Kristen Lamb

Author, Blogger, Social Media Jedi

Kristen Lamb — Photo

Posts Categorized: Writing

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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I know most of you reading this blog have the eventual goal of becoming professional authors who work full-time doing what they love. One thing that vexes me about our industry is everyone is afraid to talk about money, but money makes the world go round. It’s almost as if it’s dirty to want to actually be paid to write.

Which is just B.S.

What we do is highly valuable. Not everyone can do what we do. Think about most people regarding writing.

My class requires a ten-page essay.

OMG! Writing is hard!

I am assigning a twenty page research paper.

Writing is hard!

Write a short story.

Ugh, writing is hard!

Draft a resume and cover letter.

I hate writing. Writing is hard!

“I’m a novelist.”

Really? That’s a job? Writing is easy.

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Thing is, we all need to eat and pay the power bill. Sure, the goal is one day the novels will be bringing in most of our income, but that is just the tip of what is available to those of us with a knack for words.

Open Your Mind

Too many people, when they hear the word “writer” automatically default to ONE vision of writers. If we are not J.K. Rowling then clearly we spend our days writing bad poetry at Starbucks while begging for loose change.

*rolls eyes*

Years ago, my church was offering instruction on financial planning so they had the most successful members of the congregation come in to instruct how to save, invest, etc.

One of the elders happened to be a stock broker and when I told him I wanted to be a novelist, he all but laughed in my face. He told me I needed a “real” job, that writing was a nice hobby but that I had “better odds of being hit by lightning than making any money at it.”

Once the urge to kill had passed, I said, “Really? So I guess all of this reading material I see here in your office magically appeared. Writers didn’t do that.” *points to bookshelves as tall as the ceiling*

“Well, uh…”

“And you like movies. Obviously no one wrote those. Producers just hired a bunch of actors to improv the entire thing, right?”

“No, but…”

“And last I checked, you have to navigate the various fields of the software you use. So those instructions just evolved over millions of years of letters rubbing together and eventually growing legs. Web sites don’t have words, ads are all cat pictures and billboards use sign language. Is that what you’re saying?”

Needless to say, he was an idiot. I just pointed it out because he apparently hadn’t noticed.

He also lacked imagination and must have not realized that technical writers like me were paid $45 an hour. Not a bad meantime job.

I know that many of you want to be novelists and that is a fantastic goal and one that I share. But there are a lot of other venues that need writers so when we free up what we think of when we hear “writer” that is going to give us a major advantage.

There Are OTHER Forms of PAID Writing

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Once I came to grips with the fact that my first novel, my 187,000 word thriller-suspense-YA-historical-inspirational-comedy was not going to launch me immediately to fame and fortune, I had to make another plan. I was going to need time to build my skills as an author and storyteller. But I still wanted to call myself a professional writer…and eat.

What did I do?

I taught myself how to do technical writing. Now trust me, there is nothing remotely sexy about writing software instructions, company manuals, HR training modules, or descriptions for on-line merchandise. But these jobs are in demand and for those who learn to do this well? The pay can be seriously sweet.

Additionally a lot of the work is from home or even on short-term contract. This means you don’t have to stick with the same company once the contract is up (though if we do a great job, often they will keep offering more contracts because good technical writers who are NOT flakes are about as rare as unicorn tears).

In fact, once companies realize you are good at what you do and meet or exceed deadlines? Word spreads. Eventually I had to turn down jobs because there was only so much of me to go around. In fact one time a hiring manager called me and I was so loaded with work I was only half paying attention to the introduction on the phone. I had no intention of taking yet another contract, but indulged the call anyway.

Manager: (Snooty interviewing voice) We got a recommendation for you via X Company. Why should we hire you to write our manuals?

Me: Because I’m good.

Manager: Why’s that?

Me: I insert random steamy love scenes. No one expects that in a training manual. Like they think, “Oh I’m here to learn about avionics and end up wanting to know if Fabio and Francesca ever hook up!” Gotta have SOME way to make engineers pay attention and actually READ the damn things.

I was just being goofball me and blowing off the job, but the manager? Dies laughing and says, “You’re hired!” It turned out to be a multi-billion-dollar defense company and the hiring manager so loved my confidence and humor she was determined to hire me away. That or maybe she thought I was being serious.

Feed the NEED

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All businesses need copy. Most business is done on the Internet and all those words don’t spontaneously appear out of the ether. Obviously the better and more specialized our skill sets? The higher the pay. If you can learn the various forms of software required AND you’re a clean concise writer? Great formula for success because BOTH those skills are rare indeed.

Many writers might have great form, but lack analytical abilities and software know-how, so they aren’t going to be considered. They simply don’t have the skill set for the job. Often those who DO have analytical ability and software knowhow are programmers and engineers (NOT writers).

There’s a good reason stereo instructions make your brains bleed.

In fact, that was the very weakness that I worked to my advantage. It’s how I landed a lot of my work. The interviewer would ask, “Why should we hire you?” My response? “I speak fluent engineer and can translate.”

SOLD!

If you are interested in this type of work, do some recon first. Go search for these jobs on the internet and see which ones appeal to you. Then make notes regarding what employers are looking for and learn those skills.

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When I was doing this, the program Visio was used a lot. So, I downloaded the 30 Day Free Trial and used Microsoft’s on-line tutorials to teach myself. It was win-win. If I was not able to learn the program? I just wouldn’t buy the software and would try something else. But if I did learn it? I might not even have to buy it if I was working on a company computer.

What could it hurt? I was only out time and maybe a few brain cells.

Not everyone can do this, but a lot of you can and you might not have realized that weird ability to teach yourself to crochet or build above-ground gardens using YouTube might just pay off.

This is an excellent way to keep income in your pipeline while you’re working on being the next J.K. Rowling. Because last I checked, she isn’t exactly starving, either.

Hollywood

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I love bringing mentors to you guys because they expand our worldview. My friend, Hollywood Producer Joel Eisenberg (here last time), has been hammering lately on how desperate the entertainment industry is for writers. There are countless channels all streaming entertainment and this industry is on the hunt more than ever for something new and fresh. They need solid, talented, dependable writers who can help them keep up with consumer demand.

It is a HUGE reason I pestered him to come teach for me. We just don’t know what we don’t know and sometimes getting that toe in the door is the break we need. Joel is going to explore all kinds of other ways to create revenue using speaking, blogging, film and harnessing your work for rights you might not even known you could use let alone HOW to.

Blogging

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One of the reasons I love for writers to blog is if you get any good at it, you are creating revenue streams. Not only is blogging the most stable form of social media, it is the easiest form of social media to monetize. So we can build a fantastic platform, reach out and cultivate an audience for our novels and make money doing it.

This is called working smarter, not harder. I go into how to do this in MY upcoming class Blogging for Authors.

Granted, I never in any way promise “Get rich quick!” But at the same time, it’s easy to be myopic and that could be costing us that regular income to support us on our way to the dream. It’s easy to take for granted how much writing is out there and forget that somebody was PAID to do it.

What are your thoughts?

Thanks for following and as always I reward the faithful!

I love hearing from you!

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

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

SIGN UP NOW FOR UPCOMING CLASSES!!! 

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

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

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

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

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

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Yeah.

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

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

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

Take it away, Joel!

***

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

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

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

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

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It was not exactly the same, but close enough.

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

And then I got smart.

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

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

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

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

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

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

I did what I needed to do.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

Certainly beats telemarketing, I tell ya.

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

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

Become so good at something you cannot be ignored.

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

Trust me. I’ve been there.

***

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

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

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

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

Thanks for following and as always I reward the faithful!

I love hearing from you!

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

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

SIGN UP NOW FOR UPCOMING CLASSES!!! 

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

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

Potentially Lucrative Multi-Media Rights February 21st, 2107

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

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

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

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

Individual Classes with MOI!

Blogging for Authors February 23rd, 2017

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

Social Media for Authors February 11th, 2017

Plotting for Dummies February 17th, 2017

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

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

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Over my career I have literally edited thousands of works, most of them written by emerging writers. My greatest frustration always was (and still is) when I couldn’t even GET to critiquing the deeper story elements because I was too distracted by these all too common oopses.

Good editors are NOT cheap. There are also many editors who charge by the hour. If they’re spending their time fixing oopses you could’ve easily repaired yourself? You’re burning cash and time. Yet, correct these problems, and editors can more easily get to the MEAT of your novel. This means you will spend less money and get far higher value.

#1 The Brutal Truth about Adverbs, Metaphors and Similes

I have never met an adverb, simile, or metaphor I didn’t LOVE. I totally dig description, but it can present problems.

First of all, adverbs are not ALL evil. Redundant adverbs are evil. If someone shouts loudly? How else are they going to shout? Whispering quietly? Really? O_o Ah, but if they whisper seductively? The adverb seductively gives us a quality to the whisper that isn’t already implied by the verb.

Check your work for adverbs and kill the redundant ones. Kill them. Dead.

Metaphors and similes are awesome, but need to be used sparingly. Yes, in school, our teachers or professors didn’t ding us for using 42 metaphors in 5 pages, but their job was to teach us how to properly use a metaphor or simile, NOT prepare us for commercial publication as professional novelists.

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When we use too much of this verbal glitter, we can create what’s called “purple prose.” This glitter, while sparkly, can pull the reader out of the story or even confuse the reader. A while back, I edited a winner’s 20 page entry. The story began on a whitewater river and the rafters were careening toward a “rock coffee table.”

Huh?

Oh, the boulder is squarish shaped!

Thing is, the metaphor made me stop to figure out what image the author was trying to create. If the rafters had merely been careening toward a giant flat rock? Not as pretty but I could have remained in the story without trying to figure out how the hell furniture ended up in the river.

I’ve read some great books, but as an editor, I might have cut some of the metaphors. Why? Because the author might have a metaphor SO GOOD I wanted to highlight it and commit it to memory…but it was bogged down by the other four metaphors and three similes on the same page. The other metaphors/similes added nothing…unless one counts distraction.

Go through your pages and highlight metaphors and similes. Pick THE BEST and CUT THE REST. Look for confusing metaphors, like rock furniture in the middle of a river.

#2 Stage Direction

She reached out her arm to open the door.

Okay, unless she has mind powers and telekinesis, do we need the direction?

He turned to go down the next street.

He picked up the oars and pulled a few more strokes, eager to get to his favorite fishing spot.

We “get” he’d have to pick up the oars to row his boat, or that is a seriously cool trick.

Be active. Characters can “brush hair out of their face” “open doors” and even slap people without you telling us they reached out an arm or hand to do this. We are smart. Really.

#3 Painful and Alien Movement of Body Parts…

Her eyes flew to the other end of the restaurant.

 His head followed her across the room.

All I have to say is… “Ouch.”

Make sure your character keeps all body parts attached. Her gaze can follow a person and so can her stare, but if her eyes follow? The carpet gets them fuzzy with dust bunnies and then they don’t slide back in her sockets as easily.

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#4 Too Much Physiology…

Her heart pounded. Her heart hammered. Her pulse beat in her head. Her breath came in choking sobs.

After a page of this? I need a nap. After two pages? I need a drink. We can only take so much heart pounding, thrumming, hammering before we just get worn out.  That and I read a lot of entries where the character has her heart hammering so much, I am waiting for her to slip into cardiac arrest at any moment. Ease up on the physiology. Less is often more.

Get a copy of Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi’s Emotion Thesaurus to help you vary physiology. Also, if someone’s heart is pounding, that’s okay. We assume until they are out of danger it’s still pounding. No need to remind us.

Really.

#5 Backing Into the Sentence/Passive Voice

In an effort to break up and vary sentence structure, many writers will craft sentences like this:

With the months of stress pressing down on her head, Jessie started ironing the restaurant tablecloths with a fury.

Problem? Passive action. When we use the word “down” then “on” is redundant. Either she is ironing or not ironing. “Started” is overused and makes sloppy writing. That actually goes back to the whole “stage direction” thing.

Active:

Jessie ironed the restaurant tablecloths with a fury, months of stress pressing on her shoulders.

The door was kicked in by the police.

Police kicked in the door.

If you go through your pages and see WAS clusters? That’s a HUGE hint that passive voice has infected your story.

#6 Almost ALWAYS Use “Said” as a Tag

“You are such a jerk,” she laughed.

A character can’t “laugh” something. They can’t “spit” “snarl” “grouse” words. They can SAY and ever so often they can ASK. Said used properly becomes white noise.

NOTE: Use said as a tag…just don’t get crazy. If you beat it up it gets distracting and annoying.

But again, used properly readers don’t generally “see” it. It keeps them in the story and cooking along. If we want to add things like laughing, griping, complaining, then fine. It just shouldn’t be the tag.

“You are such a jerk.” She laughed as she flicked brownie batter onto Fabio’s white shirt.

Notice how sentences like the one above also keep us from beating said to death.

I swear the funniest instance of bizarre tags was a new writer who just would NOT listen to me and she insisted on using all these crazy@$$ tags. So instead of exclaimed when her character yelled something she tagged with, he ejaculated.

*Editor Kristen falls over laughing*

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Okay y’all ALL sniggered at that one. So yeah be creative just not in the tags, ya dig? 😉

There you go, SIX easy tips for self-editing. We all make these mistakes and that’s why God invented revision (that and to punish the unfaithful). If you can get rid of these common offenders on your own, then good editors can focus on the deeper aspects of your fiction.

Have you had to ruthlessly slay your favorite metaphors? Are you a recovering adverb-addict? What are some other self-editing guidelines you use to keep your prose clean and effective?

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).

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Blogging for Authors February 3rd, 2017

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Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of David Rogers
Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of David Rogers

Technology always changes our reality and there are inevitable growing pains that go part and parcel with any innovation. Every meaningful advance always has social consequences.

Always.

From the Gutenberg Press to the Model-T to electric lighting humans have had to adjust, shift and learn to balance great benefits with never before encountered consequences.

With the digital age? Here we go again.

As I’ve mentioned before, as early as 2004 when I was puttering around a site called Gather, I saw what social media was going to evolve into, that we were looking at likely the largest shift in communication since the Gutenberg Press. I knew even then that this was likely going to be the end of publishing as we had known it for well over a hundred years.

But I would be lying if I said I didn’t have mixed emotions.

The Good

Image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Martin.
Image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Martin.

By 2006, novelists were dying due to the predatory practices of mega-bookstores like Borders and Barnes & Noble (for more on why, go HERE). These businesses had made next to impossible for novelists to make a living wage. Their methods obliterated the author middle class and replaced a balanced economy with a Publishing Third World where most of the wealth was concentrated at the top with the super well-known brands.

Mid-list authors were leaving writing altogether and going back to “real” jobs like teaching. New authors were finding it increasingly difficult to “break out.”

The reason is that, to offer so many books so deeply discounted, books had a far shorter shelf life. Also, unlike say a B. Dalton, the mega stores didn’t carry backlist so a mid-list author was no longer making royalties off eight or ten or fifteen books, she was making royalties off of ONE. The backlist was pulled and essentially stuffed in storage.

The problem was that how platforms were traditionally built was by an author being able to offer multiple titles. Without multiple titles in circulation? Platforms dissolved or never formed at all.

If you were a new author, you had to hope for a proper alignment of stars and hope the book took off and made impact like a literary meteor strike. Because, if you didn’t? There was no good way to keep fan fires burning because older titles got pulled.

Enter social media….

I saw that it was now going to be possible for an emerging writer to cultivate an audience and fan base before the first book was ever published much the same way non-fiction authors could do. Additionally, authors now had a way to offer interaction and content with fans between books. 

When Amazon, Smash Words, etc. entered the scene with e-books? The future got brighter. Mid-list authors who were leaving publishing in defeat now could take that backlist and put it out with new life and power this engine using social media. Not only could they build and maintain a brand and platform with social interaction on, say, Twitter or Facebook, but they were back to having those multiple titles SO critical for any brand.

Authors who’d been driven practically into poverty now were making incomes unlike anything they’d seen before.

The Bad

Before sites like Amazon, writers had two choices. Legacy press or the pay-to-play vanity press. But the steep cost of vanity press acted as a sort of gatekeeper. Also, without social media, vanity press was pretty much a sure way to end up with $10,000 worth of books in our garage. This meant that 1) bad books never really made it into circulation and 2) writers had time to learn and grow and mature before their book was good enough to be accepted by a legacy press.

Granted, I am not saying everything NY accepted was great literature. Nor am I saying they didn’t reject some amazing works because of their business model. But, I think I am fairly safe saying that writers who had no plot (I mean NO plot), poor grammar and atrocious spelling likely didn’t make the cut.

So places like Amazon have been wonderful and have given us gems like Wool and The Martian and it has given new life to old series we wouldn’t have been able to buy unless we struck gold at a garage sale or used bookstore.

Even I have benefitted greatly. NY didn’t want a social media branding book. Even though they were insisting every one of their authors BE on social media, they refused to publish the manual on HOW to do it well.

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Yeah, I know. Go fig. But Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World would have been impossible without self-pub and writers would have had to figure everything out the hard way.

But one of the reasons I was not fully gung-ho on self-publishing is that I also saw it was going to bring a LOT of problems. The slush pile would be dumped in the reader’s lap and it would devalue what it meant to say, “I am a published author.” And, by giving any person who’d finished a book the title of “published author” it was going to be harder and harder to correct bad writing.

The Awful

You guys know I am all about writers being supportive of each other. We have a tough job and we already endure friends, family and the world knifing us, we don’t need to be doing it to each other. I have always had a policy on doing book reviews. If I can’t leave at least three stars, I don’t say anything at all.

But I am starting to have REAL internal conflict about this policy because…

Publishing is the New Participation Trophy

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We are drowning in a sea of participation trophies and this is problematic not only for readers, it is devastating to the writing community. Writers who were in no way ready to be published are, but because they are “published” this makes it all but impossible to offer meaningful correction so they can actually grow.

Social media only exacerbates this. Groups of writers band together to offer “support” by reading and reviewing but one of two things is happening. Since the writer is a “friend” others might be offering good reviews that simply were not earned in order to “help.”

Or, they remain silent.

By remaining silent, the author is given no meaningful feedback on how to get any better so the author is just going to keep putting out bad books only making the problem worse.

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Thank GOD it was before Amazon.

Then because the writer now is an “author” they are far harder to correct. I have had folks who have won my 20 page critique who sent in writing so bad I could barely make it through. When I red-penned it, I got ripped on how the work was already published and had “great reviews” (All my friends and family LOVE me so you are an idiot).

Failure to Thrive

We are seeing real problems with the millennial generation, and reaping the consequences of handing out participation trophies, banning any failed grades and making teachers use blue pens for grading because “red ink hurts feelings”. We have young people who are bright and passionate and who want to change the world, but they are vastly unrealistic and virtually impossible to correct.

They are addicted to instant gratification and for being rewarded for “trying.” Because of social media, they also have the ability to surround themselves in an ideological echo chamber so anyone who challenges their beliefs or opinions can be “unfriended” and replaced with a more compliant “friend.” When they leave the university and enter the real world they are getting discouraged because creating a career is a long hard journey with lots of work and no one cares if you “tried.”

What is happening is that our intelligent and idealistic youth are suffering unprecedented rates of depression and they are giving up before they should, all because the world doesn’t match their skewed world view. We all are suffering because these kids DO have a tremendous amount to offer, but have been knee-capped by misguided benevolence.

They were not allowed to fail. And by not being allowed to fail, we stole the joy of authentic success. We devalued those who’d earned success. Failure is the best teacher. Humans are wired to learn from failure.

And while that is a whole other blog altogether, I am seeing what I feared back in 2004 happening to the writing world. The same crisis facing our millennials is devastating our writers.

We have created Generation Author Snowflake.

A title that once meant something is open to anyone with a computer. Not only does this discourage writers who did the hard work by handing rewards to those who skipped key parts, but it gives many writers a skewed sense of their abilities. Because failure has been removed from the equation, many writers keep putting out books that aren’t any better than the first bad book that really wasn’t ready to begin with.

I frequently tell writers the key to success is multiple titles (like above) but this is assuming the author is putting out quality material people want to read. Simply writing book after book with no plot or one-dimensional characters is only padding a virtual slush pile.

Additionally, benchmarks of success have been devalued. Years ago, there was a writer in my old writing group whose writing was SO horrible we felt like we were hostages, not critique partners. He never took a single suggestion even though we endured that terrible book for 18 months. When he invited me to his “book signing” at Barnes & Noble? I died a little inside. To this day a “book signing” means less because of this.

Ah, Feelings….

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of DualD Flip Flop
Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of DualD Flip Flop

But it gets worse. Because we really don’t want to hurt feelings or suffer a backlash, those of us who might actually help a writer grow remain quiet. I recently tried to read a book that was unbelievably bad. But the author was popular, so I guess that is all that matters, right?

I really struggled.

If I wrote the scathing review the book deserved, then I am a jerk for publicly stabbing another writer (and risk tanking my brand for “being mean”). If I write an e-mail, then that would likely fall flat because so many others said the book was better than unicorn tears. But if I remain quiet, who really suffers?

One, the reader for being recommended a 5-star book that hardly earned the rating and for more reasons than simple subjective taste (no plot, repetitive words, bizarre body movements, flawed facts, etc). But the author never grows because the social media echo chamber of popularity is offering a distorted reality.

In the end, I have no good answer. I still can’t bring myself to write bad reviews but then am I contributing to Generation Author Snowflake?

I get messages from writers who have friends who published and, being a good friend, they bought and read the book then were are all, “W…T…H?”

This book is awful! Kristen, what do I do?

I got nothing. Sorry.

But this is the reason behind my post. One of the great benefits of social media is the hive mind. I am only so smart, can only have so many answers. But with you guys? Maybe we can figure out how to change things because I want to get better. I don’t want to get trolled, but I don’t want sunshine blown up my skirt, either. I want to believe I earned what I got and I don’t think I am alone.

I am so thrilled we have all the advantages of e-books and Amazon and blogs and social media. But there are some serious consequences we need to address and correct. Writers are getting discouraged and giving up. Their careers are lacking meaning and they feel like failures, much like the millennials who have corners filled with ribbons and medals they know they didn’t earn (but with no authentic feedback how to improve).

Maybe they really DO have talent, but because they have no correction it really never develops. Or, sad to say, maybe they just aren’t good writers and they need to treat writing as a hobby and stop hemorrhaging money in marketing because they lack what it takes to do this as a career.

No matter what way I look at it, this is bad. It need to change.

So what are your thoughts? Do you have writers around you who are less open to feedback because they are “published”? Do you struggle with reviews? Do you have any ideas or thoughts or suggestions? How do you handle it when a friend has a book that really wasn’t yet ready to be published? Do you find that old benchmarks mean less? Do book signings or book launches fall a bit flatter for you? Do your real successes mean less than they might have 15 years ago?

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.

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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