Kristen Lamb

Author, Blogger, Social Media Jedi

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Posts Categorized: Writing

Dismemberment, Cait Reynolds, craft, writing tips, stage direction in writing, how to write fiction

Today, it’s me, Cait! Join me as we venture into a common craft mistake committed by virtually every emerging writer—something I like to call ‘dismemberment.’ Because nothing says love like body parts strewn about.

Sarcasm aside, dismemberment is a bad habit that can impact the flow of the story, collapse the fictive dream, and confuse or even insult the reader.

Dismemberment is literary filler that demonstrates we (as the writer) don’t trust the readers’ intellect, thus we are “brain holding” as Kristen likes to say.

Offering fair warning: I’m in a stabby mood today. Really stabby.

Dismemberment, Cait Reynolds, craft, writing tips, stage direction in writing, how to write fiction

Dismemberment is one of the most common craft mistakes, but it’s also one of the most insidious. It’s one of the most prevalent reasons readers lose interest in a story, or fail to get interested in the first place.

We (readers) get tired of stopping and trying to figure out what the hell is going on. We keep pausing because our brains keep pondering tangents unrelated to the actual story.

If Taylor’s eyes just flew across the room at a dinner party, how does he discreetly get them back if he can’t see? Was any partygoer hit by a flying eyeball? Oh hell! Is one of his eyeballs stuck in some debutante’s expensive up-do?

Aaand this is when the whole story goes off the rails *explosion noises* *screams of pain*

So, what is dismemberment?

Dismemberment is when body parts move around independent of the character.

When we (as editors) see a sentence like, “Seraphina’s violet orbs roved around the room,” our first instinct is to stab. Uh, I mean pick on the obvious issues like…’orbs’ and ‘violet.’

For readers, their first instinct is usually…HUH? What the hell just happened? Do her eyes get dust bunnies on them?

The core issue has nothing to do with Seraphina gazing around the room. Rather, it’s her eyeballs going for a stroll *cue image of eyeballs rolling across the floor like marbles*

Now that you can’t un-see that in your head, let’s dig a little deeper into what dismemberment looks like, why it’s a writing no-no, and how to avoid, fix, and occasionally even use it (properly).

Dismemberment Makes Things Awkward

Remember The Addams Family and Thing?

Dismemberment - Cait Reynolds

The show was brilliant, and took the idea of dismemberment and ran with it. The show turned a disembodied hand into a character with attitude, opinions, relationships, and interaction with the other characters. It was hilarious…because it was so weird.

The problem is that what’s funny weird for a television show becomes disjointedly bizarre in a novel. Once we start being able to identify dismemberment, we can’t help seeing it everywhere. We also can’t help seeing the unfortunate imagery of random body parts moving around.

Eyes, hands, and feet are the usual body parts featured in dismemberment, though I’ve definitely seen a fair share of shoulders, legs, arms, and heads.

“His head flew across the room…”

“Her shoulders slumped down…”

“His hand reached out to her…”

Dismemberment, Cait Reynolds, craft, writing tips, stage direction in writing, how to write fiction

Why do we fall into the trap of dismemberment? One possible answer is that we are struggling with how to describe the action in a scene. This is the fault of what I like to call the Inner Pushy Stage Director. Similar to the Inner Editor, the Inner Pushy Stage Director has a lot to say about gestures, blocking, and interpretive dance. #JazzHands

The Inner Pushy Stage Director doesn’t trust the reader to instinctively know the series of movements involved in the simple actions of picking something up or a character moving through rooms.

Her hand reached out to open the door.

Oh-kay.

To be blunt, we (readers) are not stupid and we “get” one would have to reach out a hand to open a door unless telekinetic powers are involved. If telekinetic powers NOT involved, then we as readers assume the character can simply open a door without explaining how this “opening a door” process happens. We’ll keep up just fine. Promise.

By believing we need to give the reader every single detail of an action, we use twenty words to explicate what maybe two or three words could do far better. Inexperienced writers often resort to giving agency to a body part as a way to vary the prose away from constantly using the ‘he’ or ‘she’ as the driver of action.

And, that’s how we end up with Seraphina’s violet orbs roving around the room…maybe stopping to get a canape… See? Creepy, right?

Happy Feet

Body parts do not have emotions. Period. Ever.

There is no situation in which the following sentence is correct: “His hands clenched into angry fists.”

No. Nope. Zipit!

Dismemberment, Cait Reynolds, craft, writing tips, stage direction in writing, how to write fiction

Another reason we fall into the trap of dismemberment is that we use it to portray a character’s emotion, whether it’s Seraphina’s POV or her noticing that Taylor is angry.

What has really happened is that we have flubbed the technique of drawing attention to a physical ‘tell’ for a character’s emotion.

Instead of:

His hands clenched into angry fists.

As opposed to clenching hands into joyous fists? #Weirdness

What we really mean to say is:

He clenched his hands into fists.

If we have the correct dialogue/action/inner thoughts leading up to that moment, we shouldn’t have to use the word ‘angry’ at all. We should also be able to avoid turning Taylor’s hands into their own POV characters. We also can just say that he clenched his hands since the word “fists” is implied.

Dismemberment, Cait Reynolds, craft, writing tips, stage direction in writing, how to write fiction
You do not want to end up like Cartman and Jennifer Lopez.

Why is Dismemberment So Bad?

Isn’t variety the spice of life? Aren’t we supposed to try and find new and creative ways of describing our characters and conveying actions? Couldn’t you say that it’s ‘artistic’?

No. No, and no. (See, totally stabby this morning.)

Dismemberment violates one of the fundamental rules of writing: Always maintain connection between reader and the story. Always.

You know what breaking the connection does? It creates…bookmark moments. Every instance of dismemberment lets the reader drift a little further away from the engrossing empathy that keeps them immersed and turning pages. It’s a subtle loss of connection that, given enough time, may even relegate our books in the DNF (Did Not Finish) pile.

Dismemberment, Cait Reynolds, craft, writing tips, stage direction in writing, how to write fiction

I will sacrifice everything for a book hangover because I *have* to find out what happens to Seraphina. Or Taylor. I identify with the choices and emotions of Seraphina and Taylor, but if those choices and emotions are assigned to body parts, I’m just not as invested in the outcome of the characters.

If there is too much, Seraphina’s head flew across the room when Taylor unexpectedly arrived to the party, then I’m more concerned why the partygoers aren’t trampling each other in terror to flee the room and the flying head.

Dismemberment takes the edge off of tension and blunts the poignancy of the ‘either-or’ that drives plotting and character arcs.

There’s one other reason that dismemberment is so very, very bad.

Welcome to Amateur Hour

Dismemberment is one of the clearest symptoms of amateur hour. Editors can spot a sloppy writer in any number of painful ways, but dismemberment in a FINISHED, EDITED, AND PUBLISHED BOOK is the equivalent of the author holding a neon sign over his/her head flashing ‘AMATEUR HOUR – 24/7.’ 

Even worse? The fact that whoever was paid to edit and proofread did not catch the dismemberment…just maybe see about a refund.

Dismemberment, Cait Reynolds, craft, writing tips, stage direction in writing, how to write fiction

In my opinion, amateur hour editors sin worse than amateur hour authors. There is more to being an editor than running a manuscript through Grammarly and finding typos, which is why writers need to use prudence and maybe referrals when choosing an editor (not just price).

If you think I’m being harsh, I’m a small fry compared to agents and NY editors. They’re inundated with more manuscripts than they could read in a lifetime, meaning they are actively looking for reasons to stop reading. The moment these folks see dismemberment? Their head doesn’t fly across the room, our novel does.

#SlushPile #NoTimeForN00bs

Putting Humpty Dumpty Back Together

So, now, we have to pick up all the scattered body parts and emotions, and order the 40-pack of super glue from Amazon.

Dismemberment, Cait Reynolds, craft, writing tips, stage direction in writing, how to write fiction

The first part of recovery is to train ourselves to recognize dismemberment so we can get out of using it improperly. While it might take some time to break the dismemberment habit, this is one case where we do need to stop and listen to our Inner Editor as we draft.

Instead of noting the dismemberment and promising to deal with it in revisions, we should take the time to correct it then and there. It’s simple to fix. Just delete a few words and reassign the emotions to the character instead of the body part.

Do this over the course of 50,000 words, and you’d be surprised how quickly a new and better habit forms…

Dismemberment, Cait Reynolds, craft, writing tips, stage direction in writing, how to write fiction
When you start to hear Cait’s voice as your Inner Editor…

Of course, no one is perfect (except for me, duh). That is why there is the editing phase of writing, when we catch those sneaky little instances of dismemberment that slipped a body part in our path without us noticing.

In terms of actually fixing dismemberment, think of a movie. Really think and try to recall how often the director has the camera zoom in on a JUST a body part (okay ASIDE from porn).

Funny how it’s a little tougher than you thought to come up with examples. Why is that?

Well…wait for it…because the moviegoer identifies with the character, not the body part.

Dismemberment, Cait Reynolds, craft, writing tips, stage direction in writing, how to write fiction

There’s one other thing to watch out for when we are correcting a scene with dismemberment, and that is the dreaded ‘SHOW DON’T TELL’ problem. In this case, it manifests in the far-too-frequent and indiscriminate use of the word felt.

Seraphina felt her ears heat up from embarrassment.

There’s no dismemberment in this sentence, but it’s kinda blah. I mean, the whole point of the sentence is to inform the reader that her ears are getting hot. Meh.

Like I said earlier, if we are guiding the scene the right way, we won’t need to point out that she’s getting embarrassed. The reader will already be getting the sense that Seraphina’s experiencing humiliation/shame/whatever.

We could make the sentence more interesting and ENGAGING with just a couple tweaks.

Seraphina fought to keep her expression neutral, even if her burning ears were bright pink giveaways.

In this example, I changed up the passive ‘felt’ for a more active purpose to the sentence. We still understand that she’s feeling embarrassed, but now, she doing something other than just passively experiencing a sensation. Also, I’ve given the other characters in the scene something to notice and/or react to with Seraphina’s obvious struggle to keep a straight face.

Dismemberment - Cait Reynolds

When correcting dismemberment, just remember: put the emotion back in the character’s head, and have him/her/it DO something to express it.

Disciplined Dismemberment

Like every rule, there *are* exceptions to the ban on dismemberment.

Once we are on auto-pilot in terms of avoiding dismemberment, we can finally use it as the tool it was really meant to be. (Hey, you can’t go through medical school without gross anatomy – dissecting body parts has its place!)

Dismemberment, Cait Reynolds, craft, writing tips, stage direction in writing, how to write fiction

We can use body parts when we are trying to heighten tension.

For example, let’s say Seraphina and Taylor have been gagged and tied up, but there’s a knife nearby to cut their bonds. Just riffing here:

Seraphina held her breath as Taylor tried for the knife. His fingers flexed and stretched as long as possible, desperate for the blade. Tendons popped out on his hands, hands that reached farther and farther until they shook from strain, only to finally slacken in defeat.

In this moment, Taylor’s ability to reach the knife is critical. By zooming in on his hands and their actions, my goal is to build tension and create a vivid, visceral visual. It’s worth nothing that in this situation, Taylor’s hands are the only part of him that can have any action.

If he wasn’t tied up or his arms were free, then I’d describe the moment differently and put Taylor himself back in the driver’s seat.

Dismemberment, Cait Reynolds, craft, writing tips, stage direction in writing, how to write fiction

Another way of using body parts is by having the POV character notice a particular action or emotion on the part of someone else in the scene.

Taylor did a double-take when Seraphina’s eyes widened a mere a fraction. He wasn’t sure if she was surprised or angry, but it was enough to put him on his guard.

The reason this example works is because I’m showing, not telling, and the dismemberment provides something for the POV character to react to – in this case, a confusing signal from Seraphina. When used in this way, dismemberment can be an excellent tool for revealing or concealing clues, creating misunderstandings, and varying communication between characters between verbal and non-verbal forms.

THESE EXAMPLES DO NOT GIVE US PERMISSION TO GO BACK TO HACKING UP BODY PARTS AND HAVING THEM RUN AROUND DOING THINGS ON THEIR OWN!

Just like truffle oil…a little goes a very long way.

Class with Cait this Friday!

I’m offering a really cool class tomorrow night! It’s my blurb-writing class. In it, I will show you all my secret tips and tricks (even beyond what I wrote in this blog post) to painlessly writing those crucial 150 words that will SELL YOUR BOOK!

What’s extra cool about this class is that I will take TWO blurbs from attendees and rework them LIVE AND ON-THE-FLY IN CLASS to demonstrate just how simple and effective my techniques are.

Yeah, I know. Super cool.

Anyway, here are the details–hope to see you tomorrow night!

BLURB BOSS: WRITING BLURBS THAT SELL BOOKS

Blurb - Cait ReynoldsInstructor: Cait Reynolds

Price: $45.00 USD

Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom

When: Friday, November 10, 2017. 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST

If the cover is an invitation to the party in your book, then the blurb (the back cover description, the summary, your entire book in 3 short paragrahs) is the RSVP card readers check off as attending-with-the-chicken-option when they buy your book.

The trouble is that for so many books, while the cover is invites you to a rave, the blurb reveals it’s really polka night at the VFW.

So, if the blurb is so important, why is it so hard to write? Raise your hand if you hate writing blurbs. Raise your other hand if you agonize over writing a blurb, and it still feels like it’s awful when it’s done.

The heart’s cry goes up from every single writer ever: “THIS IS HARDER TO WRITE THAN THE 90,000 WORDS OF MY BOOK!”

And yet, it shouldn’t be. Approached from a different angle, a blurb should be one of the easiest and most fun things to write. Yes. I went there. I said it. Hopefully, after taking this class, you will be saying it, too. No more blubbering over blurbs. Ever.

This class will cover:

  • Understanding the purpose of a blurb in attracting readers;
  • The top secret formula to structuring a blurb;
  • How to plug-and-play every blurb, every time;
  • Why everything you think is important in your story really isn’t (in terms of the blurb);
  • The secret to keywords, blurbs, and algorithms.

As a bonus, bring a copy of your blurb to the class for group workshopping! I will pick two and edit them LIVE IN CLASS to show you just how easy it is!

A recording of this class is also included with purchase.

Register today!

For subscribers, click to my site to view gallery of upcoming classes (gallery doesn’t show up for you). But here are the two biggies coming up from ME (Kristen LAMB)…

BRAND BOSS! When Your NAME ALONE Can SELL! November 14th, 7-9 EST and comes with FREE RECORDING. $45 for General Admission, GOLD Option Available!

PLOT BOSS! Writing Novels Readers WANT TO BUY! November 16th, 7-9 EST and comes with FREE RECORDING. $40 for General Admission, GOLD Option Available!

Blurb - Cait Reynolds
BLURB BOSS: Writing Blurbs that SELL BOOKS. $45.00 USD. Friday, November 10, 2017. 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST. Click the image to register!
BRAND BOSS! When Your Name Alone Can Sell. $45 USD. Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017, 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST. Click the image to register!
PLOT BOSS: Writing novels readers want to buy! $40 USD. Thurs., Nov. 16, 2017. 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST. Click the image to register!
Bad Boys. $45.00 USD. Friday, November 17, 2017. 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST. Click the image to register!

NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, Going pro, go pro and stay pro, becoming a professional writer, how to be a professional author, Kristen Lamb, habits of success

National Novel Writing Month is here (NaNoWriMo), which is a challenge to write 50K words in thirty days. Yep, write a ‘novel’ in a month, right in the holiday season. Because guess what? There IS no perfect time to write that novel…especially for those who want to go pro and stay pro.

Today’s tips, however, are evergreen. Good for every day and month and year, even if you are not writing a novel. Yet, when I’ve challenged folks in the past to at least TRY NaNoWriMo, I would get questions like this in the comments.

Blog Question: Kristen, I really want to do NaNoWriMo, but why did they have to choose NOVEMBER?

Dear Commenter,

NaNoWriMo chose November because it was probably started by writers and we are sadists who are trained to make people suffer. Also, writing will make you choose between your characters and family eventually, so get used to it. Bringing novels into the family is like adopting foster children/families who chew on the furniture and shoot guns in the air.

And look at the benefits. Holidays are priceless inspiration for baggage, drama, conflict, AND it’s socially acceptable to live off candy because it’s the “holiday season.” Do you really want to be challenged to write 50,000 words in a month in JANUARY, fueled by celery and sore from the gym? Or November, in stretchy pants, fueled by fudge, nacho dip and rum balls?

You’re welcome 😉 ….

Whether or not you are doing NaNoWriMo, these tips will help you go pro because for the pros? Every month is NaNoWriMo. Learn to embrace the G.R.I.N.D.

NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, Going pro, go pro and stay pro, becoming a professional writer, how to be a professional author, Kristen Lamb, habits of success

Most of us are going to have to work a day job and write so NaNoWriMo is a fantastic crucible. We also have a family and like me, you probably have spoiled them by actually feeding them every day. The world is not going to pause because we are writing a book.

Other writers frequently ask how I somehow manage to get a lot of stuff done, despite my having the attention span of an ADHD spider monkey…with a bad crack habit.

1. Make lists.

NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, Going pro, go pro and stay pro, becoming a professional writer, how to be a professional author, Kristen Lamb, habits of success

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

Like Covey says…

Never mistake the urgent for the important.

Do that NaNoWriMo word count right away. Just get it DONE.

2. Understand that feelings are pathological liars.

NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, Going pro, go pro and stay pro, becoming a professional writer, how to be a professional author, Kristen Lamb, habits of success

Writing is a profession, not a playpen.

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

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

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

3. Use the Force…of self-discipline.

NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, Going pro, go pro and stay pro, becoming a professional writer, how to be a professional author, Kristen Lamb, habits of success

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

I use the “Swiss Cheese” approach. I have my list and I take bite after bite after bite until the work is finished. Every book can be written in 250, 500, or 1,000 word bites and NaNoWriMo is no exception.

I CANNOT work linearly, so I don’t try and yes I was always in trouble in school but public schools were designed to train factory workers and corporate mind slaves, not people who get paid to play with imaginary friends.

Even I don’t get a pass during NaNoWriMo. I have blogs to write (LOTS of words that don’t count for NaNoWriMo), edits to complete, classes to prepare then teach, bills to pay, bookkeeping, taxes, laundry, litter boxes, and dirty dishes. #GlamorousLife

4. Mix it up.

NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, Going pro, go pro and stay pro, becoming a professional writer, how to be a professional author, Kristen Lamb, habits of success

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

Chip at the NaNoWriMo goal a hundred words at a time.

I LOVE audio books when my brain needs a break from MY writing. I can always tell writers who aren’t avid readers, because their writing sucks.

Want to be a great author? Read as much as humanly possible. I listen to audio books while doing housework. It makes the dishes go faster and hones my skills. It revitalizes the muse and keeps me in right-brain mode.

And I don’t want to hear, Oh well when I am writing I don’t like to read because that author’s voice will bleed over into my work.

All I have to say about that is If only we could be that frigging lucky!

Yes, please let Gillian Flynn infiltrate and hijack my work. Like NOW!

5. Suck it up, Buttercup.

NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, Going pro, go pro and stay pro, becoming a professional writer, how to be a professional author, Kristen Lamb, habits of success

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

6. Make mean writer friends.

NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, Going pro, go pro and stay pro, becoming a professional writer, how to be a professional author, Kristen Lamb, habits of success

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

Come hang out on W.A.N.A.Tribe. It is a Ning I created just for writers and guess what? It is all writing all the time and no one spams or trolls or rants about whatever the Drama De Jure happens to be. Facebook is there for those who desire to be hysterical, depressed and spammed.

Since I don’t wanna listen to or see that crap, I built my OWN social site, because it’s cheaper than therapy or a criminal defense attorney. On W.A.N.A.Tribe I rule. I’m a kind, loving but vengeful god and will smite asshattery.

So if you need to escape Facebook and find those mean friends? We are there. We have been doing sprints on the CHAT page for OVER TWO YEARS. M-F (M-S for NaNoWriMo) all day every day even holidays.

I kick your @$$ every day free of charge.

You’re welcome.

*polishes riding crop*

7. Ditch loser friends.

NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, Going pro, go pro and stay pro, becoming a professional writer, how to be a professional author, Kristen Lamb, habits of success

We all have them or have had them. People who like to complain, make excuses, indulge in their feelings all the time.

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

Killer.

8. Forget perfection (especially for NaNoWriMo).

NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, Going pro, go pro and stay pro, becoming a professional writer, how to be a professional author, Kristen Lamb, habits of successPerfection is an urban legend, started by Feelings (because Feelings are a needy boyfriend/girlfriend who don’t understand the world does not revolve around them.)

The world doesn’t reward perfection; it rewards finishers.

This is the big lesson NaNo is really trying to teach you. Often we lose focus on what we are REALLY doing, because we are getting sidetracked with nitpicking. Guess what, no half-finished novel ever became a runaway best-seller…but more than a few crappy-but-finished ones have.

9. Exercise.

NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, Going pro, go pro and stay pro, becoming a professional writer, how to be a professional author, Kristen Lamb, habits of success

Stuck on the WIP? Brain in a fog? Can’t seem to get the words down? Yeah, well hard truth time. Human bodies were not designed to sit on their butts all day. Our lymphatic and circulatory systems can only do their jobs if we add in physical activity.

Blood flow improves and our body can return the blood pooling at our feet fresh, oxygenated and revitalized (filtered through lymphatic system) back to OUR BRAINS where we kinda need it.

Again, I strongly recommend audio books. Cleaning counts as exercise if you do it properly 😛 . This is working smarter, not harder. Shiny floors and absorb greatness from literary legends while stimulating the right-brain. #Genius

10. Drink lots of water.

NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, Going pro, go pro and stay pro, becoming a professional writer, how to be a professional author, Kristen Lamb, habits of success

Human bodies are a hydroelectric system, and water enhances conductivity (way better when we MOVE). Cool writer ideas/thoughts work this way.

Muse Pixies of Awesomeness are conducted through your brain to your fingers and they bring the cool story stuff. MPAs like to travel via fairy, or ferry on WATER. They can’t travel if the waterways are too dry and moor them on a cookie sprinkle…and then you can’t focus.

It’s science. Don’t argue.

I hope these tips help, because finishing NaNo is no easy task. In fact, I am creating this post during sprints (as in right now) on W.A.N.A.Tribe. Then, I’ll use it to get through edits and work then NaNoWriMo words.

Hop on the CRAZY TRAIN!!

Last year everyone who sprinted finished NaNoWriMo in record time…because they had to keep up with me (my record is finishing in 11 days). If you want to really experience the professional pace, come join us! Once a member, hit the CHAT tab and we are there every day and usually all day.

No ads, trolls, family, drama, politics, distractions, or spam. 100% HUSTLE. Okay that’s a wee lie. We hustle 40 minutes, I call time, we report what we accomplished, chat a few minutes then go again. So like 92% HUSTLE. All the social without the spam 😀 .

****FTY—If you sign up I have to personally approve you to make sure we keep bots out, so relax.

Share your thoughts! Ideas, suggestions, struggles, tips, recipes using hard liquor?

I LOVE HEARING FROM YOU! And I am NOT above BRIBERY!

What do you WIN? For the month of NOVEMBER, for 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).

*****Saturday’s blog had a special contest for a free class, and Laura Drake is the winner.

Winner of OCTOBER’s Comment Contest is Susie Murphy. Please send your 5000 word WORD document to kristen at wana intl dot com. Double-spaced, 12 point Times New Roman font and one inch margins. Needs to be a regular doc or docx because I use track changes.

For subscribers, click to my site to view gallery of upcoming classes (gallery doesn’t show up for you). But here are the two biggies coming up…

BRAND BOSS! When Your NAME ALONE Can SELL! November 9th, 7-9 EST and comes with FREE RECORDING. $45 for General Admission, GOLD Option Available!

PLOT BOSS! Writing Novels Readers WANT TO BUY! November 16th, 7-9 EST and comes with FREE RECORDING. $40 for General Admission, GOLD Option Available!

Blurb - Cait Reynolds
BLURB BOSS: Writing Blurbs that SELL BOOKS. $45.00 USD. Friday, November 10, 2017. 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST. Click the image to register!
BRAND BOSS! When Your Name Alone Can Sell. $45 USD. Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017, 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST. Click the image to register!
PLOT BOSS: Writing novels readers want to buy! $40 USD. Thurs., Nov. 16, 2017. 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST. Click the image to register!
Bad Boys. $45.00 USD. Friday, November 17, 2017. 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST. Click the image to register!

Stories That Make Us Stabby: Mary Sue & Why Readers Hate Her - Cait Reynolds

It’s me, Cait Reynolds, and I’m going to be brutal here. You’ve been warned. But, honestly, I get a little stabby when I encounter a Mary Sue in a book. Mary Sues are death to fiction, yet they’re more common than head lice in Kindergarten (and about as desirable). For the sake of time today, we will focus on the most common Mary Sue peeve…the Mary Sue Shopping Spree.

What is a Mary Sue Shopping Spree?

It’s wish fulfillment at its worst.

First of all, for anyone who is unfamiliar with the term “Mary Sue,” the best definition is here at Urban Dictionary. But, for our shorthand use, a Mary Sue is an impossibly perfect character.

She’s beautiful (flaming red hair and emerald eyes, for example) and smart (better grades than Hermione Granger but never seems to be in the library). A Mary Sue falls in love with the hero/hero falls in love with her early, often and easily.

What IS a “Mary Sue”?

Stories That Make Us Stabby: Mary Sue & Why Readers Hate Her - Cait Reynolds

There are all kinds of Mary Sue’s–no genre is safe. Here’s just a sample:

  • Victim Sue! with an impossible streak of bad luck/tragedy/knack for getting kidnapped and/or stalked.
  • Warrior Sue! who has a mouth like a sailor, throws a mean punch, fights like Lara Croft and Bruce Lee’s love child (and probably has a lineage about as weird), and still looks amazing in a ball gown (but doesn’t want to be taken for a sissy girl!).
  • Magic Sue! with similarities to Warrior Sue in that she has unheard of powers that usually get her into trouble (see Victim Sue) until she learns to control them, and then with a wave of her (slender, delicate) hand, saves the day without chipping a nail.
  • Misfit Sue who is the proverbial ugly duckling, except all she needs really is some good conditioner, a fairy godmother, and a gift certificate to Forever21 in order to turn into the hottie that suddenly attracts all the guys.

There are so many issues with Mary Sues, but the single largest Mary Sue staple is—GROANS—the shopping spree.

Stories That Make Us Stabby: Mary Sue & Why Readers Hate Her - Cait Reynolds

This is the point in a story where everything grinds to a halt so the heroine can get ready for the ball/date/wedding/party/sacred mage ceremony, etc.

You know the kind of scene I’m talking about…but in case you don’t, let’s look at an example.

Mary Sue Goes to the Ball

Stories That Make Us Stabby: Mary Sue & Why Readers Hate Her - Cait Reynolds

Let’s use my favorite Mary Sue stand-in Seraphina to illustrate. Seraphina has had a hard life as a disinherited princess living in hiding in a faux medieval village and secretly training to use her immense magical powers to take back the throne and rid the land of evil.

She finds a way to infiltrate the castle by sneaking into a fancy ball that the king is giving. But, in order to blend in with the crowd, she will need…a ballgown.

What comes next is any combination of the following descriptions:

  • Shopping or gathering all the necessary clothing
  • Hairstyles
  • Dresses
  • Jewelry, and other accessories
  • Makeup (!)

But…it’s not just descriptions. We, the readers, are subjected to descriptions in excruciating detail.

Stories That Make Us Stabby: Mary Sue & Why Readers Hate Her - Cait Reynolds

Also, every character involved in the scene is kind, excited, happy to help with the preparations, and relentlessly cheery. Apparently, there can be no conflict in the dressing room (unless it’s Seraphina objecting to the ‘girly pink’ or ‘frilly’ dress, thereby making a statement of profound strength of character and independence).

We read about sweetheart necklines, bias cuts, skirts that gently flare out, lace gloves, sleeves that come to just above the wrist, silver embroidery patterns of magical runes (or flowers, whatever).

Gritting our teeth, we skim over the part about hair that is piled high with loose curls falling softly around her face, or braids intricately woven with pearls and jeweled flower pins with just a few errant and untamable curls falling softly around her face.

The author beats us over the head with the fact that she only wears a little bit of eyeshadow and lip gloss (WTH? Do they even have lip gloss in faux medieval realms?) because she doesn’t really need any makeup to enhance her natural beauty.

That strangling noise?

It’s us. The readers. Being garroted….

With the heroine’s delicate chain complete with cheesy symbolic pendant (dragon, rose, snake, rune, whatever) because that’s not a dead giveaway to the bad guy(s).

Hey, doesn’t that girl with the opal-eyed dragon pendant that looks like the one that belonged to Queen Margitte look a lot like dead Queen Margitte?.

Also, a general rule of style is to match the formality of jewelry to the formality of the outfit. One doesn’t wear parure with buckskin breeches, and conversely, charm necklaces are not to be worn with ballgowns. (Yes, I just channeled my inner Tim Gunn.)

Stories That Make Us Stabby: Mary Sue & Why Readers Hate Her - Cait Reynolds

Let’s not forget how Seraphina chooses sensible low-heeled slippers as opposed to the…um…lucite platform heels offered by the empty-headed ninnies who only care about boys and clothes.

Because taking time out from pace, tension, plot, and relevance to talk about dressing a character totally doesn’t paint the author as having the emotional range of a fifteen-year-old. 

All joking aside, let’s look a little closer at WHY the Mary Sue Shopping Spree is so problematic.

Go Ahead. Sue Me!

Stories That Make Us Stabby: Mary Sue & Why Readers Hate Her - Cait Reynolds

It’s not really Seraphina’s fault that the author wants to play out a Cinderella fantasy. Unfortunately, this violates one of KLamb’s most basic rules: NEVER MAKE IT EASY FOR THE CHARACTERS!

Nobody wants to read about everybody being happy, getting along, and things going their way. Can you say, “Snooze-Fest?”

Can you imagine Harry Potter if he’d grown up with his parents alive, been BFFs with Draco Malfoy, and figured out how to vanquish Voldemort without leaving the comfort of Hogwarts?

No, you can’t because no reader would have made it past page TEN. Harry Potter would have been another forgettable character in yet another bad book.

But he isn’t. Why? Harry Potter is legendary because of CONFLICT and seemingly insurmountable odds. Not everything slipping in place as if his life is coated in Teflon.

The same goes for the Cinderella moment. Let’s look at why.

Slumber Party or Plot Point? 

Stories That Make Us Stabby: Mary Sue & Why Readers Hate Her - Cait Reynolds

Getting-ready-for-the-party scenes must obey the rules of fiction just like all the other scenes. Where is the conflict that drives the story? What is the relevance of the getting-ready-for-the-ball scene? Is there any character growth? Are there any obstacles?

If the answer is no, then we need to think twice about putting in a scene like this.

Hemming and Hawing 

Stories That Make Us Stabby: Mary Sue & Why Readers Hate Her - Cait Reynolds

Set aside the sins of over-descriptiveness for a moment. Instead, look at the science of how we read and process the written word. In general, we read at about 200-400 words per minute (cool, non? Read this for more!).

That means that careful description is critical to the FLOW of a reader’s understanding and visualization. If we STALL the flow by making a reader stop and try to visualize EXACTLY what a character is wearing (I’m looking at you, hem lengths and embroidered bodices!), we risk losing the reader’s immersion in our world.

Anachronism Alert!

The Mary Sue Shopping Spree also showcases when an author hasn’t bothered to do his or her homework with either historical research or fantasy world-building (LIP GLOSS???). With historical, this is easily solved with just a modicum of research–and luckily for you, I’m obsessed with historical fashion.

Check me out on Pinterest for a decade-by-decade breakdown of fashion across the centuries (and a WHOLE lot more!).

With fantasy, there’s still no excuse for not considering things like climate, culture, how easy it is to get your hands on expensive clothing, etc. Thinking it through isn’t hard. We just have to do it.

Get Seraphina a Personal Shopper and Move on

All of this isn’t to say that we can’t have a makeover scene now and then. There’s just a better way to do it. Here’s how.

Relevance

Makeover scenes must be relevant to the plot and/or character. For example in my book Downcast, I use a literal shopping spree to reveal Stephanie’s growth as a character, in beginning to make her own choices and tap into her own confidence.

More than that, though, Stephanie’s shopping spree sets up a MAJOR conflict.

In fact, it’s one of the biggest pivot points in the whole plot. Could I have used another ploy to get me there? Sure. But, a teenage girl going to the mall for her 18th birthday is both plausible and appropriate for the context (and the YA genre).

If we’re going to use the shopping spree–be it contemporary, ye olde, or beware hippogriffs! style–always ask three things:

  • Is it relevant? Does it move the plot forward?
  • Will it offer any new clues/information or set the characters up for conflict?
  • Does it reveal and/or conceal anything important about the characters (from each other, the reader, etc.)?

If we can answer yes to all three, then we move to the next step, which is…

Bippity-Boppity BORING!

Stories That Make Us Stabby: Mary Sue & Why Readers Hate Her - Cait Reynolds

Fairy godmothers way overrated. Why not have the wicked step-sister be the one to have to help get Cinderella ready for the ball? Will the Wal-Mart generic brand wand be up to the challenge of whipping up a ballgown?

Is there a crack in one of the glass slippers? Does the color blue make her look jaundiced? Is anyone willing to tell her that?

What if she really, really wants to wear blue, but the only color the Wal-Mart wand can produce is pink? She has to wear the pink dress. If you transform a pumpkin into a carriage, does it smell like pumpkin on the inside? Is that a good thing? Are the mice unionized?

You get the idea.

The point is the getting-ready-for-the-ball scene should be FULL of delicious difficulties and confectionary conflict. Remember KLamb’s rule: MAKE IT WORSE UNTIL YOU MAKE IT WEIRD. NOTHING COMES EASILY…EVER!

If everyone is happy and excited to help Seraphina get ready for the ball…meh.

What’s the point?

What makes me (reader) want to turn the page? But, if Lady Jordan slips itching powder down Seraphina’s chemise, or the fairy godmother makes an unthinking remark about how to fix the way Seraphina looks a bit puffy…well, NOW we have something to work with!

Give Up Control

Stories That Make Us Stabby: Mary Sue & Why Readers Hate Her - Cait Reynolds

The reader will never, ever, ever be able to picture a gown exactly the way we see it in our mind’s eye. Ever. You can tell me all you want about length and fabric and cut and jewelry. However, it’ll either be too much detail, and I’ll lose track of all of the bits I’m supposed to remember, OR, I will just skim and skip until the plot resumes.

Seriously, we need to give up the idea that our descriptions will ever create an exact picture for the reader. Descriptions are meant to be evocative. They also…yeah, you know what I’m going to say here…wait for it…have to be RELEVANT.

And, yes, here’s another handy checklist to work through to determine if a description is relevant:

  • Is there something unique, interesting, or important about the dress, jewelry, etc.?
  • What is truly different about these clothes for the character and her life experience?
  • Are there smells, textures, or sounds (like bracelets clinking) that are unusually pleasurable or uncomfortable?

For example, for a fantasy genre scene, I might describe Seraphina’s reaction to her ball gown like this:

Her first instinct was to decline the gown. The fine silk and rare lapis-dyed color screamed the kind of wealth she had barely ever encountered, let alone would feel comfortable impersonating. She didn’t dare touch it, afraid that the calluses on her fingers would catch and snag the delicate fabric.

Still, she drew closer, fascinated by the  pattern of dragons in mid-flight picked out in silver thread around the hem. When Lady Jordan gave the skirts an expert–if impatient–flick to smooth the creases, the embroidered dragons looked as if they were truly in flight.

A brisk ‘tsk’ from Lady Jordan jolted Seraphina from the daze of admiration, and she shrank from the disapproving moue on the older woman’s lips.

I would probably also make the dragons mean something or be symbolic in some way, though I might not have Lady Jordan inform Seraphina of that because…well, she doesn’t really like the girl or want to help her, and if she must dress a sow’s ear in a silk purse, then at least she will get some entertainment out of it later when the girl stumbles over the etiquette of the significance of the embroidery.

Because being mean to my characters is what makes it fun for my readers.

And, it has nothing to do with being a sociopath. AT ALL.

Next up…Getting Stabby About the Taylors and Shifters

If you’ve read any of my blog posts here, you know that Taylor is Seraphina’s male counterpart. And, Taylor can often be found in romance novels–especially shifter romances. If you think I’m prickly (and hilarious–admit it, you giggled at this post!) about Mary Sue shopping sprees, just watch me rip into shifters…and how to make them better.

You can even watch me do it LIVE this Friday!

Instructor: Cait Reynolds

Price: $45.00 USD

Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom

Date: Friday, November 3, 2017. 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST

Shifter romance is one of the hottest genres in publishing right now. It’s easy, right? You just take a hot guy and have him morph into a wolf…or bear…or…panther…or…

Well, you and the thousands of other shifter romance writers. So, how are readers going to tell your lusty wolf boys apart from another author’s lusty wolf boys? Sure, you can invent clan/pack rules and give your shifters certain features or restrictions.

But, if you want to create unforgettable shifters that will have readers coming back for more, you need to shift your world-building into high gear. (See what I did there with the play on words with ‘shift’? Ha! I’m so funny.)

This class will help you create richer shifter ‘cultures’ by showing you how to:

  • Construct the history of your shifters, and by history, I mean real history
  • Use science (even if you’re not a science person) to add delicious bits of plausibility to your shifters
  • Catch world-building details that create giant gaps in logic that can distract the reader from your story
  • Develop stronger characters by giving them a richer, fuller historical, scientific, and world-building context
  • Drive action and plot twists in unexpected ways using expanded shifter world-building
  • Amp up the romantic and sexual tension using the history and science of your shifters

We are now offering ADVANCED LEVELS for this class. Extra help from an EXPERT.

In a world of a gazillion forgettable shifters, let Cait help you take your shifter to a WHOLE NEW LEVEL.

Shifter GOLD

You get the class (recording included in price) with Cait plus one hour of personalized one-on-one consulting regarding YOUR story. 

Shifter PLATINUM

You get the class (recording included in price) with Cait plus two hours of personalized one-on-one consulting regarding YOUR story and bonus worksheets. These worksheets will efficiently guide you through in-depth world-building and research, providing you with consistency for your writing and an excellent reference/style sheet for your editor and proofreader.

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER!

Other upcoming WANA classes!

Blurb - Cait Reynolds
BLURB BOSS: Writing Blurbs that SELL BOOKS. $45.00 USD. Friday, November 10, 2017. 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST. Click the image to register!
BRAND BOSS! When Your Name Alone Can Sell. $45 USD. Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017, 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST. Click the image to register!
PLOT BOSS: Writing novels readers want to buy! $40 USD. Thurs., Nov. 16, 2017. 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST. Click the image to register!
Bad Boys. $45.00 USD. Friday, November 17, 2017. 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST. Click the image to register!

mastering fear, how to master fear and put it to work, the power of fear, fear and creativity, Kristen Lamb, power over fear, conquering fear, facing fear

Learn how to master fear then put it to work. Seems so simple. Scratch that. Fear? It’s terrifying! Humans live in a world soaked in fear, always have and always will. Fear is valid, necessary and keeps us alive. Yet, fear is a double-edged blade that can harm us or take out our darkest demons.

The trick (and the treat) is making sure we’re in charge. Face fear then train that junkyard dog to be a sled dog that powers us to go the LONG distance.

We might be writers, but it doesn’t mean we’re hermetically sealed in front of a keyboard and immune from being scared sh…..witless. Life throws a lot at us. Family, bills, bad health, accidents, crises and on and on. Life is tough and no one gets out alive 😉 . Yet, while life can be tough, we can learn to be tougher.

Humans are wired for faith. We have faith in cars (that they won’t turn on us and murder us), that when we flip on a switch, lights come on instead of death by electrocution. We have faith in our 401Ks, our friends, our insurance companies. Faith is all around us and we use it so much we don’t notice. Ah, but here’s the kicker…

Fear is faith in the wrong things. 

The first step to mastering fear is to redirect faith to the RIGHT things, then over time this helps develop mental toughness.

Fear is ALL Mind Over Matter

mastering fear, how to master fear and put it to work, the power of fear, fear and creativity, Kristen Lamb, power over fear, conquering fear, facing fear

Mastering fear is fundamentally deciding what matters. Notice I used deciding. It is active. We are not flotsam, whisked along powerlessly. WE are the master of our thoughts, not the other way around. Every thought can become a choice with enough training.

Training mental toughness involves admitting we’re afraid to begin with. We can’t conquer what we deny even exists. This often requires brutal honesty with ourselves, which can hurt like hell. Yet, when we avoid our fear, it’s akin to leaving a bullet inside us and only treating the bloody, festering hole with bandages, Bactine and kale.

The bullet of fear must faced to be removed for any healing to happen. When we leave fear alone because we know it will hurt digging it out, it drains us, makes us sick, and slowly kills us.

And no, I hadn’t thought about writing inspirational greeting cards, but now that you mention it… 😀 .

Today I want to talk about fears common to writers. We might wrestle with one or all of them at any given point. But the point of this post is you are not alone. The odd thing about fear is it likes to weak masks and, since today is Halloween, what better day to discuss fear and the masks it wears?

The Procrastination Mask

mastering fear, how to master fear and put it to work, the power of fear, fear and creativity, Kristen Lamb, power over fear, conquering fear, facing fear

First, the BIGGIE! Many of us struggle with procrastination, and we often have a good reason for why we can’t finish the book. Someday later and down the road. We tell ourselves we can write when we finish X.

X is a mask for fear which can often look like laundry, dishes, or the day job. Procrastination often is not the problem at all, only a guise for what we believe we can’t bear to face.

Fear might resemble our “aching need” to watch cartoons with the kids instead of revising the WIP (work in progress). We want to be a good parent. Wouldn’t want our kids growing up then using a chainsaw on us in our sleep because they believed we abandoned them?

Hmmm, better stop and make cookies for the whole class and volunteer to coach the soccer team, too. I can bring my writing to the soccer game! Genius! 

Not.

Fear in this form gives all kinds of excellent reasons the writing can wait and wait and why everyone and everything else is a priority. It’s a lie. Procrastination is fear. We might be terrified we really don’t know how to write, that maybe we really don’t have a plot, that maybe we have no clue what we are doing.

Maybe we totally suck.

We might be afraid of finishing because we’re terrified of rejection. Or maybe we are afraid of success.

What if my mother thinks she’s the demon who feasts on dreams of children in my book? I mean she IS, but will she figure it out? Can she sue me? Better switch genres.

It’s easier to be a maybe-one-day-super-star than to finish and face whatever music awaits.

The Perfection Guise

mastering fear, how to master fear and put it to work, the power of fear, fear and creativity, Kristen Lamb, power over fear, conquering fear, facing fear

Next on our list? Perfection. This flawless fatale is an excellent disguise for fear. She is the perfect mask for fear because perfect is an illusion thus, by definition, unattainable. We fail before we start.

Unmask that sucker! There’s no such thing as a perfect novel, or a perfect anything.

Someone somewhere will not like what we write, cook, wear, how we parent and on and on so learn to embrace being flawed.

Perfect is the enemy of the good, the nemesis of the finished.

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) starts tomorrow. Can you write 50,000 words in 30 days? Many writers will start NaNo and never finish because they’ll keep going back and polishing prose. They will get and likely remain STUCK.

Yet the GOAL of NaNoWriMo is solely to put 50K words ON THE PAGE…not perfect words. The point of NaNo is to train you to think like a pro. Pros get words on page and we polish later. We write no matter what is going on in life…including cooking for holidays.

Writers WRITE.

The Indecision Disguise

mastering fear, how to master fear and put it to work, the power of fear, fear and creativity, Kristen Lamb, power over fear, conquering fear, facing fear

We switch genres, start new projects, start a blog, stop blogging, start another. We are going to query, no self-publish, no indie. Wait. Maybe a pen name. That way no one will know if our book sucks. Maybe two pen names. Maybe witness protection would take us?

We need to think on this more.

NOPE.

Indecision is where most dreams get stuck then die. Forgotten remnants of ideas, dreams, stories stored in catacombs of computer files. Buried in unmarked graves, no one to mourn their loss other than us. We’re guilty and ashamed we left them, but didn’t know what to do, how to make it right, how to fix things so we did…nothing.

No decision is STILL a decision.

Be the BIG BOSS

mastering fear, how to master fear and put it to work, the power of fear, fear and creativity, Kristen Lamb, power over fear, conquering fear, facing fear

Remember that final line from Labyrinth, when Sarah finally figures out why she’s been losing? How she shatters the Goblin King’s plan? One line.

You have no power over me.

Truth is, maybe your book does stink. Maybe you have no plot or any idea how the heck to have a blog or where to begin? How to keep going? Guess what?

I’ve been there! My first novel is duct taped in a box in the garage because we can’t potty train it and it bites.

I had to learn and find mentors and brace for tough truth, cry, have some chocolate and try again. I didn’t know how to write or plot. Okay, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t learn. I also didn’t know how to blog or the hidden mysteries of SEO and social media. I had to figure it out.

I am still figuring all of this out. Getting better each and every day by making sure I AM THE BIG BOSS. Fear? SIT! Heel!

Growing is Painful

Facing we’re inadequate hurts. Yet, we cannot learn a craft, how to be an artisan, a master by relying on theory. We need classes, we need training, but we also learn by DOING. This means, we do it afraid. We step out, fail, try again, learn, fail some more. Do it enough and fear dissipates because confidence cannot be purchased, it must be bought in blood and tears.

REMEMBER! We ALL start somewhere. It is OKAY to be new.

Regular people seem to believe writing is easy and anyone can do what we do. Don’t believe me? Seriously they are cute that they think our skills are so simple! BWA HA HA HA HA! Nope.

Exhibit A:

mastering fear, how to master fear and put it to work, the power of fear, fear and creativity, Kristen Lamb, power over fear, conquering fear, facing fear

Hmmm. Maybe those cutbacks on actual journalists and good editors was a bad plan after all.

We are all in the same boat and, in my experience, the only writers who believe their writing is perfect are unteachable hacks. Writers plagued by self-doubt, riddled with insecurity? First get over it. But this doubt is also a really good sign you’re probably not as bad as you believe. Or, if you are? You’re teachable. No biggie. Let’s just fix it! #Duh

Now that we’ve been through the major fears and how to beat these “monsters” I’d like to finish with a treat. First, it IS Halloween (even though it’s pretty much Halloween all year in our house). If you want some AMAZING dark reads?

Reading TREATS!

mastering fear, how to master fear and put it to work, the power of fear, fear and creativity, Kristen Lamb, power over fear, conquering fear, facing fear

The Mortician’s Daughter–One Foot in the Grave, a dark paranormal Young Adult by C.C. Hunter OUT TODAY! I could NOT put this book down. Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill. OMG! I’ve listened to this one at least 20 times on Audible. Brilliant, layered and Hill makes me question my own ability to write *sobs*. Finally, a staple literary horror The Prisoner of Hell Gate by Dana L. Wolff, another story best experienced on audio (though I have paper and audio for both).

What are your thoughts? Are you afraid? Did you see yourself in any of my examples? Pen names, switching genres, unable to finish, stuck in perfectionism? Welcome to being a REAL WRITER!

Share your thoughts!

I LOVE HEARING FROM YOU! And I am NOT above BRIBERY!

What do you WIN? For the month of OCTOBER, for 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).

*****Saturday’s blog had a special contest for a free class, but I need time to go through the comments so will announce BOTH winners next post!

For subscribers, click to my site to view gallery of upcoming classes (gallery doesn’t show up for you). But here are the two biggies coming up…

BRAND BOSS! When Your NAME ALONE Can SELL! November 9th, 7-9 EST and comes with FREE RECORDING. $45 for General Admission, GOLD Option Available!

PLOT BOSS! Writing Novels Readers WANT TO BUY! November 16th, 7-9 EST and comes with FREE RECORDING. $40 for General Admission, GOLD Option Available!

Blurb - Cait Reynolds
BLURB BOSS: Writing Blurbs that SELL BOOKS. $45.00 USD. Friday, November 10, 2017. 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST. Click the image to register!
BRAND BOSS! When Your Name Alone Can Sell. $45 USD. Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017, 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST. Click the image to register!
PLOT BOSS: Writing novels readers want to buy! $40 USD. Thurs., Nov. 16, 2017. 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST. Click the image to register!
Bad Boys. $45.00 USD. Friday, November 17, 2017. 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST. Click the image to register!

Successful People, Habits of Successful People, Kristen Lamb, business success, improving sales, selling books, life changing results

Successful people can seem like they have some kind of magic powers beyond our understanding. For us mere mortals, it often feels like money, fame, fortune and contentment just rain down on these folks from the heavens. GASP!

Truth is, successful people have three simple habits for excellence (habits WE can learn).

Granted, they actually have more than three habits, but today we’re focusing on the BIG ONES. It’s Saturday. Let’s have fun and give our brains a break.

These are habits we can use in every area of life. What are three simple habits our mentors or heroes have that we don’t? What do successful people DO differently? What is their “magic”? For any success? Business, life, marriage, parenting or even a life of joy and contentment, what are the basics?

Understand though, simple is not synonymous with easy. Simple is simple, but rarely easy.

I’ve worn a lot of hats over the years from retail to software to sales and now blogger, editor, entrepreneur. I’ve read countless books on success and then applied what I learned. I stepped out, fell on my face, tripped, failed, learned, whined, grew, read more books, tried again, won THEN CRASHED.

I put out the flames and started over and I work hard to use these tough lessons to get better day by day. I’m always searching for ways to grow, to fire out weaknesses and improve.

I’m currently part of an on-line entrepreneur mentorship program. At first, I was super excited. Now?

I see it quickly devolving into what makes so many writing groups, on-line support groups, businesses, families and marriages unravel and all for the same exact reason.

Selfishness.

On and on about their business, what they can sell, can they put up a price list? Ugh. Only talking to me so they can sell me something (manipulation). They don’t give a rip about me at all, only my debit card.

Reminds me of the old Toby Keith song…I WANNA TALK ABOUT ME!

The group’s mission statement involved entrepreneurs networking, learning, growing and locating mentors. Yet it’s becoming a “What Can I SELL YOU?” thread with a quickness. I’ve seen this happen with almost every single writing support group. These groups begin with service and end in spam.

Buy my book! Have you bought my book? Can you review my book?

Sigh.

Too many people want a shortcut, to take without serving, listening, hearing, and engaging and realizing someone else in the world exists other than THEM.

That’s sadly why the success they long for never arrives because manipulation is a lousy foundation for…pretty much everything. Ergo why Cait and I are going to continue our posts on grifts and how writers being manipulated and used.

For now, though I’m going to focus on YOU 😀 .

#1—Successful People Serve

life changing results, Successful People, Habits of Successful People, Kristen Lamb, business success, improving sales, selling books

I’d like to say I was born a completely selfless person devoid of any personal agendas, but yeah. I try to keep my lying to my fiction. I even wrote a post Pride, Perfectionism and Anger—Confessions of a Recovering Jerk because I want all of you to know you are not alone.

I might be an “expert” but I’ve worked very hard to make it clear that I struggle. Every day I work to check my agenda. Am I talking to someone, being kind, offering help to serve first? Or, do I want something later?

There’s a difference between motivation and manipulation. Motivation is for the benefice of others. Manipulation always looks like “helping others” but it’s all about ME, I, MINE. People are a means to an end.

Which consumers pick up on and then will avoid the manipulator like Ebola, btw…

Over time (and a lot of failures) I learned to value others not because I wanted something from them, but because valuing others is part of possessing good character.

All authentic success has a foundation of integrity and service above self. Great businesses focus on serving not selling.

My motive for blogging for FREE is to serve. If class sales follow? Great, I really dig electricity and eating. Whoo-hoo! But even then my business mission statement is: Superior and affordable training to shape emerging writers into successful, professional commercial authors.

See? Service 😀 .

#2—Successful People Remember

life changing results, Successful People, Habits of Successful People, Kristen Lamb, business success, improving sales, selling books

They remember a lot about other people. It’s because they make a point to do this. They recall faces, names, hobbies, victories, struggles, and the stories of others.

The best advice I can give might initially seem silly, but the best way to show people you value them is to ask for and then remember their name. All people, not just people who can do something for us.

I hear this all the time, I am SO bad at remembering names. This is an excuse, one I used for a long time, myself. Thus, I’m totally NOT judging.

Hard truth is we can remember names when we think the name/person is important.

If I was at a conference and there was a mega agent I wanted to get eyes on MY BOOK. Oh heck to the yeah I’d remember THAT NAME. Some millionaire wanting to give out seed money for struggling authors? Yup. Would remember that one, too.

Thus my excuse of “being bad at names” crumbles under the litmus of motive and agenda. The challenge then is to work on authentic connection with all who cross our path, not just people who can get us an angle.

Remembering names and people is a habit of excellence and builds integrity.

Okay, how?

life changing results, Successful People, Habits of Successful People, Kristen Lamb, business success, improving sales, selling books

The best way to remember names is to first get the name. I look at name tags in grocery stores (ask if no tag available), then call the person BY their name. I talk to the person slicing my deli meat, ask questions and then listen. Then answer the person BY NAME.

Using a name makes it more likely we will remember it.

Remembering names places me in a mindset of valuing others, slowing down and thinking of other people first with no agenda other than kindness. This habit will pay off major dividends not only in our spirit, but the hearts of others.

When it comes to business, our odds of success improve because people are tired of being sold to non-stop. They’re weary of folks who only talk to them or know they exist when they want something.

#3—Successful People LISTEN

life changing results, Successful People, Habits of Successful People, Kristen Lamb, business success, improving sales, selling books

Successful people listen first, act later. Effective entrepreneurs listen to what consumers are in need of, what problem needs solving, and then act. Their business, service, product is FOR others, not solely “to make money.” People don’t like feeling like walking piggy banks, FYI.

Great authors listen to the world around them and pay attention. These writers seek out stories audiences crave even when the readers might not yet know that was JUST the story they wanted.

Yes, the writers want to sell books #DUH. But SALES come organically as a result of connection gained from listening (and serving) first.

If we don’t listen with the goal to truly hear? We frustrate ourselves and others because we’re blathering opinions, suggestions, thoughts, services that might not even be salient let alone desired. In fact, might even peeve others off.

Kristen Lamb, habits of excellence, selling more books, successful people

Yet, if we’d stop and listen, we’d be in a far better position to connect authentically and be successful (with books, sales, kids, marriage, life). We’d be working smarter, not harder because we’d know the actual need instead of guessing then blasting others with a scattergun.

In the end, simple changes in daily habits add up over time. It seems kindness, authenticity, excellence are great buzz words for sermons or self-help. Yet, these habits of excellence appeal to all humans (even ones buying stuff).

I know we all want the express elevator to the top, but it doesn’t exist. Anyone who says differently is selling us something completely useless (grift).

LET’S HAVE FUN! I WANNA TALK ABOUT YOU, JUST YOU! ALL YOU, YOU, YOU! I WANT TO KNOW YOU!

Tell me something about YOU!

successful people, habits of success, Kristen Lamb

Doesn’t even have to do with this post. Have fun! What are your hobbies? Loves? Passions? Fears? Struggles? Favorite movies? Foods? Favorite songs? Greatest accomplishment? What are you most proud of? What do you love about writing?

Funniest thing ever happened to you? Worst date EVER? Best date ever? Tell us about your pets, your kids, your garden or quilting project. Pictures and links welcome! Show off! I am giving you the stage *bows dramatically*

I want to know about your dreams, your hopes, about the bodies in your basement! …okay maybe not that. #Accomplice

I LOVE HEARING FROM YOU! And I am NOT above BRIBERY! I will pick someone for a FREE class recording from comments today AND enter you in usual contest.

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

For subscribers, click to my site to view gallery of upcoming classes (gallery doesn’t show up for you). But here are the two biggies coming up…

BRAND BOSS! When Your NAME ALONE Can SELL! November 9th, 7-9 EST and comes with FREE RECORDING. $45 for General Admission, GOLD Option Available!

PLOT BOSS! Writing Novels Readers WANT TO BUY! November 16th, 7-9 EST and comes with FREE RECORDING. $40 for General Admission, GOLD Option Available!

Blurb - Cait Reynolds
BLURB BOSS: Writing Blurbs that SELL BOOKS. $45.00 USD. Friday, November 10, 2017. 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST. Click the image to register!
BRAND BOSS! When Your Name Alone Can Sell. $45 USD. Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017, 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST. Click the image to register!
PLOT BOSS: Writing novels readers want to buy! $40 USD. Thurs., Nov. 16, 2017. 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST. Click the image to register!
Bad Boys. $45.00 USD. Friday, November 17, 2017. 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST. Click the image to register!