Kristen Lamb

Author, Blogger, Social Media Jedi

Kristen Lamb — Photo

Posts Tagged: Writing

Kristen Lamb made the mistake of giving me admin privileges on her website.

So trusting.

So innocent.

So screwed.

La Revolucion

There’s a little more about me at caitreynolds.com – but, be aware that my website is under reconstruction because I got hacked by Bollywood porn spammers. Yeah. That’s the same face I made. However, I’ve posted my manifesto, and that should be a start!

 

****Just FYI, in an effort to combat spammers your comment won’t appear until I approve it, so don’t fret if it doesn’t appear right away.

Talk to me! And MAKE SURE to check out the classes below and sign up! Summer school! YAY!

And to prove it and show my love, for the month of JUNE, 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).

NEW CLASSES!

Obviously, I have my areas of expertise, but I’ve wanted for a long time to fill in some gaps on classes I could offer.

Cait Reynolds was my answer.

She is an unbelievable editor, mentor and teacher and a serious expert in these areas. She consults numerous very successful USA Today and NYTBS authors and I highly, highly recommend her classes.

OMG, Like How to Write Fleek YA July 7th $40 with Cait Reynolds

How to Dominate Your Sex Scenes (No Safe Words Here) July 14th $40 w/ Cait Reynolds

Gaskets and Gaiters: How to Create a Compelling Steampunk World July 21st $35 w/ Cait Reynolds 

Lasers & Dragons & Swords, Oh MY! World Building for Fantasy & Science Fiction 

July 28th w/ Cait Reynolds $35/ GOLD $75/ PLATINUM $125

Classes with MOI!

Plotting for Dummies July 13th $35 ($250 for GOLD)

Blogging for Authors July 20th $50 ($150 for GOLD)

Branding for Authors  July 7th $35

OTHER Classes with Cait Reynolds

Research for Historical Romance Writing – Or, How NOT to Lose Six Hours on Pinterest July 8th $35 for Basic/ $75 for GOLD / $125 for PLATINUM

Shift Your Shifter Romance into High Gear June 30th $35 Basic/ $75 GOLD/ $125 PLATINUM

Classes with Lisa Hall-Wilson

Growing An Organic Platform On Facebook June 24th $40

 

 

Today we are going to talk about something potentially embarrassing, but hey I have no shame. But I believe this is a cool thing because I talk about stuff A LOT of people have been through, but few are bold enough to talk about let alone post it in a blog for all to see.

The old way of being a “professional” was to portray you were perfect. Spin everything. Maybe some people still do that, but meh. Not my style. I take the hard hits then talk about them so you guys can learn and to me? That’s more important than anyone thinking I am “perfect.”

So…

Want to know who people really are? Three ways. One. How do they act when they have everything? Two. How do they act when they have nothing? Three. How do they act (respond) when the proverbial caca hits the fan?

For the purposes of today’s blog, I’m interested in number three because it involves a lot of number two (the stinky kind). Before we start though, we must understand that….

Life is NOT Hermetically Sealed

I’d love to say that every time some land mine blew up in my face that my response soooo perfect that Mother Theresa was looking down gettin’ all jealous. That I handled said caca with grace, maturity, kindness, love, yoga, bible study and inspirational quotes. That my response did NOT involve a hell-mouth opening beneath my feet and then spewing out of my mouth. That my reaction did not involve a blast radius.

But one thing I promise on this blog is honesty.

One thing we must learn to be successful in this profession (or any other) is to forbid outside circumstances to own, control or derail us.

Sounds easy in an inspirational quote. The doing? Not so much.

How are we going to handle it when the proverbial caca hits the fan?

Because it is GOING to happen. It isn’t a matter of if, rather a matter of when.

If we allow ourselves to be at the mercy of circumstances? We’re going to be miserable and we’ll never finish the blog or the book. We’ll give up, tap out and take every carb in the house down with us.

Though I’m not where I’d like to be? I’m a hell of a lot better than I used to be. Making the decision to become a writer was the single best thing I could ever have done to grow my character, to mature me and to make me a better (not perfect) person.

Successful people don’t avoid stress, they learn to manage it….often the hard way. Yay!

Managing Expectations


A lot of why we make ourselves miserable and end up depressed is that our expectations fail to meet with what reality delivers. If you ever want to see this in action, just watch Bridezilla clips off YouTube. The bride has this absurd expectation of what the wedding day should be, an expectation that reality cannot meet (No, sorry, we cannot have cherubim deliver you to the altar on a cloud)…and they implode.

A sinkhole forms around the bride that eats all the bridesmaids, the caterer, the flower girl…and the groom is just standing there like he’s just landed at Normandy.

Expecting too much? Can be problematic.

But we need to be careful about the other side of this emotional coin—especially those of us from crazy dysfunctional families. We can stray to the opposite side of the spectrum and that’s dumb too. Maybe we’ve gone through a lot, been let down a lot so we just expect nothing. Or worse, we expect bad things to happen. We expect to be let down.

That is bad juju as well.

Thus, there is this fine dance we must master between expecting great things, but also being prepared for everything to just go sideways, too.

$h%t WILL Hit the Fan

Going to let y’all in on a little secret. Lean closer. This will blow your mind. Publishing involves…humans. Humans who screw up, make mistakes, etc. Even better? Now that we’re in the digital age? Humans can screw up much FASTER and INSTANTLY.

Great right?

Sometimes things will go great. When I self-published Rise of the Machines? It was glorious. Beautiful cover, perfect formatting, not a single typo *gets cramp patting self on back*. Of course this was all run by Control Freak Perfectionist Kristen and I damn near killed myself doing it all on my own.

That and Hubby wondered if he needed to bring me more coffee or perhaps toss holy water on me.

The power of Christ compels you!

I’d written a novel The Devil’s Dance  (ha ha). I even sent the manuscript to an agent friend who was unafraid to make me cry, just to see if the book was solid. Her answer? Great book and I don’t even like that genre. Thus, I felt cool to query. And I queried and queried and got a lot of “Love the story and the voice but not for us.”

See? Even I get rejected 😛 .

But with all the family stuff going on the past few years (my husband ordered to deploy to Afghanistan, deaths in the family, sickness, Shingles, etc. etc.)? I just didn’t have the bandwidth left to push my novel for a legacy deal and still have passion and energy for this blog and classes, etc.

Thus, the book sat and I just kept feeling inside that I needed to take that step. I needed fiction out there because 1) my original goal was to be a novelist 2) I have enough unpublished novels sitting on the hard drive, no need for one more and 3) I needed skin in the game. I can’t blog week after week challenging you guys to be brave…while hiding.

#UNCOOL

To make a long story longer, I finally let go of my novel and handed it to a new indie press. I loved the cover. They did a great job proofreading it and I was really happy with the final version. My launch date got pushed up a week. Was supposed to be May 25th and instead it was May 16th but whatever, right? Roll with it.

So we put it on sale for .99 and I am promoting it and messaging people and then all the sudden this inner is voice telling me, “You need to go look at the sample pages.” And I argued with said inner voice. “Nah. What are you talking about? I saw that final version. I approved it.” Inner voice. “Seriously, GURL. LOOK.”

May I welcome y’all to every control freak’s nightmare…

I pull up the sample pages on Amazon and the world drops out from under me. I have no idea what happened. Sun spots. Mercury in retrograde. Essential human error.

Suffice to say the wrong version was uploaded. Better than that? An un-proofed version. Good news is a lot of people bought the book. Bad news? They bought the wrong one.

Excuse me while I go shoot myself.

The publisher immediately corrects the problem, but then Amazon takes their time and it was a mess. The correct version wasn’t syncing and BLARGH. It certainly was NOT how I envisioned launching my debut novel. There were way more typos and way fewer calls from Hollywood involving talks on an HBO series.

Class, What Did We Learn?

I’m a huge fan of failure. No I’m not high on anything, and trust me. If I have a choice between failing and winning? Winning always feels way better. But failure often can be better FOR us long-term.

If we never fail, we never learn. Show me a person who never fails and I’ll show you someone who’s never done anything interesting. They’ve never done a damn thing themselves and often they have a profile that looks like this…

Then they go sprinkle one-star reviews on Goodreads like frigging fairy dust when they’re not trolling blogs.

I learned not to allow myself to be rushed. I was people-pleasing again. I’d just come off the road and was tired, emotional and thin. I went along instead of saying no, then getting rested and making sure what was being put out there. When it blew up in my face? Aside from scrambling to make it right, I refused to make any big decisions because this Kristen when she’s tired…

Yes, I do turn into Danny Trejo with an ax.

And I’d love to say this would never have happened if only I’d been a Random-Penguin! Everything is perfect for legacy published writers. Right? Yeah, no. They have their own (albeit different horror stories) and one day I am sure I will have my own to share.

See, a lot of bad things will happen to us in life and definitely in publishing. Often is it not our fault, but it is ALWAYS our responsibility. People will make mistakes. The mistake is not the core issue, rather what do they do to FIX it?

And how do we handle it when everything goes pear-shaped?

Obviously this is not me being laissez-faire about mess ups, but there is a balance. Yes, strive for excellence as a standard but also recognize there’s this inconvenient thing called reality 😉 .

I was extremely blessed, namely because of this blog. A lot of fans messaged me to tell me my digital skirt was tucked in my digital underwear instead of hammering me with one-star rants.

I was able to explain what happened and get them the correct version. This only happened (I feel) because 1) I had an established reputation for quality and 2) the fans I’ve cultivated here genuinely want me to succeed because of a long-standing relationship.

*prostrates before you*

***NOTE: If you happened to get the wrong version, feel free to email for the correct one. Send a message to captivequillpress at gmail dot com and either a screenshot of the receipt or image of it on your device and include the email for your kindle. We will get you the correct version.

All In All?

Try stuff. When it goes pear-shaped? Examine it. Study. Learn. Try new stuff. Grow, improve, evolve. Get better, change tack. Wood moths did it and surely we’re as smart as a wood moth, right?

(After coffee.)

And to quote Teddy Roosevelt…

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

What are your thoughts? Have you ever had something go so bad, SO sideways you thought you’d die just from the embarrassment? If so, comment and give us proof of life 😀 . A cover go wrong? Formatting that bit back? Amazon issues? Whatever it is! I like hearing from people who have failed because those are my kind of peeps! People brave enough to at least DO something and give it a go.

LOVE hearing from you guys!

****Just FYI, in an effort to combat spammers your comment won’t appear until I approve it, so don’t fret if it doesn’t appear right away.

Talk to me!

And to prove it and show my love, for the month of JUNE, 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).

NEW CLASSES!

Obviously, I have my areas of expertise, but I’ve wanted for a long time to fill in some gaps on classes I could offer.

Cait Reynolds was my answer.

She is an unbelievable editor, mentor and teacher and a serious expert in these areas. She consults numerous very successful USA Today and NYTBS authors and I highly, highly recommend her classes.

OMG, Like How to Write Fleek YA July 7th $40 with Cait Reynolds

How to Dominate Your Sex Scenes (No Safe Words Here) July 14th $40 w/ Cait Reynolds

Gaskets and Gaiters: How to Create a Compelling Steampunk World July 21st $35 w/ Cait Reynolds 

Lasers & Dragons & Swords, Oh MY! World Building for Fantasy & Science Fiction 

July 28th w/ Cait Reynolds $35/ GOLD $75/ PLATINUM $125

Classes with MOI!

Plotting for Dummies July 13th $35 ($250 for GOLD)

Blogging for Authors July 20th $50 ($150 for GOLD)

Branding for Authors  July 27th $35

OTHER Classes with Cait Reynolds

Research for Historical Romance Writing – Or, How NOT to Lose Six Hours on Pinterest July 8th $35 for Basic/ $75 for GOLD / $125 for PLATINUM

Shift Your Shifter Romance into High Gear July 15th $35 Basic/ $75 GOLD/ $125 PLATINUM

Classes with Lisa Hall-Wilson

Growing An Organic Platform On Facebook July 22nd $40

 

 

Image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Anja Pietsch.

I asked you guys to tell me in the comments what you would like me to blog about, so today we are going to talk about the author platform. When do we start? When do we need a newsletter? How do we find time?

I think we have reached a point in the new publishing paradigm that I no longer have to beg and plead and make jazz hands for writers to realize they need to build a social media platform if they ever hope to SELL their books.

I hear a lot of this:

Well, why be on social media? I don’t yet have a book for sale. 

Because it is easier to talk to people when you don’t feel like you have an ulterior motive.

I just signed a contract for my book. Should I build a platform now?

*weeps and breathes into paper bag*

Facebook doesn’t sell books.

Sure it does.

I know I need to put together a newsletter but since I don’t have a book out yet, I don’t know what to say. 

Whoa! Slow down there partner! Dig the enthusiasm, but slow down.

Yes, we need to have a social media platform and ideally a blog and newsletter, but this is not something we can rush. This job is a LOT like farming. We buy the land, clear it, prepare it, seed it, wait, tend weeds, wait some more, pray for fair weather, root out pests (trolls) and even then? Most of the time what grows in the first few years isn’t ready for market. It still needs time to mature enough to bear fruit.

So we rotate crops (topics). Clear again, fertilize, weed, and it is a lot of small very unsexy activities that are done a little every…single…day.

We can’t rush a platform any more than we can rush a peach orchard.

Too many writers want to rent the peach stand to sell peaches but they never bothered planting any trees. In a panic, they go BUY peaches (followers) and hope that will be just as profitable.

Or they rush out after they’ve written the book and scrape together a platform and hope then people will buy their books when they’ve spent almost no time cultivating a relationship. This is akin to trying to harvest peaches from trees we planted three months ago. Doesn’t make sense with an orchard and makes even less sense on-line.

Thus my answer to when is the best time to start a platform? Um, yesterday.

Seriously, the second you think you maybe kind of sort of want to sell your books? That is the day you begin building a platform and brand. You do not want to have a book for sale and try to pull a following/platform out of the ether.

Conversely, everything in its season and all in its due time. If you are new and building that platform while you are writing the book, NO you don’t need a newsletter. A newsletter will only work if you’ve already cultivated the following who’d care to get it or even open it.

You are not yet in the harvest season, so pick weeds, water, fertilize and like farmers?

WAIT.

The Early Years

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Rene Schweitzke
Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Rene Schweitzke

This is when we get our land and realize there are a ton of weeds, crappy soil and a zillion dead trees and trunks that need to be removed. There might even be some junk cars, scrap metal and old toilets that need to be hauled away. We need to form new habits. We need education, training and practice. We need to learn about branding and start building our platform.

When I left paper sales and decided to become a writer, I needed to learn the craft. I had bad habits. I put myself last on the list because writing wasn’t a “real job.” The early years is a lot of clearing away insecurity, fear, and even laziness. We learn to write even when we don’t “feel” like it and come to understand that simply showing up is a bigger deal than most people realize.

Sowing

This is when we start planting. We’ve cleared the fields and added missing nutrients to the soil. We took time to talk and listen to people on our social site of choice. To get to know them.

We put our butts in the seat and blogged even if the only comments we get are from the BuyPradaCheap sites:

“I so lick you’re blog. It changed my bruther’s life and bookmarking now.”

Blogging is my favorite form of social media. It is the most resilient (been here since the 90s), and it plays to a writer’s strengths. Writers WRITE. Blogs also train us to keep a professional pace. They trains us to show up and not be too dependent on others. Sure, it’s fun blogging now that I get a gazillion comments, but there were years I blogged to the ether. I didn’t do it for others. I did it for ME, to train me.

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Jim Evans
Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Jim Evans

When it comes to social media? Blogging is one of the best investments of time when it comes to ROI (return on investment). No search engine will direct people to your witty tweet or clever Facebook post. Search engines WILL, however, start sending readers to your blog (if done properly). Also blogs can be harvested for books that can be SOLD…for actual money.

No one taught HOW to blog back when I started so I had a metric crap ton of trial and error. Now? Folks like me have created classes. Have one coming up! (Blogging for Authors).

Blogs make excellent books. Far harder to compile a book of my Instagram pictures of food.

Sowing also involves research, plotting, writing, finishing then revising the actual novel(s).

The Silent Years

After we’ve planted a lot of good stuff, it’s easy to get discouraged. In fact, for a loooooong time, it will look like nothing is happening.

We need deep roots to make it in this business, because high-winds and storms don’t stop because we want to write books. Did you know that the root system of any tree needs to be as wide if not wider than the span of the branches? What is below (unseen) must match (or even outmatch) what is above, or the tree will fall over and die with the first bad storm.

The Silent Years can be brutal and this is why most writers don’t make it. They feel like failures because they aren’t instant runaway successes. It takes discipline and faith to trust the process, which is tough in a world addicted to instant gratification and an over-reliance on luck. Too many people want fruits with no roots.

Reaping

If we keep pressing and don’t dig up our seeds to check if they really are growing (which is highly tempting), eventually we can reap what we’ve sown. Ah, but here is the catch. Back to my peach example. After a long wait and tender, patient care, we get a tree. YAY! Eventually, we see little tiny fruits popping out. AWESOME.

Not so fast.

The smart grower plucks off all the tiny green peaches. OH NO! Why? So the tree will bear more fruit and better fruit. For us? This could mean writing two or three or ten bad books before we get a winner. It could mean multiple revisions. But, to gain more, we have to sacrifice.

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Slgckgc
Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Slgckgc

Harvest and Maintenance

In the beginning, we have a lot of back-breaking work (removing trash and dead stumps, tilling the soil, planting trees). But, if we are patient and consistent we can finally reach a maintenance phase. Once the grove of peach trees is producing, we keep fertilizing, tending, pruning and harvesting.

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Kathleen Dagostino
Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Kathleen Dagostino

An author platform is the same. In the beginning, we need to build traction. We are forced out of our comfort zones. It isn’t natural to strike up conversations on Facebook. It is uncomfortable to get out there when we prefer to lurk.

Blogs take longer to write because we’re learning and finding our voice. We may even be struggling with perfectionism. It takes time to realize that it is A BLOG. It really doesn’t need to be worthy of a Pultizer in Journalism.

SHIP!

There will come a time when the super hard work is done. Sure there will always be work, but not like in the beginning. After years of practice, I can knock out 1000 words in an hour. When I was new? It was not pretty. My blog was not fun when I was my only follower. I still remember being so excited to meet my first commenter Akismet.

Strange name. Is he foreign?

I KID YOU NOT, when this nice fellow Akismet welcomed me to WordPress, I actually commented back to try and start a conversation #YesIAmAMoron. (For those who don’t know, Akismet is the WordPress spam filter *face palm*)

But trust me, blogging with NO followers? Unfun. Blogging with 35K followers? LOADS of fun. But that didn’t happen overnight.

Same with platform and sales. J.K. Rowling finds it way easier to sell books in 2017 than she did in 1997. In 1997 she had not yet cultivated billions of fans. All she has now? Maintenance and enjoying harvest.

Slow and steady wins the race. Pace yourselves and realize there are no fruits without roots, no perks without the works. Trust the process, and in the meantime? I am here 😀 .

What are your thoughts?

I LOVE hearing from you guys!

****The site is new, and I am sorry you have to enter your information all over again to comment, but I am still working out the kinks. Also your comment won’t appear until I approve it, so don’t fret if it doesn’t appear right away.

Also know I love suggestions! After almost 1,100 blog posts? I dig inspiration. So what would you like me to blog about?

Talk to me!

And to prove it and show my love, for the month of APRIL, 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).

SIGN UP NOW FOR UPCOMING CLASSES!!! 

Remember that ALL CLASSES come with a FREE RECORDING so you can listen over and over. So even if you can’t make it in person? No excuses! All you need is an internet connection!

Be a Better Hooker (How to Write a Compelling Newsletter)

April 29th $45

In this class, learn how to compose a newsletter that is entertaining and compelling—and all without stealing most of your writing time. Learn how to get your hooks in your readers and keep them until the end.

With a mailing list of over 15K subscribers, mystery/thriller author Jack Patterson will share some of his tips that will spice up your newsletter and get your subscribers opening it up every time you send one out.

BUNDLE DEALS!!! 

Book Bootcamp  $99 ($130 VALUE)

Book Bootcamp GOLD $269 ($430 VALUE) This includes the log-line class, antagonist class, the character class AND a three-hour time slot working personally with ME. We will either plot your idea or, if your novel isn’t working? Fix it! Appointments are scheduled by email. Consults done by phone or in virtual classroom.

Individual Classes with MOI!!! 

Pitch Perfect—How to Write a Query Letter and Synopsis that SELLS! $45 May 25th, 2017

Blogging for Authors $50 April 27th, 2017

Your Story in a Sentence—Crafting Your Log-line $35 May 4th, 2017

Bullies & Baddies—Understanding the Antagonist $50/$200 (Gold) May11th, 2017

The Art of Character $45 May 18th, 2017

NEW CLASSES/INSTRUCTORS!!! 

Growing an Organic Platform on Facebook $40 May 6th, 2017 Lisa Hall-Wilson is BACK! She is an expert on Facebook so check out her class!

Method Acting for Writers: How to Write in Deep POV $85 for this TWO WEEK intensive workshop with editor and writing instructor Lisa Hall Wilson.

Shift Your Shifter Romance into HIGH Gear $35 May 19th with powerhouse editor Cait Reynolds.

Researching for Historical Romance (How to NOT Lost 6 Hours of Your Life on Pinterest) $35 May 20th

 

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

 

You know you’re jealous, LOL.

This blog focuses mainly on those writers who desire to make a living writing fiction. Last post, The Single Best Way to Become a Mega-Author garnered an interesting comment, though not an unusual one.

Anytime I write one of my posts regarding success or sales or being a best-seller, inevitably I get the “What about just enjoying writing?” comment.

And the observation is a valid one, though one I don’t always think about because, to me, writing never feels like work, though in truth, it is REALLY hard work. I work longer and harder now than I ever did in my years in sales.

It just never seems that way.

Hobbyist Versus Pro

This blog, at least when we are referring to craft, applies to anyone who wants to write good stories. The hobbyist, however, is different. This person is not creating a commodity.

The work produced is solely for the personal enjoyment of the creator and if it fulfills that purpose, it really doesn’t matter if there is no plot, 42 different POVs and so much purple prose one might choke on all the metaphors.

Yet, the second we want to command time and money from another person to read our work, our job description changes. Sure at home we might have a habit of drowning a hamburger in weird condiments, but if we were serving that to others (I.e. our restaurant)? We’d need to be mindful that maybe other people don’t want Nutella on a burger (yes, people eat that, I googled it).

Additionally someone who whips off fan fiction or stories in their free time is not beholden to the business end of what we do. They don’t need to know about branding or social media or marketing or newsletters. Since this blog caters to those who wish to make money at this? All of that is vital.

Go Big or GO HOME

Now I will admit that I have big, okay, mega dreams. I am not Type A, rather Type A+ because I did the extra credit assignments.

Slackers.

In my mind if I shoot for the stars I might just hit the moon. I always aim big because I imagine that if I adopt the habits of a mega-author that can only turn out well. This means I read tons of books, I study, I inhale craft books and blogs.

I study other authors and I write and write and write. I write every day. I adopt good habits and self-discipline and in some way—even if I fall short of every being Nora Roberts—it’s still a pretty solid formula to do well at my craft and business.

Additionally, notice how much of my hard work incorporates things I already enjoy (ergo WHY I left sales and became a writer). As a writer, I should enjoy reading and watching movies and studying story. I should enjoy writing and revising and getting better and if I don’t? Houston, we have a problem.

Yet, your dreams are your dreams and not everyone wants to break records or re-imagine entire genres. Not everyone has the want or ability to write four books a year.

So…don’t 😀 .

Take what applies and scale the rest. Only YOU know your goals and dreams.

But About ENJOYING Writing

Image courtesy of Frank Selmo via Flickr Creative Commons

As I mentioned earlier, most of what we do as professional authors should already be enjoyable. Not to be a b%$#, but if you hate reading and never read? I don’t want to read your books. As wise woman once said…

Ain’t nobody got time for that.

I know that many writers groan and mention social media. Again, if social media is a chore, perhaps what is flawed is the approach not the medium. Social media done the way I teach it at least, should be very much in tune with the creative personality.

I left sales (actually ran away screaming) so when I wrote a social media book for authors, I deliberately crafted an approach that harnessed the creative personality.

It is your creativity and imagination that sells books, not acting like an Amway rep genetically crossed with a Jehovah’s Witness. Additionally, if your social media is leaving no TIME left for the most important aspect of the job—writing MORE BOOKS—then it is flawed. If you’re hating your social media, treat yourself to a copy of Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World 😉 .

But moving on…

Two Truths About Enjoyment

#1 Choose Your Pain

Life is pain. Yeah I am just a bundle of sunshine, but seriously, it is. Every aspect of life has pain. For instance, there is the pain of having children. My house is messy all the time. I cannot sit down without nearly ending up with a Hot Wheels suppository *checks couch before plopping down*. LEGOS? O….M…G.

Instead of having frou frou soaps, you know, like this…

Image via Ross Elliot at Flikr Creative Commons

I use THIS….

Though admittedly, I do prefer Coconut Force over the Hyperspace Apple.

I have to stop my writing to answer questions like, “Can a porcupine kill you?” or “How long can you go without peeing before you die?” or “How many people die in a day?”

****Yes, Spawn is morbid. He’s a born writer.

Before being a mother, I can honestly say no one asked me these things. I could eat without having to guard my French fries prison style, holding my fork like a shiv.

But, before I was a mother, though I had an immaculate home and could take off traveling any time I wanted…I was lonely. And all in all the pain of having Spawn is light years better than the pain of NOT having him.

Same with writing. I could go get a “real job” where I clocked in and clocked out and had a regular paycheck and benefits but to me? I prefer MY pain. I prefer the pain of blogging and branding and editing and marketing and spreadsheets to the little death of every day in a cube farm. The pain of NOT writing is far worse than the pain of the business of writing.

So whenever we choose to do ANYTHING regarding writing, we simply need to choose our pain. And know there will always be SOME pain. We can’t choose ANY profession that is ALL kittens and unicorns.

#2 Being GOOD is WAY More Enjoyable than SUCKING

When I was six I wanted to learn to play the guitar. My grandparents—not really thinking this through—bought me a guitar, but then provided no lessons. I don’t know what my six-year-old brain was thinking….ok, I lie. I know what I was thinking. I was thinking that somehow when I put my fingers on the strings that it magically would sound like all those Dolly Parton songs I loved.

Yeah no.

And don’t get me wrong, I belted out plenty of bad renditions of Jolene (MY POOR PARENTS! Though I imagine any six year old begging a mistress not to take her man is amusing at some level) eventually I grew bored. The guitar then became a light saber and eventually was forgotten.

Because I wasn’t any GOOD, it lost its luster and I could never be as adorable as THIS…

Same with writing in many ways. Sure in the beginning there is the creative abandon of words flowing onto the page and as a pro, it would be nice to have that wild carefree spirit of the blissfully ignorant. But there comes a point that one gets tired of not being able to finish. Of coming up with a great idea for a story and it petering out.

Now? After years and years and YEARS of study and practice? I LOVE WRITING MORE THAN EVER!!!! Why? Because I can finish and when I finish, it is actually GOOD!

Seriously, if you are struggling to finish, invest $35 and two hours and take my Plotting for Dummies (listed below). Even if you never sell books, wouldn’t it be nice to FINISH them?

Getting good at the business is rewarding because selling lots of books…

Wait for it….

Is way more fun than selling NO BOOKS. If you need help, I have super successful best-selling author Jack Patterson who’s making a KILLING off his newsletter teaching a WANA class on how to create a newsletter that actually SELLS books.

So I challenge anyone who reads this blog, even if you don’t ever want to sell books or break records…LEARN YOUR CRAFT. Even if you never sell anything, it will make the hobby so much more enjoyable. And for those who want to sell books? Yeah learning the craft is—or should be—a given.

In the end, if you are not enjoying writing? Either suck it up and admit it is the pain you’ve chosen or reexamine and make sure you’ve chosen the right pain. Maybe we are setting our bar too low and we aren’t happy because we need the challenge of trying to be a mega-author. Maybe we are trying to be a mega-author and it’s just no fun and we’d do better writing novellas or for fun or for just side money.

And remember GOALS CHANGE. My goal was to be a mega-author but the last four years with 12 deaths in the family and all kinds of personal/family troubles, I would (did) make myself sick. I had to ramp it down. Now? Ramping it back up. That is what is cool about goals. We can CHANGE them 😀 .

What are your thoughts? Have you found that NOT sucking is way more fun than sucking? Are you tired of sucking? What kind of pain do you enjoy? Hell you are writers, so by definition—> masochists. So I KNOW you dig pain 😀 .

I LOVE hearing from you guys!

****The site is new, and I am sorry you have to enter your information all over again to comment, but I am still working out the kinks. Also your comment won’t appear until I approve it, so don’t fret if it doesn’t appear right away.

Also know I love suggestions! After almost 1,100 blog posts? I dig inspiration. So what would you like me to blog about?

Talk to me!

And to prove it and show my love, for the month of APRIL, 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).

I will announce March’s Winner Next Post.  I was supposed to do it this post, but I lied. I am still catching up from the storm drama.

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screen-shot-2017-02-27-at-9-10-47-am

We writers have a vast array of tools at our disposal to craft stories readers will love. But like any tool, it helps if we know how to use it properly. Theme is wonderful. It can keep us plunging a story’s depths for years when used correctly. Applied incorrectly? It just makes a story annoying and preachy.

Description! Love me some description! But pile on too much and we can render a story unreadable.

The same can be said of prologues. Now, before we get into this, I want to make it clear that certain genres lend themselves to prologues. But even then, we are wise to make sure the prologue is serving the story.

So, to prologue or not to prologue? That is the question.

The problem with the prologue is it has kind of gotten a bad rap over the years, especially with agents. They generally hate them. Why? In my opinion, it is because far too many writers don’t use prologues properly and that, in itself, has created its own problem.

Because of the steady misuse of prologues, many readers skip them. Thus, the question of whether or not the prologue is even considered the beginning of your novel can become a gray area if the reader just thumbs pages until she sees Chapter One.

So without further ado…

The 7 Deadly Sins of Prologues

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Evil Odin.

Sin #1 If your prologue is really just a vehicle for massive information dump…

This is one of the reasons I recommend writing detailed backgrounds of all main characters before we begin (especially when we are new writers). Get all of that precious backstory out of your system.

This is a useful tactic in that first, it can help us see if a) our characters are psychologically consistent, b) can provide us with a feel for the characters’ psychological motivations, which will help later in plotting.

I have a little formula: background–> motivations –>goals–>a plan–>a detailed plan, which = plot and c) can help us as writers honestly see what details are salient to the plot.

This helps us better fold the key details into the plotting process so that this vital information can be blended expertly into the story real-time.

Many new writers bungle the prologue because they lack a system that allows them to discern key details or keep track of key background details. This makes for clumsy writing, namely a giant “fish head” labeled prologue (which we editors will just lop off).

Sin #2 If your prologue really has nothing to do with the main story.

This point ties into the earlier sin. Do this. Cut off the prologue. Now ask, “Has this integrally affected the story?” If it hasn’t? It’s likely a fish head masquerading as a prologue.

Sin #3 If your prologue’s sole purpose is to “hook” the reader…

If readers have a bad tendency to skip past prologues, and the only point of our prologue is to hook the reader, then we have just effectively shot ourselves in the foot. We must have a great hook in a prologue, but then we need to also have a hook in Chapter One. If we can merely move the prologue to Chapter One and it not upset the flow of the story? Then that is a lot of pressure off our shoulders to be “doubly” interesting.

Sin #4 If your prologue is overly long…

Prologues need to be short and sweet and to the point. Get too long and that is a warning flag that this prologue is being used to cover for sloppy writing or really should have just been Chapter One.

Sin #5 If your prologue is written in a totally different style and voice that is never tied back into the main story…

Pretty self-explanatory.

Sin #6 If your prologue is über-condensed world-building…

World-building is generally one of those things, like backstory, that can and should be folded into the narrative. Sometimes it might be necessary to do a little world-building, but think “floating words in Star Wars.” The yellow floating words that drift off into space help the reader get grounded in the larger picture before the story begins. But note the floating words are not super-detailed Tolkien world-building.

They are simple and, above all, brief.

Sin #7 If your prologue is there solely to “set the mood…”

We have to set the mood in Chapter One anyway, so like the hook, why do it twice?

The Prologue Virtues

screen-shot-2017-02-27-at-9-25-13-am
Still Evil Odin but with “Cute Face.”

Now that we have discussed the 7 Deadly Sins of Prologues, you might be asking yourself, “So when is it okay to use a prologue?” Glad you asked.

Virtue #1 Prologues can be used to resolve a time gap with information critical to the story.

Genre will have a lot to do with whether one uses a prologue or not. Thrillers generally employ prologues because what our hero is up against may be an old enemy. In James Rollins’s The Doomsday Key the prologue introduces the “adversary” Sigma will face in the book. Two monks come upon a village where every person has literally starved to death when there is more than an abundance of food.

Many centuries pass and the very thing that laid waste to that small village is now once more a threat. But this gives the reader a feel for the fact that this is an old adversary. The prologue also paints a gripping picture of what this “adversary” can do if unleashed once more.

The prologue allows the reader to pass centuries of time without getting a brain cramp. Prologue is set in medieval times. Chapter One is in modern times. Prologue is also pivotal for understanding all that is to follow.

Prologues are used a lot in thrillers and mysteries to see the crime or event that sets off the story. Readers of these genres have been trained to read prologues and generally won’t skip. The serial killer dumping his latest victim is important to the story. It’s a genre thing. Yet, still? Keep it brief. Reveal too much and readers won’t want to turn pages to learn more.

Virtue # 2 Prologues can be used if there is a critical element in the backstory relevant to the plot.

The first Harry Potter book is a good example of a book that could have used a prologue, but didn’t (likely because Rowling knew it would likely get skipped). Therese Walsh in her blog Once Before A Time Part 2 said this:

J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is told in a close 3rd person POV (Harry’s), but her first chapter is quite different, told when Harry is a baby and switching between omniscient and 3rd person POVs (Mr. Dursley’s and Dumbledore’s). Rowling may have considered setting this information aside as a prologue because of those different voices and the ten-year lag between it and the next scene, but she didn’t do it. The info contained in those first pages is critical, it helps to set the story up and makes it more easily digested for readers. And it’s 17 pages long.

This battle is vital for the reader to be able to understand the following events and thus would have been an excellent example of a good prologue. But, Rowling, despite the fact this chapter would have made a prime prologue still chose to make it Chapter One so the reader would actually read this essential piece of story information.

Food for thought for sure.

Yes, I had Seven Sins and only Two Virtues. So sue me :P . That should be a huge hint that there are a lot more reasons to NOT use a prologue than there are to employ one (that and I didn’t want this blog to be 10,000 words long).

Prologues, when done properly can be amazing literary devices. Yet, with a clear reader propensity to skip them, then that might at least make us pause before we decide our novel must have one. Make sure you ask yourself honest questions about what purpose these pages are really serving. Are they an essential component of a larger whole? Or are you using Bondo to patch together a weak plot?

But, don’t take my word for it. Over the ages, I’ve collected great blogs regarding prologues to help you guys become stronger in your craft. These are older posts, but timeless:

Once Before a Time: Prologues Part 1 by Therese Walsh

Once Before a Time Part 2 by Therese Walsh

Agent Nathan Bransford offers his opinion as does literary agent Kristin Nelson

Carol Benedict’s blog Story Elements: Using a Prologue

To Prologue or Not To Prologue by Holly Jennings

If after all of this information, you decide you must have a prologue because all the coolest kids have one, then at least do it properly. Here is a great e-how article.

So if you must write a prologue, then write one that will blow a reader away. Take my First Five Pages class (below) and I can give you some expert perspective of whether to keep or ditch or if you want to keep your prologue, then how can you make it WORK?

What are some of the questions, concerns, troubles you guys have had with prologues? Which ones worked? Which ones bombed? What are your solutions or suggestions?

What are your thoughts?

I LOVE hearing from you! And REMEMBER TO SIGN UP TO HANG OUT AND LEARN FROM HOLLYWOOD PRODUCER JOEL EISENBERG! Details are below. This is EIGHT hours with one of the hottest producers in Hollywood teaching everything from craft to how to SELL what we write! Recordings are included with your purchase for FREE!

And to prove it and show my love, for the month of FEBRUARY, 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).

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