Kristen Lamb

Author, Blogger, Social Media Jedi

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Posts Tagged: how to be a professional author

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

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

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

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

Dear Commenter,

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

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

You’re welcome ūüėČ ….

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

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

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

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

1. Make lists.

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

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

Like Covey says…

Never mistake the urgent for the important.

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

2. Understand that feelings are pathological liars.

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

Writing is a profession, not a playpen.

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

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

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

3. Use the Force…of self-discipline.

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

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

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

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

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

4. Mix it up.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5. Suck it up, Buttercup.

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

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

6. Make mean writer friends.

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

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

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

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

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

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

You’re welcome.

*polishes riding crop*

7. Ditch loser friends.

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

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

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

Killer.

8. Forget perfection (especially for NaNoWriMo).

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

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

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

9. Exercise.

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

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

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

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

10. Drink lots of water.

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

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

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

It’s science. Don’t argue.

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

Hop on the CRAZY TRAIN!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Last night I watched the movie Bad Moms and it was a great movie. Brain candy. A lot of laughs. Nothing too deep…well, maybe a little deep. One of the areas the movie explored is how in this age we are all killing ourselves to reach some unreachable Photoshopped standard. The New Yorker even did a post called How Facebook Makes Us Unhappy which highlighted the growing problem of social comparison.

And I will admit that even I have to be careful. It is tough not to compare my size 12 middle-aged body to my friends who had a baby and instantly went back to a Size 2. It’s tough when I see pictures of a friend’s house and it looks like a Good Housekeeping spread and mine is covered in Cheeze-Its and a sticky film we have yet to explain.

I have elves.

But instead of Overly Responsible Greatest Generation Ever Elves the shoemaker got, I got the Bratty Entitled Millennial Elves who just want to watch streaming video when they aren’t making nachos or tipping over my neatly stacked towels‚Ķand wiping their sour cream covered hands on them.

Seriously, It is RIDICULOUS

I live in an apron. Even sitting at the computer. I write for an hour then get up and stretch by tidying. My mom even picked on me and said I had to make sure to never take off my apron because she might not recognize me.

ME, every frigging Monday.
ME, every frigging Monday.

And yet my home is so, so far from those pictured in Pinterest.

How I long to have a master bedroom that is a sanctuary (a.k.a. an “adult” bedroom). You know, the kind of room with blown glass vases of peonies and carefully arranged stacks of books that make me look super smart. Stuff that won the Pulitzer but in reality put me to sleep by page three.

My sheets are stuffed with crumbs and Legos and a dog that get’s super pissy when you try to make the bed.

I went on an organizing spree a year ago and found one of those doo-dads that hangs in your closets, like soft shelves (a.k.a. Poor Man’s California Closet). Anyway, I neatly folded all the scarves that had been taking up so much room in my dresser.

GO ME! I look like a real adult!

Until the cat climbed it, tossed the scarves on the floor (except the ones he kept for his new nest).

Shoot…me…now.

I don’t know. I remember being young and blaming all of this on being young. When I grew up, this would all be different and I would have my $#!& together but the hard truth is I think I very briefly did get my $#!& together back some time in 2011 then put it in a place I would remember where I put it‚Ķand now I can’t find it.

I struggle every day to recognize when I am being a lunatic. I only have so much to give and I need to be mindful where I put my energy because “Perfect” is the enemy of the good. “Perfect” will bash your self-esteem, wreck your relationships, and kill your dreams. No one can live up to perfect. And when we are trying to live up to perfect we are being crazy and us being crazy makes everyone around us a little crazy too.

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“Perfect” is an especially dangerous enemy these days in an era where we can use filters and tools to make life rose-colored all the time. That perfectly staged picture of a friend’s new living room set that makes your guts twist? Just be happy for her and secretly know that she probably screamed at all her kids to throw the laundry that had been on the couch for six days into the tub so she could get a picture‚Ķthen used the Lo-Fi filter for extra pizazz (and to blur that weird stain that smells like chili into retro shadow).

#MyLifeSucksAndINeedLikesOnThisPicSoIDoNotBreakDown

I think that sometimes, if we back away and look at WHY many people are posting this stuff, it makes sense to lighten up on ourselves. We live in a world that expects us to be adults (Sucks, right? I know). But often the problem with being an adult is that somewhere people stopped believing we needed compliments and affirmation.

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If we do a great job at work, who cares? We are being paid. Our paycheck is supposed to be enough. We didn’t fire you, right?¬†

If the house is clean when our family gets home? There’s not a treat basket we get to reach in and get a cool unicorn pencil or kissing lips eraser and that is fundamentally WRONG.

#IWantPuffyStickers

My husband loves me whether I wear the same pair of pajamas for five days straight because it is NaNo or whether I dress up and often? He doesn’t even recognize the difference.

So if I hope to hear, “You look fantastic!” with any kind of enthusiasm? Yep. Facebook.

No one gives me a sticker that reads, “Your Kid is Alive Another Day! YOU ROCK!” or “You Remembered to Pay the Water BEFORE the City Turned It Off! GO YOU!”

And it can get really discouraging sometimes.

The same can happen in the world of writing.

Don’t compare your everyday life with another author’s “highlight reel.”

I read a crazy amount of books and it’s so easy to get discouraged with the¬†What was I thinking? I suuuuck. I can’t wriiiiiite.¬†But here is the deal, I am not downloading Michael Connelly’s first draft-as-audio-book onto my phone. I am listening to a¬†finished product.

Even if our final draft isn’t as good as INSERT HERO AUTHOR HERE’s work, remember they probably didn’t start out writing that way. They had a learning curve too. Stephen King started writing as a kid. He’d written millions of words and countless stories before Carrie ever came along. Dean Koontz wrote under a pseudonym for years, books that for a long time he really didn’t even like laying claim to.

Natural talent is like a diamond. Found in the natural it looks like a hunk of glass. It takes a lot of chipping away and cutting and polishing before it is seen as anything of value.

So if you are doing NaNoWriMo, fantastic! But perfect is the enemy of the good. Many won’t finish because they just won’t frigging lighten up on themselves. Yes, the house will probably be messy and the kids sticky and wear shoes because I guarantee the cat will puke (in the middle of the night because cats cannot puke in sunlight or on anything but carpet).

Remember that anything on Facebook is often a “highlight reel” because we live in a world where we feel stretched thinner and thinner and often we feel invisible. We sometimes just need that GO YOU! And if we can see that is often what others are needing, then it is easier to stop comparing ourselves because we fed our kid Quick Trip donuts for breakfast instead of a gluten-free dairy-free fritatta with pine nuts off a recipe we saved on Pinterest.

So lighten up. Breathe. Have fun and give yourself a compliment today. Give someone else a compliment. Heck we all need it. In fact, here is a song to remind you…

What are your thoughts? Do you find yourself goofing off too much on social media because you really feel down and just need some affirmation? I do, too. We just need to make sure the short-term thrill isn’t stealing a long-term dream with longer-lasting rewards.

Do you feel burned out and stressed out and you deep down know you are doing it to yourself? That you are being ridiculous? Do you struggle with comparing yourself to your author heroes? Do you find yourself in the habit of perfectionism? Are you like me and harder on yourself than you are on others (which is no great prize because you are just a meth-fueled lunatic with yourself)?

I love hearing from you!

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

TREAT YOURSELF!!!! Check out the Upcoming Classes

Remember that ALL CLASSES come with a FREE RECORDING so you can listen over and over. So even if you can’t make it because the holidays are crazy? No excuses! Take time to be good to yourself!

Important Class for After NaNoWriMo! You might have a New Year’s Resolution to query a novel. Doesn’t matter. Treat yourself to an early Christmas present!

Pitch Perfect—How to Write a Query Letter & Synopsis that SELLS

Class Title: Pitch Perfect—How To Write a Query Letter & Synopsis that SELLS
Instructor: Kristen Lamb
Price: $45 USD Standard
Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom
When: FRIDAY December 2nd, 2015 7:00 PM E.S.T. to 9:00 P.M. EST

You’ve written a novel and now are faced with the two most terrifying challenges all writers face. The query and the synopsis.

Query letters can be daunting. How do you sell yourself? Your work? How can you stand apart without including glitter in your letter?

***NOTE: DO NOT PUT GLITTER IN YOUR QUERY.

Good question. We will cover that and more!

But sometimes the query is not enough.

Most writers would rather cut their wrists with a spork than be forced to write the dreaded…synopsis. Yet, this is a valuable skills all writers should learn. Synopses are often requested by agents and editors and it is tough not to feel the need to include every last little detail. Synopses are great for not only keeping your writing on track, but also for pitching your next book and your next to that agent of your choice.

This class will help you learn the fundamentals of writing a query letter and a synopsis. What you must include and what doesn’t belong.

So make your writing pitch perfect with these two skills!

Plotting for Dummies

Class Title: Plotting for Dummies
Instructor: Kristen Lamb
Price: $35 USD Standard
Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom
When: SATURDAY December 3rd, 2016 2:30 PM E.S.T. to 4:30 P.M. EST

Are you tired of starting book after book only to lose steam and be unable to finish? Do you finish, but then keep getting rejected? Do you finish, but it takes an ungodly amount of time? Sure, great you land an agent for your book, but you don’t have FIVE YEARS to write the next one?

This class is here to help. The writers who are making an excellent income are not doing it off ONE book, rather they are harnessing the power of compounded sales. This class is designed to help you learn to plot leaner, meaner, faster and cleaner (even for PANTSERS!)

Learn the basic elements of plot, various plotting techniques, how to test your seed idea to see if it is even strong enough to be a novel and MORE!

Blogging for Authors

Class Title: Blogging for Authors
Instructor: Kristen Lamb
Price: $50 USD Standard
Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom
When: FRIDAY December 9th, 7:00 PM E.S.T. to 9:00 P.M. EST

Blogging is one of the most powerful forms of social media. Twitter could flitter and Facebook could fold but the blog will remain so long as we have an Internet. The blog has been going strong since the 90s and it’s one of the best ways to establish a brand and then harness the power of that brand to drive book sales.

The best part is, done properly, a blog plays to a writer’s strengths. Writers write.

The problem is too many writers don’t approach a blog properly and make all kinds of mistakes that eventually lead to blog abandonment. Many authors fail to understand that bloggers and author bloggers are two completely different creatures.

This class is going to cover:

How author blogs work. What’s the difference in a regular blog and an author blog?
What are the biggest mistakes/wastes of time?
How can you effectively harness the power of algorithms (no computer science degree required)?
What do you blog about? What topics will engage readers and help create a following?
How can you harness your author voice using a blog?
How can a blog can help you write leaner, meaner, faster and cleaner?
How do you keep energized years into your blogging journey?
How can a blog help you sell more books?
How can you cultivate a fan base of people who love your genre?
Blogging doesn’t have to be hard. This class will help you simplify your blog and make it one of the most enjoyable aspects of your writing career.

 

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

Image via Drew Coffman courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons
Image via Drew Coffman courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

We have done a lot of talking about FREE! in the past couple of months. And I will continue to boycott Huffington Post , because I believe they’re parasites who’ve helped set this industry-wide trend that writers only need to be paid with “exposure.” Owned by AOL (a.k.a. Verizon) they have the ability to pay, just don’t want to and unless writers start valuing what they do? They won’t pay.

Ever.

Not until we GO PRO.

To catch up on the rant, read No More Literary Booty Calls.

But back to this “valuing what we do.” I feel one of the reasons the arts are particularly vulnerable to plundering is many writers (artists) have a chronic case of low self-esteem.

Yes, society and pop culture are partly to blame.

It seems movies cast only two types of writers—The Starving Hack and the Bazillionaire Celebrity Author. Thus, if we aren’t flying off to Paris to fact-check? People assume that, by default, we’re writing bad haiku on Starbuck’s napkins in between shooting up and borrowing money from our mom.

We Do It To Ourselves

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First a little test. If you are reading this and are an aspiring author raise your hand. It’s okay. No one is around. You can do it.

Got your hand up?

NOW SLAP YOURSELF WITH THAT HAND AND NEVER DO THAT AGAIN!

I love you *smooch*.

There IS no “aspiring.” Aspiring is for the weak. It takes real guts to be an author. Feel free to call yourself pre-published, but use aspiring?

I. CAN. FIND. YOU. O_o

Do or do not, there is no try.

Understand Consumers WANT What We Do

Self-published book and now a major motion picture. BOO-YAH!
Self-published book and now a major motion picture. BOO-YAH!

In any business, the first thing one has to determine is:

Will consumers want this?

For some strange reason, whenever I rail about PAY THE WRITER there is this knee-jerk assumption we writers are foisting something fundamentally unwanted onto the unsuspecting public and if they read our stuff they’re doing us a favor.

Untrue.

People want good books.¬†If people didn’t want good books, Amazon would not have invested God knows how much into swiping the industry from the legacy publishers.

But, aside from our insecurity, the other component that undermines authors is a failure to truly GO PRO. Note I said¬†good books.¬†A pro doesn’t sell crap. A pro doesn’t try to get people to pay for books rife with horrific plot problems, editing mistakes, shoddy grammar and formatting that looks like it was done by a detoxing drunk.

PRO comes from the word, professional. 

But saying we want to go PRO is easier than knowing what one actually¬†looks like.¬†To be blunt, there are far more people “playing writer” than “going pro.” Even those of us who write for a living? It is an everyday battle against entropy. It’s really easy to wake up one day and realize you’re lying to yourself.

So I made a list. For me. For you.

I’m a giver.

I would love to say that I always did these things, but I didn’t. For a long time I was a lazy, entitled, whining slacker more in love with the idea of being a writer than actually doing the work involved. Much of this I had to learn the hard way, so I hope to up your game with these TEN WAYS TO GO PRO!

1—Pros Get Our A$$es to WORK

Writers write. We don’t write when we feel like it or when the muse strikes. Truthfully, the muse is like that fun drunken cousin who passes through and gives us a good time, but there’s no way in hell we’d ever hire the guy because he’s about as dependable as Texas weather.

Almost every morning, I am up at 4:00 a.m. Most people don’t work well that early, but I do. Fewer distractions. I always at least check in at 4 a.m. if there are any early birds who need a partner.

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This morning I had three thousand words written before 7:00 a.m. Every morning I hold writing sprints on W.A.N.A. Tribe. All morning long, we go in 40 minute bursts and there is a team for accountability and to drive and push you beyond your comfort zone. I know I am a lazy slacker so I created this to keep me accountable!

Duh.

But any guess how many writers actually show for the sprints?

Usually it’s the same group of ten people out of over 2700‚Ķand I am one of them. As a group, I bet we’ve easily¬†written a million words since we started meeting back in November. Every member of the sprinting group finished NaNoWriMo in less than 20 days.

We are still there. Five days a week 9:00 CST. Every day.

The same few people.

A huge reason most writers never make it big is simple. They don’t write.

2—Pros Write No Matter WHAT

Kristen with Shingles…and YES I still wrote.
Kristen last year with Shingles…and YES I still wrote.

2012-2015 was a living nightmare for me. Our lives had SO much go wrong, I was seriously wondering if voodoo was somehow involved and despite enduring tragedy after tragedy? I still showed up.

Even with Shingles. Hey, I was going to be in pain anyway? Might as well channel it and distract myself.

Life will go wrong and sometimes the only thing we can control is simply showing up. There will never be an ideal time to write. If one comes our way? Fabulous! But don’t count on it. Never underestimate the power of simply showing up.

3—Pros Appreciate We Are Selling a PRODUCT

Writers don’t get a pass. We are a business. We are entrepreneurs bringing a product to market. This is true no matter which publishing path we take. Some writers frown on us indie/self-published folks, but what do y’all think that query is? It’s a business proposal.

An agent is inspecting our product (book) and our brand (platform) and determining potential market value. They are asking, Can we SELL this? And, if so, How many can we sell? 

That’s it.

We now have a choice to circumnavigate gatekeepers, but we still are responsible for bringing a solid product to the marketplace. Pros know that.

4—Pros INVEST

Via Flickr Creative commons, courtesy of Tax Credits.
Via Flickr Creative commons, courtesy of Tax Credits.

Since we appreciate we are a product and want to make it the best out there (because we KNOW there is a crap-ton of competition), we invest in ways to make our product the best and to stand out. Since we create the product, we invest time and money in training, conferences, and classes. Once we have a product, we invest in proper editing and cover design.

We invest in things that save us time. You can either spend five years figuring out your brand or hire a pro help you do it in days (yes, I am for hire ūüėČ ).

I suck at organization and detail so I outsource to an assistant. My new assistant Raidon cleaned out over 67K e-mails and organized them for me.  That was almost five hours I could do blogging, writing, teaching and consulting.

Trust me. Worth every penny.

5—Pros Study the Successful

We don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Seriously. Most people believe that success is tremendously elusive, but if we study successful people? Most of them did a lot of the same things. I am a HUGE, HUGE fan of Mark Cuban. Every writer needs THIS book;¬†How to Win at the Sport of Business.¬†It’s a short audio book and cost me $5, but WOW.

So much of what he talks about can be applied to writers.

6—Pros Get Paid to Learn

Meaning? They are never “too good” to accept a job. This one really applies to the newbies starting out. In the beginning we have to earn a reputation worth paying for. In the meantime? Take every opportunity you get and knock it outta the park!

When I realized I wanted to go pro with writing? I took every writing job I could get, figuring I was being paid to learn. Whether it was copy for a chiropractor’s web site or specs for software? I did it even though some of those jobs were so boring I wanted to hurl myself in traffic. They didn’t pay much in money (not at first) but I was being¬†paid to learn.

Every one of those jobs paid off.

7—Pros FAIL‚ĶA LOT

Original image via Melissa Bowersock WANA Commons
Original image via Melissa Bowersock WANA Commons

We make bad calls, hire the wrong people, write bad blogs and even worse books. By failing a lot we learn what works and what is a waste of time. My¬†failures taught me far more than “success” ever did.

Failure taught me humility and how to have staying power. It’s easy to be in the game when we’re winning, but to keep pressing after you’ve been sucker punched‚Ķthen run over and then hit by lightning?

That¬†is what separates the wanna-be’s from the pros.

8—Pros are Honest

Original Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Mike Spasoff
Original Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Mike Spasoff

We are only as strong as our greatest weakness. Pros are honest with where they’re failing. If the books aren’t selling and the feedback is about the writing? We take more classes and write more to put those lessons in action and hone those skills. Hire a rockstar editor.

Again, remember that I suck at organization? Took me a long time to admit that. I bought Daytimers and apps and gadgets and OH DEAR GOD I CANNOT SHOW MY FACE IN CONTAINER STORE…

THE SHAME!

I realized it ain’t gonna happen. Instead of trying to fit this round writer into a square hole? Outsource.

9—Pros Never Stop Training

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Anamorphic Mike.
Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Anamorphic Mike.

How successful would a boxer be if he sat on the couch watching inspirational movies about boxing but never actually hauled his tail into a gym? Never worked with a coach to refine technique? Never studied other boxers and their moves? Never sparred to know his weaknesses?

I inhale books. If I am not at my computer working, I am reading…everything. If I am driving or cleaning or cooking? I am also listening to an audiobook. I never watch TV or movies that I am not making notes, busting apart character, plot, dialogue. Where did the story shine? Where did it fail? How would I have improved it?

Pros generally have TWO speeds.

On.

Unconscious.

Even “rest” serves the goals and is active.

10—Pros Understand “Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail”

Most new businesses fail because of a lack of a solid business plan. Same with writers. Which publishing path are you choosing? Why? Do you even know why? What are the advantages and disadvantages of each? Seriously, there is no “right” or “wrong” way to publish, but how we are going to get our product to market is a big deal.

What are your goals? Do you have this mapped out? Do you have contingency plans? Have you done a S.W.O.T. analysis? What is your marketing plan? What is your branding plan? What is your sales plan?

Back to what we started with and the whole kerfluffle of FREE!

How and WHY are we using FREE!?

One of the reasons FREE! has gotten so out of hand is that writers are not using it strategically as part of a larger sales plan.

It’s why I am offering a new class, Making Money with FREE!¬†As a bonus for this class, my friend Jack Patterson who’s so far sold over 150,000 books to come and teach us how to ROCK the newsletter. Sign up before March 7th for $20 off. This is in excess of two hours of training and the recording (as always) comes with purchase.

Just by doing this class, you get several makes of a pro—showing up, investing, training, and learning from people who’ve already done something¬†successfully.¬† I will be learning too. Instead of me writing a terrible newsletter no one wants to open and spending the next three years figuring it out? I am paying Jack to help me teach this class.

I’m no dummy ūüėõ .

I am very proud of all of you for even being here and reading this blog. That is the mark of a pro. Instead of watching funny videos? You are here being yelled at inspired.

What are your thoughts? Did you fall for my trick and raise your hand? I hope you didn’t leave a mark. Do you struggle with taking yourself seriously? Do you put everyone and everything ahead of your writing? Does your writing take backseat to everyone else’s wants and needs? Did you change that and see results when you started doing things PROS do?

I really DO love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of MARCH, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel.

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

Image vis Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Yuya Sekiguchi.
Image vis Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Yuya Sekiguchi.

One of the benefits of attending the same conferences year after year is I get to see which writers are published and which aren’t. Which writers finished the book, and which ones haven’t. It’s staggering how many authors I know who have been working on the same manuscript for two, three, five or even ten years. As NYTBSA Bob Mayer likes to say, “They are just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.”

I confess, I was once guilty of this behavior, too. I would absolutely edit my WIPs to DEATH, and this behavior made it impossible to finish. Thankfully, blogging and writing non-fiction has helped tremendously with my fiction. I have learned to overcome perfectionism and ship.

Just Tell the D@&% Story

I recently finished a novel, but I will confess that, as I wrote, it was sooooo tempting to go back and edit, correct, perfect every sentence. This time? I didn’t. Every time I was tempted to go back, re-plot, adjust the story, revise, I just said to myself, “Kristen, just tell the d@&% story.”

This is why the simple act of knowing what your story problem is and where it will end is VITAL.

My story problem?

A former Dallas socialite is blackballed after her con-man fiance vanishes with a half a billion dollars in stolen money, leaving her as the FBI’s favorite suspect. Homeless and broke, she’s forced to move in with her crazy trailer trash family, where she soon discovers that solving her mother’s fifteen-year-old murder is the only way to uncover a massive criminal network before they kill her and everyone she loves.

This means my mind has a checklist of everything that needs solving regarding plot. Likely, the book will end with 1) solving the murder 2) exposing the criminal network and 3) finding the missing fiance and the stolen money.

Knowing how your character needs to change is also VITAL.

Character-wise, there is also a mental checklist. I know who my protagonist is in the beginning and where she needs to be by the end. This helps¬†tremendously¬†because, as I wrote, my protagonist would say or do certain things and my mind would inject, “Uh uh. She isn’t that evolved yet.” Or “Um, she needs to have grown up a little bit by now.”

Simply knowing those two elements: What is the problem that must be solved by the end? How does my protagonist have to change in order to earn the title “hero”? These two critical pieces can help you get out of your own way. I learned this cool stuff from Bob, by the way, so take his classes if you can or go to his retreat. Will change your life.

Learning to R-TUTE (Yes, you can giggle)

RESIST THE URGE TO EDIT. This can also stand for RESIST THE URGE TO EXPLAIN.

I recall, as I was writing my latest book, my hands seemed to take on a life of their own. I would add in an unplanned character or an unforeseen (seemingly meaningless) detail. Not too long ago, I would have backspaced over these moments of serendipity, convinced they were stupid because “they weren’t part of the outline.”

Yet, by the time I reached the end of my novel, I was blown away at how those “unplanned” details and players had coalesced into a multi-layered story I’m unsure I could’ve consciously plotted.

Your subconscious is your best friend. Premature editing can uproot the unconscious seeds of brilliance. Premature editing can kill momentum.

RESIST THE URGE TO EXPLAIN! You DO NOT NEED TO EXPLAIN. Really.

The Force was more interesting before it was EXPLAINED. Metachlorians RUINED The Force. Same with your characters. Don’t go “back in time” to tell us why Such-and-Such is a brooding emotional mess. We don’t want to be your protagonist’s shrink, we want to partner with her on an adventure and watch her overcome her flaws in amazing ways.

Do you like hanging out with people who can do nothing but talk about their bad childhood? I don’t. Why would we want to hang out with characters (novels) who drag us to mandatory family therapy? We DON’T.

The Benefits of Writing FAST

We Learn by DOING.

We can read books about playing guitar for years and still have no clue how to play the guitar. The best way to learn how to write full-length novels is to write full-length novels. No one (but you and probably every friend and family member) expects your first book to be perfect. Get over it.

When I first played clarinet, it sounded like someone was water-boarding a goose. Practice made the difference. Practicing FULL songs, from¬†Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star¬†to finally (four years later)¬†The Marriage of Figaro.¬†But I didn’t play¬†The Marriage of Figaro¬†the first week I picked up my instrument. Same with novels. Keep writing and write¬†to the end.

We Are Professionals

This is one of the reasons I do recommend blogging. We need to write every day. If we want to do this thing for real, then we have to take on the role of a professional. This means showing up a minimum of five days a week. What other job would let us show up when we feel inspired and not fire us? Who can take us seriously if we work when we feel like it?

Writing FAST Helps Keep Us Out of Our Own Way

When we write fast, we don’t have time to over-think and edit the life out of our story. Move forward. Press on. Especially new writers. You need the practice. More experienced authors can languish a bit more¬†because they earned it.¬†Eric Clapton can spend hours perfecting a certain riff, but he already passed the¬†Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star Test.¬†

Keep pressing and practicing. Every book makes you a better writer! Eventually you will be executing the literary equivalent of The Marriage of Figaro and can leave Mary Had a Little Lamb behind :D.

For those who are curious about what The Marriage of Figaro sounds like on clarinet:

What do you think? Are you editing your WIP to death? How to you resist the urge to edit? Does it involve duct tape and twisty ties? Are you struggling with¬†finishing? Or, are you finishing books, but don’t feel you are improving enough?

I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of May, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

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

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

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