Kristen Lamb

Author, Blogger, Social Media Jedi

Kristen Lamb — Photo

Posts Tagged: fear

Actual photo of Kristen Lamb on the inside.

When I first saw Google + pop up on the social media radar, I tried to ignore it. But, as an expert people tend to believe we know what we’re doing. I have tried to convince you guys that I make this up as I go, but alas I some of you sent me messages like this:

So, what do you think of Google +?

Um is… Crap. Is it too early to drink? a viable answer?

I was just kind of hoping they would stop inventing stuff for a week or two so I could get caught up. Can we ever keep up with it all? Social media is not immune to evolution. Some things work, others don’t. People behind the technology are always asking if there is a way to streamline. Can we make this better? More user-friendly? Can we make it easier for people to interact? To connect? To filter out all the white noise? I can’t blame them. It keeps the programmers off the streets, even if it gives us stress hives.

It seems that Google is taking on this challenge with launching Google +. So, as your Social Media Jedi Master, I am taking this bullet for the team. Thanks to one of my blog followers I scored an invitation to be part of the beta testing for the one social network to rule them all…Google +. So I will be pressing buttons and shouting expletives at my computer so you don’t have to.

It is too early to give a good opinion. I don’t quite understand how THIS will be different, wonderful and fantastical. Maybe it will be, but time will tell.

You guys might find this shocking, but I hate anything new. I am really an 58 year old Jewish woman from Long Island, New York at heart, and all this technology makes me seriously verklempt. The fact that I have written two best-selling technology books is proof God has a sense of humor.

I get set in my ways and, like a lot of people, I don’t care for change. And sometimes, especially when it comes to technology, I want to yell ENOUGH, ALREADY!  I feel like I am caught in a digital riptide and drowning in digital daiquiri mix. I have the schmeltz.

The Downside of New and Improved

It is wonderful that the social networking sites want to always be offering something new and shiny, but sometimes? I wish they would leave things alone. For instance, I LOVE Twitter and TweetDeck, yet it seems that every other day there is a new version that I need to install. Really? I just figured out the buttons on last week’s version, and now I need to install a NEWER version? A faster version? A version that allows me to tweet straight from my brain without having to type?

Facebook is no better. Oh we know you just finally figured out version 37, but version 38 WILL BLOW YOUR MIND!

I think that this was a big reason MySpace collapsed. Yes, I mention MySpace in WANA. Feel free to ignore all 5 of those pages.  Yet, MySpace is a lesson in how “new and improved” can go tragically wrong.

MySpace was a force to be reckoned with a few years ago, but MySpace wasn’t happy with prosperity. They had to new and improve and add more and more gizmos, ads, games, apps, gadgets and flashy thingies. Eventually, people had so much crap on their profile that the page loaded slower than Eeyore on Quaaludes. No one could open a profile without risking a computer crash….which defeated why MySpace was so popular. Originally, it was a simple way to connect, hang out and make friends. MySpace “new and improved” so much that you risked a seizure every time you tried to visit a profile.

MySpace also lost sight of what it did well and kept trying to copy Facebook. The irony of this approach was that people who liked MySpace generally didn’t like Facebook. So here MySpace was copying the very place many of us were trying to avoid. In the end, all this copying of Facebook was the source of the hemorrhage of people to Facebook. If MySpace was going to be Facebook, then um, why not just go hang out on Facebook?

A couple of months ago, Facebook decided to force everyone to change the layout of their profile.Oh, they made it seem like it was optional at first (kind of like the Nazi party). Every day when I logged in, Facebook would have a pop up message touting the “new look” and ask if I was ready to change. Every day I said no. I’d finally figured out where everything was.

Then, one day I logged in and … everything was moved. I know they are trying to be nice, but that’s kind of like surprising Helen Keller with an extreme home makeover while she’s away on vacation. The intention is noble, but the result is not pretty when Helen falls into a wine cellar she didn’t have when she left to visit relatives in Florida.

Not all of us work for Facebook. We have other things to do with our time than try to figure out yet another page layout. Leave it alone. Really.

Cell phones….yeah. Don’t get me started.

Are People Wanting to Move Again?

I know that Google + is promising new and wonderful things, but it kind of reminds me of when I was young and used to move every three months. Sure moving to a new place was fun and exciting when everything I owned could be packed in less than two hours…but now? When my crap would fill two moving vans? I am just not that motivated.

I think that maybe some of the younger generations that are new to social media will probably embrace Google + far quicker.  To put it bluntly, they have less crap to move.

Many people have been building Facebook pages for years. I have 4000 followers on Twitter. Do I really want to start anew? One of the reasons I kept hoping MySpace would pull its digital head out of its digital butt was because I had a lot of hours invested in that network. I didn’t want to start all….over….again.

I am hoping Google + has learned from these issues and can make transitioning easy.

Change Can Be Good

Okay so I have whined now for a few hundred words and you see what I mean about really being an 58 year old Jewish woman from Long Island, New York. I don’t like change. Again, this is why I am proof that God digs irony. Yet, in ways I think that this is an attribute that has made me better at teaching social media to writers.

Many social media people LOVE gadgets and gizmos and the newest way of doing anything shiny. They are lovely people, but a lot of them have the attention span of a ferret with a cocaine habit. Many of them just don’t get that we still have to write books, too.

Yes, we need change. Change can be great. I hated cell phones and e-mail when they first came out, and now I am tethered permanently to both. But, change for the sake of change is a waste of time and energy. I think it is wise for us to pan back and take a minute to think. See if we really need to change, why we need to change and when we need to change.

Google + is promising to make social media a better experience. I am thinking it might be a meta-program (I think that’s a word. If not, now it is). A meta-program to act as a hub to for all other social media sites. But, I had to give a DNA sample and 32 background references to create a profile so I haven’t started digging under the hood yet.

So, I am tying off to a safety line. I have my backpack full of Red Bull and Dr. Phil books. I’ll go whack it with a hammer and see if it screams then report back. Just because there is a hot new social networking fad is no reason to tear down the tents and set off for parts unknown. But, we also want to make sure we aren’t clinging to a sinking ship.

*cough* MySpace.

Google + might be the new evolution of social media. But it could be a giant brain cramp that we can avoid. I will keep you posted. So what do you guys think? Any of you using Google +? If you are, can you come find me? I’m the series of 0s and 1s wandering around crying. I have a balloon on my arm and am wearing an orange jumper. Are you guys tired of the “new and improved”? What’s your opinion? Are you excited? Do you need a Tums? Are you also an 58 year old Jewish woman from Long Island on the inside? Are you verklempt? We can compare bunions.

I love hearing from you! And to prove it and show my love, for the month of July, 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 every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end of June I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck!

Note: I am keeping all the names for a final GRAND, GRAND PRIZE of 30 Pages (To be announced) OR a blog diagnostic. I look at your blog and give feedback to improve it. For now, I will draw weekly for 5 page edit, monthly for 15 page edit.

Last Week’s Winner of 5 page critique is Thomas Ross. Please send 1250 word Word document to kristen at kristen lamb dot org.


Mash-Up of Awesomeness

FUNNY Post by Lani Wendt Young Don’t You Dare Breathe on That Baby

The Rules of Social Media Optimization 

Self-Publish–Is It a Dirty Word?

Social Media–Protection from Facial Recognition Software

Failing Doesn’t Make You a Failure by Jen Rothman

60 Tips to Improve Your NF Writing (this is excellent for blogging, too)

Literary Agents: An Endangered Species? by the brilliant and talented Anne R. Allen

Can getting published make you happy? by Michelle Davidson Argyle

Will self-publishing hurt your chances of being traditionally published? by Agent Rachelle Gardner

What’s the difference between plot and story?

Why Understanding Conflict Will Make You a Better Writer by Bubblecow

In the meantime, I hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer . Both books are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in th biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left over to write more great books! I am here to change your approach, not your personality.

Whoa. Sorry about that. Thanks for cleaning me up.

We are now over halfway through 2011, and the New Year’s Resolutions are long forgotten, dulled by the screams of children racing through your house on a sugar high. Perhaps this was the year you vowed to take that novel more seriously, and you set out with bold promises of daily word count.

The first week of January, you were off like a shot. The creativity was flowing, and you couldn’t remember a time you felt so alive. You might have even wondered why you put this off so long? Fingers flying across the keyboard, you laughed in the face of all your naysayers.

Now? Seven months in?

Calgon! Take me away!

Maybe you are heading into July, and, what was so exciting and fun in January, now feels more like slogging through a rice paddy wearing ankle weights and snow shoes. I feel your pain. So when you hit that mental wall, what can you do to push past and find that same kind of energy? Here are some tips to help.

1. Recognize that stalling is normal.

When we start off with a new sparkly idea, it is like a first date that goes really well. We spend every spare second dreaming of our next time together, and every moment apart is torture. But, like the dating world, the one month point with our new project marks a transition in our relationship. This is the point we often ask, Can I commit for the long haul? ‘Til “published” do we part? By 6, 7 months? There needs to be a committment.

Be encouraged. Just because we don’t get giddy every time we think of our work in progress in no way means that something is wrong. It just means we have an opportunity to dig in and go deeper. This is no longer a fling, a wild fleeting affair. It’s a commitment. That’s a good thing.

2. Revisit the plan.

There is a saying we used all the time when I was in sales. Fail to plan and plan to fail. Many writers (I’ve been guilty) just take off writing without any prior preparation. It is usually about the 30,000 word mark that this initial failure to plot starts becoming clear. We stare at our screen and realize our story is so complicated the reader is going to need a GPS and a team of sherpas to navigate our plot.

What went wrong?

Maybe we should have spent a tad more time plotting. We have a choice. Keep writing, or stop and make a plan. Often, if we will just go back to the original idea and construct even a basic outline, we can easily see where we got off track. Think of it like taking a wrong turn on a road trip. We can keep driving and hope to stumble across a familiar interstate, but the better idea might be to drag out that AAA map we ignored in the beginning because we wanted to be “spontaneous.”

Frequently, when we hit a mental wall in our writing, it is because our subconscious is shouting, “You took a wrong turn!” If we will listen and retrace our steps, we will be cooking down the Inspiration Interstate in no time.

3. Revisit our goals.

At the beginning of every new year, a condition called RDD sweeps the globe, and writers are particularly vulnerable. What is RDD? Reality Deficit Disorder. I don’t know if it’s the champagne or peer pressure that makes us believe we can lose thirty pounds, build our own California Closet out of spare Popsicle sticks,
and win the Pulitzer by summer.

Let’s be honest. New Year’s Day makes us crazy. Spring Break only reinforces the original crazy idea and summer is the first time we can really grab hold of some sanity.

In January, we seem to lose all grasp on reality and forget that we do have a life. We have spouses, children, pets, day jobs and needy houseplants that all need our attention, too. These things don’t just go away because we decided to write a book, which you have probably been reminded of in the past seven months.

Oh yeah, I guess I do need to sleep.

If you are burned out, then it might be a good time to revisit your original goals and grant some grace for temporary insanity. Clearly the original goal was a tad unrealistic if it’s now summer and you are only halfway finished and are now afraid of your computer. Obviously you needed longer than 8 weeks to write
your opus magnus.

Just because we move a personal deadline does not mean we have failed. Sometimes our creativity will lock up simply because it is caught like a deer in the headlights. Give your muse some breathing room, and she might just spark back to life.

Summertime is a great time to set new goals. If you are live in TX it is currently hotter than the hammered-down hinges of Hell and you are pretty much forced to stay indoors to keep from spontaneously combusting anyway. Make use of that indoor time.

4. Focus on love.

One great way to rest and recharge our creativity is to read. Remind yourself why you love to write. Get away from your own work and out of your own head for awhile. Go to the pool and read the kind of stuff that inspired you to want to write that novel in the first place. This is a good way to recoup, but still be “working.” Often, by “plugging in” to the creativity of others, we can recharge and be ready to write in no time.

5. Write No Matter What—Word Poop is Part of Life

One of my favorite quotes is by Stephen King. The amateurs sit and wait for inspiration. The rest of us just get up and go to work. 

If the goal is to do this writing thing for a job, we just have to get up and do it anyway. If you aren’t currently writing full-time, this is the time to train. It doesn’t get any easier; the demands just get steeper and the
deadlines actually mean something. There are consequences.

I have chapters due to my agent. He needs 15,000 words. In the past 6 weeks, my grandmother has been in the hospital three times and nearly died twice of a bacterial infection (she is fine now), I had surgery on my right hand, and I have an 18 month old who actively pursues Death every waking moment. All great excuses  to not write, and it’s likely no one would have held it against me. But I wrote anyway. I want to be a big author one day and life is not going to stop to give me time to write. I figured it was great training for the next legs of my career.

Almost every day I sat at the computer I wrote pure unadulterated CRAP. I made writing goals of 3000 words and I wrote 3000 words of garbage. Not only did I write garbage, but every word was like pulling literary teeth. Why? I was tired, sore, strung out, and sometimes full of pain medicine. But I knew a little
secret.

The best writing is often behind a wall of garbage. We have to prime the pump. And, yes a lot of gross words coated in leaves, mud and squirrel dropping might come glopping out, but there will come a point where beautiful pristine spring-fresh awesomeness will start to flow and you will need a mighty large bucket to catch it all. It took 5 weeks of writing redundant junk to get to this past week. My writing has been better this week than ever. My subconscious has come up with stuff I never could have thought of deliberately. But my subconscious needed me at the keyboard clearing out the word excrement. I had to clear out my mind and then clean up my Book Baby.

Too many writers go to their “Book Baby” see it’s covered in word poop and they just figure they will come back when the baby smells like roses and angel kisses. Nope. It will still be covered in word poop and if you leave it long enough, your “Baby” will be painting the walls of your hard drive—

Okay, I’ll stop.

Just go change its diaper and get to work. It’s a Book Baby and word poop happens. It goes with all babies.

In the end, know that writing a book is more like a marathon. We have to train, prepare, and then pace ourselves, or we will end up curled in the fetal position on the side of the road waiting on the rescue van. It’s normal to make mistakes and have setbacks and feel less than thrilled about our decision to become a writer. What is important is to remember that all of the doldrums and depression is temporary, but the thrill of publication is forever.

What are some ways you use to bust past the writing doldrums? What do you think causes your creativity to “lock up?” What tactics do you use to get unstuck? How do you handle Word Poop?

I love hearing from you! And to prove it and show my love, for this last bit of month of June, 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 every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end of June I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck!

Note: I am keeping all the names for a final GRAND, GRAND PRIZE of 30 Pages (To be announced) OR a blog diagnostic. I look at your blog and give feedback to improve it. For now, I will draw weekly for 5 page edit, monthly for 15 page edit.

Important Announcements

Due to 4th of July Holiday, winners will be announced on Wednesday.

I am teaching a Blogging to Build Your Brand Workshop at Write It Forward. Sign up HERE. If you want to blog and you need my dedicated help to helping you find your own unique brand and develop a plan for blogging, then the $40 Blogging to Build a Brand will fit that need. In this class I will run you through exercises to help find and create a brand as unique as you and then tailor it to connect with your future fans.

In the meantime, I hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer . Both books are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in th biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left over to write more great books! I am here to change your approach, not your personality.

Photo thanks to Jason Bacues of Bacues Billiards 

Welcome to WANA Wednesday, chock full of tips to rock your social media experience and based off my best selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me Writer. One of the biggest complaints I hear about social media is that writers believe they have no time. I am going to share a little secret. We have plenty of time if we do it properly. The problem is that too many writers are approaching social media like traditional marketing instead of social marketing. When we try to apply traditional marketing tactics, we will be spread too thinly to be effective and, truthfully, can do more harm than good. If you haven’t already, I highly recommend reading my books for a clear understanding of the key differences between traditional marketing and social marketing.

Social marketing capitalizes on networking. Embrace the great news. We don’t have to do everything alone!!! Traditional marketing will tempt you to be on every last social media site and make a bazillion “friends,” yet all those “friends” will likely not be too vested in your success. So please trust me. A smaller network of effective influencers is far more powerful than a thousand followers who add little social media value.

What is social media value?

Well, these are the members of your social grid who participate actively and add good content to the Internet community. We are going to talk about the different kinds of influencers in a moment. Find these key individuals, and there are no limits to your digital reach. These influencers are platform-building GOLD and your most valuable asset.

So how do you find the key influencers?

There are a number of ways to pinpoint our major influencers, but it is tricky. Why? Because unlike direct marketing or old-fashioned PR, the goal of social media is to influence entire groups of people. We aren’t just targeting one individual, but rather the individual and his/her surrounding community. That is one of the reasons that, unlike direct marketing, the overall effectiveness of social media is not as easy to measure. There are some SIM (Social Influence Marketing) metrics that one can run, and companies that can help you locate your referent influencers, but I don’t know that they are all that helpful for authors wanting to build a platform.

Yeah, you are going to have to do some work. Sorry. But I help you make it fun.

Writers are different than companies doing social media. That was the impetus behind me writing  social media books specifically for authors. Not all tools that work well in the corporate world cross over.

Unlike General Motors or Sealy, most of us are a one-man operation. We don’t have a marketing department to do all this stuff for us, and we also have a different kind of product. The CEO of John Deere is not responsible for making every tractor that comes off the assembly line. Yet, most authors are required to write their own books. We cannot outsource our social media content (blogs, articles, excerpts, commentary, group activity, etc.) like, say, All State or Heineken.

The plain fact of the matter is that the more we participate in social media, the better the results. And when I say participate, that means strategized participation (mixed with fun) with clear end goals. This has become far easier to do since I launched the #MyWANA group on Twitter. I liken #MyWANA to the writer’s water cooler. Yes, there is time to chit chat, network, share links and encourage one another, but trust me, you spend too long on there and one of your digital colleagues is guaranteed to threaten to use #thepantsofshame if you don’t get back to your word goals.

But basically, when it comes to building an author platform, we all need to have a plan. In order to have a plan, we must understand the players if we hope to identify those who can maximize our influence, thereby minimizing the time we spend on social media. Not all users are created equally. They are divided into categories that correspond with the influence they exact of their surrounding networks.

Expert Influencer—is just what it says. These are the authorities in a certain subject, and people look to these experts for information, advice, and guidance. The experts are heavyweights when it comes to influencing the decisions of those in their networks. Expert influencers usually have a picture of themselves as their icon. They also generally have huge following that number in the thousands or tens of thousands, depending on the platform. Also, a quick glance to their website (which is usually denoted in the bio) will give you a clear picture that this person is an expert in her field. Oprah. Enough said.

#MyWANA has been very blessed to have a wealth of experts who participate regularly. We have quite a few agents and even NY Times best-selling authors. We also have quie a few people who have been very successful at indie publishing and self-publishing. There is a wealth of expert knowledge out there if we are willing to pay attention. The other benefit of the experts who gather at #MyWANA is these people are actually participating and interacting. The downside of following most experts is the content is often automated. We might get the benefit of their knowledge, but it will be next to impossible to actually network with these folks. Ah, but on #MyWANA @jamesrollins, @bobmayer, and @allisonbrennan are regularly there to share their awesomeness with the rest of us.

Referent Influencer—is in the person’s social network and exercises influence. Referent influencers are a little trickier to figure out. They generally have a fairly large following, but not always. Quality and quantity are not the same thing.

So how do we figure out the referent influencers? We have to participate so we can pay attention. For the most part the referent influencers are highly active on social media and thus usually have a larger following than the casual user, but maybe not as large as the expert. Yet, it is their level of meaningful activity that makes them essential to have in our network. They post a lot of times a day and are well-known, liked, and respected for good content. People around them trust them for good stuff. These are the people you miss when they take a day off.

In my opinion, the referent influencer is the most valuable. Why? First, it is easier to get close to them and befriend them and gain their support. If you write a blog about overcoming substance abuse (as part of your NF book platform), what are the odds of becoming part of Dr. Phil’s inner circle? Referent influencers are far more approachable and, frankly, there are more of them. Also, they are more likely to have followers who are active on social media.

For instance, when I first started helping James Rollins, it seemed almost ridiculous. I had 4,000 followers and he had almost 15,000. What did little me have to offer? Well, many of my followers were very active and had regular blogs and their own platforms. My followers are on Twitter to influence. That is our goal. But what about Jim’s followers? Maybe some of them have influence, but a lot of his followers are on Twitter to chit-chat with family and keep tabs on their favorite author. So in ways, the playing field isn’t as disparate as one might initially think.

Positional Influencer—is often in the person’s inner circle. Friends, family, spouses are all examples of positional influencers. Yes, whether most of us admit it or not, our mothers’ opinions still influence us.

Virtually everyone on social media is a positional influencer to someone else. Positional influencers can be very valuable to a writer, especially in certain genres. For instance, I imagine that most 4-year-olds don’t drive down to Barnes & Noble, slap down a credit card and buy a stack of kid’s books. But moms do. If you happen to write for children, middle grade, teens, or any group that typically would not be the purchaser of the book, then you must target the positional influencers or risk losing a huge percentage of your potential consumers.

What this means is that everyone on social media holds some value. They may not have large social networks (yet), but they hold a lot of influence when it comes to their friends, family and peers. I know last year when Jody Hedlund’s The Preacher’s Bride was released, it quickly rose to the top 20 on the best-seller list and a lot of that had to do with 1) it was a really excellent book and 2) a lot of us couldn’t quit talking about how awesome Jody is and that she had a new book. I think at least 5 of my family members bought copies of Jody’s book just because I wouldn’t shut up about it :D.

At the end of the day, be good to anyone who is being good to you. Networks are hard to build, and we need as much help as we can get from our social community. So if others help “raise your barn,” (repost your posts) make sure you pitch in with theirs. It is just good manners. Yet, it really can help maximize your time and influence if you will be mindful to befriend thos who exercise greater impact on social media. If you get a chance, come join us at #MyWANA. Our sole mission is to support, encourage and promote one another.

So what are your thoughts? Do you find social media overwhelming? For those of you who’ve been on #MyWANA, has it helped?

I love hearing from you! And to prove it and show my love, for the month of June, 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 every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end of June I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck!

Note: I am keeping all the names for a final GRAND, GRAND PRIZE of 30 Pages (To be announced) OR a blog diagnostic. I look at your blog and give feedback to improve it. For now, I will draw weekly for 5 page edit, monthly for 15 page edit.

Important Announcements and Mash-Up of Awesomeness Below

I am teaching TWO workshops at Write It Forward. Sign up HERE. There is a Becoming a Brand class for $20, but if you want to blog and you need my dedicated help to helping you find your own unique brand and develop a plan for blogging, then the $40 Blogging to Build a Brand will fit that need. In this class I will run you through exercises to help find and create a brand as unique as you and then tailor it to connect with your future fans.

In the meantime, I hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer . Both books are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in th biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left over to write more great books! I am here to change your approach, not your personality.

Mash-Up of Awesomeness

Kicking out a Fast First Draft by Anne Greenwood Brown over at Writer Unboxed

Should Writers Use Excel by Jenny Hansen

7 Deadly Sins of Writing over at The Bookshelf Muse

25 Things You Should Know About Revisions by the HILARIOUS Chuck Wendig (And, yes, I am a total fan girl of Chuck which is why I always mention him. His blogs are THAT great.

Adventures in Children’s Publishing is a WONDERFUL resource for all writers, so I highly, highly recommend this treasure trove of awesomeness.

6 Benefits of Having an Agent in Today’s Publishing World by the talented and brilliant Jody Hedlund (yes, I am a fan of hers, too :P)

Chuck, Jody and then there is Tawna Fenske. If you want a place for a guaranteed good time, seriously gop check out her blog. Tawna is amazing.

Also, check out Camp Cheerful over at Piper Bayard’s blog. Can you tell I love funny blogs? Life is short! Laugh and laugh often.

Today, we are going to talk a bit about failure. All writers who dare to dream seem to have this same fear–FAILURE. It can seem larger than life and everything fades away in the face of this looming beast. I want to let you in on a little secret. For many years I was the best, the Big Kahuna, the Big Gal on Campus. I was positively THE most successful person…at failing.

A little about me…

I was a high school drop out at the age of 15, then again at 16. I worked as a waitress, but was a really bad waitress. I lost my job and returned to school. I finally graduated high school at the age of 19. No one figured I would make much out of my life since it’s highly likely I graduated last in my class. I think by the time you get a GPA as low as mine was, they just start listing you alphabetically.

I came from a military family, so I decided to enlist in the Army…only I got sick in the middle of the physical and failed. Doc gave me a medical disqualification (DQ).

Great.

So, I dusted myself off and attended junior college. I figured I’d go to school and try the Navy. I come from a family of Squids, so that wasn’t so bad. I put in all my paperwork…then they found out about the Army. Sigh. Apparently a medical DQ lasted two years.

No Navy for me.

Back to the drawing board (school). I knew the medical DQ would run out, so I worked really hard and ended up winning a full military scholarship to become a doctor. I didn’t really want to become a doctor, but this was the best scholarship and I was broke ergo not picky. I transferred to T.C.U. and began pre-med. I swore in to the Air Force (yes, I made my rounds of all the branches) and pledged my life to serving my country as a future military doctor.

Two years in, I was a shining scholar with a 3.79 average. Then, in March of 1995, Fort Worth was hit with an ice storm and T.C.U. refused to cancel classes. On my way to class, I slipped and fell and hit my lower back on a concrete curb…and fractured it.

Bye, bye military. Bye-bye scholarship. Bye-bye medical school.

I returned to school a semester later. I had to use a cane for eight months as my back healed and there was no such thing as handicapped access to anything in those days. It seemed every class I had signed up for was on the third floor, too. But I did my best and took it one class at a time.

I didn’t want to be a doctor if the DoD wasn’t picking up the tab. Didn’t have the money. So I changed majors because I could no longer afford to be on a medical track. This was all well and good except that it set me back. Instead of being a junior, I was back to being a sophomore.

Felt a little like high school.

But, I had changed degrees and really loved political economy. I studied the Middle East and North Africa and felt I could make a difference. So you can imagine my excitement when I was asked to help with a business development project in Syria. I would live in the Yarmouk Camp (a Palestinian refugee camp in Syria) and help modernize a paper facility.

Well, that was the plan at least.

The day after graduation I hopped on a plane. I was full of hope, dreams and passion, and just knew I would make a difference. I would knock this project out of the park and it would look SO awesome on my grad school application (I was applying for a special doctorate program).

Yeah….um, no.

It was a great experience but pretty much a huge failure. No matter what we tried, we hit a wall of bureaucratic red tape and corruption. I came back to the States and gave up on grad school. The hallowed halls of academia were too far removed from reality and I realized it was no longer for me.

I went to work in software sales and then paper sales and was dismal at both. I was a hard worker, but it always seemed that I was in the wrong place at the wrong time and the competition was eating me alive. Thus, it was only a matter of time before my position—and me—would be eliminated.

I failed at high school, failed at the military, failed to become a doctor or a professor and now I was quite possibly THE worst salesperson on the planet.

…and I wouldn’t trade one minute of it.

My failures taught me far more than success ever did. Many of you reading this are terrified of failure. I want to let you in on a little secret–Failure is not the end. Failure is a teacher. It will guide you to who you should be. Too often we give failure too much power. We think it is the end, when in reality it is training us for a better future. What if I HAD been successful? What if I was now a military flight surgeon? I wouldn’t be doing what I love and I wouldn’t be here to help you guys, to let you know it isn’t as bad as you might think.

Failing in school taught me to keep pressing on, even when that meant being embarassed. It was humiliating being 19 in an English class full of 14 year-olds.

Failing at the military taught me that some doors shut for very good reasons. Sometimes our prayers are answered, it’s just the answer happens to be “no.”

Failing in Syria taught me discernment. I jumped into a project before I thought it out fully. I wouldn’t trade the experience for all the gold in the world, but the project was doomed from the start. I should have done more research and planned better.

Failing at sales taught me that trying to do everything myself was a formula for disaster. It taught me to form teams and that relationships are the most important possession we have. When I was in sales, I didn’t want to bother other people and I tried to do too much on my own. My failure was an inability to delegate and form a team I could depend upon.

I now understand that any success I enjoy is not because of ME, because I am anything special. It is because of opportunities, blessings and support granted me from other people.

Our success is only a culmination of a lot of team support. There are no self-made best-sellers.

We can’t do this alone.

Failure is scary, but failure is priceless to the person who can embrace it. Failure should be rewarded because it means we are taking a risk. People who never fail rarely do anything remarkable. Nothing great was ever created in the comfort zone. Sure there are people who seem to succeed at everything they do, but the Midas Touch is not the norm. I want to learn from great people who failed yet pressed on and succeeded despite setbacks. I want to learn about creating wealth from Donald Trump, not the latest lottery winner.

Many of you who read my blogs want to be successful writers. If I can give you any advice, it is to learn to embrace failure. When we are in the middle of the storm, it is hard to see the bigger picture. It is tough to see how these setbacks and disappointment might actually be shaping a more brilliant future than we can ever imagine.

When I was a little girl I dreamed of being a famous writer and teacher, but I was told that was a foolish dream. So I traded in that dream for more practical dreams—a military career, becoming a doctor, sales. And you know what? I thank God every day that I failed at everything I ever tried because eventually I failed so much I no longer feared it, and THAT is when success started coming my way.

I took bigger and bigger risks and was more willing to throw my heart and all my passions into something because I finally understood failure never meant the end…it just meant the beginning of something new and I would be stronger for it.

The strongest blades are forged in the hottest fires. Adversity is the fire that removes the impurities in our character. Failure is the forge that creates excellence. One of the strongest forms of steel in the world is Damascus steel. Damascus steel is fired, folded and hammered hundreds of times, and it is this fiery brutal birth that makes it so strong. What about you? Are you a failure, or are you on your way to being Damascus steel?

Fifteen years ago, I had the talent to do great things and reach great heights, but I didn’t have the character to stay there. Failure taught me to work hard, set goals and, above all, remain humble and value people. YOU guys are my most valuable possession. You guys are my team and my support and I cannot reach my dreams without your help. It is my honor and privilege to keep your company, to hear your voice and to learn from you. If I can offer anything in return, it is my support and lessons I’ve learned from a lifetime of doing just about everything wrong.

Failure is our friend. When I get what I like to call a “God’s-eye point of view” and see the big picture, I am SO thankful I didn’t succeed in the military, medical school or even sales. Success would have robbed me of all of you. I remember the tears and the depression and the self-loathing I felt after each failure, but what if I had been given a look at my future? I would have danced for joy!

We all start out a hunk of metal, just like the Damascus steel blade. Adveristy and failure fire out the impurities and strengthen our character and resolve. Failure might sting now, but if you could see the bigger picture, I imagine you would dance for joy as well.

What are some challenges you guys have faced? What did you learn? Are you facing something now and feel as if you are losing your nerve? What lessons do you think you can take away?

I love hearing from you! And to prove it and show my love, for the month of June, 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 every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end of June I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck!

Note: I am keeping all the names for a final GRAND, GRAND PRIZE of 30 Pages (To be announced) OR a blog diagnostic. I look at your blog and give feedback to improve it. For now, I will draw weekly for 5 page edit, monthly for 15 page edit.

Important Announcements

I am teaching TWO workshops at Write It Forward. Sign up HERE. There is a Becoming a Brand class for $20, but if you want to blog and you need my dedicated help to helping you find your own unique brand and develop a plan for blogging, then the $40 Blogging to Build a Brand will fit that need. In this class I will run you through exercises to help find and create a brand as unique as you and then tailor it to connect with your future fans.

Make sure you join our LOVE REVOLUTION over on Twitter by following and participating in the #MyWANA Twibe. Read this post to understand how this #MyWANA will totally transform your life and your author platform.

In the meantime, I hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer . Both books are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in th biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left over to write more great books! I am here to change your approach, not your personality.

Welcome to WANA Wednesday, based off my best-selling book We Are Not Alone—The Writer’s Guide to Social Media. In case you are curious, there are more sacred cows in need of tipping, but we’ll likely pick that up next week. Today we are going to get creative with the author blog, and I want to open up your minds when it comes to blogging. The first social media sacred cow we tipped was The Writing Blog. Writers are so funny. We have the imagination to create entirely new worlds, but the second we start a blog, we all get the same bright idea.

We all blog about writing.

Why? Because when we don’t have any boundaries, human nature makes us pull inward to our comfort zones. We draw in to the one place we feel safest…talking about writing. Blogging about writing is great, but if not handled properly, it can severely limit our platform and set us up for burnout. More about that here.

So we tipped over that social media sacred cow—MOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.

Many writers felt liberated. YAY! They burned their bras and then realized that had nothing to do with blogging. So they burned their notebooks and a handful of dried out pens. They suddenly realized that they DID actually have other things that interested them aside from writing. Ah, but this is where tunnel-vision can creep in yet again if we aren’t careful.  Just because I opened the door to blog about gardening, doesn’t mean it is time to start a Gardening Blog. If you want to blog about wine, do not start a Wine Blog.

Why?

Because then you are almost right back where you started with a Writing Blog. Fiction authors don’t need to become experts on topics…they need to connect. How we connect is we always have engaging topics that generate discussion and eventually all that discussion forges a community. We start an US blog.

I.e. Kristen Lamb’s Blog

Last week, I recommended that if you wanted to talk about different topics, that was just fine so long as they had different days. More about that here. For instance, I blog about craft on Monday, Twitter on Tuesday, Social Media on Wednesday and anything goes on Friday. Readers know that if they want to read about craft, then Friday ain’t the day to find nifty lessons about character arc. I blog on different subjects and yet others live to tell the tale. We don’t have to have entirely separate sites to keep readers from getting confused. Readers are sharp. That is also the reason everything must be under the banner of our brand, which is out name. Read more about author branding here.

Our brand is us as writers and as human beings with interests other than writing and publishing. But don’t feel constrained by subjects. I saw a lot of writers run out and launch a Music Monday or a Finance Friday. Okay, but actually if you will loosen up even more and let your muse breathe, she will give you ways to blog on every topic under the sun…yet still offer a predictable schedule of content.

How can we do this?

We apply a theme. Themes are the playground for our imaginations to run wild. Disneyland for the brain. 

Actual picture of a writer’s brain having fun.

Themes help bundle all kinds of topics and offer the reader a sense of what to expect, yet at the same time afford the author tremendous flexibility. A good example is Shellie Sakai. Shellie was a student of my blogging class and her blog is Shellie Sakai’s Blog—Something Wicked This Way Comes. Shellie is a paranormal romance author, but her theme is all things wicked. She blogs on all kinds of subjects, but they are all tethered to “wicked”—wicked shoes, wicked movies, wicked dark chocolate brownies. Now Shellie has amazing freedom with her blog, BUT readers won’t feel like they are trying to keep up with a caffeinated chipmunk with severe ADD. They will expect her to talk about all things wicked and actually might check in every week to be surprised since the content isn’t entirely predictable.

Another of my favorite blogging-students Tiffany White, launched Tiffany White’s Ooo Factor—Things that Make You Say Ooo. Tiffany actually mixes themes with subjects. She has Tele-Tuesday where she talks about all her favorite shows and even offers reviews for the upcoming seasons of shows. Tiffany has a passion for writing, yes. She is working on her novel. BUT she is also a TV addict and she is using that other passion to connect others and build a platform of fans (writers and non-writers). Ah, but then Tiff has Fabooolous Friday and that is just the day that Tiff highlights some book, author, recipe, movie or anything else that she considers Fabooolous.

Tiff got creative.

Themes help keep your content consistent yet fresh. Recently I noticed an author who got daring and stepped out of the Writing Blog to try something new. She started a Music Mondays but two weeks in was already feeling a tad cornered by her own content. I recommended Magical Mondays, because songs do create a kind of magic in our hearts. If she had a Magical Monday, she could blog on music, but wasn’t pigeon-holed by it. I recommended she dedicate that day to anything that has sparked some magic in her life, whether that is a song, a movie, or even a childhood toy. Then, use that magic to connect with the readers and get them to share.

The trick to blogging for the long-haul is we need content that is refined, yet interesting. We need to make sure that we aren’t cornering ourselves when it comes to topics. That is a formula to get burned out and hate our blogs. It is also very easy to forget we have an Author Blog and devolve into a Knitting Blog or a Movie Blog.

Remember, authors, for the very first time in history, have the ability to connect with others via mutual interests. In effect, we have the ability to become personalities. If we approach all kinds of subjects in creative, fun or interesting ways, then people will want to come to our blogs to read what we have to say. But hasn’t that always been the goal of being a great writer? The goal has always been to take in the world and the limitless possibilities and package it in a way that informs, entertains or inspires.

Why should our blogs be any different?

So maybe a Whimsical Wednesday or a Freaky Friday would breathe some new creative life into your blog. I recommend that with each topic, you brainstorm at least a hundred possible topics. If you can’t hit a hundred, then try another topic. It is very important to write these topics down. You might not have anything to say about them yet, but your subconscious will be working on it in the meantime.

For instance, Magical Mondays. What are some magical topics that might connect with readers?

Summer nights

Drive-In Movies. Remember when?

Vacation

Beaches

First Date

Birthdays

Children

Imaginary Friends

The beauty about being writers is once we get the creativity flowing, it tends to bubble over. The trick is to get it started. With blogging, we tend to believe we need to have this “professional, serious face” in case an agent looks us up. But here is the deal, being professional doesn’t mean being BORING. What will excite an agent is a blog that is connecting to readers and gaining a large, loyal following. A serious, professional blog that we hate and dread writing and tend to neglect won’t do us any good, BUT a creative fun interesting blog that has a growing readership? THAT is a formula for success.

Let your imagination play on your blog as well as your book. Your imagination is your best friend in ALL aspects of your writing career :).

One of the things I do is I run writers through a couple of exercises to get a sense of their unique creative style. I then help them create a log-line. This helps set the tone of the blog. For instance, some of my favorites are:

Christine Ashworth’s Blog–Wicked with a Side of Saucy (Christine writes paranormal romance. She blogs on writing, cooking, wines, romance and life)

Sonia Medieros’ Blog–Not All Who Wander Are Lost (Sonia is a fantasy writer who blogs on movies, myths, and writing. Sonia has a whimsical voice so the log-line gives a clear impression of the blog’s tone.)

Jenny Hansen’s Blog–More Cowbell (Jenny blogs about her garden, business, technology and writing…but they all must have more cowbell ;). Jenny has a fun, snarky blog and that is pretty clear from the log-line.)

Amy Shojai’s Blog–Bling, Bitches, and Blood (Amy is a renowned pet expert, but she also writes thrillers. She has a very fun, sassy voice and that is clear just from her log-line. Finally a place she can bring her fiction and non-fiction personalities together where we can get to know Amy Shojai Author.)

Piper Bayard’s Blog–On Life, Belly Dancing and Apocalyptic Annihilation (Piper is a former attorney and she is funny as all get-out. Her books are post-apocalyptic so she has that as a common theme. There are a lot of ways to define apocalypse–from a bad perm to nukes, Piper pokes fun at it all)

Notice that all of these log-lines could also work if the author wanted to blog about writing. The author would just have to employ some creativity, but that’s what we are good at anyway, right?

After we create the log-line, I then help writers mine their passions and interests for content, then help them shape and plan their author blogs. This is, of course, something you can do on your own, but if you need some help, I am about to be teaching a workshop that will help you harness your imagination to create a blog you love and that will connect with readers and build your author brand. For $40 you have me at your disposal for a MONTH working with you to create a blog as special and unique as YOU are. You can sign up here.  If you are going to blog, why not stand apart form the thousands of other writers? I can show you how. Harness that wonderful creativity you use for your fiction and channel it into blogging. It’ll be FUN :D.

What are your thoughts? Any possible themes floating around in the gray matter now? What are some cool blog topics you have seen? Does this post make you feel liberated? Lost? Tell us your thoughts.

I love hearing from you! And to prove it and show my love, for the month of June, 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 every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end of June I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck!

Note: I am keeping all the names for a final GRAND, GRAND PRIZE of 30 Pages (To be announced) OR a blog diagnostic. I look at your blog and give feedback to improve it. For now, I will draw weekly for 5 page edit, monthly for 15 page edit.

Important Announcements

A BIG HUGE MEGA THANKS to all of you who attended the Devil Colony Launch Party. I had a ton of fun and it wouldn’t have happened without all the wonderful support. Thank you to all of those who wrote blogs, spread the word, posted pictures and handed out digital cupcakes and beer. YOU ROCK!

 Make sure you join our LOVE REVOLUTION over on Twitter by following and participating in the #MyWANA Twibe. Read this post to understand how this #MyWANA will totally transform your life and your author platform.

In the meantime, I hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer . Both books are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in th biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left over to write more great books! I am here to change your approach, not your personality.