Kristen Lamb

Author, Blogger, Social Media Jedi

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Posts Tagged: Candace Havens

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Image via Lauriesanders60 WANACommons

One of the best writing teachers/mentors in the business is Author Candace Havens. This woman isn’t an author, she’s a force of nature, and any writer who wants to go pro needs to take her classes. Recently, she presented for us at WANACon, and she brought up some interesting points I’d like to share here.

Embrace Being Tired

Okay, first I want to take a moment to acknowledge that we do need rest. We need breaks and days off. I’ve been working 16 hour days 6 and 7 days a week since the beginning of the year, and right now all I want to do is curl up and sleep…for a month. I’ve wanted to do this for the past 5 weeks at least, but I had to finish what I’d started.

It’s been almost two years since my last social media book, and it was time for a new one. I’d written a 100 page proposal that didn’t go anywhere in the traditional sphere, so at Christmas time, I decided to just dig in and write the book. Obviously, a lot had changed since I’d written the proposal, so basically I was back at square one. But, I set a strict deadline (End of February to finish first draft) and dug in.

Your Body Will Lie to You

Our bodies tend to be a bit lazy, and they like to lie. They tell us we need a day or two or twenty off, and the longer we’re away from the work, the easier it is to let things slip, to see a new shiny and start a newer, more exciting project. In this business, time is our enemy. Always remember this.

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Image via JulaiLimjl Flikr Creative Commons

It Will Never Be a “Perfect” Time

We want to wait until we’re rested, the kids are out of the house, until we have total quiet, a new computer, the list goes on. To do this job at a professional level, we have to learn to write no matter what.

I blog every day with a toddler whacking me 47 times with a NERF sword before breakfast, all the while Bubble Guppies blazing in the background. I’ve learned to un-see the dirty dishes, the laundry that needs folding, and the Christmas tree that still needs to be taken down. Yes, I am officially white trash.

Distractions=Death

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The Spawn “helping me” during revisions. Yes, I wanted to stop and clean the mess, but resisted. Gave me a twitch, but I kept going…

Time is the Enemy

When writing anything (but especially fiction) taking time off can kill momentum. We need to go back, reread, familiarize ourselves with the story and characters (since we’ve slept since that last bit we wrote). This can lead to editing the beginning to death and stalls forward progress. We get bogged down in the first part of the book.

Take too much time? Likely, you’ll have to start all over.

I did. Yes, even NF authors are vulnerable to time.

I spent more effort trying to retrofit work I’d done for my agent back in 2011 than I want to admit. Finally, I just tossed most of the writing and started over. 100 pages of wasted work all because I didn’t keep writing.

My mistake. Won’t happen again.

Sometimes Being Tired Produces Better Writing

I know a lot of you work day jobs, and you’re squeezing in writing when you can. GO YOU! You’re superheroes, and always remember that. Keep pressing.

Yet, one mistake we make is we don’t tackle the novel when we’re tired. We believe our work will be better if we’ve rested.

This isn’t necessarily true.

Candy runs a workshop she calls Fast Draft. In Fast Draft, you write your novel in two weeks. It is one of the toughest challenges I’ve ever done, but it works. No editing, no going back, just keep going forward. By Day Three, I promise you’ll feel like you’ve been tossed in a bag of hammers and shaken.

BUT…

One of the biggest enemies of great fiction is Conscious Mind. Our internal editor lives there and won’t let us move forward until we get rid of “was clusters” or add more detail to that “jungle scene.” Conscious Mind will have you “being responsible” and browsing the Internet looking at South American plants instead of writing.

Conscious Mind is the Bigger Sibling Who Constantly Calls Little Sister (Subconscious Mind) Stupid and Tells Her to Shut Up

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Image via Life Mental health Flikr Creative Commons

Subconscious Mind is the primal mind. It sees things we don’t, makes connections Conscious Mind, also known as “The Thinking Brain”, misses. Thinking Brain is a bit of a Bossy Pants and likes to shove Subconscious Mind around, give it wedgies and promise that it can jump off the roof with an umbrella and float down.

Hey, Penguin does it all the time.

The best way to get your Subconscious Mind to help you is to wear the bigger, bossier sibling out. This allows the Little Guy an opportunity to help you make magic without the bigger sibling butting in.

Conscious Mind is the Inner Editor, the Inner Critic, the Nit-Picker, whereas the Subconscious Mind (the Limbic and “primitive” brain) is the one who sees value in finger painting and advantages of glitter.

Subconscious Mind will thrust you deeper into the story. Subconscious Mind is like a toddler who jumps head-first off the couch. No fear. There will be greater emotion and the writing often is more visceral. Subconscious Mind plants Seeds of Awesomeness that you will see flower into something more amazing that you believed you were capable of.

But that won’t happen unless Conscious Mind is exhausted and too tired to argue and bully it’s littler sibling.

So if you’re struggling with the WIP, you might just be a little “too rested.” This isn’t to say we don’t take care of ourselves, but total immersion and pressing on even when we’re worn out and would trade everything we own for a nap does have major advantages.

Have you ever done a fast draft? Did it help? Do you write even when you’re tired? What has that shown you? What are your thoughts? Questions? War stories?

I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of March, 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. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. 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 novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

And also, winners have a limited time to claim the prize, because what’s happening is there are actually quite a few people who never claim the critique, so I never know if the spam folder ate it or to look for it and then people miss out. I will also give my corporate e-mail to insure we connect and I will only have a week to return the 20 page edit.

At the end of March I will pick a winner for the monthly prize. Good luck!

Ah, the holiday season is upon us. Next week is Thanksgiving. For the rest of you who have also been doing NaNoWriMo, there is more to this month than hitting the 50,000 mark. GASP! I know. I just found out myself. I had hoped to be writing a blog about what it felt like to have successfully completed NaNoWriMo, but alas I still have 2,777 words. Drat! And, that’s okay. I figure I can use this blog to get us in a grateful state of mind.

I have led a uniquely blessed life and been able to travel quite a lot, and to places most Americans will never see. I once lived in a refugee camp in Syria where water was scarce and indoor plumbing the luxury of a privileged few. I’ve even been blessed enough to work on a Presbyterian school in the northern jungles of Belize, where people slept in hammocks so the scorpions couldn’t crawl into bed during the night. We walked around with machetes to cut back tall grass because there were poisonous snakes everywhere. I have also served as a Rotarian for going on seven years, and try to make service a regular part of my life, to give back at least a small part of what I have been so fortunate to receive.

Even this blog, helping you guys grow in your craft, is really a way of giving back. I have been immensely blessed to meet and know people like Rosemary Clements-Moore, the talented Candy Havens, and New York Times Best-Selling Author Bob Mayer. I know my writing journey would have been years longer, but these professionals devoted time and energy to teach me about my craft, when they didn’t have to. These three authors still devote time to helping other writers, even though all of them have deadlines of their own. I also benefit immensely from others in the industry who take time to blog about writing or about publishing, and I want you guys to learn from them too. So I created the Mash-Up of Awesomeness to let them know we notice their hard work, and we are thankful.

I make it a point to begin every day with an attitude of gratitude. I think it is important, especially these days where it seems like every commercial tells us we aren’t thin enough, rich enough, successful enough, happy enough. We always need more “stuff” to be enough. I wrote a blog a couple of months ago about focusing on success, that we tend to drift where the eyes focus. Race car drivers learn that if you want to cross the finish line, never ever take your eyes off the goal line. Look at the wall and you will hit the wall. I believe everything is that way. If we focus on where we are lacking, we run the danger of being ungrateful for what we have, and that can be an extraordinarily defeating way to live.

Thanksgiving seems to be the middle child of holidays. Halloween is fun and glitzy and exciting. Christmas is cute and we adore it and look forward to seeing it…and oh yeah, there’s Thanksgiving. Hey, do we even have decorations for that? Christmas is this magical time, and we often hear how we need to keep Christmas in our hearts all year long. Well, that is a great idea, but we would be wise to keep Thanksgiving there too.

We have all kinds of ways to be thankful and many things to be grateful for that we might not even notice. The next time you go to complain, I challenge you to think of the blessing that inconvenience really is. I do this myself when I hear complaints and grumblings coming out of my mouth. I’ll show you what I mean…

I am thankful for all the laundry I have to do, because it means I have clothes to wear.

I am thankful for the dishes that need washing, because it means I didn’t go hungry.

I am thankful for the big electric bill, because it means my home has lights and heat.

I am thankful for the sheets that need to be changed, because it means I own a bed.

I am thankful for all the reading I have to do, because it means that I am literate.

I am thankful for the car that needs an oil change because it means I don’t have to take the bus.

I am thankful for that parking space waaaaayyyy out in the back, because it means I don’t have to park in a handicapped space. I can walk.

I am thankful for the garage that needs to be cleaned out, because it means I am blessed with plenty.

I am thankful for the chores to be done, because it means I have family who love me enough to travel to see me.

I am thankful for the litter-box that needs cleaning and the dog blankets that need washing because it means I have pets who love me unconditionally.

I am thankful for the split ends I have, because it means I haven’t lost all my hair to chemo.

I am thankful for the Christmas cards I need to send, because they could as easily be funeral announcements.

I am thankful for the traffic snarls that catch me, because then I can have long moments to myself to just slow down and “be.”

I am thankful for the gutters I need to clean, because it means that I have a home.

I am thankful for all the Christmas shopping I have to do, because it means I am not alone.

I am definitely thankful for all of you who bless me three times a week by giving me your time. Time is the most precious commodity we have and we never seem to have enough. So I am immensely grateful that you guys so freely give me your time.

What are you guys thankful for? I’d like to hear your comments (which I am super especially thankful to get, by the way).

See you guys on Monday for Part IV of my Structure Series. Happy writing!

Until next time…

I am super duper thankful for those of you who have purchased and enjoyed my best-selling book We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media.

I hope it is a blessing to you all, and if you haven’t yet purchased a copy, this is the book recommended by agents. You guys have best-selling books to write and my method is not only highly effective, but it is efficient and leaves time for you guys to do what you do best…write.

Writing confereces offer tremendous opportunity. Get published. Meet agents. Socialize with other members of your profession. But are you getting your money’s worth? Here are some tips to help you get the most of your writing conference investment.

This week is an amazing time for me. I am on the downhill run, careening toward this year’s DFW Writers Workshop Conference in Grapevine, TX. Now, first of all, I gotta say that there is no better conference to go to. And I might be a teensy-weensy bit partial because I am teaching there, but it is true.  The DFW Writers Workshop is made up of some of the most passionate, professional creative people I have ever known, and I am deeply humbled to keep such company.

Some of you reading this may be going to this weekend’s conference. It sold out months ago. So, if you didn’t get in for this year’s conference, I strongly encourage you to go to the DFWWW website right away. We have an unbelievable keynote next year. I don’t know if I am allowed to say who it is yet, but I will give a little hint—58 NY Times best-sellers. So go sign up…NOW! Before it sells out just like 2010 conference did…only faster.

http://dfwwritersworkshop.org/2010/02/13/registration-opens-for-2011-dfw-writers-conference-save-your-spot-now/

But aside from offering amazing keynotes like Candace Havens, Bob Mayer, and this year’s Jodi Thomas, the DFWWW Conference offers a tremendous variety of breakout sessions designed to make us—writers—the best we can be.

Today, I am going to give tips for maximizing your time at a conference, whether you are attending this weekend’s DFWWW Conference or another. Face it, most conferences cost a pretty penny and many of us have to scrape and scrounge and sacrifice to pay our way. If we happen to be traveling to a conference then add even more costs for car rental, gas, plane fare, hotels, food, and on and on and on. This investment can easily run into the hundreds of dollars, and, if you are plan on attending the big RWA or ITW conferences, that price tag can easily soar into the thousands of dollars. Ack!

Hey, no worries. It is an investment. Often a BIG investment. Time to get the most out of it.

Three Tips to Maximize your Conference Time

1)      Agents and Editors Need You Too

Agents and editors are allies, not gods.

Yeah, sorry if I offended any agents or editors out there. We love you and need you and are so grateful you are on our side.

Most writing conferences, DFWWW included, go out of their way to provide a good selection of agents and editors to help attendees realize their dreams of publication success. Yet, time and again I see writers, especially new writers, walk around in a dazed panic, eyes dilated and skin pasty, totally scope-locked on the pitch session.

Maximize the time you have. Yes, pitch sessions are great, but they are only part of the conference experience. I recommend that you keep a healthy dose of perspective. Agents and editors need you just as much as you need them, probably more. Writers can get published without an agent, but agents (and editors) HAVE to have an author’s work to sell or they are on the breadline.

Agents and editors are human. GASP! Yep, their secret is out. They want and need good writing. Plain and simple. That is how they get PAID. Agents go to conferences because it is in their interests (just like you) to do so. Pitch sessions aren’t sudden death overtime. Agents know you are nervous and just as likely to throw up on your shoes as you are to be witty and charming…so relax. They will either see something in your idea, or they won’t. Ultimately, all depends on whether or not they like and believe they can sell your writing. Breathe, smile, enjoy and move on.

2)      Take Advantage of the Break-Out Sessions

Any professionally run conference will also offer a selection of classes to hone our skills as writers. Pitching to agents is great, but also make sure you take time to learn about plot, characterization, marketing, pitching, busting past writer’s block, etc. I have to say that DFWWW really shines when it comes to author training. One can count on published professionals like Candace Havens, Rosemary Clements-Moore, A. Lee Martinez and more to give top-notch presentations designed to make you the best you can be.

This might seem like a no-brainer, but I see far too many writers only taking advantage of a fraction of what they paid for.

Case in point…

Two years ago I attended a conference in Oklahoma. I was deeply disappointed at the behavior of some my fellow writers. Unless there was a session with an agent or editor, these individuals holed up in their hotel rooms (I might also mention that these were the same people who all could have used insight into fundamentals of the craft, such as plot, characterization, etc. Cuz, well, all of us can always learn more).

And when they walked away without so much as one request for a query, they believed they’d spend $400 for nothing. Well, in a way, they had.

Writers packed in rooms like sardines to listen to agents who looked all of 22 and still had that “shiny new agent smell,” but failed to attend the craft classes taught by a NY Times best-selling author.

Not that the agents didn’t have some great nuggets of information, but what might have been a better use of time? An hour with a girl who’d just fallen out of college and who’d been a NY agent all of a minute? Or a seasoned author with over 25 years in the publishing business and an impressive resume of best-selling novels?

3)      Network, Network, Network…then Network Some More

Writing can be a lonely business, and a profession that is often not taken seriously. I have worked as a professional writer for going on a decade and still have people say things like, “Oh, you’re a writer. How nice. Now what is your real job?” As Rodney Dangerfield used to say, “I get no respect.”

Most of us gut through day jobs and beg and barter with family to leave us alone so we can write. We know rejection, deeply and profoundly.  We are artists who suffer for our craft.

But, hey, no one said we had to suffer alone. Meet other writers. Make friends who know your plight and can share your burden. Network with published authors, editors, agents (even the ones who don’t have you scheduled for an official pitch session).

Agents change agencies. Editors change publishing houses. One day they may not give a whit about vampires or starships or women’s fiction, but who knows? What will they want in three years or five? These individuals will be far easier to approach if you’ve already established a modicum of rapport.

Friendships and acquaintances can open all sorts of doors. We as humans tend to defer to those we know, before we defer to a stranger. Just because we are writers doesn’t mean we do ALL kinds of writing. I got my start as a technical writer, but have gotten to the point that I prefer to take on other more creative assignments. So if a company calls me for a job and I can’t take it, guess who I call? Other writers I know who do that sort of writing. Whether it is opportunities to speak, present, teach, write, review, whatever, networking is key.

Also, odds are, you are not the greatest writer the world has ever known with zero room for any improvement (even if your mother thinks you are). Surround yourself by those who are better than you and you will be surprised how much you grow.

So remember.

1) Agents are on your side. They need you, so calm down.

2) Take advantage of classes to hone your skills in the craft and the business of writing. You paid for them!

3) Be social. Network, network, network. Writing conferences are like summer camp. You might be surprised the friendships you will make…friendships that will not be delivered to your hotel room with the triple-decker sundae you ordered because you passed out at your pitch session.

Relax and enjoy! Squeeze every cent of joy and growth out of the conference. And if you are going to be at DFWWW’s conference this weekend, say hello and come to my classes.

Happy writing. Until next time…

Sorry for the delay in posting, but have been very busy with writing jobs, which is a good thing.

The topic for today is an interesting one and even possibly controversial. Editing is great, but it can KILL a novel. If you are hoping to either one day be published or even write that break-out novel, you could be your own worst enemy.

Some of you reading this may be on Twitter, and if you are, there is a hash tag group called #writegoal (the brainchild of talented romance author Anna DeStefano http://www.annawrites.com). Definitely worth following and even joining. The purpose of #writegoal is to inspire and to create a system of accountability. Other writers will cheer on people they have never met, and there is something oddly convicting about posting “Goal today is 500 words.” There are no writing police to drag you away if you fail to meet those 500 words. Yet, those who participate feel they must at least give it the good college try in order to appease the group. But, I digress. Accountability is important, but a topic for another day.

I keep tabs on #writegoal, and #amwriting and even on MySpace and FB groups. One consistent post I see looks like this. “Looked at the pages I wrote last week and now editing. What crap”…or something to that effect.

Editing can be CANCER to a novel. Yes, editing can be devastating to shorter works, but doesn’t have quite the killing power it possesses when introduced into longer works. In a novel that can span anywhere from 80-120,000 words (depending on genre), editing can be catastrophic if done at the wrong phase.

Think of it this way. Driving is great. It gets us from point A to point B much quicker, and we do not know what life would be like without our cars. Yet, do we hand car keys to an eight year old? NO! Why? Because that child needs to develop into at least pre-adult (known as an adolescent) to be handed a two-ton piece of metal and fiberglass. Is it because we sit up at night thinking of ways to make the lives of our eight year old children miserable and that we take sick joy in depriving them of fun activities like driving? Um, no. As older wiser adults, we know the child doesn’t have the height, motor skills, and cognitive development to take on such a task without possibly fatal results.

Yet we edit novels three chapters in? No!!!!! Can you edit a novel this early? Sure. But just like handing an eight year old car keys, prepare to endure some consequences.

In my opinion, a novel has not developed enough to sustain any reasonable edit until at least the first draft. Your first draft is essentially your fifteen year old who can now go to Driver’s Ed.

Some of you might be screaming right now. “Kristen! What do you mean? Are you mad? Are you suggesting I leave a document rife with spelling errors and grammatical flaws just lying around?”

Yes. Yes, I am. You will thank me later.

If you are writing a novel, you need to leave any kind of edit for once you have finished the entire first draft. Breathe. Get a paper bag. You will be okay. Just trust me.

Now is it okay to reread what you have written in order to get grounded? Sure. And when you reread, it is even okay to make notes of things you believe at the time should be fixed or even expounded. But don’t you dare hit that backspace button! Nothing gets deleted. Period. Feel free to highlight. Make a note that you believe something should be taken out at a later time, but leave it be. Also, anything you decide needs to be added needs to be written in any color other than your main document. Red, purple, blue. Doesn’t matter. Just make it a different color.

Also, if you take part of your novel to a writing critique group before you are finished with the first draft, then you are taking a HUGE risk.

But, if you choose to do so, I recommend that you still follow my rules of editing. Any changes or suggestions need to be inserted in the form of notes (highlight possible deletions and make a notes as to why this section needed a change). Any additions need to be in another color…then sally forth.

Don’t look back, or you will turn into a pillar or unfinished novels.

Premature editing is very dangerous for three reasons:

1. Uproots Subconscious Seeds—Your subconscious mind is an amazing machine. It sees the big picture in ways the conscious mind cannot. As you write, your subconscious mind is planting seeds that, when viewed in a microcosm of one or three chapters, will likely seem to make no sense. Duh. That is like an acorn trying to envision life as a 100 foot tall oak tree. These seeds need time to gestate. When you edit prematurely, all you see is a hunk of something smooshy. You don’t realize that a possibly mind-blowing idea is trying to take root in the fertile soil of your story. By editing too early, you can possibly cripple your novel. By the end of the first draft, however, you will be able to look back and see sprouted weeds, which you can feel free to uproot. But the sprouts will be mature enough to distinguish from seedlings that need to be nurtured to their full potential.

2.  Makes us Mistake Busy Work for Real Work—Premature editing indulges our fears. Many times writers do not continue forward due to subconscious fear. Deep down we might know our original idea is flawed, or not strong enough, or convoluted, or unclear. We may know that we don’t have a solid outline or framework to support a 100K words. We may realize our characters have problems, but it is going to take work and honesty to fix them. Or all of that might be just fine, but we fear failure or even success. We fear writing the gritty stuff because it leaves us exposed and vulnerable, or we fear writing real conflict because our human nature is to avoid it. Premature editing gives us a false belief that we are being productive, when in fact it is sabotaging our work and reinforcing our fears by permitting us to procrastinate. Fears can only be conquered by facing them, and premature editing keeps us “busy” and gives us justification to stay mired.

 ***This is one of the reasons I started Warrior Writer Boot Camp, based off Bob Mayer’s teachings about fear. I felt that, for many, the traditional critique group of piecemeal edit kept writers from facing and really working on the real weaknesses.

 3.  Premature Edit Can Discourage and Keep a Writer from Finishing—This is another reason that traditional critique groups can be counter-productive. Other writers are seeing your work in a microcosm, and that limits how well they can critique. This is why I suggest using the techniques we discussed earlier. Just make notes. Your fellow writers are invaluable, but you have to appreciate that they are seeing your work from a limited point of view. Their opinions may be dead-on (We HATE your protagonist and hope he dies), but they could be far off-base and serve only to uproot those subconscious seeds we discussed.

If you continue to go back changing things chapter by chapter, changing, changing, changing, either due to critique group feedback or your own self-edit, what happens is that you KILL your forward momentum with a big ol’ red-penning, back-spacing machete.  Do that long enough, and it becomes hard not to be discouraged and ultimately give up. If you have been reworking the first act of your book for months, it can very easily end up in the drawer with all the other unfinished works.

Now I know all of you care about your work, and you desire to put your best foot forward. If that means waiting a few months before you bring anything to read at your critique group, then so be it. Mark my words. It will take a lot of self-restraint NOT to go back through your writing with pruning shears after a hard critique.

But writing a novel is like planting a field of green growing things that will eventually bear fruit. If in the beginning, you can envision the magnificent rows ready for harvest, then it is easier to be encouraged and to refrain from digging up the seeds and starting over.

Good luck and happy writing!

Until next time…

Here are some resources to empower you on your journey to successful published author:

I highly recommend Candace Havens website. Candace often runs on-line writing workshops with Rosemary Clements-Moore that teaches Fast Draft techniques. http://www.candacehavens.com

As  always, I recommend, Bob’s Novel Writers Toolkit as a foundational text to learn how to write a novel and also suggest Who Dares Wins as a fantastic book that teaches how to address and conquer fear. Bob also runs the Warrior Writer Workshop, designed to develop amateur writers into professional authors. Bob now offers the course on-line for greater convenience. http://www.bobmayer.org