Kristen Lamb

Author, Blogger, Social Media Jedi

Kristen Lamb — Photo

Posts Tagged: WANA

Original image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Sodanie Chea
Original image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Sodanie Chea

Kristen has foolishly graciously handed her blog over to me today while she is recovering from the flu and is locked up in her NaNoWriMo cave.

But Marcy! I don’t want to go on the cart! 

*swats Kristen*

If she hits her word count, we can slide a gluten-free brownie to her through the bars later to get rid of the taste of that horrible Mucinex.

But I feel HAPPY! I think I can go for a walk!

Um, one minute. *hushed voice* Fine, you don’t have to go on the cart but get off Facebook and back to writing and let me do the blog for you so you can rest and write. Okay?

But I just—

Cart? *stern face*

Yes ma’am. But could you please get Jami Gold to stop tweeting BRING OUT YOUR DEAD! It’s freaking me out. I think she has it automated with my name in it.

If you would get off Twitter and write, Jami wouldn’t be bothering you, would she?

*sticks out tongue and slinks off with blankie* I WANT BROWNIES! *slams door*

Oh, sorry about that. She’ll be fine. Where were we?

Since Kristen is in captivity, that means no one is around to stop us, so I think it’s time to pull back the wizard’s curtain and reveal a secret to POV. For those who may not know, POV stands for point of view and almost always should be limited to one character at a time or things get very confusing.

Why POV is vital for your story is this is how you are going to slip your reader ever so subtly into the skin of your characters. Get your readers so comfortable they never want to leave. When we make POV errors? It shatters the fictive dream. That is why getting really good at POV is vital. We must maintain the magic.

Here’s the secret that a lot of writers don’t realize about POV.

Many point-of-view errors are simply the flip side of telling rather than showing.

What is telling when we’re writing about our viewpoint character becomes a POV error when we’re writing about a non-viewpoint character. So if we understand the difference between telling and showing, we’ll be better prepared to also spot point-of-view errors.

It’s almost as cool as being able to juggle plates while circling a hula hoop. (Actually, I’d settle for being able to do either of those alone. Tips anyone?)

Let me give you a little refresher on showing and telling first before I explain how telling and POV errors are dopplegangers.

Showing vs. Telling

Showing happens when we let the reader experience things for themselves, through the perspective of the characters. It presents evidence to the reader and allows them to draw their own conclusions, while telling dictates a conclusion to the reader, telling them what to believe. Telling states a fact.

Bob was angry dictates a conclusion. It’s telling.

But what was the evidence?

Bob punched his fist into the wall. (This is showing.)

The Black Plague ravaged the country dictates a conclusion. It’s telling.

But what was the evidence?

We could describe men loading dead bodies covered in oozing sores onto a wagon. Our protagonist could press a handkerchief filled with posies to her nose and mouth as she passes someone who’s drawing in ragged, labored breaths. Either of those details, or many others, would show the Black Death ravaging the country.

(If you want to learn more about showing and telling, you might want to take a look at another post I wrote for Kristen about How Star Trek Helps Us with Showing Rather than Telling.)

So How Does This Help Us Catch POV Errors Again?

POV errors happen any time we’re in a limited point of view where we’re supposed to stay inside one viewpoint character at a time and we write something that our viewpoint character couldn’t know, wouldn’t have experienced, or wouldn’t be thinking about.

At first this doesn’t sound like it has much of anything to do with showing vs. telling. Which means it’s time for some examples so we can see it in action. I’ll put the POV error/telling parts of our examples in bold.

Eric was too angry to listen to any more.

When Eric is our viewpoint character, this is telling. We’ve told the reader that he’s angry. We haven’t shown his anger.

When Eric isn’t our viewpoint character, this is a point-of-view error. Our viewpoint character can’t know that Eric is too angry to continue to listen.

Let’s look at another one.

Kate realized she’d locked her keys in the car.

When Kate is our viewpoint character, this is telling. We’re dictating a conclusion to the reader. What do you experience? We can’t see “realized.” We don’t know how she knows her keys are locked in the car. There’s no picture here.

If Kate isn’t our viewpoint character, this is a point-of-view error. How does our viewpoint character know what Kate is realizing?

A version of this that I see all the time in my editing work is something like:

He thought about that for a minute.

If he’s our viewpoint character, we’ve told the reader he’s thinking, but we’re not showing them the content of his thoughts.

If he’s not our viewpoint character, there’s no way the viewpoint character can know what he’s thinking about or even that he’s thinking at all.

Final one.

Elizabeth went to the woodshed to get the axe.

When Elizabeth is our viewpoint character, this is telling. We’re told why she planned to go to the woodshed, but we don’t see her actually get the axe.

When Elizabeth isn’t our viewpoint character, this is a point-of-view error. Our viewpoint character can’t know for sure why Elizabeth went to the woodshed. Maybe she was going in there to cry. Or maybe she planned to crawl out the back window and run away.

One of the things I love most about writing is how everything we learn works together. When we get better at one part of writing, other parts start to slide into place as well.

*COUGH COUGH COUGH*

Yes, it’s Kristen. Just give me a sec before Marcy boots me out. As an editor POV is a HUGE deal. So many new writers screw this up and if you mess up POV your reader will be left feeling like she’s been strapped to Hell’s Tilt-A-Whirl. What is REALLY insidious about POV is, unless you get some training? You won’t see it because you are the creator.

So what often happens is we end up with a bunch of bored or ticked off readers who couldn’t keep in the story but even they can’t articulate WHY. Guarantee you very often the problem was POV. It one of THE most COMMON blunders even I see when I edit.

So please check out Marcy’s book and class because she is a ROCKSTAR at teaching this stuff. And now I am going back in my hole.

I WANT BROWNIES! *slams door*

Need More Help With Point of View?

Check out my book Point of View in Fiction. Point of view isn’t merely another writing craft technique. Point of view is the foundation upon which all other elements of the writing craft stand or fall.

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In Point of View in Fiction, you’ll learn how to choose the right POV for your story, how to avoid POV errors, how to choose the right viewpoint character for each scene, how to know how many viewpoint characters to use, and much more.

Itís available in print and ebook format and most places (so you can grab it from Amazon, Kobo, Apple iBooks, or Barnes & Noble).

Add some LIVE teaching to go WITH that book. I’m running a W.A.N.A. International Webinar How to Master Point of View on Friday, November 20 so sign up and learn how to make story MAGIC!

The webinar will be recorded and made available to registrants, so even if you can’t make it at the scheduled time, you can sign up and listen later at your convenience.

Click here to sign up for How to Master Point of View.

Thank you Marcy!

I LOVE hearing from you, especially when I have guests which is why all comments on guest posts get double-suck-up points. Hey, Marcy is doing me a solid because yes, I am on the mend from the flu, but I still had/have the flu and Hubby is lucky he is cute for getting me sick.

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.

Okay, THIS guy no longer is replacing B&N
Okay, I have to close my bookstore. DANG IT!

Man, I SO love being right. Not to brag, but those who’ve followed me any amount of time know my tract record for predictions is pretty darn impressive. Back as early as 2006 I knew social media was going to be a game changer for novelists. Until social media, fiction authors had zero ability to build a platform of fans before the book was ever finished/published, unlike non-fiction authors (which probably explained our 96% failure rate).

The only way a novelist could build a platform or brand was through already published books. This was NOT the case for the non-fiction author.

Unlike novelists, NF authors weren’t trying to spin an audience from the ether and praying the stars aligned when their books hit shelves. Non-fiction writers exhibited some control—actually quite a lot of control—in creating a platform of fans who were ready and eager for a purchase before the product came to market. Often this was done through activities like public speaking, lecturing or writing articles.

When Web 2.0 came on the scene (a product of the dot.com implosion) and user-generated content began accelerating, the future seemed very clear to me. User-generated content WAS the future. Who was best at creating content? Helloooo? WRITERS! Finally we had a small stage of our own where we could at least make a dent in that nightmare known as discoverability.

In 2008, I pitched numerous agents a book about social media for authors. I was laughed at. They told me that Facebook was a fad and that e-books would never be statistically significant. That they’d weathered the great “books on tape” scare that was supposed to render all paper books extinct and e-books would soon go away along with social media.

I countered:

Hey, paper is never going away. There is always going to be a market for that, but it’s going to be utterly reinvented. The paper model can’t be sustained the way it’s going. It’s too wasteful.

Also, e-books are going to be bigger than you realize. The only reason they haven’t been a big deal so far is no one has come out with a tablet or e-reader that is affordable and user-friendly. That happens? Game over. You need to be ahead of this curve.

Who cares how people read so long as they are reading? And paying YOU?

*does Jerry Maguire face* Help ME, help YOU.

Aaaaaand then Steve Jobs came out with the iPad and the iPhone went mainstream. All phones became smartphones and life as we knew it imploded. Then the Nook and Kindle and yeah. E-books are kind of a BIG DEAL. So are audio books, btw. Ever heard of Audible? Whispersync?

A little thing called Twitter?

And that agent to this day walks the other direction when he sees me.

I’ve been blogging eight years telling writers that social media is critical. Granted, the first year people ignored me. The next year readers just called me a witch. Then, people went from pissy to borderline violent, which is odd because hey, I am just here to help.

Don’t want to do social media? Don’t. But we are no longer in a world with a Borders and a Barnes & Noble on every corner…and I mean every corner. 

But this brings up what I wanted to talk about today. Anyway, I was patting myself on the back about what a GENIUS I a—-OUCH!!! CRAMP! BREATHE! Walk it off…

For the most part I have been pretty accurate in my projections. I’d love to say that it is that it is I am really smart. Or even that it has to do with that deal I made with Satan junior year, only that deal involved me being able to eat all the pizza I wanted and never get fat.

Where was I?

Thing is, markets never stay the same. They shouldn’t. Stagnation is actually bad juju.

Anyway, in my POV humans really never outgrow being toddlers. We get really, really enamored with something and then either drop it like Season 7 of Lost or we find a new homeostasis. That thing just gets integrated into our lives, because we dig it, but we are no longer all cray-cray with it.

Yes, “cray-cray” IS a legitimate business term.

See, I’m an entrepreneur and entrepreneurs love fixing broken stuff. We also hate it when businesses continue to be epically STUPID. In my book Rise of the Machines I go into more detail about all this jazz, but here is the elevator version.

The traditional paper model worked for a hundred years because there was no better way. But, when the world handed Borders and B&N a better way on a silver platter? They ignored it.

In the traditional model, agents and editors bank on previous sales to project future sales. This is why so many of your bookstores are all stocked with the same authors. Most of them big-name heavy-hitters. For the new author? This made (makes) breaking out next to impossible.

Most writers who are fortunate enough to make it into a bookstore are spine-out on a shelf and have to hope their last name lands them at eye-level because if they have no platform? Browsing Roulette is the best one can hope for. This is not the publisher being mean. Big names make the most money. Money means they actually have the means to publish new authors.

The fact that Amazon was going to dominate the e-book industry was a given. Low-hanging fruit. But, in my mind, I knew at some point it only made sense for them to at least try going brick-and-mortar. BUT, I knew this would probably only happen once the giants were dead or close to.

Now? Borders is a memory and B&N is struggling. Last I visited, they are now selling vinyl records, which is cool…albeit weird.

Amazon has always had several factors in its favor. First, it doesn’t have all the bloated overhead. It didn’t have giant 35,000 square foot stores on every corner. Then, B&N catered far more to traditional publishing. But, as we have all witnessed in recent rears, many of the breakout runaway successes did not come from traditional. Hugh Howey is a big one that comes to mind.

And even the books that DID sell a lot of copies (meaning generated revenue) that might have originally been traditionally published were backlist published by the authors themselves. Thus these profit centers (books) wouldn’t have ever been stocked by a B&N anyway because B&N generally only carried current stuff.

Amazon, conversely, was smart and saw the MAJOR advantage of compounded sales.

For instance in 2009, B&N had one new Bob Mayer NF for sale, Who Dares Wins (excellent book, btw). Hello! On Amazon now you can get everything that man has penned since the 80s, books the publishers no longer wanted but that were excellent books. Books I had to track down in secondhand stores before Amazon came along.

Why?

Bob was a New York Times and USA Today Best Selling Author and a damn fine writer, but NY publishing was only interested in one book at a time and the old stuff was old news. It’s why they handed Bob back his rights.

They weren’t going to do anything with those old books. WTH? I read ONE Area 51 book and hunted through every secondhand book store in DFW to get the series and NY had no interest in at least trying to put those in e-book?

Those suckers sold millions of copies when they were released. The stories were still awesome. They weren’t like the spinach I forgot in my vegetable crisper that grew e-coli and that would KILL you if you ingested after they were no longer available in print.

Anyway, NY didn’t want to republish them but, to Amazon? Ka-CHING! Why sell one Bob book when you can sell 50?

Back to brick-and-mortar.

Remember I said humans go through cycles. I think in the 90s we grew enamored with BIG. We loved the mega-store. Bigger was better until, frankly, it just got ridiculous. Do we really need to be able to buy a tractor at the same place we order our kid’s birthday cake?

Bookstores did the same thing. But stocking all these books (the same books) was really wasteful and this led to a major market contraction.

Okay the market snapped with more force than Kim Kardashian’s Spanx.

We snapped back the other direction. I love shopping on-line. OMG, I need a 12 Step group for my book-buying habit. But, frankly, I miss browsing a bookstore. We need bookstores!

Here Comes Amazon 😉 

Because Amazon is smart. Amazon looks at where its competitors went wrong and it improves. That is the beating heart of true capitalism. Evolution. Amazon has every major component to make this work. I predicted they would do this back in 2012. Seriously, here is one of the posts.

And it was funny, because recently I was talking to my husband and wondering what was up. Amazon makes killer business decisions and deep down my gut told me I was right about them eventually opening a brick-and-mortar. I couldn’t be wrong about that. Everything about it made sense.

Then, *ANGELS SING* I saw THIS! Amazon opened its first REAL BOOKSTORE in Seattle YESTERDAY.

Amazon Has Algorithms

If they open more stores than the Seattle location, there is NO NEED to make a big store. The only reason for the megastore was because it was a scattergun effect. Stock enough titles and hope. Also stock BIG names and those probably would sell. If you had some weird outlier? An indie or self-pub that went viral? A new author who didn’t get a big enough print run? You missed it.

Not Amazon.

But Amazon knows who is selling. It has the data. It also knows not all areas have the same tastes in books. When the movie American Sniper came out, I guarantee you more copies sold in Texas. Probably more here in my town since I am right down the road from where Chris Kyle lived.

Also, Millennials love retro. Heck, most of us like retro. Retro is huge! Um, Star Wars? Sometimes an old book for reasons unknown could pop on the radar. Old Conan the Barbarian books or maybe early Ann Rice titles that suddenly lots of readers would love to have in PAPER.

What if you could strategically stock every store? Wait! Now, you can.

Amazon is Loyal to the Customer

They don’t care if we are indie, self-pub, traditional. Heck, Amazon doesn’t care if we can even write (a topic for another blog). But, if we publish a book of nothing but commas?

,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

And people DIG THAT? Readers WANT that? Amazon will print copies of the book of nothing but commas and have plenty of them in stock to keep customers happy.

Amazon Gives Authors Advantage

In the old days, premium placement at a bookstore (or any placement for that matter) was negotiated beforehand by an agent. Now? If Amazon expands this brick-and-morter biz? They don’t care about politics. They care about profit.

We finally have a business model that is based off of merit. It rewards books that sell. Period.

Amazon IS Skynet

Amazon is omnifreakingpresent. They are everywhere and in everything and Hollywood is next on their radar. And yeah sure sure maybe their time will come if they rest on their laurels and get stupid, but for now? They are pretty hot stuff because they do smart stuff. And I hear we don’t have to take the mark of the Beast if we sign up for Amazon Prime 😀

Screen Shot 2015-11-04 at 7.33.53 AM

They are bringing back a user-friendly bookstore. Small, efficient, and intimate like the B. Daltons of our youth, but customized to our tastes. We can buy paper books AND load up the Kindle. Also, I guarantee you there will eventually be kiosks in there to give us what we can’t find on shelves.

Screen Shot 2014-04-14 at 11.23.16 AM

 

B&N…HELLOOOOO?
B&N…HELLOOOOO?

Can find it? Heck, they will ship it to us for FREE with a Prime Membership.

In my mind, this is great news for authors. I never really worried. I always knew there would be a place for the bookstore. I figured Amazon was doing exactly what it was doing (gaining a stockpile of talented authors who sold a crap-ton of titles, signing up most of the global population to Amazon Prime, gathering data and perfecting algorithms).  The ridiculously large superstores? Not so much. That was just dumb business in my POV.

Yes, people love paper books. We love e-books. But the digital age has been a fascinating era of exploration. This new evolution of creating an actual bookstore is a boon for readers. They now have a browsing space where they can discover new books and physically touch them.

It also gives us writers a new goal to shoot for, because, frankly, making it onto the Amazon landing page was not in my “little girl” dreams when I envisioned my life as a successful writer.

Book signings are SUPER awkward when you break into people’s homes and it is really hard to personalize your signature when the cops are hauling you away in handcuffs.

Just saying…

What are your thoughts? Are you excited about the reinvention of the bookstore? Do you miss being able to walk through a small bookstore in your local mall?

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 STILL has flu and I need more time to figure out who won…because I have not slept in a freaking WEEK. Sorry. I love you.

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

My impression of writers on social media….
My impression of writers on social media…. #tinfoilhat

I am an “Old Dog” of the digital publishing paradigm. When I started out on social media, I did not want to be a social media expert. I enjoyed editing and teaching and longed to write fiction. But every a$$clown with a Twitter handle was a “Social Media Expert” and much of the teaching was nothing short of ridiculous.

Some of the advice was downright predatory (or, in my book, cheating).

In my estimation, most of the tactics were more likely to increase author suicide rates than book sales, so I finally decided to become a Social Media Expert Jedi 😉 .

I’ve been through all the fads. The FREE BOOK Rush of 2010, The Great .99 Book Deal of 2011, The Amazing Algorithmic Alchemy, The Magical Metrics and the Automation Invasion of 2012-2014 (there are still skirmishes along the front).

Guess what? I’m still here.

I don’t say this really to brag as much as to make a point. Social media, done properly is not a short-term burst of gimmicky energy. There is no magic to it and it while it is simple, that doesn’t mean it’s easy. We not only have to manage the brand, we also produce the product.

Not a job for the faint of heart.

And with all the tweeting and blogging and slogging month after month and year after year, I know that it is SUPER easy for us writers to get overwhelmed. That’s why today, I’m here to offer some simple ways to inject fire back into your writing and your career.

*plays Eye of the Tiger loudly* *punches at the air*

#1—Appreciate that Writing and Social Media Branding Can Coexist

When I am on Twitter, I often get tweets like these:

Screen Shot 2015-10-19 at 9.56.12 AM

Guess what? I agree! The writing always, always comes first. But why is there an almost automatic assumption we must choose?

Social media, done the way I teach in Rise of the Machines, takes maybe 10-15 minutes a day and feel free to take off weekends. I offer no get-rich-quick advice. My author platforms take time (and discipline) to build, but they are virtually indestructible.

And the writer who tells me she doesn’t have ten minutes a day to work on her brand isn’t serious about being successful.

Whether we like it or not, social media is necessary for our job. Yes writing is fun, but it is still a profession.

Writers are in the entertainment business. Note that half that word is business. We are in the business of selling books. When I was in sales, we had a saying. Fish where the fish are. And the fish are schooling on social media. Makes sense to drop some lines.

The writer who is willing to tackle doing social media well is making a transition from hobbyist to professional. Celebrate! This means you are going places!

Thus, if the career has been sluggish, it might be time to go polish some other types of skills that are now required in this profession. Many times, the problem isn’t with the tool. We simply don’t know how to use that tool well.

#2—YES!!! The Product is All that Matters

When it comes to a brand, the surface perception is only part of the equation. I can have a fabulous website, great author pics, charming tweets and be a downright likable gal, but if my books stink?

No amount of social media magic can salvage literary dog poo.

This is one of the reasons I have written over 900 blogs. I blog a lot on craft because the product is essential. It is the most important part of the equation. Yes, write first. Take classes. Hone your art. Because your social media brand must be able to deliver an excellent product. It is okay to believe that your writing is important because…it IS.

So yes, we do need to work on our platform but you do have my “expert” opinion to focus on that end product. Relax about the social media, stuff. Really.

#3—Embrace the Social Media Trickle Down Effect

Part of embracing the new type of work we must do as digital age writers comes with redefining how we see our work. Feel free to get on social media and trudge through it like some chore, but with that kind of an attitude? I recommend just staying off altogether. We can sense a poor attitude through the screen.

Instead, I recommend you reframe what you’re doing and how beneficial that time really is. It’s an investment in you, in your success beyond simply selling books. There are all kinds of other benefits many writers never even consider.

Networking

Virtually every profession benefits from professional networking, why would writing be any different? Where else can you have 24 hour access to publishing professionals all over the world? Follow your heroes and make them mentors. What are they reading? What are they doing? How do they manage their time?

Where else other than Twitter could I start my day chatting with the former editor of Cosmopolitan Magazine (and one of my FAVORITE authors)?

Screen Shot 2015-10-08 at 9.40.58 AM

I used Twitter to follow James Rollins. It’s how I got to know him well enough to eventually contact him about giving me a blurb for my second book.

While an in-person writing group is great, often they can be a bit heavy with new writers. Places like Twitter or Facebook allow us access to the seasoned pros. We can chat with people we’d have to otherwise wait a year or more to see at a conference. Take advantage!

Research

Every writer out there gripes about not having enough time to write. Okay. Twitter helps us work smarter not harder. Twitter can make research much faster and far more accurate.

For instance, if you want to write a sexy new story with a Navy SEAL and don’t want to lose weeks researching, hop onto #NAVY and make some connections. Experts are always eager to help writers get the facts correct. The fastest and easiest way to find them?

Twitter.

Being Brave

And, for the shy folks, I know social media is forcing you to do something afraid. That is good. Use this time to hone being brave. Be brave in the small moments on-line and it might make you braver in your writing.

In the end, remember that there are mega-successful authors who are using social media to reap major advantages. This notion that we must choose writing or networking is short-sighted and an excuse. We all must learn simply to use time well and be disciplined.

If we assume that platform-building is this awful horrible time-intensive thing, then we psych ourselves out of some truly fantastic benefits that can really fire up our careers. We have to remember that it is very possible to write books and be on social media. Just like we can bathe and brush our teeth. No need to choose 😉 .

What are your thoughts? Do you psych yourself out when it comes to branding and social media? Do you think you need to do everything? Do you see how social media can allow you to take simple steps to fire up your future? What are some ways you add some mojo back into your routine?

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.

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

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

Writing is a uniquely difficult profession for more than a number of reasons. There are a lot of things we could have chosen to do that would have been easier. For instance, discovering life on Mars, developing telepathy, or inventing gluten-free dairy-free calorie-free carb-free pizza that smooths wrinkles the more slices you eat.

😀

There are days that even I go. Really, Kristen? You HAD to be a writer? You could have been a brain surgeon by now.

Then my muse comes back and says, “What? And take the EASY way out?”

Me and my Muse
Me and my Muse

This is a tough tough job and I am here to let you know…

It never gets easier.

Ever.

It’s like Space Invaders. It just gets faster and faster and harder and harder…until you DIE.

Or give up.

You’re welcome.

This is why we must do this job because we love it. Writing is not a profession we get into for any other reason other than we have a passion for one thing…writing. I’ve experienced many levels of being an author. I’ve been the wide-eyed teenager in a bookstore spending babysitting money on a copy of Writer’s Digest Magazine because one day I was going to be a writer.

I’ve been a brand new writer who had no clue that POV did not mean Prisoners of Vietnam.

I’ve graduated from being so clueless I didn’t even realize how clueless I was to being someone who writes full time, travels the country speaking to hundreds of people. I’ve written almost a thousand blogs and have three books under my belt. Five if we count the two that are not yet published.

Fifteen if we count all of those that the State Department has locked at the CDC.

This is all to say that, at some point, I’ve been where most of you are now. In my last post, Good Girls Don’t Become Best-Sellers I talked about how imperative it is that we CALL ourselves a writer, that we USE our names. There is no aspiring. When we hide behind cutesy monikers and avatars and call ourselves “aspiring” writers we are being chicken$#!t.

*If you didn’t know better, it is okay. I did it too ((HUGS))*

Fortune favors the bold.

But what happens if you have been bold? Maybe you are calling yourself a writer and you are blogging (mostly) and you just have hit a slump that you just can’t seem to get out of. Having been at this for many years, I will tell you it happens. Success is not a straight shot up and to the right.

This is why I loathe the term aspiring writer with the power of a thousand suns. Aspiring is a poseur. Aspiring wears a beret and quotes Keates in a phony accent and drinks too many cappuccinos then walks the check. Aspiring is a fake and a flake. Aspiring won’t be there in the dark night of the soul when the blood runs freely and you’re holding your own guts. Aspiring is a literary booty call and a book baby daddy. Aspiring wants all of the benefits of a “relationship” with none of the sacrifice.

The thing is, “aspiring writers” never get stuck any more that a unicorn gets stuck because a unicorn isn’t a real animal and an aspiring writer isn’t a real writer and only real writers get stuck.

And yeah, I know I just made myself about as popular as a clown at a funeral for that one, but the aspiring writers will all be too lazy or chicken to blog about it.

Now that we are left with the writers. You will get stuck and today we’ll talk about three main reasons why.

You are Still Trying to Find the Time

This happens a lot especially in the beginning of your career, especially if you are unaware of that nonsense about calling yourself “aspiring.” If you desire to be PAID for your writing then you are no longer a hobbyist, you are a writer. This means this is a job. Granted, what level of job is going to be up to you. It must be congruent with your goals.

This said, time is not loose change lying around in the couch cushions with the Cheerios and the remote control. We don’t find time, we make time. If you were attending law school, would you have to “find time” for that? If someone told you today that a NYC agent had a deal ready to sign along with a check for a sweet advance, would you wonder if you could find the time to make the meeting?

If we don’t take ourselves seriously no one else will.

Decide how much time you require to meet your goal and then everything else is scheduled around THAT.

You Aim to Please

People please, that is. I hate saying this, but I have struggled with being a notorious people-pleaser. I’ve bordered on an almost pathological need to be liked. Still do. When I was starting out, everything came before my writing. My brother and sister-in-law would drop off their young children for me to watch because I didn’t have a real job.

My mom would interrupt and expect me to take her shopping or help her paint or run errands. Everyone felt they had carte blanche to part out my day because I wasn’t doing anything anyway.

Then, later when I joined a critique group, every time someone didn’t like something, I’d change it to make them happy. Pretty soon, what probably was a good (albeit newbie story) was a Franken-novel beyond repair.

When I began blogging, the second a commenter said something negative, I’d change whatever the “offense” was. Or, I’d make my content “tamer”. Guess what I’ve learned?

Your family can find other friends and babysitters. No one wants to publish a Franken-novel and no one cares about milk toast blogs.

Why the aspiring writer is such a loathsome creature is that writers are mysterious and glamorous for good reasons. We are brave and daring and we say all the stuff that mere mortals wish they had the stones to SAY and yet we actually write and then sign our freaking name to.

Aspiring writers want to wear a purple heart when they’ve never left home, let alone been shot.

Real writers cannot be liked all the time by everyone. So, if you are stuck, it is likely you are trying too hard to be liked. Guess what? Some folks on Facebook were offended by my post Good Girls Don’t Become Best-Sellers because I didn’t include men. Well, I didn’t include iguanas or african pygmy goats either. Sorry. The blog is only so long and there are brave bold Bad Girl Guys who apparently had no trouble reading between the lines and are smart enough to think in metaphors. The rest? They are not my audience.

You Are Thin-Skinned

We all start out as baby writers and just like babies, we all start with baby soft skin. But this is a tough business and we need to put ourselves out there to toughen it up. And YES, it SUCKS! I remember the first time I attended a critique group. I cried for an hour in the parking lot and nearly ODed on Twinkies.

One of the reasons I love for writers to blog is that a blog is the ideal form of social media for writers, and in my book I teach how to do it well. Blogging plays to our strengths. Writers WRITE.

Who cares if our blog never goes viral or no one reads it? In the meantime, a blog makes you commit to a deadline. It trains you for a professional pace and puts you in a professional mindset. WRITERS WRITE.

A blog forces you to put yourself out there, to brave critique. And yes, there are trolls and we have to learn to handle them because they do no go away when we publish, they only get worse. You do not want to wait to develop thick skin once the book is out. TRUST me on that.

I was stuck for years because I was writing for the wrong reasons. I was writing because I was insecure and I needed to hear a non-stop outpouring of praise. Anything counter to that, I couldn’t handle. It made me give up. It wasn’t until I deliberately placed myself in the crucible that I began to toughen up and I started to really grow as a professional.

Very often we are stuck because we fear pain. We are experiencing pain because we have thin skin. The only way to get thicker skin is to brave pain. Place yourself where you are bound to grow the most. When I was new, I had all kinds of friends who eagerly told me that my writing was better than kitten hugs, but I knew I needed to win over the person who was the toughest to impress.

If you find a really great writing group, you know who I am talking about. Maybe invest in a writing class. Treat yourself to a Death Star Treatment with me *evil laugh*. Find an editor you respect. Don’t wait until you have to find the money to get a full edit. Get 50 pages and pay them to shred you so you don’t waste time and money on an unpublishable mess. We don’t grow unless we embrace the pain.

All three of these stumbling blocks boil down to making this profession (making YOURSELF) a priority. Time is what we make of it. When we try to please everyone, we please no one. We need to suck it up and writer up.

What are your thoughts? Do you let friends and family part our your time? Do you let them take far too much control over your schedule? Are you afraid of making waves? Do you try too hard to keep the peace and only end up resentful? OR? Are you a ROCKSTAR at putting down boundaries? What are YOUR secrets or tips? Do you struggle with being thin-skinned? Are you terrified of putting yourself out there?

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.

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

Original image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Sodanie Chea
Original image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Sodanie Chea

I love to think of myself as having a special eye for talent, and when I find gems like Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi, it just makes a gal go “SQUEEEE!” I’ve been following these ladies for a loooong time since they were relatively new in their careers.

These days?

Back up because they are a powerhouse and they offer up some of the most excellent writing instruction in the business. They are the authors of the legendary Emotion Thesaurus which eventually gave rise to stacks of other writing tools (I recommend and use them ALL) and now they are launching something truly special.

And, since they are rockstars, they have given me, the W.A.N.A. Mama a very cool deal to share with you guys at the end of this post. This is HUGE! This is the new state-of -the-art-site every writer needs. One place for all the tools we use, and Becca is here to tell us some more about how One Stop will help you reach your dreams and how to get it. You need this. You deserve it. NaNo is coming. You will thank me later 😉 .

But, the best editors will always say, show don’t tell so this isn’t simply a sales pitch. Becca is here to talk about how story elements must work together and then use that to introduce how One Stop helps make that happen (and then the super sweet deal) …

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Take it away Becca!

***

When it comes to writing a successful story, people tend to think in terms of two elements: plot and characters. Obviously, these are incredibly important, and if you want to write a story that readers will appreciate, you’ve got to get these two pieces right.

But there’s so much more to a good story: setting, symbolism, theme, emotion, voice. And as important as it is to do all of these things well, it’s just as important that they fit together.

Look at The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Characterization is a huge part of this story—particularly for the hobbits. The opening scene is Bilbo’s birthday party, and we see right off that hobbits in general are fun-loving, laidback foodie types who like their tankards almost as much as their pipes.

But it’s difficult to define this people-group without also referencing The Shire.

Their passion for this place, their organic connection to the hills and rivers and trees: Tolkien didn’t just pick a setting out of thin air. He created one that fits with the characters like a missing puzzle piece. The characters and the setting go hand in hand; you can’t imagine one without the other.

Which is why, when evil arrives, Frodo’s decision to take it far away and preserve the Shire is a no-brainer.

I find it interesting that the symbol for evil is a gold ring: something that really has nothing in common with the hobbits or their home. They’re simple people; yes they have whole rooms devoted to clothes and they’re proud of their residences, but gold and silver and coins aren’t a huge deal to them.

Tolkien could have used anything to represent evil in his story, but he chose something that had nothing whatsoever to do with The Shire. In doing so, he showed the Shire’s goodness and wholesomeness and the need for its preservation.

I could go on about other writing elements and how they all fit together to make a beautiful, resonant whole, but I think you get the picture. Very likely, none of us are present-day Tolkiens, but his work is the perfect study for how various elements aren’t only successful in isolation; they’re amazing in the way that they work together.

So how do we do accomplish this in our own writing?

Choose Thoughtfully

When it comes to the various elements of a story, it’s tempting to go with the things that excite us as writers: settings we’ve visited, character traits that we embrace, symbolic trinkets and knickknacks that speak to us. And while those things may work, they probably won’t be the best choices for our stories. When it comes to any writing element, don’t choose randomly. Ask yourself: What makes sense for my character and the story? This is the way to make sure that the elements you choose are the best possible fit.

Start With Characterization

I know, I know. Not every author or story is character-driven. But if you’re looking for ways to tie your elements together, the main character is a good starting point.

For instance, let’s say you’re trying to figure out the setting for an important scene. You could just pick one at random—a restaurant, the school cafeteria, an old barn, etc.—but your scene will have more impact if the setting ties in with your character.

Narrow down the virtually endless set of options by asking these questions: What locations have special significance for my character? What setting is emotionally charged for him or her? By choosing a setting to which your character is already connected, it comes with the potential for tension and high emotion—both of which are good for sustaining reader interest and building empathy.

Symbolism is another element that can be tied to characterization for added effect. In Great Expectations, the stopped clocks in Miss Havisham’s house symbolize her abandonment at the altar—the moment when her life essentially stopped.

Dickens didn’t choose a random, external object for this; he chose a specific time, down to the minute—an intensely personal symbol to represent the most formative event from Miss Havisham’s past. This is a great example of how choosing symbols that are personal to the character can add oomph to a story.

Know Your Characters Well

If you want to bring all the story elements together and you’d like to use a character as the centerpiece, it’s imperative that you know that character well. You don’t have to know every little thing about her; but you do need to have a clear understanding of the important parts of her past so you’ll know not only the kind of person she is in your current story, but also what objects, settings, ideas, and events are going to move her.

For a number of resources on building and understanding your character’s backstory, check out the Writers Helping Writers Tools page.

Bringing all of these elements together can seem daunting. But if you start with a solid working knowledge of your character’s backstory and who he or she is today, you’ll be able to move forward from there.

Once you’ve got that basic knowledge down and you’re ready to bring it all together, you might consider visiting One Stop For Writers. This new online library, dreamed up by Angela Ackerman, Lee Powell (creator of Scrivener for Windows) and me, is full of one-of-a-kind resources to help with various aspects of storytelling.

Its unique thesaurus collection covers symbolism, character traits, emotions, physical features, settings, and more—and it’s all cross-referenced and searchable, making it easier to tie all of these pieces together in a way that makes sense for your story and will resonate with your readers.

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Most of us probably don’t aspire to be the next Tolkien or Dickens. But that doesn’t mean we can’t learn from their brilliance. Know your characters well. Choose your elements thoughtfully, and whenever possible, tie them in with your character and your story. If you can do these things, your work will be much tighter and will ring true with readers, which hopefully will lead to more people finishing your books and spreading the word about their new favorite author.

THANK YOU, BECCA!

All right, so last time we talked about channeling that inner Bad Girl (yes, this works for the guys, too 😛 ). No more Mr. Nice Guy. Take some time for yourself. You are important. Your writing is important and people like Becca, Angela and I have worked hard to give you what you need. Now, all you have to do, Sunshine is suck it up and WRITER UP! Give it a try!

Curious about One Stop For Writers? Register to check out the free version and get an idea of what it’s all about, OR take advantage of this sweet launch-week deal: 50% off any first-time subscriber plan—1 month, 6 months, or 1 full year. This deal is only available until October 14th, (6:30 PM EST), so if you’re interested, shake a tail feather and get on over to Writers Helping Writers for all the juicy details.

Bio:

Author, Blogger, Coach Begga Puglisi
Author, Blogger, Coach Becca Puglisi

Becca Puglisi is a speaker, writing coach, and bestselling author of The Emotion Thesaurus. She is passionate about learning and sharing her knowledge with others through her Writers Helping Writers blog and via her newest endeavor: One Stop For Writers—a powerhouse online library like no other, filled with description and brainstorming tools to help writers elevate their storytelling. You can find Becca online at both of these spots, as well as on Facebook and Twitter.