Dare to Be Excellent (This Might Hurt a Little)

Years ago, when I first started writing, fiction was my passion.  The problem, however, is that passion devoid of training is a formula to end up with 174,000 word tome that is the stuff of agent nightmares.  I wish I was one of those talented people who “got it” from the start. I didn’t. I have had to take the road of hard knocks. But, in truth? I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Over the years, I have hit a lot of roadblocks when it comes to writing fiction. For instance, I didn’t truly understand the antagonist the way I needed to.  We have a running joke in Warrior Writer Boot Camp that an antagonist is a serial killer (which can be substituted by ninjas if necessary).

For years, I could edit narrative structure, but I failed miserably when I tried to create a plot of my own. I understood conflict as a reader, but when it came time for me to ante up? Again, I stumbled away unsure how I ended up on the wrong road. I could spot plot holes in a microsecond when editing…but somehow developed tunnel-vision when it came to my own fiction.

Over time, I began to see I wasn’t alone. Others shared the same problem.

We have the ability to spot problems in the work of our peers, but when it comes to the construction side, we founder around like a goldfish out of a tank.


First of all, we aren’t emotionally vested in stories that aren’t ours. Sort of like, we can see the flaws in other people’s children, but ours are perfect little angels. We often lack objectivity.

Also, there are no great monuments erected to critics. Anyone can pull others apart. Criticism is easy. It takes more to create, to dare to dream, to admit when we are wrong and try again.

I started Warrior Writer Boot Camp for a very specific reason. I was president of a standard critique group. We did the typical read 5 pages and then everyone could chime in and give feedback. But, over time, I became frustrated and disillusioned.

Week after week I had the same complaints—no clear antagonist, fuzzy/nonexistent objectives, one-dimensional flat characters. Week after week I made the same red marks, but the writing never improved. I began to lose faith. I had become president of the group with the hope that I could change the format so we could make meaningful critique.

I believed there was no way to really fix a novel by looking at it through a microscope. A handful of other writers agreed with me. They too had begun to lose hope. No matter how we tried to pry our home group away from their addiction to line-edit…nothing changed.

So we never changed. We couldn’t grow.

Then I asked NY Times Best-Selling Author Bob Mayer if he would come to DFW. If he would come to Texas, I would fill a workshop. That core group of disenchanted members and I made just enough to make it worth Bob’s time.

Unlike the others, we were desperate enough to admit we were struggling. We knew we needed professional help. Bob was the answer to our prayers. In two days, we learned more about the craft than we could ever hope to retain. We felt delivered, but at the same time we were fearful.

Here we had this new insight and we were afraid we would lose it if we didn’t do something different. Bob had given us a lot of great tools, but we were light years away from being experts. We watched in awe as Bob pulled apart plots in minutes. He could hear three sentences and know if there was a story.

We wanted to be like Bob.

So we started what we called Warrior Writer Boot Camp. It was a gesture of thanks to Bob who had enlightened us with his Warrior Writer ways. We knew that without consistent practice, we would lose all Bob gave us, that his seeds of wisdom would die if not nurtured, and that the weeds (bad habits) would return.

Even though it was highly emotional and we lost a lot of people we believed were our friends, we pulled away. We started with Bob’s books, which I highly, highly recommend. Then, we totally changed the format to resemble what Bob did with our novels that fateful Saturday. We bought whiteboards and had to find a new meeting location.

We had no real idea what we were doing, but we had faith we would figure it out. We knew practice would make us stronger.

Once finished with Bob’s books, we added in more and more material, ideas and methods.  As de facto leader of this gaggle of misfits, I read every book on the craft I could find and added in other tactics and techniques.

But, the point of this blog is to share with you the lessons I learned and hope you might be blessed.

Find a mentor.

Bob was my first of many mentors. Bob’s teachings resonated, and so I bought every book he ever wrote. I even read the “bad” ones from when he was new. I wanted to look at how HE had grown. What made Z different from Area 51? Could I see where Bob struggled? How he changed? I sign up for all his workshops and I still read all his blogs. And I STILL learn something new every time.

I even started this blog to talk about all the things I was learning after Bob’s workshops, before I even knew I had it in me to become a social media expert. It was Bob’s teachings on fear that revealed a destiny I didn’t even know I had.

*Snorts and rolls eyes* I wasn’t an expert. I just spent too much time on Twitter.

Bob’s Warrior Writer Workshop helped me be brave and realize that maybe I did have something to say that others wanted to hear. My best-selling book We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media might not have happened without Bob’s workshop. I still apply his techniques and have grown tremendously as a person and a professional.

If  I blog about Bob, his methods, his teaching, it is only because I can never express how grateful I am. I doubt I would have grown as much as I did and as quickly without his influence.

In time, I made mentors out of other writers. I read their books and studied their methods. I read their blogs and listen for the craft books they recommend. Twitter is an excellent way to make mentors out of successful people. Follow agents, editors, authors and pay attention to their habits, sign up for their classes, read what they recommend.

It’s okay to admit you don’t know everything.

It is hard to find mentors if we won’t admit we need to grow. When I left a career in sales to start writing, everyone thought I was crazy. I couldn’t admit I didn’t know what I was doing, because then I was sure my family would have me committed. It took a long time to let down my guard and set down my pride and humbly say, “Teach me.”

Every day I bow my head to others and humbly say, “Teach me.” Every day is an opportunity to grow, but we have to be empty vessels. If we are already full of our own “knowledge,” there is not room to be filled and refreshed by others. We become a stagnant, stinking pond of our own rotting hubris.

Dare to do things differently.

It was terrifying breaking off from a group I’d known and even led for 4 years. I had to open myself to new friendships, but that could only happen if I let go of the old. If something isn’t working, then do something different.

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over but expecting a different result.

Break away from toxic people.

One of my favorite movies is The Devil Wears Prada. I love studying that movie. In the beginning, Andy Sachs lands a job as the assistant to one of the city’s biggest magazine editors, the ruthless and cynical Miranda Priestly.

In Act One, Andy is comfortable with her average friends and her average boyfriend. They regularly get together to gripe about their bosses and the unfairness of life. Their attitude is naïve in regards to success. They fail to see the work and sacrifice successful people make.

Act Two we see the tension build. Andy’s boyfriend and friends have issue with her new job. She is working long hours and can’t hang out like the old days. We see how they resent and undermine her. We know they will eventually force Andy to choose between her career and them.

Act Three, Andy has to make a choice. She can go after her dreams or make her old friends happy.

When you decide to become a writer, you will very likely lose friends. They won’t understand why you can’t hang out, go shopping, or even remain in the same old critique group. They won’t “get” your blog and will resent that you are changing.

Daring to dream will show you who your real friends are. The quicker you let go of toxic friendships, the faster you will make room for friends who love and support you no matter what.

Surround yourself with excellence.

When I broke away to create a content-critique workshop, a core group of friends supported me every step of the way. Had I remained tethered to my fear, I would have remained tethered to people who cared more about maintaining the status quo than they cared about me.

Why did I sign up for this? What was I thinking?

WWBC is full of the most talented, hardworking, amazing writers. I am inspired to try harder every time I am near them. Some of them not only blog multiple times a week, but they write thousands of words a day on their WIPs…and have families and school and other obligations. They raise the bar and make me work harder. I am honored to be part of such an outstanding team of committed professionals. It scares me every time I think how close I came to giving in, how close WWBC came to dying before it even began.

Remember…we can only shoot for the stars if we are willing to let go of the ground.

What are some sacrifices you have had to make for your dream? Has it cost you friends? Did you make new friends? How do you find excellence? What inspires you to keep going?

I love hearing from you guys, and to prove it and show my love, for the month of March, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention WANA in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

I will pick a winner every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end on March I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck!

Note: I am keeping all the names for a final GRAND, GRAND PRIZE of 30 Pages (To be announced). For now, I will draw weekly for 5 page edit, monthly for 15 page edit.

Happy writing!

Until next time…


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  1. Love your post, Kristen. The idea of openness, acknowledging what you don’t know in order to make room for the truth, actually comes from Aristotle. Even back then they understood how counterproductive assumptions can be.

    I wish there was a WWBC in my area!

    Okay, break over: I’m back to plotting….

    1. I agree, I wish there was a WWBC in The Netherlands, as well! Lol.

      1. Maybe Kristen can start a Skype group for us 😉

      2. We do it online. I know she has a group that she works with in person, but the other couple of groups, like the one I’m in, do it by email.

    2. A skype group would be awesome, but… I wasn’t aware that the WWBC was online (as Peter just mentioned!) Hmmm…. That’s really quite something *ponders* 😀

      1. Yes, I have a WWBC on-line version. I form up teams ever so often, and we’re working the bugs out. We have two members from the UK. It is nice not to be limited by boundaries. Ever so often I will announce openings. We can only work on so many novels at a time. BUT, I have been letting people who are interested audit what we do. The person who audits (like Shellie) gets to be a fly on the wall and watch, learn and give feedback. After the current teams make it to a certain point, those auditing who have actively contributed get to work on their book next. So far it has been a popular style of critique. Send me an e-mail if you would like to audit.

  2. Thanks for another very insightful post, Kristen 🙂

    *Off to find a mentor…*

    • Caroline Clemmons on March 7, 2011 at 6:00 pm
    • Reply

    Love your blog. It does hurt to distance yourself from toxic people, but it’s necessary to emotional survival as well as writing. Thanks.

  3. I have been writing since I was a teenager, but I seriously thought about becoming a professional writer about a year ago. I didn’t know what to do. A friend guided me to some literary magazines and I started there. I knew I had some talent to write because I had won some contests, but to be honest I didn’t even know where to start. I continued to participate in writing contests, won some, lost some, but after a year I’m starting to structure more my “career”.

    I have a non-writing formal job and I’ve already had to turn down invitations because I have deadlines for my contests. I’ve already experience the alleged support of my dream except from when I’m not hanging out, or if I post on facebook that I’m at the library doing research, I get remarks from friends saying that I should be out doing other things. I’m working on daily goals (either time or word count). I use my blog as a way to interact with others, allow them what’s going on in my writing world and like you say start building a platform for when I finally have a good product to be placed in the market. I learned from you that since I started focusing on my blog, my other writing projects were left to the side and that is not the purpose either.

    Fear, I’m terrified. I have read some books regarding structure, plot, but to be honest I still can’t convert some of the information in my head. Your blog has been God sent because one of my goals this year was precisely to just stop writing to write, but to actually learn about what I’m doing. Through you I’ve connected on twitter with other authors and in just a few weeks I feel like I have learned more than I have in the baby steps that I’ve done on my own trying to become a professional writer.

    English is my second language and I know, sometimes grammar is a challenge. I have hired a proofreader for all my writing. So that’s another one of my sacrifices. I would love to have a mentor. I checked my local writing association but you have to have a book published to be able to join and I only have two short stories… so it will have to wait.

    Thank you for this blog!

  4. Self doubt is a natural response to breaking out and it is easier to stick with the comfortable patterns and friends than risk the unknown. These days I’ve set a rule that while I’m working I let all phone calls go to voicemail. I know I’m in a transition period; some friends understand and support me while others try to convince me I’m working too hard on something that — well — you know the odds of any author hitting it big — they say with concerned looks, as though it’s best not to try. To try might mean failure. Rather than listening I remind myself ‘It can be done’. Other indie authors have achieved a level of success I’d be happy with and some have gone far beyond that. It can be done, and I’m doing it: with each passing day my book sales continue to rise and I reach another of my goals.

    It’s amazing… you can tell who your real friends are by how they respond when you’re down, but sometimes it’s even more telling how they react when you’re actually achieving your dreams.

    • Cid on March 7, 2011 at 6:33 pm
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    Don’t forget to do you Warrior Writer homework this week young lady!!!!

    1. Doing it right now, ma’am (scurries back in hole) :D.

        • Cid on March 7, 2011 at 7:54 pm
        • Reply

        GOOD! 😀

  5. I guess I’ve already found my mentor-you…lol My blog is doing fairly well given your advice and I’m glad to be a part of WWBC Charlie team. I feel my writing has grown a lot over even the past couple of weeks and I owe it to you and to the rest of the WWBC team. Hopefully this time next year, I’ll have a book in some sort of print so you can be sure your name as well as the others will be in the thank you section!

  6. I am a recent follower of your blog and I’m also trying to learn my craft of writing fiction. Crime is the genre I’ve chosen. I have found that the blogosphere is an amazing place to come and talk to people who understand how it is on the novel writing road and it’s also a great place to find people with inspirational advice. Thanks for the great blog post!

    • Ellie on March 7, 2011 at 7:40 pm
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    thanks so much for always being honest, you have such a clear/truthful way to say things!

  7. Another insightful post, Kristen!

    I am so glad I started to follow you a while back..

    …”Every day I bow my head to others and humbly say, “Teach me.” Every day is an opportunity to grow, but we have to be empty vessels. If we are already full of our own “knowledge,” there is not room to be filled and refreshed by others. We become a stagnant, stinking pond of our own rotting hubris.”…

    I loved the old, but very relevant and everlasting life lesson in this statement in your blog.

    I am also somewhat familiar with Bob Mayer and follow his blog…Just have not had the time (where have we heard this before?) to really get to know him well…But, after your fine recommendation of his teachings I will change that…

    Thanks so much for the story of your growth,,,BTW, your picture on this post is strikingly similiar to that of Meryl Streep’s in Tne Devil Wears Prada…with one big exception…you’re smiling!

    1. LOL….I hadn’t seen that until now. Nice. If you get a chance, I do highly, highly recommend all Bob’s workshops. He is so talented and has such a wealth of information which he freely shares.

      1. Kristen,
        You have the starring role on one of my blogs yesterday: “Publishing, Writing and Marketing –> Getting Good Advice” http://alturl.com/zpqhk

    • Laura Lee Nutt on March 7, 2011 at 7:42 pm
    • Reply

    Hi Kristen. I’ve been following your blog for several months and found it after you taught your branding class on Write_Workshop.

    I’ve had to learn to not follow everyone’s advice on my work. I’ve found a great critique partner/writing buddy, who helps me stay focused and is great at pointing out problems but also showing me where I did well. My old crit group mostly just pointed out problems and didn’t seem to want to work with what the publishing industry wants right now, though I know they meant well. My husband is terrific about encouraging me.

    But as far as finding a mentor is concerned, I guess, I’m really nervous about that. I read blogs, study books, and do the Write_Workshop classes, but I dread directing asking a published author for help. I know they are busy and probably get a lot of people who hassle them. I don’t want to hassle. I’m afraid I would break some sort of etiquette or annoy them. Some advice on this would be great if you’re willing.

    Thanks for all the mentoring you do through the blog!

    1. For the most part, that is how you will make mentors…from a distance. I don’t hang out with Bob and I rarely talk to him. Hey, he is a busy guy. But I pay attention to his tweets, his blogs, what he recommends on Goodreads. I take all his classes. Making a mentor can really just be about watching that person and learning by what they do.

      I am happy to be a mentor, and if you guys ever have questions you want adressed in this blog, ask away! If I can answer it, I can find someone who can :D.

  8. Hi Kirsten

    I am really learning so much just by reading your blog. You will become my mentor naturally! I particularly like the fact that you don`t make it seem so “easy” and that you are upfront about the necessity to make sacrifices.

    Great to have found you!


  9. I just tweeted this post, which really struck a chord with me. At the SCBWI conference in NY, Sara Zarr talked about the most difficult time in a writer’s journey – being not a beginner, but yet without an agent or having been published. It is VERY hard work to get out of that spot. I know. I’m in it now. I am fortunate enough to be working with a mentor right now, which most definitely pushes me harder, faster, and keeps me honest about how much work is being done. Great post!

  10. As a beginner blogger my strategy has been “Wind up the toy and let it go”. Thankfully I’ve avoided self destruct obstacles with good advice from you and a couple friends who are not afraid to thump me. Aside from avoiding “toxic” people I’m learning not to listen much to “sweet” people as well. “That blog was so000.. nice” “what’s nice about it?” “I don’t know…”
    So thanks Kristen

  11. it was wonderful to read about your journey from where you were earlier to where you are “now” – inspiring. specially got attracted by, “Remember…we can only shoot for the stars if we are willing to let go of the ground.” i so wanna leave ground, fly high and touch the stars and feel their warmth on my finger tips on a cold winter’s night. i don’t know much about writing, but if i understood you correctly, it’s a good place to start (?) – #cheers

  12. I, thankfully, have been very very lucky in both my friends and family. My family, while they don’t really GET IT per se, are nevertheless usually supportive of the “idea” of being a writer, and while they can’t offer me any assistance or useful critique, they always make an effort to wish my luck and ask me how its going, and so on. Even more thankfully, I have two friends who are fellow writers, who understand the frustration, the time-crunch, the exhilaration and exhaustion, one of which can give a brutally honest critique if/when I ask her to (which I thankfully, have learned to take without breaking down), and one friend who is always absolutely unabashedly enthusiastic about absolutely everything I write.

    Unfortunately, all of these friends live quite far away, and I have yet to find a good writer’s group in my area that I can meet with in person on a regular basis. I have had to learn mainly from ridiculous amounts of reading lots of examples of fiction I admire and lots of writing how-to books. I can only hope that all this, in combination with my own self-critical, hyperactive-attention-to-detail personality will be enough to get me somewhere.

  13. How I found my mentor: she looked me up on Facebook and dragged me to her fancy, new-fangled boot camp.

  14. You know, I just realized you resemble Meryl Streep quite much in that top picture! I guess it’s the glasses, lol. Although you look a lot less stern, haha!

  15. Loved everything about this post, especially, “Had I remained tethered to my fear, I would have remained tethered to people who cared more about maintaining the status quo than they cared about me.”

    So true.

    When I decided to stop practicing law, many people thought they had a right to second guess that decision. They thought they should have a vote in my life.

    When I reminded them that it was “my life,” and that I had no obligation to maintain the status quo just because they wanted me to, they resented my “freedom.”

    I chose my freedom. Sound like you did too. Rock on!

  16. Aw man, that’s gotta suck for people who don’t know everything. 😉 I love how you prime the pump of positivity Kristen. Avoid toxic people? Yes! Now I’m gonna go find me some excellence and roll in it.

    • Tamara LeBlanc on March 7, 2011 at 10:50 pm
    • Reply

    I’ve been very lucky. I have family who supports me, friends who encourage me, and a fabulous critique group who smacks me on the rear when I get a nasty case of the ” all I can write is crap” blues. I have all of the emotional tools necessary to write the very best novels I can, and luckily, I have one more ace up my sleeve…you.
    You are my mentor. I’ve learned so much from your blog and your book over the past few months. I’ve learned about Twitter and FB. I’ve learned about networking and marketing. I’ve learned the name Bob Mayer (taking his character class right now, and um, all I can say is it’s Da Bomb baby!)
    So with your help, I am daring to be excellent.
    Thank you for your wisdom. I’m a different writer because of it:)
    Have a great evening!!

  17. This is the first time I’ve read your blog, and what a great post! I’m still working on the letting go of the ground part. 🙂 A writer friend of mine raved about your book, so our entire writing group is working on our social networking. I’m looking forward to following your blog posts to come.

    • Ashley on March 7, 2011 at 11:08 pm
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    About four years ago, I chose to return to graduate school. I had to move four hours away from my hometown, leaving my family and friends and everything I had known, in search of a tiny dream. I am within six months of graduation, and I have been assessing what is important to me for my job search. I realized that I have lost a lot on my journey, including many “friends.” As with you, the friends that serve as motivation, inspiration, and joy in my life remain my dear friends. The others…well, they’re gone.

    I understand what I want from life, what I want to contribute, and things I want to try with some assistance (because I definitely don’t know everything!). I have found mentors, and I have solidified life goals (one of which is to write). Thankfully, I have found blogs, like yours, that encourage and inspire me to learn and achieve.

    I’m going to repost this message on my personal blog and on my Facebook page; I think the underlying foundational messages are something everyone should read. Thanks!

  18. The sacrifice part is what I’m having a hard time with. I have a family who depends WAY to much on me. The youngest is 13 and I know he is old enough to do for himself but every time he asks what he can have for lunch, it takes everything I have not to get up and make it for him. I know what I need to do but it’s hard.

    I have a great group of writer friends (IRL and online) that encourage me on a daily basis. I am also inspired by people like you, who have made it and still struggle.

    Thank you for letting us learn from your trials.

    1. Falyn, I certainly identify with you! That mommy guilt is profound, and for me it’s also a reluctance to let go of control over having things done a certain way. I have three boys: 18, 15, and 10, and over the last couple of years I’ve been making a conscious effort to cut back on “doing” things for them. Think of it this way: by deliberately NOT doing certain things for them (like your example of not getting up and making lunch for your son), we are empowering them.

      It’s the gift of self-reliance, and one day they will thank us for it. Take heart.


      P.S. – Kristen, you could be charging for therapy sessions via our comments to each other (it helped me!).

  19. One saying I like is this: People too weak to follow their own dreams will always find a way to discourage yours

    One of the hardest things when setting out on a new course is to let go of all those who try to discourage you. I’m switching from traditional publishing to non-traditional and lots of people are nay-sayers. But there are times when you just have to make a choice.

  20. Hi, Kristin – Great topic, as usual. I attended a day long Warrior Writer that Bob taught and it was great, but then I come back home to the same place I started from – or almost the same – and sometimes it’s hard to recognize the toxic parts — be they people, things (TV and email) or just our inner uber-critic. Thanks for sharing these simple, concrete ideas to wrap our brains around. Good stuff to think about.


  21. “…Remember…we can only shoot for the stars if we are willing to let go of the ground…” Kristin, this is one of the most inspirational, wisest quotes I’ve ever seen on a blog. I shared it. I also like Bob’s quote above, but I find that discouragement not only comes from friends, but sometimes family. When family does it, it might make it harder but I had to remind myself that they are not living my life, I am.

    I found out who my friends really were when I made some changes in my life. Those who cared, stood by me regardless. This is my path. I know it is the right thing no matter where I go or who I hang out with–when I do hang out. Thank you so much for being such an inspiration.

  22. Great post Kristen. Like Peter, I consider you my writing mentor. I’ve had several mentors over the years in various areas of my life, and so far I’ve been very lucky to have people like you that enjoy teaching others what they’ve learned. I think I can speak for the other WWBC participants when I say that your passion for writing and helping others is contagious. Thanks for all you do.

    • Patti Mallett on March 8, 2011 at 12:15 am
    • Reply

    The stripped-down truth, as only you can speak it, Kristin. Thanks! Some years back I read “The Dream Giver” by Bruce Wilkinson. It was good prep for what was to come after I decided to put a large portion of my time into going for my dream of writing a novel. It made things feel less personal, helping me understand that when someone seeks to undermine (or just not support) us, it’s more about how they feel about themselves and how their world is being disrupted by our absence. What Bob said about people too weak to follow there own dreams is so true. In my experience, these are our cruelest critics. Upon turning sixty, I decided that I was old enough to say, believe, do, and act as I decide. If I feel I am to do a thing, I do it. When someone else thinks I should do a thing, I consider it and then decide for myself. It has meant saying “No” to others and “Yes” to myself. “Yes” to writing! For the past several years I’ve been studying, working on stories, and taking online classes. Connections (online) have grown slowly but steadily and that’s been a nice surprise. As I’ve said before, this Blog has taught me so much!! Kristen, I noticed that you are in the Character Class of Bob’s and I see Tamara said she is taking it, too. He has already forced me to stop waffling and make a decision about my WIP. I am also reading his book, “Warrior Writer.” Good stuff!

    • Patti Mallett on March 8, 2011 at 12:19 am
    • Reply

    Sorry Kristen, I sometimes have trouble getting your name right. I’ve made so many new friends of late and I do try to get the spelling of each name correct. It’s important and I feel bad when I mess up. (I especially like the name Bob!)

    1. LOL. I don’t even notice when my name is misspelled. Hey, close enough for government work, right? It is nice that you are so considerate, though :D. I am happy that you have been able go after your dream of writing and I am doubly blessed to help you reach those goals :D.

  23. Words of a warrior! Following your tweets and all that you do, every day is a step forward. Working on your book, albeit slow, but each day is that step. Thanks for the encouragement to keep going. I am farther with my little blog than I ever thought I would be, now the challenges start for better articles, more research, content that keeps a visitor’s attention. But it is all worth it!

  24. GREAT advice- as always- thanks for sharing- will be tweeting it now 🙂

  25. I always told my agent and editor as they long as they didn’t threaten to sue me ot shoot me I didn’t care what they said. If they didn’t like a passage or a chapter my wife, kids, and Mom loved me anyway so none of that could not possibly hurt my feelings. By design I left myself wide open for them, and my test readers, to heap on all the constructive criticism they wanted.

    Multiple (? countless) revisions after the first solid rough draft, my first book, “The Mandolin Case,” emerged. The reviews have been better than I deserve. I thought my genre, physician bluegrass fiction was unique, and that would allow me to find a niche. Through the creative process, I found what I believed to be true. It was more than adequate reward.

    I’m now at work on the sequel.

    Dr. B

    1. “as they long as they didn’t threaten to sue me or shoot me I didn’t care what they said.” I plan to steal this one from you 🙂

    • Joanna Aislinn on March 8, 2011 at 3:14 am
    • Reply

    Awesome, encouraging post. No surprises there. Thanks, Kristen!

  26. I feel like you must be surfing around in my head at night because the last 5 posts at least have all been right on target with what I’m struggling with. I’ve already come pretty far just by writing again, I hadn’t done so for over a year, but I admit I haven’t found the balance of a writing schedule along with life’s other responsibilities. My biggest struggle is working a job in retail that has me putting in 50+ hours at all different times, so there is no consistency in how many days before I have off or when I open versus when I close. I’m thankful to have a job that supports me, but I have to make myself work extra hard during my off days and at times people do get upset with me because I can’t hang out. In the long run, everybody’s been supportive, and I can’t speak more highly of this wonderful blogging world for sharing writing tips both in craft and survival methods. lol. Thank you for being one of those mentors, kristen!

    • Nigel Blackwell on March 8, 2011 at 4:04 am
    • Reply

    (I did write something longer, but it said no more!)

  27. Oh gosh! My mentors… Let’s see… Candace Havens, Bob Mayer, you, Linnea Sinclair… there’s a long list of people but it’s going to fill the entire page just to put them here.

    My problem is not so much as asking for knowledge but on how to apply them. Often than not, I go around and think of these rules as a rigid cage so I break them just to understand what that rule is all about. That’s how I would understand them better.

    Success? How do I define it? Being true to myself, that for me, is what success is all about.

  28. I have been fairly isolated in “real” life from other writers which is why I love finding online communities and blogs like this one in which to interact with other writers and share the challenges of being a writer.

  29. I’ve been wrestling this week with the reality that I’ve never been an “I’ll show them!” type of person (i.e., they said I can’t so I’ll do it just to prove), and I’m wondering if that means I don’t have enough drive.

    I am frequently deflected from writing, but it’s my gravity– I always come back, and feel homesick while I’m away.

    Does being committed mean pushing harder then everybody around you? I don’t want to be the kind of person who says an activity is more important than relationships, but sometimes I feel like I’m being pulled between them.

    1. Amy, they key is to get them on your side. Let your family be part of your success. If they love you, then part of loving you is supporting you. If we work at it, writing and blogging can be a team-building experience. I often delegate research to my husband. He loves being on-line and sifting through articles. Makes him feel like he is a part of my work and frees me up to do more writing.

      In the end, we have to learn to put down boundaries in this job or it is unlikely we will go far. But boundaries are healthy and part of healthy relationships. It is a good habit to learn, and will help a lot with time-management :D.

    • Louise Curtis on March 8, 2011 at 6:01 am
    • Reply

    I’m about to start on a new book in a new genre, and it’s terrifying. It’s always good to hear about other people overcoming their fears.

    Louise Curtis

    • Gene Lempp on March 8, 2011 at 9:53 am
    • Reply

    The mentor chain is a great key. For me it started with Randy Ingermanson, which led me to Bob Mayer and then this incredible blogger named Kristen Lamb, who led me to Jami Gold and now to Larry Brooks (Storyfix.com). I know there are many more to come and I feel each of the ones I have found and follow is a great gift. Thanks so much to all of you for the hard work you do and for putting in the effort to be the incredible mentors you are.

  30. Hi, Kristen. Much of what you said resonated with me, particulary the part about not being able to objectivity critique our own work. I live in the D/FW area and attended the D/FW Writers Workshop a few times. Though great, it wasn’t for me. I’m in a terrific critique group now that gives me what I need and wouldn’t think of submitting anything until they’ve sliced and diced it.

    I’m now a fan of what you’re doing here, and plan to hang around.

  31. Hi Kristin – I’m a long time lurker on your blog and the possibility of winning a critique pulled me from my cyber-hideyhole! I honestly never thought much about what I’ve sacrificed to write, but in retrospect, it’s a lot. A really, really well-paying job so I could have time to write (the three hour commute each day was killing me), which means I also gave up my work friends. Free time, during which I used to read three or four books a week. Now I’m lucky to read one a month. A critique group which wasn’t working for me. My sanity, on occasion. 🙂 But it’s all worth it.

    Thanks for all your wisdom. I quadrupled the traffic to my blog with your simple advice to start using tags. Genius, I tell you. Keep up the awesome advice.

  32. Great advice as alway! Thanks = ) http://wp.me/p1jd2S-1H

    1. Great advice as always! — I jumped the gun on that one lol

  33. So true about the “not letting your friends hold you back” thing. A big family get-together came up during my deadline and while I made an effort to spend a few minutes being social, I *had* to work 75% of the time. My immediate family understood and supported me because they know how much this means to me and how important deadlines are. My extended family? Not so much. 🙂

  34. Surprised that I have not run into you on that Hard-Knock Highway! I enjoy your posts – always! But this one, especially! I have always felt that I needed to know it all – right now! Due to my nature and (lack of) nurture – I had to be in control. With the education and experience I acquired – I was pretty successful in my chosen fields of teaching and psychology! But now that I have stepped out as an author – I am struggling with everything from publishing to web site design and all of the stuff in between! I need a mentor! You are so right! Are you available? LOL Okay – I will try to find one…
    I would love to attend a WWBC someday!
    And, by the way, I love the Devil Wears Prada, too!
    Thanks for sharing your wisdom!

    1. Sure! Any time. I do try to collectively mentor through posts and answering any questions in the comments. I am considering putting a slot in WWBC up as a grand prize. Thoughts?

      1. Love the WWBC grand prize idea. I was also wondering if you would consider offering up a monthly prize a choice of EITHER a 15-page critique OR a blog “diagnostic.” You could go through a person’s blog, previous posts, topics, frequency, stats (provided by the blogger, I guess), comments, etc, and come up with a “fix” specific to that person’s blog. What do you think?

        1. Looks like a plan. I will add that into the announcement. Good idea. working on your pages today, btw :D. Looking forward to it.

      2. Kristen,
        I love your connection with your followers! And the addition of blog help (diagnostics) is super…

        But, where in the heck do you find the time? I’m in complete awe of your energy!

  35. Yay! Thanks so much!

  36. Great advice Kristen. I had a bad experience with a critique group who appeared more interested in deciding who was going to be bringing snacks for the next meeting than anything else. Writing really is a very lonely job, so it’s nice that the internet exists and we are able to connect to others who share our struggles, and learn from them.

    About friends, well, it’s hard to explain to people that you have to go home to finish writing, or that you cannot go out, but I’ve been lucky that my friends have supported me all the way.

    Regarding sacrifices…just the blood sweat and tears that have gone into my novel, but it’s all worth it, as I feel very strongly about it, it is the most important thing I have EVER done in my entire life, and that is no exaggeration, even if it sounds like it is 🙂

  37. I love your posts. They are so encouraging.

  38. You have Bob (ok, a lot of us follow him) and we have yo – thanks for being one of my most inspiring mentors.


    • Diana Murdock on March 22, 2011 at 2:26 am
    • Reply

    Yeah. Isolated is what I am and what I feel. I get up and write for an hour before the boys get up for school, I do my day job, come home, do the usual routine of dinner, chopping wood, get the fire started, socialize with the boys a bit, then, I try to squeeze in some writing – but that is a hit and miss even. So, I cram in as much as I can in a day, which leaves little time for outside friendships. It wouldn’t have been this way years ago, though. I was a guilt-filled doormat until recently. Now, I am certain of where I want to be, what I want to do, and I find most of my friends understand. Those are the keepers.

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