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?
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.
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.
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:
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).
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”: