Kristen Lamb

Author, Blogger, Social Media Jedi

Kristen Lamb — Photo

Posts Tagged: National Novel Writing Month

On Monday, I took a shot at “experts” and challenged us all to remember to have some FUN even though “fun” often makes us feel like slackers. Yet, let’s be clear. There is mistakenly “feeling” like a slacker and actually being one (FYI: I have gold medals in both). Thus, today one might be tempted to think I am contradicting what we talked about last time.

Wait, we actually DO need experts AND now she’s gonna start championing PAIN?

Yeah well, I’m a puzzle wrapped in an enigma. Whatever. Roll with it.

The thing is, whether we are a hobbyist (which is COMPLETELY wonderful and rock on!) or we want to GO PRO, it really doesn’t matter.

Lamb’s Rule of Writing #1: Not sucking way more fun than totally sucking.

Yes writing is and should be FUN (but it will also have pain, doubt and ups and downs much like that “Fun Run” we did to raise money for cancer research).

Experts DO come in handy even regarding non-writing “fun” activities (which are NOT slacking, FYI). Just because we’re doing something for joy and relaxation doesn’t mean we don’t want to create results we can be proud of after investing time, money and hard work. #Duh

Yet, we are talking about writing today, thus I feel it’s safe to say high school and college gave us zero training on how to write commercially successful novels.

If we want to make money selling books? Writing is a craft and a business involving producing a product for sale to consumers (code for “readers”), so experts a HUGE help. All I am going to say about that (for now).

Cool thing about any level of writing is we have freedom to choose our pain. 

I’m a huge fan of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) namely because it is fabulous for all types of writers (those who want to have fun and those who seek to go pro), and we will discuss three BIG reasons why in a moment.

Most people who follow this blog do, however, dream of one day going pro and a) NOT sucking and b) selling truckloads of books. Thing is, this transition does NOT happen overnight #AskMeHowIKnow.

In fact, I strongly encourage authors of all levels to check out an older post for some good old-fashioned perspective: The Three “Acts” of a Writer’s Journey From Newbie to Master. 

It is OKAY to need help. A caveat…slackers (which we can ALL be) must be choosy about our team when going after any goal.

Our Friends & Mentors Matter More the Higher We Want to Climb

If our goal is to climb Mt. Everest (and being a NYTBSA is essentially Everest & making good money full-time writing is K-2), who do you want by your side?

Hard@$$ Hank

This is the dude who’s summited Everest so many times even Instagram is rolling its eyes at him.

Hard@$$ Hank knows his stuff. He maybe even lost a couple fingertips to frost bite, tells the story how he once contemplated eating his best friend to survive a sudden blizzard (then found spare protein bars and murder/cannibalism averted due to proper prep).

The guy who insists you train hard for at least a year and who warns you over and over that if you $#@! up an inch…you will DIE (and he won’t hesitate to snack on you if you die from being stupid).

Hard@$$ Hank who beats into you that it is a LONG freaking way to the top. Dangerous with pitfalls, and ice sheers and avalanches. That the summit is way farther than it looks and harder than you could ever imagine but worth every single second.

OR…

Loving Lulu

Loving Lulu does love you and has been your greatest cheerleader since fourth grade. She meets you for a pumpkin spice latte and tells you–in her most informative voice–that most of those “mountain climbing expert people” sell tons of needless gear simply to make money.

And in Nepal, since there are no Starbucks or other meaningful jobs, the locals make cash working as slurpees for uninformed mountain climbing tourists.

(Even though you’re sure she meant to say sherpas, Lulu does have a good point and who wants to be conned?)

Lulu is your BFF and TOTES knows you rock. She has done cross-fit with you. She proclaims if you can run that hundred flights on the StairMaster? Everest *flips hair* No problemo.

And she looked it up on her iPhone. Everest? Not even that high. Only 29,029 feet which is less than 5.5 miles high. The Turkey Trot y’all did last year was ten miles, so what’s all the fuss with a mountain? Wear a coat! JEEZ!

Hank makes us feel overwhelmed and a tad terrified #Hater. Lulu? She’s your real champion #BFFUnicorn.

Thing is, both Hard@$$ Hank and Loving Lulu are highly valuable but for vastly different reasons. One is a mentor-ally, the other a friend-ally.

Easy to mistake the two 😉 .

Lulu’s “mountaineer training” leads to a cold and lonely death where our body is never recovered, unless one counts future archeologists. Why the hell did she pack so much lip gloss to climb a mountain? Did it have to do with her god? A sacrifice? Perhaps to ward off evil spirits?

Hank as cheerleader leads to heavy drinking and needless therapy.

But reverse the two? And POW! POWER TEAM!

Trust me when I say I would’ve quit long ago if I’d only enlisted cheerleaders. The slacker in me loved that they loved me even though I never finished anything I started. They believed in my genius.

To overcome my inner slacker, I HAD to get brave enough to make friends with mentors and teachers who terrified me, who pushed me to change in the ways that would matter most in the end.

But I ALSO needed Lulu there to bring me wine and encourage me when Hank made me cry.

Lamb’s Rule of Writing #2: We ALL start somewhere. NYTBS mega-authors are not hatched in a lab…yet. Amazon is working on it though.

But since, Amazon is not yet able to grow genius authors in petri dishes we still have our shot. Yet, I am here to take your sparkly little dreams…and yell at them. As your self-appointed Hard@$$ Hannah, I want to give you three fantastic reasons to do NaNoWriMo, since it is AMAZING for training out the slacker in all of us.

NaNo Teaches Endurance 

I remember years ago thinking, “Wow, if I could just write a thousand words a day, that would be AMAZING.” When I looked at professional authors, it was like watching an ultra-marathon runner—all the while knowing I couldn’t run a flight of stairs without requiring oxygen and possibly a defibrillator to restart my heart.

I struggled to get words on a page, and Lord help me if I saw something shiny.

Actual Image of Newbie Kristen

Of course, after years of practiced discipline, I generally have a thousand words written by breakfast. When I fast-draft (which I do for all my books), my average is abnormally high. But that took YEARS to train to write that clean and that FAST.

NaNo is our Hard@$$ Hank. He’s there to challenge us to write 50,000 words in 30 days which is teaching us 1) self-discipline 2) to pace ourselves and 3) we actually can do more than we believed we could. It’s tough when you aren’t used to this rigorous pace. Especially when most of us are like this…

NaNo Trains in Mental Fitness

Being successful at writing is a lot about mastering our mind and focusing our will despite what is going on around us. NaNo (Hank) drives us into a zone we’d probably never step a toe into if left on our own.

When part of Nano, we’re surrounded by a gazillion other writers all with the same goal. HELLOOO? Peer pressure?

NaNo trains us to get in the zone no matter what.

Too many noobs (me included) needed visits from the muse, perfect silence and the right pen just to get started. We allowed emotions and feelings to guide us and that’s why $#!& never GOT DONE.

To finish a novel, even a crappy but finished one, our mind is the first thing we need to train.

Writing is an extraordinarily intense activity, physically, mentally and emotionally. Sure, the professionals make it look easy and that’s why the world thinks we spend all day drinking wine and talking to butterflies. Hint: We don’t.

Seriously it IS THE BEST job in the world. But no unicorn hug, ya dig?

Lamb’s Rule of Writing #3: Life doesn’t stop because we decided to write a book.

I’ve met NYTBSAs who were also working full-time jobs as lawyers, vets, doctors, business owners. Maybe, if they wrote full-time they were tasked with taking care of small children, seriously ill family members, elderly parents…all while meeting deadlines.

Yes, even some “mega-authors” who we all assume have it made. They don’t.

Being a best-selling author doesn’t give us immunity from LIFE. Pros just have learned through practice (and places like NaNo) that we do have the ability to press on in spite of circumstance (just have to train it).

Because that is what PROS do. Yes, professional authors are human. We should take time to grieve, rest, have some fun, and chillax. Yet, we also appreciate life will dole out plenty of sucker punches. The difference is pros get back up and back to work and hobbyists use the sucker punch as a good reason to proclaim they actually preferred origami all along.

NaNo Hammers Out Perfectionism

NaNo isn’t about perfect, it is about finished. Writers who make a good living write at least a book a year and often more. Writers who spend all their time polishing their chapters are the ones who never finish, or they take five, seven or even ten years to finish a novel.

Lamb’s Rule of Writing #4: The world doesn’t reward perfect, it rewards FINISHED.

No half-finished-but-perfect novels have EVER become a runaway sensation with movie deals…but some finished and highly “imperfect” ones have, so all the more reason for:

#50ShadesofGetYourButtInCHAIR.

Also, “perfect novel” is a complete myth and chasing the PN has the same success rate as chasing Big Foot. Neither is ever likely to be found (or, if found, believed to be real).

So there. You are free to go write finished but imperfect novels. We all struggle with slacking. It’s something we take on day by day, step by step and page by page and likely always will.

What are your thoughts? Are you afraid of mentors who will push you? Maybe gotten a tad too comfy with cheerleaders? Maybe made friend-allies mentors and can’t figure out where you got lost?

Hey, I’ve been guilty! Do you struggle with perfectionism? Can’t bring yourself to “write crap” so get stuck in edit mode for ten years? Have you overcome your perfectionism? Tell us HOW! I’m still working on that one, too.

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

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

COOL WEEKLY DEAL!!! The “Write Stuff”–20 Pages for $40. A deep edit/analysis by MOI!

To also prove social media is and should be super fun and that while you might need solid training, you DO NOT need a team of professionals paid to “manage your brand”:

I have two upcoming classes Social Media FREEDOM–Harnessing Passion & Creativity to Cultivate Fans & Harnessing Our Writing POWER–The Blog

I highly recommend you sign up for one of our upcoming classes listed below, especially to properly prep for Nano.

Fail to plan, plan to fail 😉 .

****Note, those who subscribe by email, the visual gallery doesn’t show, so please click through and sign up! We look forward to seeing you and serving you in class! Helping you be the best you can so your work can stand apart 😀 .

How to Dominate Your Sex Scenes (No Safe Words Here). $45.00 USD. Wednesday, October 11, 2017. 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST. Click the image to register!
Painting With Words: Using Description and Sensory Details. $40.00 USD. Saturday, Monday, October 9, 2017. 7:00-7:00 p.m. EST. Click the image to register!
Social Media for Writers. $35.00 USD. Thursday, October 19, 2017. 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST. Click the image to register!
Harnessing Our Writing POWER---The BLOG! $50.00 USD. Thursday, October  26th, 2017. 7:00 p.m.--9:00 p.m. EST. Click the image to register!

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Today we launch NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). This challenge is to see if we can write 50,000 words in a month. Though 50,000 words is not quite a novel, it IS a professional pace and for those who are new? This is probably going to feel like running a marathon the day after making a resolution to actually use that gym membership. It will push you.

Whether or not you are doing NaNo, these tips will help you go pro because for the pros? Every month is NaNoWriMo.

Most of us are going to have to work a day job and write. 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 a fruit fly…with a bad crack habit. Here are 10 ways to help you be productive even if OOH! SHINY!

…even if you tend to be a tad majorly ADD. The following tips are what help ME stay focused. I am NOT a doctor or psychologist or ADD expert. I’m a Jedi master, warp engine inspector, and WRITER so you get what you get.

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1. Make lists.

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 NaNo word count right away. Just get it DONE.

2. Understand that feelings are pathological liars.

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

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. 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.

4. Mix it up.

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.

I LOVE audio books. I can always tell writers who don’t read. 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.

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 you could be that frigging lucky!

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

5. Suck it up, Buttercup.

Understand that sometimes 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.

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 WANATribe. 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 talks about the election because I am a loving but vengeful god and will smite them. So if you need to escape Facebook and find those mean friends? We are there. We have been doing sprints in the Main Room IM for A YEAR.

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

You’re welcome.

*polishes riding crop*

7. Ditch loser friends.

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.

Perfection 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.

Often ADD can be fueled by being too sedentary. Human bodies were not designed to sit on their @$$e$ all day. Ever have a puppy that chews everything and is into everything and short of strapping itself to a rocket is just being a GIANT PAIN IN THE @$$?

How do you get it to behave? Put on roller blades and run puppy until puppy wants to slip into something more comfortable…like a coma. ADD people are human puppies, so stop piddling on the carpet…I mean, go get a little exercise and your focus will generally improve.

Again, I strongly recommend audio books. I walk every day and I have made my way through a large chunk of the NYTBS list.

10. Drink lots of water.

Human bodies are a hydroelectric system, and water enhances conductivity. 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 about to get to MY word count for the day and yes I am over on WANATribe. Again, if you NEED help and accountability I am there five days a week no matter what so no excuses. Last year everyone who sprinted finished Nano in record time…because they had to keep up with me (I finished in 11 days). If you want to really experience the professional pace, come join me.

Those of you ADD folk out there who’ve paid attention to this point, first of all, CONGRATULATIONS!!!

…now back in your hole.

It writes the words or it gets the hose O_o.

What are your thoughts? Struggles? Tips? Words of wisdom. It’s okay. You have permission to get back in your hole after you comment :D.

It rubs the elbow grease on. IT RUBS THE ELBOW GREASE ON! *pets fluffy white dog*

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. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel. I will announce October’s winner shortly. Just got back from LA and need time to catch up.

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

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Today I have a special treat from a long-time writing friend of mine, Kait Nolan, introducing a cool tool by another good friend Susan Bischoff. This is great information for any writer that will serve us far beyond November because this goes beyond NaNoWriMo.

I have said this before and will say it again and again. If we hope to ever make a living writing novels, we are not going to make our income off ONE book. We must harness the power of compounded sales. Aside from the rare fluke, this is always how writers have become pop culture staples. From Stephen King to Neil Gaiman to Anne Rice to Larry McMurtry, careers are made with more than one book.

But if it takes us five years to write the first novel and another five to edit the mess into a final product? We might want something to speed up the process and Kait is here to help with that. Additionally, NaNoWriMo is no easy feat. Great we finish, but better if we finish with something that can be shaped into something others want to pay to read. Ending up with an unsalvageable mess CAN be avoided.

I do a lot of teaching on this blog and feel free to roam the archives. But I also like taking time to direct you guys to the best resources to get you where you want to go.

Take it away, Kait!

National Novel Writing Month is nearly upon us.

Writers everywhere are making their vows to buckle down and crank out 50,000 words during the month of November. It’s one of the headiest times to be a writer all year, with hundreds of thousands embarking on the same mission. Never will you find more opportunities for sprint partners or writer camaraderie. There’s a fever that goes along with November that’s absolutely unparalleled. We are mighty! We are invincible! We are writers!

NaNo Meme

There are differing levels of preparation that go into NaNo.

A deep clean of the house (because you know you’re not cleaning a thing until December 1st). Maybe an epic weekend prepping freezer meals so that your family has something other than fast food to eat. A sharpening of the blade you’ll use to threaten whoever dares interrupt your precious writing time. And, of course, pre-planning of the NaNo novel itself.

The Pantser

Some people start with the vaguest of ideas and figure they’ll pants their way through it, fueled by Red Bull and raw enthusiasm. Most of those will fall by the wayside as the month rolls on, drowning under real world concerns or floundering in the land of asdfjkl; because they can’t think of what comes next. If they finish NaNo at all, they look something like this.

Doc-Brown

The Planner

Others may develop deep and detailed character dossiers or do massive worldbuilding, complete with annotated map. Still others may wander down that road of outlining so that they know exactly where they’re headed. Or think they do.

These folks are likely to get further in the process because they have, to some extent, eliminated the guesswork that is such a timewaster. Even some kind of plan will keep you plodding forward in your plot and get you across that finish line. And that’s AWESOME. Because hundreds of thousands of people never do that.

Finishing is HUGE.

But wouldn’t it be better if, when you crossed that finish line, you actually had a book that resembled…you know, a book? As in a story that bears strong resemblance to a salable tale? Because as fantastic as writing “The End” is, if you didn’t do the right kind of planning, chances are the crash from that NaNo high is going to be brutal when you realize you have to write the whole thing over from the beginning.

The Answer

Toolkit CoverI want to tell you how to avoid that. I want to share with you the deep secret I’ve been using for years to crank out novels that are, other than limited revisions, done right the first time. That system is The Story Toolkit by Susan Bischoff of The Forge Book Finishing.

Susan has been my editor for more than a decade, and the Toolkit arose, in part, because she kept seeing clients making many of the same mistakes, over and over. She wanted to create a tool that would, effectively, take somebody by the hand and lead them from idea to a solid, ready-to-write outline. And I’m proof that it works. This is the system that has allowed me to put out multiple books a year, despite the fact that I’m working one full-time and another part-time job, on TOP of writing. It’s all about efficiency and working smarter. Through a series of worksheets, The Story Toolkit asks the RIGHT questions to help you hone your glimmer of an idea into a viable premise and clear concept. Y’all, it’s like having a developmental editor sitting on your shoulder, helping point out the weak spots so you can shore them up before you even start! I don’t write my books without it.

So if you’re planning to NaNo (or if you’re just looking to improve your writing game), I encourage you to grab your copy of The Story Tookit today so that you can plan your novel the smart way and increase your odds of doing a victory dance come midnight November 30th! The ebook version is on sale for an introductory NaNoWriMo price of $2.99 until the end of October. Or you can nab the paperback for handy-dandy reference.

ecstatic

***

Thanks so much Kait! I am also offering a class this Saturday (Plotting for Dummies) and two hours of this class can literally save your Nano novel. Yes, this will even work for the Pantsers! All recordings come with purchase price even if you can’t make the actual class. And sure, the class is $35 but that beats the $3500 it would take to get a developmental editor to repair a mess. Also, feel free to peruse my archives for all kinds of free instruction. We really do want you to succeed!

What are your thoughts? Are you tired of starting stories that seem great to begin with then fizzle? Have you finished NaNo and what tools did you enjoy using? Have you ordered the razor wire to put around your desk next month?

I LOVE hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of OCTOBER, 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).

Check out the NEW Plotting for Dummies class below!

All W.A.N.A. classes are on-line and all you need is an internet connection. Recordings are included in the class price.

Upcoming Classes

NEW CLASS!

NEW CLASS! FRIDAY October 21st Plotting for Dummies

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!

SATURDAY, October 22nd Blogging for Authors

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

 

~*~

Kait Nolan is stuck in an office all day, sometimes juggling all three of her jobs at once with the skill of a trained bear—sometimes with a similar temperament. After hours, she uses her powers for good, creating escapist fiction. This Mississippi native has something for everyone, from short and sweet to Southern contemporary romance to action-packed paranormal—all featuring heroes you’d want to sweep you off your feet and rescue you from work-day drudgery. When not working or writing, this reformed Pantser is hanging out in her kitchen cooking and wishing life were a Broadway musical.

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Since we are only a couple weeks away from NaNoWriMo, I thought this would be a great topic to discuss. If you don’t know what NaNoWriMo is? You aren’t a real writer. Kidding! Calm down 😛 .

November is National Novel Writing Month and it’s a fun challenge to see if we have what it takes to write a novel (50,000 words) in one month. Though the challenge is geared toward newer writers, I can attest that writers of all levels join in and it is my favorite time of year. Even though I have written millions of words and five books, I love being part of the challenge because of the creative energy new people bring to the table.

Countless folks will join the challenge just to try and see if they have what it takes to seriously pursue the dream of going pro. Fifty thousand words isn’t a whole novel, but it does represent the everyday pace of the professional. To finish NaNo we need to planning, skills, and persistence of the pros. Not an easy feat. It’s like playing high school basketball then spending a month working out with the Dallas Mavericks.

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But if you hope to finish NaNo or even just that novel? One question must be  answered NOW…or at least by the end of this blog 😀 .

Are you a “real” writer?

When we begin this dream of writing, there are a number of hurdles we must pass if we hope to become successful. Some of those obstacles are on the outside, yet many are internal battles. If we waste precious energy fretting over the things we have no way to change? That’s valuable creative energy that can be focused on what’s within the domain of our responsibility.

Schrodinger’s Cat Writer—Who is a “Real Writer”?

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I see blogs about this all the time, and I’ve been through this myself. We fall into existential thinking. If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, did it fall? Or, if a writer writes a bazillion words and no one reads them, is the writer a “real writer?” Personally, I am into practicality, not philosophy.

I don’t believe it is a case of “real writer” or “fake/poseur/hobbyist writer.”

Oh, I’m not a “real writer” until I’m published, making money and have a three-book deal.

Many of us are asking the wrong question. Real Writer? Hobbyist?

The question has nothing to do with a finished book, a published book, or even hitting a best-seller list. If we use these questions as a litmus test for our success, we will always feel we don’t measure up no matter how much we attain.

I’ve put boundaries on my family and write an hour a day, but since I am not published, I am not a “real writer” yet.

Oh, sure, well I finished a full novel and even published it, but I only sold a few copies. Not a “real writer” yet.” When I hit a best-seller list, then I’ll be a real writer.

Well, I hit the best-seller list on Amazon, but I’ll be a REAL writer when I hit the New York Times list.

We are all “real writers” (if we are putting words on a page) but this is a fruitless pursuit that generally leads nowhere because it’s the wrong question. The question isn’t whether having a finished book, an agent, a three-book deal, high sales numbers and best-selling lists make us “real.”

There is a Difference in the “Real Writer” and the “Professional Writer”

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Why? Because I’ve seen many writers attend writing groups for five, ten fifteen years and I know they likely won’t make it in the business. Are they “real”? Sure, there are pages to critique and they do have that novel they’ve been perfecting since the Bush Administration.

Yet, are they going anywhere?

Being a professional writer is a shift in mind-set and how we view ourselves. We begin to look at our art as our profession even if that profession is the second job next to the day job.

Screw “Aspiring.” Aspiring is for wimps. Takes guts to be a writer.

I’ve attended conferences where attendees easily forked out a thousand dollars or more to learn business and craft. When I ask who in the room is an aspiring writer? Always hands raised. Trust me, anyone willing to put money on the line? That is a “real” writer. In fact, that is part of being a “professional” writer.

“Aspiring writers” are the people who say things like, “Yeah, my life would make a GREAT story. Hey, maybe you could write it. I give you the idea and you write it and we split 50/50.”

Sure, after I go bathe my pet unicorn.

Now, of course, there is the difference between a “professional writer” and a “published professional writer”  and then even a “successful professional writer.” Yet, I assure you if you learn to view yourself first as a professional writer then making your way to the next two levels will come far faster. It’s why I loathe the term “aspiring writer” and encourage titles like “pre-published writer.” Aspiring Writer is fruity-tooty and gives permission for us to be hobbyists and dabblers.

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Professional writer assumes the victory.

The mind is the battlefield, and we have to master how we view ourselves and what we do in order to reach that final tier we long to be part of “successful professional writer.”

When I began, I was an “aspiring writer” too. I spun my wheels, allowed family to walk all over me, and believed my writing time wasn’t valuable (because it was really just a cute hobby since no one could yet buy my book). When my mother wanted to go to lunch or shopping, I stepped away from my work. When my brother needed a last-minute babysitter? Okay, I was only writing.

Transitioning to Professional Writer Gives Us:

Permission to value what we are doing.

We can’t reach our goals if we believe they’re unworthy, or that we are unworthy of attaining them.

Permission to set boundaries.

I remember when I finally put a boundary on my mom. She meant well and wanted to spend time with me. But I finally stood up and said, “I don’t show up in the middle of your shift at the hospital and then give you attitude when you can’t walk away from your job to go shoe shopping with me. This is my job. And no, I am not published yet, but I never will be unless I do the work. I love you and am happy to go to lunch, after I make my word count for the day. You are just going to have to wait.”

Permission to Invest in Our Business

Writing books, craft classes and conferences are now business investments. Yet, some people claim, “Yeah, well anyone can write.” No, you have to be literate and have a desire first. I counter with this. Anyone can be a salesperson (provided you don’t have social phobias and aren’t mute). But not everyone can be a successful salesperson.

There is no licensing or college degrees in “sales” only results. But salespeople have no problem claiming the title and then investing time and money into getting better at SALES, because the good ones embrace the professional status.

Social media isn’t a frivolity, it’s a necessity. How can we learn the dangers in our business, discover great agents, the right publisher, understand the climate of our industry, and network with people who can help us do better (discover great formatters, reviewers, book cover designers, beta readers, editors) if we are an island of one?

Without social media, how can we create a platform that will eventually support and drive book sales if we don’t invest the time in laying the foundation? Blogging isn’t an indulgence, it’s training to become a stronger, faster, leaner writer who makes self-imposed deadlines. It’s also the most stable form of social media and plays to a writer’s strengths. Writers WRITE.

This job requires self-discipline. Trust me, we learn self-discipline when we write no matter what, even if we are blogging to the ether. Yet, keep going and growing? And eventually that won’t be the case.

Blog like I teach you in Rise of the Machines (and in my class Blogging for Authors this Saturday) and eventually your future readers WILL find you, but they can’t find you if there is nothing to discover.

Professionals see value in all of this. They read books, listen to audio books, go to conferences, network, place boundaries (on themselves and others) and they do the WORK.

Permission to Embrace Small Beginnings

There are hair stylists with 6 month waiting lists filled with A-List Hollywood clientele. Guarantee you they didn’t start that way. But what if they gave up when they first began doing hair because only one or two people a day sat in their chair? Followings for blogs and books start slowly and grow with guided, intelligent, persistence.

Permission to Get the Work DONE

The world doesn’t reward perfection, it rewards finishers. Once we shift our view to “professional writers” we innately understand professionals don’t work when they feel like it or are inspired. Professionals have goals and a drive to meet deadlines and benchmarks. They get the butt in chair and work.

So instead of debating the issue of what makes a “real writer”? Which is all opinion and everyone has a different one. I say focus on being a professional writer, because those are far easier to spot :D.

Thus the question I want you to ask yourselves daily (and I do it too) is: Am I being a professional writer? This will make it far clearer to praise what we’re doing right and come up higher in areas where we fall short.

What are your thoughts? Questions? Have you called yourself an aspiring writer and had friends, family, pets and needy houseplants walk all over your writing time? Have you made the mental transition and found greater focus? Have you had to invest in a meth-addicted Tasmanian Devil with a gun to guard your office? A guinea pig with a mean streak who’s willing to violate his parole?

I LOVE hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of OCTOBER, 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).

Check out the NEW Plotting for Dummies class below!

All W.A.N.A. classes are on-line and all you need is an internet connection. Recordings are included in the class price.

Upcoming Classes

NEW CLASS!

NEW CLASS! FRIDAY October 21st Plotting for Dummies

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!

SATURDAY, October 22nd Blogging for Authors

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

 

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Ah, it is National Novel Writing Month. Many of you are participating in NaNoWriMo (write 50,000 words in a month) and many are not. Either way is fine. Your call. I love doing Nano simply because I have to fast draft everything because I tend to nitpick stuff to death, especially fiction.

I fast draft all year, so November is the only time I have company and lots of immoral support.

Why do I love writing fast? So happy you asked!

Many new authors slog out that first book, editing every word to perfection, revising, reworking, redoing. When I used to be a part of critique groups, it was not at all uncommon to find writers who’d been working on the same book two, five, eight and even ten years. Still see them at conferences, shopping the same book, getting rejected, then rewriting, rewriting…..

Sigh.

Great, maybe Kathryn Stockett, the author of The Help took five years and 62 revisions to get her story published. Awesome for her. And yes, her book was a runaway success, but this isn’t the norm. It’s playing Literary Lottery with our careers.

For most writers, it will be hard to have a long-term successful career if our pace is a book or two a decade.

Most authors who’ve made legend status were all talented, yes. But many were (are) also prolific. 

Does Writing Quickly Produce Inferior Work?

As I mentioned in a post last week, I’m a huge fan of Fast Draft. Candy Havens teaches this technique, and it works. Write your novel in two weeks a month, whatever, but write fast and furious. No looking back. Always forward. You can fix stuff later.

I’ve heard some writers criticize this method, believing that writing at this increased pace somehow compromises quality. Many writers are afraid that picking up speed will somehow undermine craftsmanship, yet this isn’t necessarily so.

To prove my point, here are some interesting factoids about writing hard and fast, some taken from James Scott Bell’s WONDERFUL book The Art of War for Writers (pages 79-82):

  • William Faulkner wrote As I Lay Dying in six weeks.
  • Ernest Hemingway wrote The Sun Also Rises in six weeks.
  • After being mocked by a fellow writer that writing so fast created junk, John D. MacDonald wrote The Executioners in a month. Simon & Schuster published it in hardback. It was also serialized in a magazine, selected by a book club, and turned into the movie Cape Fear TWICE.
  • Ray Bradbury wrote Fahrenheit 451 in nine days on a rented typewriter.
  • Isaac Asimov was the author/editor of over 700 books over the course of his career.
  • Stephen King writes 1,500 words a day every day of the year except his birthday. He’s published over fifty novels, and I don’t even know how many short stories and novellas. Let’s just say he’s written a LOT. Could he have done this writing a book every three years? Every five?

NO.

Meet “Captain Kirk Brain” and “Spock Brain”

Here’s my explanation of why writing faster than we “are comfortable” can produce fiction just as good (if not better) than a work that’s been written slowly and deliberately. And, since all roads that don’t lead to Lord of the Rings lead to Star Trek…

When we write quickly, we get into The Zone and pass The Wall. We become part of the world we’re creating. Fatigue wears out the cerebral cortex (the “Inner Editor” which I will call our “Spock Brain”). Fatigue diverts us to the Limbic Brain (also known as the Reptilian or Primal Brain, or for today’s purposes—“The Captain Kirk Brain”).

When we get tired, we go into a fugue-like state and our reality shifts. The closest way non-writers can experience this is by licking strange frogs or chasing 20 Pixie Sticks with a bottle of NyQuil.

Anyway….

When we immerse ourselves and keep pressing and pushing we are there. Vested and present. We think about that place we’ve created and the people we’ve imagined non-stop. We eat, think, and dream about it.

If we slow down? We’re constantly having to reacclimatize ourselves and regain familiarity, which costs us time and makes us over think and second guess. We also end up making dumb mistakes.

I had one book I wrote many years ago and it took me so long to finish that I’d actually changed the NAME of a few of the key characters by the end of the book. How did Dave suddenly become Mark? That was how unfamiliar I was with my own story. I was letting Spock Brain put curb feelers on my cortex.

Kirk brain? Another story.

Kirk Brain is emotional, visceral and has no problem kissing hot, green alien women or cheating the Kobayashi Maru. He out-bluffs Klingons, outruns Romulans, starts brawls and throws the rulebook out the window. He’s pure instinct, raw emotion and all action. In short, Kirk is the stuff of great stories. No one ever got to the end of a book and said, “Wow, that book was riveting. The grammar was PERFECT!”

Captain Kirk Brain can do it’s job better—write fiction—when Spock Brain isn’t there saying, “But Captain, you’re being illogical. It clearly states in Strunk & White….”

The BEST line in the last Star Trek movie was when Khan says to Spock, “You can’t even break rules, how can you expect to break bones?” So, I’m going to apply this to writing.

Are you breaking enough bones?

Many writers hold back emotionally when writing. Why? They aren’t going fast and hard and so Spock takes over and he wants us to use a seatbelt and our blinkers. He isn’t the guy you want in charge if you’re going for the GUTS and breaking bones.

Kirk is Great for Action and Spock is Better for Rules

Spock Brain is a perfectionist and wants us to take our time, make sure we follow all the rules and put the commas in the right spot. He’s seriously uncomfortable with “suspending disbelief” and he tries to explain everything so others don’t get confused. He doesn’t like risk-taking and he hates going big. Thus, he downplays things and that is poison for great fiction.

The trick is to hop on a cerebral crotch-rocket and outrun Spock. He is seriously uncomfortable with speeding and you can easily lose him in the school zones or the parking lot of Walmart. Don’t worry, Spock will yell at us later….at the appropriate time which is during revisions.

Thing is, Kirk and Spock make the perfect team, whether on The Enterprise or in our head. They balance each other, but they are also antagonists. Kirk wants to put phasers on KILL, and Spock wants to check and see if the rules for the Oxford Comma allows this.

Blogging and Writing Quickly Helps Us Learn to Shut off The Spock Brain

Blogging helps us ship and get comfortable with going FAST. No maybe every piece isn’t the quality of a New Yorker article, but who cares? It’s a BLOG. We aren’t looking to win the Pulitzer. We’re looking to get better riding a Cerebral Ducati and ignoring all of Spock’s protests that “This isn’t safe” and “Where is our helmet?” and “Clearly the speed limit forbids you going this fast.”

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When we get the stories out and on the screen faster, they’re more visceral. We get more practice with more stories since we aren’t letting Spock nit-pick for the next ten years…which he will do if Kirk doesn’t go running the other way despite Spock’s protests. So even if you don’t do Nano, try picking up speed. I know it’s scary but what do you have to lose?

What are your thoughts? Has your inner Vulcan taken over and edited all the life out of your story? Has Kirk been allowed too much sway and now you’ve got to let Spock whip it into structure shape? Does the idea of going faster scare you?

I LOVE hearing from you!

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. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel.

I will announce OCTOBER’S WINNER later. Hubby has had the flu and I need more time to figure out who won.

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