Kristen Lamb

Author, Blogger, Social Media Jedi

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Posts Tagged: Gordon Ramsay

publishing, Chef Ramsay, Gordon Ramsay, books, quality of fiction, quantity and quality in writing, how to sell more books, writer burnout, What Chef Ramsay Would Say About Writing

The past few months have been tough. I’ve struggled with being down, depressed and stuck in a rut. The writing profession I once loved just had lost its…sparkle. In a recent post, I believe I voiced what many writers have been feeling:

Don’t know about you, but I dreamed of book signings, launch parties, my novels on pretty displays in an actual store. I imagined a real book signing with devoted fans I’d be able to meet face-to-face. Those were the dreams that kept me going in my darkest hours when it made no sense to keep on writing.

I don’t think a single one of us fantasized about favorable algorithms, a massive mailing list with a solid open rate, or a depressing spot for ten copies of our book on a Costco bargain table. And I sure as hell never dreamed of working like an organ-grinding spider monkey for fractions of KU pennies.

None of us did.

 

I never minded learning and doing the business of my business. I embraced branding, blogging, social media, SEO. But something was just…off. Something I couldn’t articulate. Leave it to my subconscious to kick me in the @$$ and have the answer…in a technicolor dream (okay, nightmare).

Last night *deep breaths* Chef Gordon Ramsay royally chewed my @$$ out at…a writing conference.

Bear with me, this is bizarre but salient.

And Lo! An Angel Appeared

publishing, Chef Ramsay, Gordon Ramsay, books, quality of fiction, quantity and quality in writing, how to sell more books, writer burnout, What Chef Ramsay Would Say About Writing

More like an agent.

In my dream, I’m at a writing conference, unaware I’m an attendee (not a presenter). Right in the middle of a coffee social, the head of the conference orders me (on the spot) to stand and pitch my novel to mega-agent Donald Maass.

*panics* Is Donald Maass even repping books himself anymore? Apparently so. *dies inside*

It takes three tries to even pitch the correct novel (I pitch two works that are already finished/published). FINALLY, I pitch my Southern Gothic, which is only half finished. But like any good writer, I lie my @$$ off.

Willing my best game face, I confidently declare my novel 100% complete.

Donald Maass loves my story idea and asks I bring my novel for him to read pages aloud…in front of a giant packed auditorium. Oh-kay. No problem. I know that WIP is at least 150 pages long and he’s only going to read the opening, so whatever.

Just BREATHE

publishing, Chef Ramsay, Gordon Ramsay, books, quality of fiction, quantity and quality in writing, how to sell more books, writer burnout, What Chef Ramsay Would Say About Writing

I race up to my hotel room, only which room is mine? I try every door on the floor and no dice. Finally, I find a room where the electronic key works and fly inside, heart pounding. Since this suite looks like a drag queen’s dressing room was hit by an F-1 tornado…I know it’s mine.

How the $#@! did blush get on the ceiling? Did I really need to pack that much makeup? 

****Yes. The answer is ALWAYS YES.

Ah, but there’s one major unanticipated problem. Apparently I had author roommates and there are laptops everywhere.

Scrambling through the suite, I’m opening laptop after laptop, and, since you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a writer who uses an Apple laptop…I keep opening the wrong ones.

FINALLY, I locate MY computer (the one with the corn chips in the keyboard) and the correct files.

I’m Cool…Really

publishing, Chef Ramsay, Gordon Ramsay, books, quality of fiction, quantity and quality in writing, how to sell more books, writer burnout, What Chef Ramsay Would Say About Writing

Relieved, I rush downstairs. Maass scans the first pages and proclaims my writing is incredible! He goes on and on complimenting my work. I’m so relieved, excited even, but then….

Maass tells me he plans on reading some paragraphs from my opening, middle and END to show the emerging writers how professionals get things DONE.

*gulps*

My novel isn’t finished. I lied. Breathe. I can do this. Stick and move, right? I will my game face hoping somehow I can come out of this unscathed. Maybe say I brought the wrong file? The finished version is on the computer at home. Yes, that’s it. When in doubt?

LIE SOME MORE!

Maass is ecstatic about my writing and I say something about getting a contract with his agency. He makes a face then says somberly, ‘Your writing is superb but more is required out of authors in the digital age than just a great book. You know that, right?’

*hair flip*

I confidently declare I’m no rookie, and I totally know more is required of authors this day and age. Then I relay how I have a blog and vlogs and brand and platform and…he cuts me off.

‘No, not all that,’ he says as if talking to someone who’s been living in a cave for ten years. ‘Everyone has social media. That is SO 2014.’ *rolls eyes* ‘Can you pass the cooking test? You did know about the cooking contest.’

publishing, Chef Ramsay, Gordon Ramsay, books, quality of fiction, quantity and quality in writing, how to sell more books, writer burnout, What Chef Ramsay Would Say About Writing

‘Yes, of course cooking!’ I reply with gusto.

Donald seems to only be partially be buying my bluff. He continues, hesitant. ‘Then I assume your dish is ready. Because Chef Ramsay is on scene ready to inspect what you’ve prepared in fifteen. Only writers who can impress Gordon Ramsay will get publishing deals.’

*screams inside*

THE HELL? WHAT DO COOKING SKILLS HAVE TO DO WITH WRITING?

Never Let Them See You Sweat

publishing, Chef Ramsay, Gordon Ramsay, books, quality of fiction, quantity and quality in writing, how to sell more books, writer burnout, What Chef Ramsay Would Say About Writing

Again, I roll with it and act like this sudden revelation is not nearly as shocking as the time I found out the crush of my life, George Michael, was gay.

***Gimme a break, I was in third grade with no gaydar.

Maass liked my book. I was not going to go down without a fight. I DID have food I brought from home, since I have food allergies. Mind whirring, I recall there’s still some of the pan-fried gluten and dairy-free chicken parmigiana (half-eaten) and some leftover vegetables up in my hotel fridge.

I’m not out yet.

Yeah, not that I am Type A or anything…

I rush to my room, pull out my pathetic chicken and tear off the end I’d bitten into. Then, I rifle through the other writers’ leftovers for wilted greens and veggies to fill out the plate. Satisfied it doesn’t look too terrible, I rush downstairs with my paper plate of dressed up, gnawed on, semi-cold chicken…that’s a day old.

Fake It ‘Til You Make It

publishing, Chef Ramsay, Gordon Ramsay, books, quality of fiction, quantity and quality in writing, how to sell more books, writer burnout, What Chef Ramsay Would Say About Writing

The other writers somehow were aware they needed a novel and that they ALSO had to win a cooking contest with CHEF RAMSAY as the judge. I’m beginning to think I really was living in a cave.

How did I miss this industry shift?

It seems everyone (but me) has prepared fresh, hot glorious meals. Their dishes are proudly displayed on carts covered with fancy serving domes. Every writer (but me) is ready with some culinary creation ready to be inspected by the likes of Chef Ramsay.

….so they can be published.

What Would Ramsay Say?

publishing, Chef Ramsay, Gordon Ramsay, books, quality of fiction, quantity and quality in writing, how to sell more books, writer burnout, What Chef Ramsay Would Say About Writing

Yeah…that. I’m dead. D-E-A-D.

Initially, I think it’ll be fine. We’re writers, not chefs, so he’s gonna go easy on us. Right? You know like how he is with the kids who cook. All gentle and encouraging and telling us we gave it a nice try.

Nope.

Horrified, I watch Chef Ramsay go dish to dish shouting at writers, making them cry.

Writer #1: AVOCADO FOAM? WHAT THE *beep beep beep beep* WERE YOU THINKING? NO ONE WANTS TO EAT FOAM! We want substance, not CLEVER *beeeep*! Piss off!

Writer #2: HOW MANY *beep beep* CHEMICALS ARE IN THIS *beeeeeeep*? Who wants to eat something that would survive a *bleepity bleep* NUCLEAR ATTACK? Even the ROACHES would rather STARVE!

Writer #3: HOW MUCH BLOODY FOOD-COLORING DID YOU USE? THIS GREEN’S SO RADIOACTIVE, KIM JONG IL’S TRYING TO STEAL IT! Get the *beepity beep beep* out of here before we all DIE OF CANCER!

Run For Cover

publishing, Chef Ramsay, Gordon Ramsay, books, quality of fiction, quantity and quality in writing, how to sell more books, writer burnout, What Chef Ramsay Would Say About Writing

Chef Ramsay then spots who the next ten writers are…and his eyes narrow. He points and shouts for them to just leave and get the *bleeeep* out of his sight.

The writers all stammer the same thing, talking over one another, aghast. ‘Why? You haven’t even looked at our dishes!’

Ramsay: I don’t NEED to look. I’ve sampled your ‘dishes’ before, and I already know you’re going to try and serve me. The same formulaic bollocks just with a different garnish. What am I? Some nit you think you can fool? Bugger off! No one wants to ingest your recycled tripe. NOW GET THE $#@& OUT!

They stand, frozen in disbelief. Then they all declare he’s wrong. Their dishes are totally fresh and new.

Ramsay glares at them…then starts dramatically tossing the stainless domes off the dishes one at a time, but—to my astonishment—Chef Ramsay accurately guesses what’s under each and every dome before he lifts it…then throws it clattering.

He was correct. He knew what they’d prepared already. They were serving the same dishes…with slightly different garnishes.

What’s Ramsay Going to Say About…ME?

publishing, Chef Ramsay, Gordon Ramsay, books, quality of fiction, quantity and quality in writing, how to sell more books, writer burnout, What Chef Ramsay Would Say About Writing

Chef Ramsay gets closer and closer to me. Meanwhile, I’m sneaking bits of lettuce and leftover veggies from writers who’ve run and abandoned their stations. I’m doing all I can to dress up this sad tiny piece of dry leftovers.

I’m bracing to get yelled at because I know what I’m serving…and that I deserve the tongue-lashing.

Why couldn’t this all just be about my WRITING? My BOOK? Maass, Donald Mass, liked my book! Why am I supposed to do all this other stuff—social media, vlogging, blogging, rafflecopter, give-aways, Instagram, ads, promotion, SEO optimization—and NOW I have to also win a…cooking contest?

To get a publishing deal?

Then, as Chef Ramsay makes it to me and looks down at my chicken, I wake up soaked in sweat…with an epiphany.

Ramsay is RIGHT

publishing, Chef Ramsay, Gordon Ramsay, books, quality of fiction, quantity and quality in writing, how to sell more books, writer burnout, What Chef Ramsay Would Say About Writing

Once the terror passed, I realized the Chef Ramsay in my dream was RIGHT. First, our part of the author business is actually very simple (which I’ll talk about next post).

Writers are getting fixated on roles they don’t need to even be DOING, and quality is suffering. WE are suffering!

***I’m not judging. We’re bombarded with all we HAVE to do. It’s hard to keep the faith. Even ME.

Quality matters. This is true in branding/platform building. Instead of authors slowing down, being real and developing lasting relationships, there are authors who distribute more SPAM than HORMEL. A Billion Served is cool for McDonald’s but on social media?

YUCK.

It’s also true in the writing (which is the most IMPORTANT part of our brand, btw).

Because so many writers have sucked down the KU Kool-Aid, or bought into Amazon’s Algorithmic Alchemy…they believe they must have all this output to succeed.

They’re churning out novels, ‘box-sets’, novellas, short works every month….every WEEK! To promote all these ‘works’ they’re also churning out automation, promotion, newsletters, giveaways….

*puts head between knees*

Consequently, far too many ‘stories’ are incomplete, half-baked, over-processed or just rehashed leftovers…with different covers (garnish).

No wonder these authors won’t charge retail. They can’t! Who’d pay top dollar for the literary equivalent of a microwaved cheeseburger?

What KIND of Writer Do We WANT to BE?

publishing, Chef Ramsay, Gordon Ramsay, books, quality of fiction, quantity and quality in writing, how to sell more books, writer burnout, What Chef Ramsay Would Say About Writing

Have we taken time to even ask this?

First of all, just like there’s a viable market for fast-food burgers, there’s also a market for fast-fiction authors. Just be aware that there’s also only so much consumers will reasonably pay for this type of product…meaning quantity is a major deal. 

This career trajectory is an option. Thing is, too many writers have been led to believe it’s the ONLY option.

Nope.

Some writers naturally do well with this pace. They can turn out books readers enjoy. These authors relish the marketing and promo and have tons of fun because they’re in their element.

But, just like the market can only support so many fast-food chains, it can only support so many fast-fiction-authors. The ones who will do well? The ones who are GOOD at it.

Not everyone is.

I know I’m not. Perhaps this was behind my malaise…and my brain dragging in Gordon Ramsay AND Donald Maass for an intervention.

Ramsay was right. This Lamb is so overcooked, I DO belong on an altar.

Granted, I’ve written hundreds of posts about keeping the business simple. Ignore the fads, the algorithmic alchemy, the trends, the pressure, and on and on. But, deep down, there must have been some latent guilt that maybe I was wrong.

Perhaps I was shepherding *bada bump snare* y’all the wrong direction.

Like off a CLIFF! AHHHHHHH!

NO! We DO Have OPTIONS

publishing, Chef Ramsay, Gordon Ramsay, books, quality of fiction, quantity and quality in writing, how to sell more books, writer burnout, What Chef Ramsay Would Say About Writing
Really? Can I come out then?

The entire point of the shifts in publishing were to offer us options. It is OKAY to take our time. We can slow down and build vested audiences of followers who actually CARE. We can write excellent books worthy of retail (regardless of whether we publish legacy, indie or self-publish).

Pulp fiction always sold for pulp prices and clipped at a pulp pace. But news flash!

Pulp prices never once impacted the price of hardcovers or the pace.

Ever.

They were DIFFERENT audiences and DIFFERENT products.

Readers didn’t expect a book from Michael Crichton as frequently as they did paperback Westerns from Louis L’amour. Fans were willing to shell out cash for stacks of cowboy stories. Other fans? They eagerly paid hardcover prices for Crichton because his books were well worth the wait and the price. 

Both authors were/are legendary…and yet vastly different.

NOTHING HAS CHANGED.

Louis L’amour books were relatively short, easy to read and a nice way to spend an afternoon. They filled the time while we waited on our favorite hardcover authors.

Crichton books took incredible research, detailed plotting and were thick enough to kill a burglar. The work that went into his novels merited the price fans lined up to pay.

So guess what?

Y’all have my permission to…relax. You’ll need your strength because DANCING WITH THE EDITORS is NEXT!

Hope you still have tights that fit 😛 .

What Are Your Thoughts?

No more spicy food before bed? Even though I’ve remained steadfast on keeping this simple, I admit the panic attacks have crept in. What’s ‘allegedly’ expected from writers?

Have you lost your love for writing? The pressure just taking all the love out of it? Frankly, the dream wouldn’t have been so terrifying if some part of me didn’t partly expect it COULD happen. Jeez, what other hoops do we need to jump through? Baton twirling? Karaoke?

NO!

Cait and I are both tired of the nonsense so we have new classes to guide you through what’s necessary and what is complete BUNK. It is time to enjoy writing again.

NEW CLASSES!

Business of the Writing Business: Ready to ROAR!

Class with me, teaching what is ACTUALLY our business. February 15th 7-9 EST. $55 and recording FREE with purchase.

Self-Publishing for Professionals: Amateur Hour is OVER

This class is THREE hours with USA Today Best-Selling Author Cait Reynolds and comes with Cait’s custom workbook to guide you through everything from how to do competitive research to tracking ISBNs and distribution and more. February 16th 7-10 EST. $99 and recording and workbook are FREE with purchase.

DOUBLE-TROUBLE BUNDLE

BOTH classes for $129 (Save $25). This bundle is FIVE hours of professional training, plus the recordings, plus Cait’s workbook to guide you through everything from how to do competitive research to tracking ISBNs and distribution and more.

Okay, last week we started a series to teach about blogging. Yes, I am going to teach you how to write a blog. Contrary to popular belief, we are not instant writers the second we eek through high school English and make an A on that drivel we cut and pasted together with note cards, ballpoint pen and sadness. Yes, I am old enough to have used index cards for my high school…*cough* okay college papers.

Journalism is a specific kind of writing and gasp people even go to college to learn Journalism. The insanity! Guess what? Writing a novel is a specific craft, with skills that must be learned with much crying, drinking and gnashing of teeth. Would we all love to be that person who knows this crap instinctively and rockets to the top of the best-selling list with the novel he wrote on cocktail napkins while waiting tables and selling pirated DVDs? YES! But I assume most of us wish we were born with Gates or Kennedy as a last name, too.

Hey, if wishes were fishes, we’d all cast a net.

Here’s the deal. Wishing we were born instant geniuses is about as productive as wishing we were born into royalty. What does this mean? It means put on the grungy pants. It’s time to do some work.

Blogging is a totally different kind of writing. I see a lot of great “writing” on crappy blogs. Blogging is different.

Think Journalism. When you want to know about the nuclear reactor in Japan, do you want to open the paper to…?:

The sun crept over the eastern mountains and glittered across the wreckage below. People, dying and wounded threaded the streets, their eyes unfocused and mouths limp. The tsunami had dragged hope and loved ones back into the dark churning belly of the sea. The reactor belched black death into air already thick with fear.

NO! That is creative writing, not journalism. We want the FACTS. We want to first know how we can help our Japanese friends FAST and then, we ultimately want to know how and if and when it might affect US.

When we blog, it is a very specific kind of writing that is meant to be fast, easy, and portable. Like journalism, blogging has to capture the attention of readers with the attention span of a squirrel with severe ADD that is high off Thin Mints and crack cocaine.

Many writers are not approaching their blog with the appropriate style of writing, and frankly, that is why you are exhausted and covered in strange bruises.

A couple weeks ago, I referenced Chef Gordon Ramsay. I LOVE Kitchen Nightmares. Gordon Ramsay ROCKS. What I really, really love about this show, is that there are so many lessons that cross-apply to writers.

There is one particular episode I saw 2 years ago that comes to mind. This owner loved to cook and so he opened a restaurant and pretty soon he was chin-deep in debt and sinking fast. The owner/chef happened to be a huge fan of Ramsay, and when Gordon showed, the owner proudly displayed the shelves of Gordon Ramsay cookbooks that he had been using for the menu at the restaurant.

Ramsay nearly fell over. Want to know why? Those recipes were too complex for a restaurant. They were written for someone cooking at home for a family or a party. No chef would ever be able to turn out quality food in a timely fashion using recipes so intricate.

The owner-chef needed recipes that fit his needs…serving large groups of people tasty food in a timely manner.

Our blogs are the same. If we approach blogging with the care and intricacy of our novel or even our NF work, we are setting ourselves up to fail.

Blogging is like fast food we get through a drive-thru window. People (readers) need to be able to keep moving and still ingest and digest. If we take a moment to think about how many people read blogs, this makes sense. With the rise of PDAs, many people are reading their blogs on their phones on stolen breaks at the workplace. If we make people work too hard for our content, they are likely to pass or put off our blogs for later.

Neither is good.

So here are some general rules about good blogs:

Blogs preferably should be short. Oh how I suck at following this rule. You can break this rule if you break it well.

Many of you guys are probably getting heart palpitations thinking you need to churn out some 1000-2000 word tome. You don’t.

My blogs are generally longer because I assume many of you want to learn this stuff before it is obsolete. Unlike me, however, most of you will not have content that you are running after like a dog chasing a car he will never catch. Thus, your posts can be shorter…like 400-800 words.

Blogs need to be portable (simple). Again, think fast food. Burgers, tacos, pizza. There are no drive-thrus serving Steak au Poivre  or roasted duck with an orange reduction. THOSE DISHES AREN’T PORTABLE.

This is why I break everything down into baby food particulates you can smear in your hair and fling at the wall should you desire. Hey, novel structure makes me want to fling things at the wall. Might as well be something orange that is easy to see and clean up, right? Simple is better. If you make points, illustrate with easy, visual examples which brings me to my next point.

Let me get this straight–an antagonist is not always a villain?

Blogs need to be visual.

Humans are story people. Stories resonate with our soul. We have enjoyed stories since we were sporting the latest Saber-Tooth fashions. People dig stories. Stories stick. If we are writers, then stories should not be that hard.

My blogs are so simple a…yes I am going there…so simple a caveman could get them. Why? Not only is it good blogging to keep things simple, but I have to be blunt. Writers are notorious for overcomplicating things. Yes! You! I know how you think, and it really is this simple. Stop making it harder than it needs to be.

Visual examples and illustrations help people grasp material and retain it. When they retain they return.

Blogs need to generate community.

Blogs do not have to be article after article. That is a formula to wear out fast and hate your blog, hate me, and end up drinking straight from a margarita machine.

Blogs are a way to just get people talking. Humans bond by giving opinions and advice. Don’t believe me? Call your mother. Like now.  We’ll wait.

*taps toe and hums*

I bet it took her less than 30 seconds to give you unsolicited advice or an opinion. Tell her Kristen says “Hi.”

Why do our mothers freely offer unsolicited therapy and opinions? Because that is how humans (including mothers) show LOVE and CARE and COMMUNITY. They give advice and opinions whether we want it or not.

Sweetie, I know you like it but that belly ring makes you look like a tramp.

If we write blogs that encourage others to give opinions and advice, that activates the warm fluffy feeling in their collective little souls. Hey, I know it does mine. I DIG giving advice. Why do you think I write a blog four days a week when I could be doing other things like dusting or paying bills or leveling up on Bejeweled?

I love telling you guys how to live your lives. It makes me feel special. But you know what? I love hearing the advice you guys come up with, especially when it involves candy, alcohol or shooting guns in the air with wild abandon.

In the coming weeks, we are going to explore many ways that you guys can blog and still have time for things like eating, sleeping and GASP writing your novel.

What are some problems you guys have been having? Setbacks? What do you love about blogging? What scares you? Do you have any advice? Recommendations? 

I love hearing from you! And 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 every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end on March 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.

Happy writing!

Until next time…

In the meantime, if you don’t already own a copy, my best-selling book We Are Not Alone–The Writers Guide to Social Media is recommended by literary agents and endorsed by NY Times best-selling authors. My method is free, fast, simple and leaves time to write more books.

This Week’s Mash-Up of Awesomeness

Literary Agent Laurie McLean has a writer MUST-READ about making a Digital Marketing Plan

For the NF authors. Competing in a World Where Information is Free

The Power of Peer Recommendation and Reviews by talented Jody Hedlund

Author Voice vs. Character Voice–Finding Both by Roni Loren

Roasting Chestnuts: In Which This Writing Heretic Tackles Common Writing Advice by Chuck Wendig

How Much Bling Does a Writer Need? by Jennifer Holbrook-Talty

Story Engineering–An Interview with Larry Brooks over at the AWESOME Writer Unboxed

Welcome to WANA Wednesday, the day I dedicate to teaching you guys how to rock it hard when it comes to social media and is based off my best-selling book We Are Not Alone—The Writer’s Guide to Social Media. My methods not only help you build a platform that can grow with your career, but they also leave time to write more books.

Speaking of writing more books, today I want to make something clear. I have always stated that I am a writer first, social media expert second. Why is that? Because the product is the most important. No social media platform can help us if our product is crap.

This past weekend I taught at the DFW Writers Workshop Conference, and I happened to sit in on a class with Colleen Lindsay who works in the business development department for Penguin Group (USA). She said something that really caught my attention, and, I must admit, she convicted me.

Blogging is probably THE best way to build a platform, but we must always be vigilant that it does not take over our main job…writing books. Blogging is instant gratification, whereas a novel or even a NF book might not give us warm fuzzies for months or even years. It is very easy to get so focused on the blogging, that the real writing never happens.

I love to watch Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares, and have used his show as a parallel for the world of writing in numerous blogs. Every episode begins the same. A new restaurateur sits eagerly awaiting the great Chef Ramsay. Keep in mind that this restaurateur is only on the show in the first place because he sits on the verge of losing everything—business, house, car, kidneys, etc.

Most restaurant owners who participate have waited until the situation is so dire that Vinnie the Crowbar is only kept at bay because of the presence of Gordon’s camera crew. Gordon is there to sample the food, take a look around. Once he has enough information. Gordon then offers his professional opinion and a plan to turn things around (if that is even possible).

I’ve watched at least eight seasons of shows and almost every time, the problem is simple. The food sucks. No matter how pretty the décor or how clever the promotionals, all that matters in the end is good food. Not rocket science. Yet, time after time, Chef Ramsay discovers the chefs are serving frozen, old and even rotten food.

The owners have no idea why the dining room is empty, no clue that it might have to do with the spoiled crab and rancid chicken they are serving the customers. In 50 or so episodes I cannot recall a single episode where the restaurant was serving quality food. The problem always came back to the core…the food.

Good news spreads fast, but bad news spreads faster. Same with our books. This past weekend, one of my favorite quotes was from PR expert Rusty Shelton. He said, “Social media helps bad books fail faster.” One of the biggest reasons I blog about writing on Monday, is that the single best thing we can do for our image and to sell books is to write great stuff. That simple. No magic formula.

The best thing we can all do for our social media platform is to focus on the product—our writing—FIRST. Everything else is a supporting goal.

But back to blogging. Blogging is a two-edged sword. To a degree we need a little instant gratification. It keeps us encouraged and makes us work harder. It could be years before we get any sense of fulfillment from our novel. It is hard to stay on track without a little boost, and blogging is definitely good for that. We get rewarded almost instantly for good behavior, and blogging offers the validation and the encouragement we need.

Be careful.

Blogging can be masking our fear. I love to blog. You guys are the highlight of my day and you have no idea how your comments uplift my spirit. Yet, I have to make a deliberate effort to get back to the writing you guys can’t see (yet). Since I don’t get that instant validation on the other work, it is easy to become fearful of failure and use blogging as busy-work. I can be “productive” without being productive.

In Kitchen Nightmares it is very common for Gordon Ramsay to inspect the walk-in refrigerators and find something out of a horror movie—buckets of decaying meat and crates of vegetables that have rotted to ooze. In some cases, I find it amazing these establishments haven’t killed their customers.

Yet, despite the hot zone in the fridge, the owner is ordering more and more and more food. Crates of fresh food are perched on top of the putrid slime that once was chicken. Why? Because the owner is so afraid and so overwhelmed that all he knows to do is order more food. He is throwing away thousands of dollars to “feel” productive, and is too overwhelmed and terrified to get to the heart of the problem.

Blogging, if we aren’t careful, can be our way of throwing fresh food on top of rotten product. Writing is scary. Admitting we don’t know everything or even facing that we might not be as talented as our family thinks we are can be terrifying. But in the end, if we want to succeed at this writing thing, then the tough work must be done. We have to get rid of the rotten—the bad habits, the info dump, the POV problems—and that will take hard work.

Sometimes it will even require professional help. Ramsay has had restaurants with kitchens and refrigerators so filthy that he had to call in professional cleaning crews to handle the bio-hazards correctly. The owner was so overwhelmed that he simply could not dig himself out.

Our first novel might be that bad. Hey, we’re learning! I know my first novel (years ago) required professionals to properly dispose of the remains. My book just couldn’t be saved, and there I was, putting a halt to my writing future by holding on to something rotten.

I would love everyone to blog. I love blogs. But I want to make it clear that it is easier to be a great blogger if our bad novel isn’t clawing at the inside of our computer screen trying to escape and bite others.

Blogging can be a short-term high that can sabotage long-term success. There are few things that will make you feel better about your career than watching your following grow on your blog. But the point of all of this social media stuff is to eventually sell our books. Otherwise we are working for free and then we are right back where we started. We are hobbyists and not true professionals.

In the end, this is a tough job. There are many, many reasons this career is not for everyone. We are much like the restaurant owner. We must focus on content that is fresh, new, inviting and tasty. But, until we are an established name, good food will only take us so far. We need to market as well. It will take years of producing a great product (books) balanced with great marketing to give us a reputation that needs no introduction.

What do you guys think? Do you find your blogging distracting or does it help you focus? What are some things you struggle with? Tips? Suggestions? I love to hear from you. Here is a quick clip of Gordon at work. If you have a weak stomach, don’t watch. But think of this video every time you try to put off those edits ;). Details on how to win a free critique from moi below.

I love hearing from you guys, and 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 WANA 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 on March I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck!

Mash-Up of Awesomeness will resume next Wednesday.

Happy writing!

Until next time…

In the meantime, if you don’t already own a copy, my best-selling book We Are Not Alone–The Writers Guide to Social Media is recommended by literary agents and endorsed by NY Times best-selling authors. My method is free, fast, simple and leaves time to write more books.

I have had the unique privilege of experiencing Warrior Writer now on three levels—as an individual, as part of a group, and now as part of on-line training.  The Warrior-Writer concept is so life altering, so mind-blowing and unique that I find it a real challenge to put its essence into words, but I’m going to give it a try.

One of my favorite shows is “Kitchen Nightmares” with Chef Gordon Ramsay (Series Premiere tonight 1-29 on Fox).  Why? Because it is amazing how much the culinary world and the world of writing have in common. Opening a restaurant is, by and large, an emotional thing, fueled by ego and unfulfilled dreams, often attempted by amateurs with no real professional training for success. The restaurant business is brutal, with a standard failure rate of almost 62% in the first year. And while many will chalk up this shocking rate of failure to the “ways of the industry,” Chef Ramsay certainly provides us all with “food for thought.”

Bob Mayer, with Warrior Writer, is doing something very similar. Most of us didn’t become writers to make money, much like most independent restauranteurs. We write because we have to. It fulfills, releases, or validates something inside. For many, writing is the reward for living a responsible life of working a “real job” for others. Likewise, watch “Kitchen Nightmares” and I guarantee that, within three episodes, you will meet the retired police officer or the former construction worker, or the mom who wanted a family business, all of whom opened a restaurant for very emotional reasons…yet they are dying because they didn’t understand that one must possess more than passion to succeed.

These eager, well-intending individuals remind me of so many writers I’ve known over my career (including myself). Many writers dive head-first into the publishing world with little to no training, and struggle to thrive in an industry that doesn’t properly value the talent it depends upon. In one of my earlier blogs, I stated, “To believe college English constitutes proper schooling for commercial fiction is like saying Home Economics is proper training for a chef.”  This is true when it comes to the writing, but it is much truer when it comes to the mentality of the professional author. This is where Warrior Writer comes in.

The publishing industry may or may not change, but with Warrior Writer, thankfully, we authors can.

Until now, there has been no real formal training on what it means to be a professional author. It is highly complex. Thus, I have decided to dedicate a new series to exploring it. As Bob will tell you, we writers are in the entertainment business, which is an oxymoron. Entertainment is emotional, while business is rational. The two have a tough time coexisting.

 And I will be blunt here. Part of what hurts most writers (especially new ones) is that they fail to understand you cannot separate entertainment from business or vice versa. Thus, many writers tend to either focus all their energies on the writing, or they scope-lock on the business. Both have to coexist.  What good is a brilliant novel if we don’t learn the business well enough to survive, let alone thrive? Similarly, what good does learning about finding an agent or even great marketing serve us if our product is crap?

For the sake of brevity, I have chosen to tackle only one half of this today. I believe one has to let this part of Warrior Writer sink in for the others to make sense. So today, we will address the entertainment part of the entertainment business, because these two words alone lend to internal conflict that will translate into external conflict if not understood and handled properly.

Writing is something all of us love, ergo why we became writers. Yet, after going through the Warrior Writer training, my eyes were opened to something key. As an editor for going on ten years, I had a hard time understanding why writers simply came undone if their work was criticized, sometimes violently so. I mean, this is a business, and that isn’t being very professional. We are critiquing the writing, not the writer. WRONG.

The writing is a key indicator of the person producing the product, both strengths and weaknesses. When Chef Ramsay is invited to help save a restaurant that is on the verge of disaster, what is the first thing he does? Does he look at the location? The menu? The management? The advertising? No. That all comes later. The very first thing he wants to see and taste is the food, and there is a very good reason.

Food, like writing, is interminably linked to emotion. Ramsay often can tell virtually everything about the restaurant that needs to be fixed by the food he is served that first day. Does the chef have pride in the food? Is the dish far too fancy with 20,000 ingredients and more garnish than substance? Is the food rotten, raw? Did the chef focus more on the presentation than quality of the food? Does the chef have focus, or is he making Mexican Irish Spring Rolls with a Curry Chutney?

This is a direct parallel to writing, and a lot of what Warrior Writer teaches us to see. What is the quality of the “food” we are serving up? And, more importantly, what is CAUSING us to do what we do? If you read Who Dares Wins (used in Warrior Writer), the first question Bob asks is, “WHO?” for a very good reason. We have to define who we are before we can find what we fear. Warrior Writer’s FIRST goal is to kick our FEARS out of the driver’s seat to our careers, and replace those fears with something more positive…like talent.

No writing class will fix this. I will give you an example. Last summer, I sat in the Warrior Writer class very dutifully, near the front with my laptop. Bob instructed us to write down our big goal for writing. Right away, I typed in, “My goal is to become a best-selling author in five years.” For a second I felt very proud and daring, then I looked closer (remember I had already run through an individual Warrior Writer, so I had new eyes).  I swear I literally heard the tumblers in my mind falling into place. A best-selling author of what? Romance? Suspense? Origami cookbooks? Here I thought I was making a specific goal, yet I was miles off base. But here is the strange part. Up until that point, I had been taking classes and reading books on structure, structure, plot, structure, plot. I was going crazy on why my novels kept breaking down over the long haul. Why could I fix it in others, but kept screwing it up myself? This one-sentence goal revealed my answer. If I, the author, had no clear direction or focus, why would my writing or my characters? No wonder I was serving up Mexican Irish Spring Rolls with Curry Chutney.

I have to say that after Bob’s Warrior Writer class, after understanding my critical flaw, I was able to finally see my own unwitting sabotage, and am now almost half finished with a fast-paced action thriller. Unlike all my other works, this one was well-planned ahead of time, was clearly outlined and now has focus. All the characters have a specific role, are no longer randomly created to force my unplanned plot in a needed direction.

The truth is, everything we put on that page is a part of who we are. For those who read my blog “Facing down the Beast,” http://warriorwriters.wordpress.com/2009/06/26/what-is-warrior-writer-facing-down-the-beast/ we can end up sabotaging ourselves by not digging deep enough, not putting enough out there and thus failing to deeply resonate with the reader. If we the writer are not genuine and vulnerable, how can our characters ever hope to be? The plain fact of the matter is that we cannot separate who we are from what we write. Thus, we must become the best to write the best. Bob always says, “To become is hard; to be is even harder.”

And later, I will explore how this translates into how we handle the business part of the entertainment business because I guarantee you that the same fears that hindering our writing are going to, at the very least, be kissing cousins with the fears that will hold us back in the business part of the equation.

So, in the meantime, think about what food you are serving up as your signature dish.

Until next time…

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I highly recommend visiting Bob Mayer’s site for more information on Warrior Writer training near you www.bobmayer.org. He also offers WARRIOR WRITER ON-LINE! Wow! So nothing stands in the way of the writing career of your dreams. Sign up TODAY!

If you miss Gordon tonight on Fox, then just make it a point to catch his show. Or, for instant gratification, you can also get familiar with Chef Gordon Ramsay via this link http://www.hulu.com/kitchen-nightmares. Episode 5 “Olde Stone Mill” is a great one to watch to better understand Warrior Writer.