL what we write! Recordings are included with your purchase for FREE!

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

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

SIGN UP NOW FOR UPCOMING CLASSES!!! 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Individual Classes with MOI!

Blogging for Authors $50 February 23rd, 2017

Plotting for Dummies $35 February 17th, 2017

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

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

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

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

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29 Comments

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

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

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

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

Growth is a Process

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

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

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

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

We must learn GRIT.

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

Setback #1—The Judas Kiss

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E tu, Brute?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Setback #2—You Just Aren’t Ready

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

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

Aspiring.

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

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

Vastly different quality.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Setback #3—Burning Bridges

Ah, the burning bridges

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

But then there is the other scenario.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I love hearing from you!

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

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

SIGN UP NOW FOR UPCOMING CLASSES!!! 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Individual Classes with MOI!

Blogging for Authors $50 February 23rd, 2017

Plotting for Dummies $35 February 17th, 2017

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

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

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

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

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31 Comments

YOU’RE TOO SMART TO GO DOWN STUPID

Image courtesy of Eflon via Flickr Creative Commons

Image courtesy of Eflon via Flickr Creative Commons

Today, we welcome back author and Hollywood producer Joel Eisenberg for the kick in the pants ALL of us need. I have to admit, yesterday was an unbelievably bad day and Joel sent this guest post in early. In the midst of the flaming wreckage of my day, I didn’t get a chance to read the post until this morning and man, did I ever need this message.

We all do. Every day. Tattooed backwards on our foreheads so we can read it when we look in the mirror.

Okay, maybe that is a tad too far.

….just a tad.

But read on! And as always, thank YOU for being here and THANK YOU JOEL for being so generous to all of us.

***

“You’ve worked too hard and you’re too smart to go down stupid!”

– a loved one in 2001, when I was discussing giving up on my dreams.

You can have it all. Really, you can. To get there, though, requires all of the clichés: sacrifice, hard work, persistence, yada yada yada.

It’s like this: There is no roadmap. Period. End of story. And yet, getting published or being produced as a writer is not an impossible dream. And therein lies the rub.

Anyone who says they have discovered the roadmap is, frankly, deluded or a liar. There is no roadmap. Both the publishing business and the film or TV business is the wild west. There are no rules. Yeah there are books. Take a cursory look on amazon, or your local bookstore, and you will find dozens of volumes devoted to making it in your specific industry.

But, you may ask, if I’m calling these efforts out, and yet I’m hosting a Kristen Lamb Masterclass myself – and years ago having written and self-published a book about surviving day jobs en route to the attainment of one’s creative goals – then wouldn’t I be a master hypocrite?

Read on, and make that determination on your own.

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The greatest single mistake made by these sometimes-well-intentioned efforts is this: They assume everyone has the same path in life and they espouse their “rules” from there.

There’s a word for such assumptions in my native Brooklyn. You’ve heard it from me before. The word is … “BULLSHIT.”

Some aspiring writers have children to feed. Some are in school. Some have family responsibilities such as taking care of an elderly parent.

Some are lazy.

Regardless, no one person has the same path. You can only work with what you have. Now, that said, John Grisham spent the majority of his hours daily cultivating his legal career, while writing in whatever spare time he had. And then “The Firm” happened …

You will hear these stories over and again, about people succeeding against all odds. But, you must consider: “Who is the odds maker?”

Make no mistake. It’s you. Sometimes, we are our own worst enemies.

If you take care of your daily responsibilities, even if you write one page a day … over the course of a year, or less, you just may have a final draft of a book. Or an award-winning screenplay. So many others have done the same. Those Nike commercials are spot on: “Just Do It!”

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We live in 2017. Take advantage. Years ago, one was asked to send a self-addressed stamped envelope to a publisher or production company, containing your query or bound volume of your latest masterwork. Today, most of this is done by email.

But, what is more important is you can easily google lists of publishers or production companies who will read unsolicited manuscripts. Such listings will also explain how best to query your specific target. Frequently, you don’t even need an agent.

Which brings me to the bane of the writer’s existence: The business of writing. In my experience, having spoken to tens of thousands of writers throughout the country for several years, and hosting multi-media networking events at Paramount Studios, Warner Brothers Studios, Sunset-Gower Studios and others for the better part of a decade – one thing is constant.

That is…

Once a creative person takes care of, what would in our case be the writing of the material, many are lost when it comes to how to sell the material.

This is perhaps the biggest reason why I am hosting a Master Class for Kristen. I’ve been in the trenches. I’m accessible and not at all foreign to being broke, having time issues and so on.

When I became truly desperate is when I succeeded.

You don’t have to become desperate. I did all that work already. My answer to the above quandary is simple:

You have to learn to sell yourself first.

Join us and we’ll share with you specific strategies to work with what you have as an advantage to maximize your results. Remember, if there really was a magic bullet to all this, we’d all be doing the same thing and achieving the same results.

That’s not even science fiction.

That’s foolishness.

And you’re too smart to go down stupid …

***

What are your thoughts? Your stories? Your struggles? Joel and I are here in the comments so let’s TALK! And Joel and I have been where a lot of you are. It is why we have dedicated our lives to serving you and teaching you and making you better, so sign up for a class or five 😀 . We did the heavy lifting for you, so let us help you!

I love hearing from you!

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

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

SIGN UP NOW FOR UPCOMING CLASSES!!! 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Individual Classes with MOI!

Blogging for Authors $50 February 23rd, 2017

When your Name Alone Can SELL—Branding for Authors $35 February 10th, 2017

Social Media for Authors $55 February 11th, 2017

Plotting for Dummies $35 February 17th, 2017

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

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

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

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23 Comments

The Single Largest Problem of Most First Time Novels

Original image courtesy of flowcomm, via Flickr Commons

Original image courtesy of flowcomm, via Flickr Commons

All righty. So we have spent a couple of posts talking about getting our head right when it comes to doing this writing thing. Once we get our heads in the game, then the practical How To advice gets a heck of a lot more mileage. Today we are going to talk about the writing of the actual novel.

When I started out wanting to become a writer years ago, I was so clueless I didn’t even realize I was clueless. I had an overinflated ego from all those years making As in high school then college English. I believed I could write so when it came to reading craft books? I thumbed through them and decided I didn’t want my writing to be “formulaic” *flips hair*.

Trying to take a short cut cost me a lot of time and wasted words because I failed to appreciate that writing a work spanning 60K-100K words might just be a tad more difficult than that five page essay.

Once I realized how much I really didn’t know, I set about reading every craft book I could find, seeking out mentors, reading blogs and articles and taking classes until finally I actually became an expert.

In being an expert though, I run into a lot of writers who say the same things that I as a fledgling newbie said. I remember being utterly perplexed and most of the instructors I came in contact with had no good answer to my questions. Now in the position of teacher? I hope to give you what I had to find on my own.

You need to start in the action.

I did! How much more action do you need than blowing up a building with cyborg ninjas?

You don’t have any conflict.

Sure I do!

What is your book about?

Well, it isn’t about any one thing. Oh, but a lot of stuff happens to my character. She has a lot of issues.

What is your plot problem?

Oh, mine is a character-driven story.

Yeah.

This said, the single largest problem of most first time novels is there is simply no story. It really isn’t a novel, rather a collection of clever vignettes.

What is a STORY?

Pirate Code=Writing Rules. Clearer now? :)

Pirate Code=Writing Rules. Clearer now? 🙂

Okay so one of the major problems I had when I started out is I was too narrowly focused on the pretty prose on the page. I had spent a lifetime being applauded for my brilliant use of language and since I was weak at structure, I relied on what I did well. BS and glitter. But the problem is that pretty prose does not a story make. A novel is not just a collection of cool sentences and witty dialogue. There must be a destination.

The destination is what the entire book is about.

Yes, this even applies to literary fiction so there is no copping out. In fact, when an emerging writer says, “Oh, my book is literary” or “My book is character-driven” I hear “I have no plot and really no clue how to create one.”

Bear with me…

All stories have a CORE SINGULAR PROBLEM that must be resolved in Act Three (or four or five—It doesn’t matter which structure we use, it is all basically Three Act Structure). So for the sake of simplicity, it needs to be resolved at the end.

And yeah yeah I am giving you “rules” but to break the rules we need to know and understand the rules. Yet on this one? Break it at your peril. We don’t want readers lost because we have failed to pick what our book “is about.” We also don’t want them getting all the way through the book then tossing it against the wall because we don’t understand story and thus delivered a frustrating and unsatisfying ending.

Me with sooooo many books.

Me with sooooo many books.

Back to the core problem…

Now, this core problem can have all kinds of subplots (and often does) but they are ALL tributaries feeding into the same river. For instance, in Lord of the Rings the core plot problem is to drop an evil ring into a specific volcano before a power hungry necromancer takes over Middle Earth.

Simple.

But there are all kinds of subplots (I.e. Aragorn no longer running, facing his failures and reclaiming his place as king. Arwen standing up to her father and sacrificing to be with the human she loves even though she is an elf and he is a human who has a lot of baggage with Dad).

But all of these smaller dramas impact the resolution of the story. If they don’t? They are plot bunnies that need to be caged.

Even in character-driven stories, there is a core plot problem. In The Road Man and Boy must make it to the ocean. If at the end, they are not at the ocean OR they are at the ocean but resorted to snacking on humans? They failed.

In The Joy Luck Club Jing-Mei (June) must make a decision whether or not to get on the boat to China to meet her missing twin sisters. If she doesn’t take the lessons from the stories, she will continue to hide and the sins of previous generations will continue. If she doesn’t get on the boat, it will mean she has failed to understand and thus forgive her mother. She fails.

Notice how even in these literary examples there is a physical representation that the character has succeeded—ocean and boat.

When there is an end-goal in mind, then it is far easier to deliver the character change. How the protagonist confronts the problem initially won’t work. The character will have to conquer inner demons and evolve into a hero in order to triumph.

This is why I STRONGLY recommend being able to write what our story is about in ONE sentence. If we can’t do that? Houston, we have a problem.

Conflict Versus The “Bad” Situation

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If we do not have a plot problem it is impossible to generate authentic dramatic tension. I will give you an example.

Kristen oversleeps through her alarm. Worse, when she wakes up, she steps into squishy carpet. The toilet has overflowed. Then she tries to clean that up and the power goes out. Since she has places to be she packs up her stuff to shower at the gym. But after showering and dressing at the gym, she is then caught in bumper to bumper traffic and only once she is an hour away from the house does she realize she has forgotten her purse and has no I.D. or money.

Sounds like a pretty bad day, right? On some level you sympathize. But here is the deal, since this is all happening sequentially with no larger context, it is just bad situation after bad situation. It sucks, but there is no conflict.

Now, let’s add in one little thing. The end goal.

Kristen’s goal was to make an international flight. She is flying to keynote in Australia and this is the make or break of her career. If she fails to make it on time to Australia, she not only forfeits her speaker fee, she will wreck her reputation and also have to pay back the $2,000 for the flight. On top of that an entire hotel of people who have paid for a conference to see her speak, now will have no keynote.

NOW when these setbacks happen, because we know the goal (and what is at stake) we are practically white with tension. We know this isn’t just any other day and that THIS day is vital and so is every decision Kristen makes.

Starting in the Action

Starting in the action has less to do with car chases and bombs and fight scenes and more to do with getting as close to the story problem as possible. Using my example above, we wouldn’t want to start our story with the day Kristen left paper sales to become a writer. No. We would start as close to the day she is leaving to keynote and kick off the problems there.

Obviously there is a lot more to this writing thing, but starting with a solid core plot problem will alleviate a lot of problems. It won’t matter how witty the dialogue, how bad the bad situation, how glorious the prose if all of these are not feeding into the same goal—RESOLVING THE CORE STORY PROBLEM.

If you are struggling with that, sign up for my class about query letters and synopses this Saturday. I will teach you how to whittle your plot to bare bones and find and fix weaknesses. Also, sign up for my Master’s Series (all listed below and recordings come with purchase). I have one for Craft and though the Plotting for Dummies has passed and you can’t attend live, you will get the recording. These Master’s Series give you three classes for the price of TWO. The social media series literally has ALL you need to know to build a brand.

I also have a TOTALLY new Master’s Series with Hollywood Producer Joel Eisenberg. Normally this sells for $400. It is three classes, two hours a piece and Joel is offering it through W.A.N.A. for only $199. How to Maximize Earning Potential as a Full-Time Writer. So hello? Valentine’s Day gift? *wink, wink*

So what are your thoughts? Do you struggle with plot? Do you find yourself drifting off after plot bunnies?

I love hearing from you!

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

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

SIGN UP NOW FOR MY UPCOMING CLASSES!!! 

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

All you need is an internet connection!

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

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

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

Individual Classes with MOI!

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

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

Social Media for Authors February 11th, 2017

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

Blogging for Authors February 3rd

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

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36 Comments

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

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

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

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

Where is Your Head?

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

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

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

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

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

We need to get our heads on straight.

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

So to make y’all super uncomfortable…

Declare What is Untrue Until It BECOMES True

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Well, yeah about that 😉 .

I also wrote…

I am regularly invited to speak at conferences.

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

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

Guess where I am keynoting in August?

I have 55,000 subscribers to my blog.

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

My writing heroes come to ME for advice.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I have made my MISSION from these declarations.

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

Head Trauma

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

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

Okay.

People just don’t read anymore. 

As you wish.

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

See where I am going here?

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

Yeah hadn’t heard of him either.

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

Hell, I am depressing myself just writing that.

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

In the meantime, just say….

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

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

I love hearing from you!

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

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

SIGN UP NOW FOR MY UPCOMING CLASSES!!! 

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

All you need is an internet connection!

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

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

Individual Classes with MOI!

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

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

Social Media for Authors February 11th, 2017

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

Blogging for Authors February 3rd

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

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