Training to Be a Career Author–Writing is More than the Writing

Many of you who read this blog desire to be career authors, and kudos to you. It is a fun job and a great time. I used to be in sales. I literally hated my job so much I would throw up on the way to work. Every day I died a little more. This might be shocking, but selling cardboard had little outlet for being creative. I just knew that writing was the life for me. Ah….but how little I really knew.

I now have had two successful best-selling books, and I still have to pinch myself when I realize I have the same agent as James Rollins and Diana Gabaldon. This isn’t to brag—okay maybe a little—as much as it is to say that I feel I’m in a better position to offer advice. I have grown from clueless neophyte with a dragon notebook and a dream to a writing professional. That said, I now feel confident to tell you…

Being a career writer is more than the writing.

It is more than the book. Why do I tell you this? Because it is going to affect how you train. Yes, train. Writing is not a marathon, as many author-bloggers might have you believe. It is more like a decathlon….oh, but one of the events is a marathon.

This career is so much less about talent and far more about endurance. I have talented writers I know who will never make this a career even if they publish. Their approach will burn them out quickly or keep them trapped at a certain level.

We’ll talk about why in a moment.

In a decathlon, there are ten events from running to pole vaulting to shot put, and athletes are judged on their collective scores. This means that, not only does a participant need to be able to run distance, but he has to be a good sprinter, and also strong and flexible. All aspects of his physique are going to be tested and then judged against his competition.

Same with writing.

We have to write, edit, learn about the craft, organize, plan, run a business, read, research, market, blog, speak, and teach. There is so much more to this career than just the writing.  

I can tell writers who aren’t avid readers in three pages. I can tell writers who haven’t properly researched pretty early on, too (and I don’t finish those books). It takes me less than a page to spot writers who haven’t read craft books. Writers who refuse to do social media? Well, their days are numbered.

We have to be organized (I’m still working on this one). First of all, writing a novel requires we be organized. Any work spanning 80-100,000 words is going to need to be plotted and the right events placed at the right point. People who just sit down and write until they stop? Yeah, that ain’t a novel. Novels that do not have narrative structure—antagonists and major plot points—well, they aren’t novels. They are an entity with no skeleton. Or, if there is a skeleton, some bones are missing or in the wrong place. In nature that is called an aberration. In writing that is called Book that Won’t Sell.

Organization will also be critical when it comes to the business end of this business. Tracking sales, filing royalty statements, receipts, deductions, and TAXES. Oh my!

Don’t get me wrong. Some of those things writers don’t have to do, but it could impact their final success. For instance, authors don’t have to do public speaking, but those who can and do have an added advantage. Authors who can present at workshops and conferences stand a far better chance of meeting the right person who opens the right door to take her career to an entirely new level.

I generally work six days a week. This past week was particularly hard because I had to drive to Denton, TX to present. This means I had to be up at six in the morning so I could prepare and be ready to drive 70 miles. The interesting part was I wasn’t slated to teach until 2:00 in the afternoon. Why was I getting there at 9:00? Because there were other people speaking, and I did so to support them even though I really didn’t particularly need their classes. I know what it is like to fear an empty room. Supporting others is part of being a professional.

So I sat in workshops from 9:30 to 3:00. Then, due to a miscommunication, I wasn’t allowed to sell any books, so I had to stand out in almost 100 degree Texas heat and sell books out of the trunk of my car. After that, I drove over 100 miles home. Over a 100 miles? Yep. Three major traffic jams and it took over two hours to reach home. I spent more money in gas than I made. I finally got to settle down and rest at around 6:00 that night. Basically, it was a 12 hour day.

Today I begin teaching an on-line workshop. I also have my blog, social media and I have to do a test-run with Skype, because in July I will be teaching a class for UCLA, and the private jet is in the shop :D. I also have chapters due to my agent, about 50 pages of editing for other people, a mountain of laundry that won’t wash itself and a baby who loves to make even that simple chore three times the work.

Mommy, why are you crying?

This isn’t to have a pity party. I love my job. I loved every minute of spending time with my writing peeps on Saturday. I loved being able to support other speakers and learn new things. I loved being able to open up the world of social media for some newbies and make it more accessible. But I do have to say that you have to train to be able to endure this kind of schedule and still be productive.

Mommy, are you writing? I’m hungry. I need clean clothes.

Those kids hanging off our leg are still there even when we decide to write. In fact, as I type these words I have an 18 month old screaming because I won’t let him climb on the table and play with knives. The house still won’t clean itself, and apparently they can put a man on the moon, but have yet to invent clothes that never need to be washed.

I am here to change your perspective and make those challenges your triumphs. Learn to do it anyway. Those kids that interrupt you every thirty seconds are a blessing. Think of it like running pulling a weighted sled. This is author training. If you can learn to maintain your focus despite all of life’s distractions, think of how amazingly productive you will be when one day you do have that private office and can afford a meth-addicted howler monkey with a sidearm to guard your writing time. Heck, you will probably be twice as productive at least.

Successful authors are a multitasking MACHINE. This is one of the reasons it is SO vital for us to brand our name when it comes to social media. We already have a lot of responsibilities, so streamlining becomes paramount. Spreading ourselves too thinly can be a formula to give up.

I see a lot of writers who will not make it in this business. Why? Often they aren’t doing the tasks that are vital to writing a great book—reading and learning the rules of the craft. This is like wanting to win a decathlon, but eating pizza everyday and not going to the gym.

These days, everyone can get published so a new benchmark of success is becoming book sales and list rankings. I watch a lot of writers who are too obsessed with the marketing side of things. They are banking everything on the success of ONE book and aren’t getting back to the computer and working on the next book and the next and the next.

Other writers are blogging machines. Blogs are GREAT for branding….if done properly. Many writers are wearing themselves out posting blogs that will do very little to brand their names. They are writing thousands of words a week that do…almost nothing. Or they are blogging, but never getting to writing the actual book.

These types of writers are only focusing on ONE aspect of their careers. They are like the participant in the decathlon who only focuses on one event. It is a recipe to lose.

Athletes who compete in decathlons use a lot of different skills—speed, endurance, strength. They walk this fine balance of giving an event their all….without really giving it their all. They still must have energy left to effectively compete in the other events and outpace the competition.

We writers must learn to give it our all….without giving it our all. The better we get at balancing our duties, the more successful we will be in the long-run. Writers who fail to appreciate all this job entails won’t be around in a year or three. They are like a runner who sprints at the beginning of a marathon. They will fall by the side of the road, injured and broken.

So today when you have to squeeze in that 100 words on your break from work, think I’m training. When your kids hang off you as you write, picture that weighted sled. Play the soundtrack to Rocky if you must.

What part of your life are you now going to view as author training? What setbacks can you reframe in the positive? What commitments are you going to make to be successful for the long-term? What have you been doing wrong? What problems are you having? What do you now think you could do differently?

I love hearing from you! 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. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone 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 of June 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) OR a blog diagnostic. I look at your blog and give feedback to improve it. For now, I will draw weekly for 5 page edit, monthly for 15 page edit.

Important Announcements

I will announce last week’s winner on Wednesday. 

Make sure you join our LOVE REVOLUTION over on Twitter by following and participating in the #MyWANA Twibe. Read this post to understand how this #MyWANA will totally transform your life and your author platform.

Together Everyone Achieves More!!!! SUPPORT THE HUMANE SOCIETY OF AMERICA! Spread the word and save a life. Sigma Force saves puppies and kittens, too. Ahhhh.

In the meantime, I hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer . Both books are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in th biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left over to write more great books! I am here to change your approach, not your personality.

Happy writing!

Until next time….


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  1. Multitasking R Us. Great post again, Kristen. Looking forward to your online workshop, too. I’d write more on the comments but…I’ve got 3 knives, two jello molds and bug spray to edit into (or is that out of?) the current WIP. #AmJuggling *eg*

  2. You’ve said it.

    I’ve spent the past two months doing almost nothing but promoting my second, new, NF book…Spoke yesterday at a library event (where I met a TV producer, also on the panel who might be able to net me some more national publicity) after a week of TV, radio and print interviews, and a speech at my alma mater…Now I have (yay!) a cool offer from a major network to review and a new proposal to write and am reaching out to the family of a possible biography subject for my fourth book — even though I won’t have the time to work on it for at least a year or more.

    It never stops — and if you want it to, this is not the gig for you. You must be absolutely passionate about your work because it’s infectious. People want to root for you and help you sell books — give them a reason to. We are intellectual athletes and it IS a marathon/decathlon.

    I tell every would-be author that physical, intellectual and emotional stamina and focus are what matter for long-term success, not just talent. It is too easy to get tired and distracted and give up. More room at the bookstore for those of us who don’t.

  3. I wish every writer would read this post. It’s so true.

    All of my work experience and parenting experience helped prepare me for the writing career. My work experience helped me prioritize, organize, and meet daily goals, but my parenting experience helped me get flexible and creative. I’m happy because I’m running the decathlon–but I’ve given up almost all my free time to counterbalance my writing-related responsibilities with my kids’ needs. It’s tough but worth it.

  4. “This career is so much less about talent and far more about endurance.”

    You are so right! As I write this comment, I have a 4-year-old begging me to take her to China (I’m not kidding) and a 2-year-old who is undoubtedly spilling milk on herself and the kitchen floor. And I can’t even claim a writing “career” yet!

    Thank you for this post! 🙂

    • lynmidnight on June 6, 2011 at 1:44 pm
    • Reply

    Talk about endurance and patience, I’m a Capricorn. Practically made of the stuff… most of the time. When I read this post I think of an example of the career writer you speak of. Holly Lisle. She’s completely dedicated to her craft and you can see it on her site and in her books.

    Anyway, I know exactly what you mean about the blogging part. I am now actively blogging 7 days a week to make some kind of a name for myself, or a brand more like. However, this eats up out of my writing time. One thing I decided to do to fix this is to start a blog which contains an actual story. It’s kind of a motivation to sit down and write because I know several people are actually reading it. 🙂 I get distracted easily otherwise, I’m sad to say… But I’m learning something new every day and today this post has definitely been a good learning experience for me.

    “Writers who refuse to do social media? Well, their days are numbered.” 100% agree. I might even quote you on Twitter though only those who are on there will see. Furthermore, I love your attitude. There are not many people who would sacrifice their own precious time to show support for others because they know ‘what it’s like to fear an empty room’. I practically live on this principle and it saddens me when others don’t reciprocate. I commend you for that! 🙂

    Also, I am so happy I read this (all thanks to Twitter) because you are absolutely right on every point. And since I haven’t had experience as a career writer yet, it’s useful for me to see and get inspired from people as productive and craft-oriented as you are. I actually wanted to pop in two more quotes but you know what you said so I’ll abstain. 😀 Just let me say this… I only quote posts I absolutely loved reading. And that’s a big thing because I sometimes have the habit of skimming through posts. Well, I read every word of this one. Thank you for writing it and sharing your experience! 🙂

    And finally, wow! Thank you so much for this opportunity. I was going to comment and link back to here anyway, but now I’m happy because I can actually get a critique from a professional author such as yourself. You are the best! And I’ll go read the post about #MyWana now because I have been lurking a while but not really said hello yet. 🙂

  5. I’m right at the beginning of my career – first draft, fledgling blog, all that – and I haven’t thought beyond getting my MS written. You’ve given me a lot to think about here, thank you.

  6. So good. Great reminders all through this, and I love the idea of a decathlete as opposed to a multi-tasker. Most people in my life think I’m fairly crazy for working at all these different things the way I do. Someone recently tried to get their mind around how I just don’t watch TV. I love entertainment, but I can watch TV or go after my dream career. Duh…Winning!

    1. Clay,

      I gave up TV this year too. I’m surprised by how little I miss it. Though, with a wee one at my feet, I do end up watching a lot of Sesame Street and Disney…I just do it with a laptop in front of me. 🙂

  7. Great post to read on a Monday…the first Monday where all of my kids are home on summer break. It’s easy to push some of these tasks aside, but for a successful career you have to focus, and yes, train. Hard.

  8. Okay. This is the post I needed to read today. I’m a teacher, and this morning I realize I still have 3 more Mondays to teach. I love teaching middle schoolers, but I’m exhausted. Writing is keeping me sane, but I’m exhausted. Did I mention I’m exhausted? But I’m training. I can train. I can push through. Thanks for changing my perspective in a post.

  9. Great post Kristen. I think we’ve got a lot more chance of being career authors with all the advice you dish out. The tax side of things is the bit I’m not looking forward to, but even then my neighbour is the tax man, so help all round.

  10. What a wonderful Motivation Monday post! I so agree with everything about multi-tasking and placing priorities on the right things. I’ve really been struggling lately with finding time for everything on my plate along with my regular day job where I must keep going lest I have nowhere to live. This career really is about endurance and it’s not for everyone. Reading this post (which might totally stress some people out) just made me all giddy because I really do WANT this and am willing to put the work in. I just need to accept that I must go at my own pace because starting out, like in anything- say training for a marathon, is going to be slow and NEEDS to be paced to be effective. THANK YOU 🙂

  11. I’m so thankful I was a high school athlete. I played four varsity sports in high school starting sophomore year and learned so much about time-management, discipline, and training. All stuff I’ve applied as an adult. As I’m writing this comment….a blog post is brewing. Oh goodie!

    Anyway – GREAT advice, as usual Kristen. This is HARD work – fun, but hard. 🙂

  12. Very timely. I’ve been thinking about this a lot this week. I’ve been trying to keep up with everything and by the time I do have time to write I’m so exhausted that I don’t feel like writing. I have a job that has flexible hours, but that means that it’s not always 8hrs in a day. I have other life commitments that take a lot of my day after work and it’s like there’s not enough time and energy to do it all.

    My blog has sucked a lot out of me as well. I’m trying to do three times a week, so the little energy I have left, it was left for the blog and my “real writing” it’s been falling by the way side. It was easier for me as all I did was get to work early and do it before everyone got in, but now I can’t access from work anymore,so I’ll have to figure that one out. I don’t want to be one of those fallen on the side of the road. I want to make it.

    In the last two weekends I’ve been working on a realistic schedule that allows me that. To do what needs to be done for work, to keep up with my blog. To spend my social media time and to get myself involved in workshops that will improve my writing. I say realistic, because part of my frustration is that I should be further ahead that I am. Yes, there are sprints along the event, but like you said this is a decathlon and right now it’s just time to adjust the pace to do it right and to make it to the goal.

    Thank you as always and….get out of my head!!!! LOL!!!

  13. Kristen,

    I recognize that laundry pile! How about we get your little cutie and my little cutie together and let them play “Laundry?”

    It could be a whole new movement for toddlers…morning Gymboree and afternoon Laundry Time. The mom’s would FLOCK to sign up.

  14. Great pep talk. I just got into Twitter and blogging, and am definitely trying to find that balance so I can multitask effectively. I did manage to write a novel while being a full-time grad student, so I think I can make it. I’m fortunate that I have the freedom of summer to get my footing, because come fall I get to add the additional role of “day job” (though that’s something I also need to be training for!).

    • Doree Anderson on June 6, 2011 at 3:56 pm
    • Reply

    I am always playing the Rocky theme in my head and mentally running down the streets of Philly for every chapter I finish. Prepping for the next hurdle, the next 2-3,000 words that are going down. The next group of individuals that I’m going to educate. You are inspirational to all of us writers. We get out there, we pump that iron, because we know we have to have the strength to go the whole way.

    I’m not quite up to the old one armed push up, but baby steps…I’m hitting the ropes. Thanks for the great blog.

    • Tamara LeBlanc on June 6, 2011 at 4:02 pm
    • Reply

    Summer is hard for me. it’s the time of the year I get the least amount of writing done. I have two teenagers. One of them is self sufficient, the other is a weighted sled.
    I love the way you’re always able to use every day things to make a point. The decathalon is an inspired choice.
    And it helped me to realize something…summers don’t have to be tiresome and difficult. I can make the days off from school work to my advantage. They can be my training toward becoming a successful, working author.
    Thanks so much for the wisdom.
    Best of luck with the laundry, It’s my nemesis as well:)
    Have a nice day and get some rest,

    • Rachel Russell on June 6, 2011 at 4:02 pm
    • Reply

    Great post. I’ve been having a horrible time of trying to squeeze in the time to write, and every time I think about it I start to feel guilty. I don’t have anyone to let down but myself, but apparently that’s enough to make me feel like I got caught red-handed doing something naughty. Its come to the point that I’ve given up television to try and squeeze in an extra hour or two, and I’m considering either staying up later or waking up earlier. I do love me some sleep though, and I’m pretty sure my two children are in fact the spawn of the Energizer Bunny.

    Anyway, excellent article. There’s a ton there to think about. I haven’t read near as many craft books as I need to, and this is definitely something I intend to fix this summer.

  15. Thank you so much for this post!! I really needed it today!
    I have two wonderful kids who take away from a lot of my writing time. It’s worse now, since summer is here and kids are out of school… My daughter was in preschool three hours a day, four days a week. That gave me the perfect chance to sit down and work on my writing, especially since it was also a prime opportunity to lay my son down for a nap… Now, even when he’s taking a nap, my daughter is home and wanting to know every detail of what I’m doing. The other day she came up to me and asked what I was doing. When I told her, she said, “Oh. I’m tired of logging.” (she meant blogging,lol) My point is, it is difficult to mulititask and do the things necessary to get my writing done so I can have a successful career as a writer, but it is definately worth it. I was having a hard time with it, wondering if I’m ever going to get a chance to write today, when I saw this post… Writing decathalon! HERE I COME!!!

  16. I took your class and loved it, Kristen. I bought your two books and am about to open them up and devour them. And I loved this post about endurance for the long run. Writing is a job and it’s WAY more than writing. I learned that from you and reading other people’s blogs as well. I’ve let my writing go by the wayside recently because I’m spending too much time reading blog after blog to support my fellow writers. I have to learn to find a balance and that’s hard, but it will be worth it.
    Thank you.

  17. Damn it. And to think I was just getting ready to find some way to procrastinate. My jet is in the shop, too (ha!), so no fleeing to somewhere cooler (it’s already scorching in Missouri).

    I guess I need to stay here and get on with the business of writing. It’s the first Monday of no school and three kids, but they’ve already been fed & watered (literally, been playing with water guns for 90 minutes) and the baby’s napping.

    Now off to put on that Rocky music; I’ll check Craigslist later for a cheap howler monkey. Brilliant idea! 😉

    Thanks for the pep talk.

  18. Are you giving me to permission to write and not give 100% undivided attention to the children 100% of the time? Since I work days, I feel like I always have to be “on” for them when I’m at home… But perhaps they could get used to hearing “Mommy has to write” every now and then.

  19. As so many have already said — another great post! Your posts have convinced me to focus my writing time on my book and not so much on blogging and commenting on other blogs, which is taking up so much time and not getting me anywhere. I take that back. I have met some really great people through my blog. But it’s taking away from meeting my writing goals and needs to be scaled back. Even harder than finding time to write is finding time to read!

  20. Kristen, you always have the most timely and useful blog posts. You asked: What part of your life are you now going to view as author training? House chores. They’re neverending, and so are the myriad “jobs” of being an author. Still thinking on the other three questions. Thanks for the great insight.

  21. Timely post for me. I think we talked about this on Twitter once. I have a hard time writing when my motormouth five-year-old is around, and that’s something I’m working on. I’ve gotten myself on a better writing schedule as well as social media. Most of the time, I can regulate that to about sixty minutes a day, diving time between morning, afternoon and evening.

    You’ve given me a lot of other things to think about as well. Too many newbies like myself still think of writing as a glamourous life and forget about the hard work it takes to succeed. As the cliche goes, nothing in life is easy.

    And seriously, clothes that don’t need to be washed? Someone needs to get that figured out, stat.

  22. Timely for me too. I’m so busy blogging and thinking about blogging that I run out of time to write, I know…that’s really bad. I received a critique on my 1st 10,000 words and I’m trying to correct the problems so I don’t make them again in the rest of the book, but it makes me feel like I’m getting nowhere. My grandaughters (2 & 6 yrs) will be moving in with me for 6 months starting in July. I’ve made a schedule to accommodate play time with them, writing time for me and meals, baths, bedtime rituals and time for my husband. Maybe with so much potential distraction, I’ll be more organized and get more done!

  23. Really really great article. Meth-addicted howler monkey…LoL!
    Writing is a pretty intense profession, in so many ways. It’s intensely hard, intensely intellectual, and intensely rewarding!

  24. Thank you for this post 🙂 Just the truth a lot of us need to hear, I think. It’s easy to get stuck into focusing on current book, current project, worry about nothing but publication of that one book, and easy to forget about the bigger picture. This is a good reference guide to remember why we shouldn’t let that particular ball drop.

  25. I have always approached writing from the standpoint of training. Start at the basics, study, learn, grow, move forward, study the next stage, integrate, learn, grow, etc. I think at this stage organization is the place where I both need to concentrate and am finding to be the greatest detriment to forward momentum. Learning to balance the dreaded day job, child issues, marriage, the host of sundry events and still be able to write is the key focus. Everything to this point is without value if I never write for publication.

    So moving forward, because while there may be setbacks I have this saying: “Only the moment seems eternal and in a moment everything will change.” Which means, to me, that every setback is a springboard forward because we learn best under pressure and from that mere moment of pain will come the greatest growth towards the things we seek.

    The next step, I’ll be joining the next round of #ROW80. Which means setting definable goals towards reaching my end result of writing to publish. It makes me accountable to others and forces organization. And, simply by putting this here I’ve now made myself accountable to all of you as well.

    Well-timed post Kristen, finding you has been one of the great turning points in my life. Keep pressing us forward with your wit and determination.

  26. Comparing writing to a marathon is so true! I use dance professionally. I loved the competitions but I also had to train or I’d never win anything. Apparently the “trophy room” AKA my parents guest room is proof to the fact that I did train. That is what I think about when I’m tired but stay up another hour or two to read about the craft.

    I too have a baby that takes up a lot of time! To help I’ve hired a nanny to care for her some during the week but still, sometimes she needs Mommy. It seems more and more that I do less for myself and more for my family. So, I push myself in my writing knowing that writing is for me. I enjoy it. It’s more about the enjoyment of keeping a part of myself while raising my daughter that keeps me going.

    I’m in this for the long haul!

    Fabulous post Kristen!


  27. Oh, if only so much of what you say wasn’t true! I don’t have the same responsibilities as you and am much newer to all this, but I’m tired just reading your blog post today!
    I have your book, We Are Not Alone, on Kindle and have read every word. Thank you.

  28. One of the best author reality checks I’ve read. The fact that I found reading it exciting (in a wow-stress-wow kind of way rather than daunting gives me hope! I know that throw-up feeling now, and would so rather earn my keep being stressed over work that I love!

  29. Hi Kristen!

    I was over at Roni Loren’s blog today, reading the comments, and a question that’s been percolating for awhile took full shape.

    It’s about the content of our blogs and if we should blog about writing. I totally understand, in theory, how blogging about writing is limiting our audience. But here’s where my question comes in.

    Do non-writing readers get online and read blogs? I know before I decided to pursue publication, I never got online to read blogs. I read books. Not blogs. All my book club friends who don’t write don’t get online to read author blogs either. They just read books. It seems it’s the writing readers who are the ones getting online to read blogs.

    So here’s my worry. Let’s say I change the content of my blog (which right now, is mainly about writing) to topics about romance/faith (since I write Christian romance). Will the writers who don’t write Christian romance who currently read my blog stop reading? And if I did start blogging on these topics, I’m not sure non-writing readers are typically online reading blogs. So wouldn’t I ultimately end up losing readers? Too bad we couldn’t do some sort of survey to see how many non-writing readers make it a practice of reading blogs.

    I hope this question/concern makes sense! Sometimes I confuse myself. 🙂

    1. You are sooooo wrong about non-writers not reading blogs. Celebrity blogs get hits in the MILLIONS. I met a best-selling romance author at the RT conference in LA and she blogs about KNITTING. She has had over a MILLION unique visits to her site in the past year. Wine blogs, pet blogs, soap opera blogs have followings in the hundreds of thousands. Business blogs, political blogs, fatih blogs, cooking blogs have followings in the MILLIONS. Trust me, writing blogs are not going to have that large of a following. If you do hit those kinds of numbers it is because you are a known writing expert with some best-selling writing books like mega-agent Don Maass, and I doubt his blog gets millions of hits. It isn’t that Don Mass isn’t great, it is that this topic has such a limited audience. And if he does have millions of followers it is because he is a premier expert in his field.

      You guys aren’t building a platform to sell books on how to write, so why not open up that demographic? And you can blog about writing, but I advise against a writing blog. There is a difference that we will explore on Wednesday.

      1. I’m interested in the difference. My blog has grown slowly, and it’s definitely helped to contribute to Friday Flash. But I’ve stuck mostly to writing topics because I wasn’t sure how to build an audience if I talk about other things. I’ve thought about blogging about my love of true crime stories and/or my interest in the supernatural, but I didn’t want to pigeonhole myself.

      2. Looking forward to the post on Wednesday! Still have my doubts, but am hoping you can squash them! Celebrities have a following and the best-selling author has a huge following (is it Debbie Macomber?). But I’m wondering….do they have a large blog following because their books were hits first? So readers decided to follow their blogs? I’m just wondering how it would work for somebody like me – a novelist who’s first book doesn’t release until next May. You know?

        Okay – I’m done now! And really, really looking forward to your post on Wednesday.

        1. No, I meant blogs about celebrities. Blogging on Angelina is a better bet than blogging about antagonists. There is a huge pop culture craving for all things celebrity. There are better topics that will generate a larger interest.

          1. Okay – that makes sense. My brain is whirring with possibilities. Still a little intimidated to take the plunge though. Thanks for addressing my q’s – very much appreciated! Excited for Wednesday’s post.

      3. I like and am going to keep my writing blog, but it is kind of a journal for me rather than my focus blog. I’m in the process of creating my focus blog as the idea just hit me.

        1. Keep blogging about writing, just relegate it to a certain day.

  30. I especially like your suggestion about squeezing in 100 words whenever possible. I’ve been capitlizing on the slowness of my laptop by writing while it reboots. Even that little bit makes the piece easier to continue later on, when I have more time.

    1. Dude, whatever you are doing – don’t go changing. You rock! 😉

  31. Hi Kristen 🙂

    Great inspirational article!

    Everything you described above is the professional writing. 😀

  32. I go back and forth, blogging, reading other blogs, long spurts of writing (and yes, guilty on not plotting enough **aberation** you called it? OMG).

    But like the body likes to get into a routine, my doing things outside my comfort zone, cross-training, by blogging, reading, reading blogs and other’s novels, writing, attending conferences, taking online classes, reading craft books, being in critique groups, joining writer’s chapters, helps exercise the muscle of being a writer. It takes stamina to be good in sports.

    It takes stamina to be a good writer, too.

    Of course, there are all the little gremlins that pop in and lurk with questions like, “Am I doing it right? Should I be doing this?”

    And after all is said and done, I think we should just jump in, and like the Nike ad says, Just Do It. Or like my old trainer used to tell me: Show Up, Pay Attention, Don’t Get Attached to the Outcome.

  33. Thanks for this article. I really was inspired to embrace multi-tasking 🙂 It’s time to get focused!!

  34. Thanks for reminding moms like me it’s not always cookies and sunshine when it comes to writing with kids. Normally, I’d see training as a bad know, like working out can kill you? But today I’ll embrace because I trust you..


    • Emily on June 6, 2011 at 7:49 pm
    • Reply

    Multi-tasking is a big part of my life right now. I appreciate your encouragement to succeed in growing a writing career on every front!

  35. The picture of “Mommy, why are you crying?” made me laugh so hard. That is my life in a nutshell. Honestly, I can’t imagine it any other way. (I guess that will change after I hire the meth-addicted monkey that you recommended. lol)

    Michelle Muto very kindly answered a bunch of my newbie questions and her advice resounded with yours: perseverance. Doing a little bit of everything: blogging, marketing, writing and doing it for the long haul.

    I’m enjoying following your blog and reading your books!

    • Linda connelly on June 6, 2011 at 8:21 pm
    • Reply

    As a novice at writing, really writing and not just playing around I’m thankful for any advice I can get. Right now I’m working on finishing my first MS and not sure about blogging yet. Recently I deleted my personal blog since I really did not have a voice and am not sure what I would blog about as I feel so many other writers have more to say and teach about the art and business of writing.

  36. I know I’ve said it before, but you are in my HEAD. I’ve been feeling overwhelmed due to long hours at work. When I’m there I have zero internet access, so after a twelve hour day, I don’t want to look at the computer. And at the same time, I don’t want to be one of those writers you spoke of. I guess I’m still searching for the “right” balance. Is that possible? It’s going to have to be because I intend to be one of successes.

    Thanks Kristen. All your posts are like a shot of “Yes you can! AND here’s how.”

  37. All the struggles described above are just conditioning for the next step of the decathlon. I blog, I research, I tweet, I have finally been able to add reading back into my schedule, and writing will start again later this year. We have to push ourselves out of our comfort zone, but with a little nudging, and great advice like this column, success will begin to shape itself.

    Thank you Kristen for being the cheerleader we all need!

  38. And here I was feeling guilty because I don’t blog about writing enough. Except, now I have to figure out what I will blog about…besides my ridiculously exciting life.

    I needed this blog. I tend to pay attention to one aspect more the others for an extended period of time — I’m pretty good at scheduling my life, but not my writing life.

    1. Check back in on Wednesday and we will be talking more about this subject :D.

  39. Dang! My hat is off to you for your endurance in writing while small children are still in the house! I won’t complain next time five red squirrels have a fit outside my window, or the dogs snore/whine/bark, or my husband asks me a question and I try to ignore him as I write and he asks again and then says, “oop! oh, sorry – you’re working!” although he’s done that a million times *laughing*

    One of the worst things I hear is: “This is Kathryn; her hobby is writing.” Hobby. Lawd! But, I understand they just don’t know – much as I didn’t know once upon a time.

    Comprehensive pos t – I don’t need to be in the drawing, but just wanted to stop by.

  40. Author training is a struggle but it’s worth it in the end. Reaching for our dreams makes our lives worth while. So far, I’m learning a lot just by listening to my body and evaluating myself with my accomplishments from week to week. I just realized that I should be honest with myself and modify my actions based on what I did the week before and what I wanted to accomplish the next.

  41. Fantastic post. It made me feel crappy about my writing habits, but the GOOD kind of crappy where I suddenly feel the need to structure myself a bit better and stop procrastinating.

    1. “GOOD kind of crappy” — I know! It got me thinking about where I’m slacking — and, I’ve already come up with an idea for my blog. Something I’m good at and interessted in and other people are too. Yay.

      1. Great news! Also “Gaslampery,” I love the term. =] And I also love Steampunk. You’re check-plus in my book. Lol

  42. Thanks for the great post! I’ve blogged and linked–it’s scheduled for tomorrow (7th).

  43. excellent post . thanks so much. encouraged me and inspired me at the same time!
    walk in beauty.

  44. Very sane advice. I say the same thing to myself everyday.

  45. Great post! And as I worked today I had a whiny child squeezing her way onto my lap. It was frustrating as hell, but I wouldn’t change it for the world. She is a blessing, and so is the time I am able to give to my writing career.

    • Christinemgrote on June 7, 2011 at 1:40 am
    • Reply

    You, your energy level, and your committment are an inspiration. At 54 I don’t have the energy, or the young children, so maybe it evens out. Just make sure you take time to enjoy the children. They grow up so fast and sometimes move away.

  46. I feel like I’m doing okay in maybe three out of five of the writer’s decathlon events, so far. Once I get your book (which I’ve ordered), I should have a training plan for the blog jump.

  47. This is a great blog. I felt you were talking directly to me. I’ve gotten so involved with promo and guest blogging trying to get my name out there and sell more books that my writing has fallen by the wayside. You’ve given me the incentive to concentrate once more on writing the best book I can. Thanks.

  48. I appreciate what you say about finding balance. I simply don’t know how you do it, you little alien cyborg: writing books and driving to conferences (where you speak in coherent sentences), putting out this amazing blog that helps so many people, being so generous about helping people by giving honest feedback – and all while, raising a little mess-maker? Whaaaaat?

    As a teacher who clocks plenty of hours writing and reading, I recently decided I have been devoting too much time to blogging and need to put more time into my manuscript. It is 88,000 words – and it is all there – but those posts on NEMO (especially the one about the antagonists) got me thinking I need to put myself first this summer. So that is what I am doing. Thank you for the permission to do that. Still writing, just less blogging. I just have to make sure that when I do post something, it is really good so I don’t lose my audience.

  49. This was so encouraging and amazing. Everything you’ve said is something I have planned to do but haven’t coordinated and implemented. I understand the importance and not doing what I need to is stressing me out. But at least I know I’m on the right path or decathlon…

    • Terrell Mims on June 7, 2011 at 3:33 am
    • Reply

    Thank you for this blog. As a budding professional, thanks to you, I know I am getting ready to juggle a lot of stuff. When I see you handle it, it gives me hope.

    • Robin Yaklin on June 7, 2011 at 3:43 am
    • Reply

    I haven’t a blog. My FB page is mostly neglected as is the making up of my bed. Mostly I participate in a writing website called Warrior Chat which is where your blog was posted.

    First novel is in rough draft, mostly. All but last several scenes completed. Going to spend 10 days at Writers’ Retreat Workshop.

    Do I pass the time management test?

  50. Spectacular advice! I must post this near my computer. Maybe keep a copy in my purse too. 😀

    • Suzanne Lucero on June 7, 2011 at 10:08 am
    • Reply

    Ah, Kristin, I’m sure you know whereof you speak, but I have a slightly more irritating problem. I have the unfortunate habit of becoming easily distracted–by noise, Twitter, even my own thoughts when they stray from the story at hand. I also find it a little difficult to keep all…oops, lost the thought, there. See? Well, I do read all you have to say so maybe some of it will sink in. You’re right, you know, all of this “other stuff” is like training. Did you ever wonder why I never got a gym membership? Because I don’t like the rigorous training it take to stay in shape. Yuck. So here I am, “training” anyway. Well, keep on posting and I’ll keep on reading, uh, training. 🙂

  51. Just confirms what I already knew, being a multi-tasker is a gift.

    • Elena Aitken on June 7, 2011 at 2:10 pm
    • Reply

    Excellent advice!
    It’s so true how much of being a writer does not actually involve writing. I love every minute of it. Now…if I could just make it a career…still working on that part.
    thanks for your blog.

  52. Hi Kristen,

    I was planning to be at the conference in Denton, and then ended up in the emergency room with my child! So sorry to have missed it, but your post speaks to my daily challenges of holding down a full time job, being a mom, a writer, and a marketer. Thank you!

  53. “When your kids hang off you as you write, picture that weighted sled. Play the soundtrack to Rocky if you must.”

    This is gold! I’m going to print this out and hang it above my writing desk, lol! 😀

  54. So much good stuff here. Writing is a business, and creativity needs to be present not only in the writing, but in everything else. Writers may be the only professionals who work at midnight and/or five in the morning so they can have time with the kids after school. Scheduling is often a nightmare, but somehow we figure it out. Thanks for posting this.

  55. The biggest sacrifice that I’ve made to begin my training as a career author? I am not getting a pay check right now! So maybe, my guy has made the biggest sacrifice of all in deciding to support me through this.

    Also? I love what I’m doing. How do I know? I don’t even turn the television on until 7pm…and you know how much I love my TV!

  56. I really like the comparison between training and writing. But I have to admit that your post freaked me out a little. I’m not scared to multitask, I actually enjoy it, but I realize that I’m not sure how to market myself as a writer. I feel like I’m signing up for a decathlon knowing only how to do long distance running and sprints, and without knowing what else I should train for.

    1. The obstacles ahead are unbeatable. I am going to be blunt. It is virtually impossible to build a platform, write, market…alone. This is why my first book is called We Are Not Alone. There isn’t a need to feel overwhelmed. If we approach social media the correct way–or at least the way I recommend in my books–then we are plugging into a community who supports us and everyone does a little for HUGE results. If you try to do all of this alone, you will likely burn out. This is why I started #MyWANA. My two books teach you how to connect with others and how to encourage a community to support you. Once you build a team, then there is far more time to focus on the stuff that only YOU can do, like the writing.

      1. Thanks! Breathing again. Will check out your book. 🙂

  57. Thanks Kristen – you have nailed it again!

  58. Your timing or my spastic colon that kept me home today is perfect as this is exactly what I needed to hear! I’ve always said that what I lack in talent I make up in tenacity; however that seems to be failing me too lately. Being a glutton for punishment, I now do two blogs, my personal one and one for my favorite library. I initially hoped that my personal blog would get me writing again. It has and I’ve had some minor success and am now a featured blogger for But I’m still not getting back to my novel or my memoir. So today as I rest, I’m going to reread your today’s blog and revisit my writing goals. Thanks for the inspirational words!

    Betty Kurecka

  59. “Other writers are blogging machines. Blogs are GREAT for branding….if done properly.” – See, this is what I don’t understand, though. I’m a voracious reader, I’m willing to work my ass off training myself and practicing my craft, and I’m okay with public speaking. I’m also aware that I will probably need to have another career in order to support myself, because writing isn’t often very lucrative. But, HOW does one brand oneself, anyway?

    Thank you for this post, Kristen, it was fascinating.

  60. Looking forward to Wednesday’s post! I’m wondering if the posts should relate to the genre we write in, or if some can be unrelated, some related and some on the craft of writing.

  61. I’m someone who runs a marathon like it’s a sprint, which has worked well for me. My husband calls me a long distance sprinter. I’ve been known to sit down to work at 5 a.m. and not even get up for a drink of water or breakfast until 3 p.m. But if this is a way of life, I have to find more balance. So for me, I’m going to consider turning off the computer and hanging out with my family a couple of hours a day to be part of my training. Hope I can get them to watch me read a book or go to a movie that would count as “research.” 🙂

    • Diana Murdock on June 8, 2011 at 2:47 am
    • Reply

    This is a timely post for me. In the last few days I have been internally whining about how unbalanced my life is and how I don’t have more time to write. After identifying my time wasters, I eliminated as much as I could. Top of the list were micromanaging the dinner issue and snooze button. Still that didn’t seem enough. Then I realized something that I had overlooked (or let be buried by the not-so-necessary activities). There is a reason why I live in the town, in this area that tends to breed complacency, an area so unlike the California beaches that I am used to. This is the town where my novel is set. I am here in this town to write. This town has offered me the perfect setting and the most incredible networking system that will aid me in finishing my story. So I now focus on that, tossing out the things that doesn’t matter and balancing my days with the activities that will move me forward, mixed with the little side trips that make me and my boys smile.

  62. Such personally painful words! I’ve blogged my misery ( and linked back to you as requested. Forgot to mention your book in the midst of my funk, but referenced this post.

    Seriously, your words hit home when I truly needed, and was finally ready, to hear them.

    Thanks –

    • Trish Loye Elliott on June 8, 2011 at 3:02 pm
    • Reply

    Thanks for this post. I seriously needed it. Ive been having trouble with the multi-tasking aspects of this career and using my little girls as an excuse not to write, or read or comment on blogs. I need to just do it. I love the idea of thinking of it as training. Great post as always.

  63. Thanks for this post. I agree with most of what you are saying. However, one striking statement you made, that Blogs are great for branding and that there are people writing thousands of words a week that do almost nothing. This is not true in my opinion. Blogs in nature, really harness the personal dedication and sacrifice in writing. They usually get you to release your guard and come out from under the covers in a personal sense.
    I don’t find blogging a job. When it becomes a job, this is when you start falling into the branding trap. An excellant blog contains great content in which the author really portrays himself/herself. For me anyway, I find the best time to blog is just before you go to bed. This is when you are at your most relaxed state and can revisit and reflect on all the experiences of the day.

    1. But if the writer doesn’t put her NAME on the blog, then it is useless for helping other people get to know who she is and know her writing. All a brand is is…

      Our Name + Our Content= Brand

      The name Stephen King was linked so many times to horror writing that his name is almost synonymos with the genre. Same with Sandra Brown and romance. Too many writers are blogging thousands of words a week hiding behind cutesy monikers, or they have a wonderful blog but their NAME is nowhere to be found. That is a waste of time. That is a TON of work to help Mr. Anonymous get more writing cred.

      Our content, no matter whether we blog on birds, art or dangling participles, will reflect our distinct personality and writing voice. That is why blogs are great for branding. But to not bother putting our NAME on there? Then what is the point? We are contributing wonderful content and a lot of work for it to do little for us professionally.

      1. This is true Kirsten. My apologies. I misinterpreted your statement altogether.

        If an author spends hours preparing high quality content for a blog, there is simply no reason why they should hide behind cutesy monikers.

        We may ask ourselves a question, do they really want to build their brand at all? Do they really care? Surely if they are aware and wished to build a brand then their name would be on it. It would be the simplest thing to do and the first thing to do. I would do it and you surely would do it.

        Some people simply enjoy writing and publishing content on the internet. Whether it be simply blogging about their daily life or promoting products. It may or may not have occurred to them that professional writers are reading their content, questioning why they have stamped their name.

        I’m in work at the moment, so quick reply 🙂

        1. Yeah, there has been this common misinterpretation of brand…that “brand” implies some kind of canned advertising. Really, it is just as simple as letting people know our name and giving them an opportunity to connect with us via our writing. But I hear a lot of writers who feel worn out, and they feel social media is such a burden when really it can be as simple as transparency. Put your name on what you write, be authentic, engage others and eventually your brand will form from your actions :D.

  64. Loved the article and I’m ready to train. I’ve posted a comment and linked my blog to yours and mentioned both your books. Come visit my website at I’m always looking for feedback and ways to improve my writing. Will you be doing any workshops in Missouri?

  65. Every time I read your blog I think, what am I doing wrong? Not because I’ve been hammering away for years and haven’t got anywhere, but because I’m not perfect. I’m BOUND to be doing SOMETHING wrong. In this case, I’m blogging a LOT, although it’s getting more professional. There are posts that don’t have to be written, but I want to and they don’t actually take that long. The interviews will take more time, but that’s on the professional side, so I don’t mind that. And I spend far too much time on Twitter. Now that I’m only writing every other day due to family commitments, I need to streamline my social media activity. Because I am literally running out of time in which to write, and that is never a good thing. I’ve been better today. We’ll see how long it lasts – hopefully about the same amount of time as the rest of my life…

  66. Ugh, forgot to subscribe to comments…

  67. I am so glad I discovered your blog (Thanks to Bob Mayer.). My first book is out at the end of the month, and this sort of information is CRUCIAL so I do things right the FIRST time. Thanks for sharing.

    Oh, and I just bought your book. 🙂

    • Kinley Wangchuk on June 23, 2011 at 11:24 am
    • Reply

    You write well and I am impressed. Most of your advises seem to sink in me and I intend to try them immediately. I may not be a successful writer like you, but I will keep on trying by writing, writing and writing. I will visit your blogs regularly and steal your advises. I hope you will not mind. Keep advising to help aspiring beginners like me.

    Lots of regards

  68. A question….everyone seems to complain about getting up at 6; what time is everyone going to sleep?

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  5. […] Writer's Training Tammy Setzer Denton: Posted on Thursday, June 09, 2011 8:07 PM Writing is like any other physical activity; the more you do it, the better you become. The old adage of "Practice makes perfect" applies. Kristin Lamb, author of We Are Not Alone-The Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It's Me, Writer, has an excellent article on how to train to become a writer. Yes, train. Training to Be a Career Author–Writing is More than the Writing […]

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