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 that every day I would throw up on the way to work. Every day I died a little more. I just knew that writing was the life for me. Ah….but how little I really knew.

After almost ten years at this and a lot of bumps and bruises, I can safely telly you guys that being a career writer is more than the writing, especially now. There has been a major paradigm shift in the world of publishing and writers have more creative power than ever in history. Ah, but with more power comes more responsibility. When we publish a book, the laundry does not magically disappear.

I KNOW! I felt robbed too.

My two-year old is not in the least impressed by my fancy New York agent. In fact, The Spawn is addicted to the B-O-T-T-L-E (we can no longer say the B Word, so have resorted to spelling it). In fact he Joneses so badly for a B-O-T-T-L-E that I swear he has one taped behind the toilet. As he shrieks for the B-O-T-T-L-E that we have taken away, he has zero compassion for Mommy’s blog deadline…or ability to hear.

Dishes still fill the sink and the cat still pukes in my floor…and always at the crack of dawn, just enough to rouse me awake grossed out and afraid to get out of bed. The bills need to be paid and the yard keeps growing and I keep writing as I pray that, if God really is good, I can one day afford someone else to push the vacuum.

None of you can relate, I’m sure.

Whether you work a day job and eek in what writing you can will out of your tired body at dawn, during lunch, or in the evening OR if you happen to be like me and held hostage a stay-at-home mother, you know that this career so so much more than the writing.

Being a career writer 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, as some of you already know, 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.

Now that Mommy is a writer, I just feed myself with stolen pizza and a butter knife.

Yes, We Must Do A LOT to Be Successful

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….7 if one counts The Spawn.

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. I love being able to support other writers and learn new things. I love 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. All my underwear is dirty.

Those kids hanging off our leg are still there even when we decide to write. In fact, as I type these words I have a two year old screaming….shhh B-O-T-T-L-E. If he isn’t screaming about that, then he’s upset  because I won’t let him climb on the table and play with knives. Despite commercials that say otherwise, the toilets still won’t clean themselves, and apparently they can put a man on the moon, but have yet to invent clothes that never need to be washed.

Change Your Perspective and Change Your Life

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. Hey, winning is always easier with a TEAM. Rely on your WANA (#MyWANA) teammates for help. Platforms take a lot of work and time to build, but, unlike the dishes, you don’t have to do it by yourself.

We are not alone!

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 last bit of January and the month of February, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. 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 February I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck! Will announce last week’s winner and January’s winner on Wednesday.

I also 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 ON SALE for $4.99!!!! And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in the biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left to write great books.


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  1. Great post and I love the pictures! Doing my first round of edits in a handful of weeks with two toddlers at the table and a newborn in my arms while typing with one hand has definitely prepared me for learning how to work under pressure! I don’t know what I’m going to do when they are grown. Sit in a quiet office and concentrate? That will be so weird 🙂

  2. Amazing post! As someone who recently has dedicated herself to becoming a full time writer, I’m keeping all of these things in mind. If I’m not writing I’m promoting because they go hand and hand. I’m going to share this on twitter because so many people need to read this!

  3. Kristen, you are so right. Balance is the key to this crazy job of writing. I’m horrible at marketing, but I’m learning. I had to cut my blogging back and now I only blog when I have something to say or can provide some wisdom others may benefit from. I don’t have little ones around anymore, but my husband is now disabled and I have two teen sons that keep me quite busy. I have been extremely blessed in the past 1 1/2 years that I have been able to stay at home and finish my novel. Going back to work, when and if I find a job, will be very weird. I like the time I’ve had to learn and perfect my craft and network with others just like me. Thank you for all your great posts.

  4. Good truth. Writing is tough enough as a lifestyle without having another job (or 3) and/or parenting. I’ve been restructuring my entire life for 2012 and this decathlon metaphor is dead on. Sometimes we sprint and sometimes we jog, but we always have to keep moving while staying on track.

    • Kristina on January 30, 2012 at 12:12 pm
    • Reply

    This is just what I needed to read on a hectic Monday morning, feeling like I am at a hopeless disadvantage for having not enough time and too much multi-tasking to do. Thank you for the pep talk!

  5. As always, a great post with a lot of tough-love wisdom.

    May I respectfully add that those of us who have no children — but all have full and busy lives that include domestic chores anyway — are just as burdened by distraction.

    I just returned from speaking at a business conference, as a direct result of my new book, (yay!) and had to fly there despite my last flight being so turbulent I cried. (yes I did.) I was nervous and all the other speakers were slick. I’m an author, NOT officially a public speaker. But, shazzam, now I am. You must be ready (and eager) to assume wholly new roles you might have never even considered. This healthy ancillary income is an important part of my life now as well!

    I hired (and paid) an excellent speaking coach, which made a big difference. I blog 3x week. I have served on the board of a writers’ group, the ASJA, for five years and have made contacts that help with agents, advice and fresh ideas on my proposals.

    I was a nationally ranked athlete in my mid-30s and true success IS all about the training and stamina — as is this world, even if our only physical exertion is pounding a keyboard. I recently blogged this, with 12 specific tips on how to achieve success, and hope you won’t mind a link, which also includes the notion of stamina.

    Writing (author of 2 NF commercially published books so far) is about 20% of what I do…the rest is, as you say, a tremendous amount of prep., training, marketing, networking….

  6. I agree with Janiera. This was a great post and I can so relate. Good way to start a Monday! I’m working on the second novel right now, and it’s too easy to get distracted in social marketing. I never feel I’ve accomplished anything if I don’t write, so, I try to take care of the internet “stuff” in the am and work on the writing in the pm. So far, it’s working, more or less. I’m not really keen on the multitasking part of this job!

  7. Kristen…you do know how to nail us. Time after time you show us we’re not alone or facing things alot of others aren’t facing as well. You inspire. Thanks for the candid posts. Mucho hugs

  8. You are spot on as usual. I think the problem with social media is we get on there and chit chat. Waste time. See what people are up to. I had to change my mindset in that regard and focus on it from a business standpoint. Just that shift in thought has helped me immensely.

  9. Thanks again, Kristen, for the reminder that we need to do more than just write a terrific book. I’m working on the next part of my personal decathalon – what to focus on. Blog? Check. Twitter and Facebook? Check, but put more time into Twitter. Write/edit/learn more about writing? Check. Marketing? Weak, but working on it so check. I start stumbling at organize, plan, run a business, speak and teach…so I guess I’m half way. Which is WAY more than where I was last year, so THANK YOU!!!

  10. Fantastic! Thank you for this post. As someone who has just started in the past year to begin the transition to “I want this to be a career and not just a hobby” this gave me a lot of wonderful things to think about and remember along the journey.

  11. As always, you seem to kick me in the pants when I need it most! I woke up feeling whiny today about the day job taking over (hey, it pays bills – what am I complaining about!) and why I’m suddenly in the Girl Scouts & selling cookies (thin mints anyone?) instead of my kid doing it, etc.
    The work of being an author never stops. With one book out, it seems I never have time to work on the next one. Your posts help me get back on track.
    Thanks ( and love the photos!)

  12. Hi Kristen, I’ve been a lurker for quite some time now but decided to comment today because your post hit me right between the eyes. I needed that! I have two children who are always hanging on me, a room full of dirty laundry, and toilets that need cleaning. I have been wondering if I am insane to want to make a career out of writing novels but you helped me see that I AM NOT ALONE! I have been wasting time doing things that don’t move my career forward (blogging, Facebook, and Twitter). I plan on doing some serious training which includes learning more about the craft, getting organized, and participating in your MYWANA hashtag to get some much needed support. THANK YOU SO MUCH for this post! I feel like you wrote it for me. 🙂

    1. Awww. Yes, even us “experts” sometimes sit in the bathroom and cry…while cleaning the mirrors. It can get very overwhelming and a lot of outsiders really don’t appreciate the hard work and sacrifice writers make. All they see is the end product where it seems so…effortless. We know different though, LOL. This is one of the reasons I started MyWANA….YOU, DANA and all those like you. I started it for you and for me and it sometimes just feels really awesome that when everything else is falling apart…WE ARE NOT ALONE. *hugs*

      1. And Kristen, can you explain the #mywana thing? How do I join?

        1. I have a page dedicated to explaining that. So happy you asked:

  13. People who still have fantasies of “being a writer” that involve sitting in a lovely study composing great prose, sending it off to a publisher and receiving hefty royalty checks are in for big disappointment. These days marketing skills are as important as knowing how to use a comma. Which is why MFA programs often let students down in a big way.

  14. And BWT, your Spawn is adorable!

  15. Kristen, I joined your two-month WANA 1011 class in October. Once I did, I signed up for FB and gave Twitter a second look. I like blogging and found I liked reading and commenting on other WANAers’ blogs, but the time commitment was huge. Whenever I got bogged down, I’d look at my calendar and remind myself that I’d retrieve a chunk of time once the class ended. Yes, I was THAT slow on the uptake. It took me seven weeks to realize nothing would end in late November. I’d be keeping up with FB, tweeting, blogging, and commenting on blogs FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE–while writing my pages and fulfilling other responsibilities. Decathlon is right.

  16. I go through some very negative patches and then I read your blog like todays and I am inspired once more to get back on the writing training circuit. Thank you.

  17. Great post, Kristen! I feel your pain on the B.O.T.T.L.E. issue. All three boys – didn’t catch a break with any of them, LOL. Hang in there!

    Is there a website where I can get one of those meth-addicted howler monkeys? It sure would come in handy! Just sayin’… 🙂

  18. A howler monkey! That’s what I need. Dang, if only I’d known that from the beginning because the sign on my door that says, ‘Please, do not disturb’ clearly isn’t working. Hey, it even said ‘Please’. One howler monkey coming up.

    It’s taken me a few months, but I’ve finally figured out how to sprint, run a marathon, and keep flexible with my writing/social media/blogging. I don’t know if I’m doing it right or wrong, but I’m doing it.

    Your Spawn is super adorable and kind of makes me miss the toddler stage. If we lived closer, I’d happily take him off your hands for an afternoon of pixie sticks and Barqs rootbeer. Then we’d go on rollercoasters and really have fun! Okay, maybe not until he’s older.

    • Kristin McFarland on January 30, 2012 at 1:17 pm
    • Reply

    Oh, thanks, Kristen. I needed this post today. On this glorious Monday, I’m revising my WIP, writing a blog post for myself, writing a guest post, working on a completely different project I’ll have to present this weekend, cleaning the apartment, and trying not to FREAK OUT because I still don’t understand Triberr. 🙂

    I’ll just think of this as a training day.

  19. Ditto, all comments. I am new to blogging but not to you–bought your first book and took your first blogging course–I am amazed at the astuteness of your posts, time and time again, truly admirable.

    I enjoy blogging more than I ever thought. Blogging is a revealing tool for every writer and while I find that difficult at times–gnashing of teeth, hair pulling and the like–I do like the regular flexing of my writing muscles. My goal is to create a blog that is not about my minutia. If I can do that twice a week, seems I have a good chance of doing the same in my fiction.

    Quite a challenge but with Kristen Lamb’s help…. Truly, thanks for all you do.

    1. It gets better with practice. Blogging is great training for perfectionists. Good thing is the more you blog the faster and cleaner you get. Ah, but you also learn to LET GO.

  20. “an afford a meth-addicted howler monkey with a sidearm to guard your writing time.”
    Someone’s been reading Chuck Wendig!

    The weakest leg of my Decathlon is READING. For some time now I haven’t had the time to immerse myself in a good book – and that is changing.

    I also need to get my butt in my chair and write, as I have never finished anything that I’ve started. But I literally started writing in late Feb 2011, so I don’t feel too bad about that.

    I figure that the social media thing will come along as I play with it.

    Thanks for the thoughtful blogpost, Kristen. I’m even sadder that you cancelled April’s Blog workshop… but I do understand!

    1. I am putting together a new one that I hope to have launched by March. I talk to tech people tomorrow so stay tuned. You guys are too awesome to stay away from too long, LOL.

  21. Maybe I’m lucky. I’m not married or have kids and nobody but the instructor in the course I’m taking cares about my writing. EXCEPT FOR ME. I care a lot. I can relate to your tyke with his desire for a B-O-T-T-L-E. If I’m away from my laptop I start to get brain flashes about plot and dialogue. If I don’t write them down, they’ll be lost. Woke up this morning with a dream stuck in my head. It screamed to be written down. I wrote it down. I opened the laptop and got 1,800 words out. This is a break from writing. Anyway I can’t afford a meth-addicted monkey with a sidearm. All I’ve got is a black cat who doesn’t understand why I don’t spend eight hours a day petting her.

  22. Thank you Kristen:
    This is exactly what I needed today. I’m stumbling through the social media/blog part of the decathalon you speak of. I HAVE the guardian at the gate for my sacred writing space. I’ve been unemployed for over a year, my kids are grown and my husband cooks! Putting it all together now that I have re-written, submitted, been rejected and re-written again is imparitive for me!

    I’ll be reading your books today.
    Warmest wishes,

  23. I really needed to read this today – try to do all that you mentioned with a head cold had me revelling in a pity party, but now I just consider it training. With a head cold. 😀

  24. My hat’s off to you Kristen. I can’t imagine trying to write write full time and have a little one in the house. I have a ten year old and I try to write when she’s in school. I’m finding that I’m not finding much time at all on the weekends to get the house clean not to mention try to write. Like you though, I love writing. I really want a tee shirt that says “I’d rather be writing”. Because it is true. I’d rather be writing than marketing my book, doing housework, doing my taxes, or exercising trying to get back into shape. I really need to get more organized. I’m reading a great book called THE WRITER’S WORKOUT by Christina Katz it’s published by Writer’s Digest books. It relates very much to what you’re saying here.

  25. As a stay-at-home dad, this post went straight to my heart. Right down to lying awake in the darkness, listening to the cat barfing, wondering if I’ll make it to my crocs with dry feet, or if indeed it is the crocs that now hold the wet, slippery surprise.

    Add “running obstacle course while disoriented and blind” to the list of training exercises.

    As I near the end of writing my first ms, I’ve been slowly trying to add in the major components of this new indie author role. I’m behind the learning curve on social media, gasping for air as I try to catch up. For me, multi-tasking consists of being able to set aside each task (often unfinished) and devote my whole attention to the next most pressing task. Not letting myself worry about how or when I’ll make it back around. If the task happens to be sitting still for 45 minutes while the newborn sleeps in my arms, so be it. Laundry will be there when she wakes. Adding another hundred words to the next scene of the current chapter. Cooking dinner. This is the stuff of life itself, it must all be enjoyed equally. The alternatives are numbness, or worse, resentment. When I inevitably grind to a halt, I find that just sitting, eyes closed, breathing deeply for a minute or two can make all the difference. Finding balance, even picking the next most critical baby step to take, have become almost completely intuitive processes. I’m not sure how else to keep up. Certainly, my rational mind isn’t much help. It’s too busy telling me to strip off all my clothes and run screaming into the forest.

    Let go, Luke. Trust your feelings.

    I used the same (seemingly random) inner guidance to help me get started blogging, to find the right mentors among the millions of bloggers out here. Anne R. Allen’s excellent beginners guide was the first (Hi Anne, nice to see your post up there). I don’t think it’s any coincidence that I found my way here not long after, Kristen. Your book, “Are You There Blog, It’s Me, Writer,” is one of three books (so far) that I’m using to draft the blueprint of this new writing career. I’m finding it both practical and supportive. Just the right words coming at just the right time, as they so often do.

    You have my thanks, Coach.

    1. Hugs to you and Stay-at-Home Dads, ROCK! Just keep swimmin’ LOL

  26. I’ve read a few books on writing books over the past couple years. And none of them provided any solid information. Each had a couple little blips that I found useful, but overall they were disappointing, uninformative, and unproductive (for me, anyway).

    I’d really love to know what craft books you would recommend for someone working on a fantasy fiction novel?

    Thanks, miq

    1. Not that you asked me 😉 but the only craft (ish) book I’ve liked (loved, actually) is On Writing, by Stephen King. Just my 2 cents!

      1. I’ll definitely check it out. Thanks for the response.

      2. Ooh, yes. Love ON WRITING. Big ditto, here.

  27. So I have an idea. Since they haven’t figured out how to have clothes wash themselves, I’m putting an initiative on the ballot — that we all go naked. I know, when you think of the people you see every day, that could be painful. But when you think about the extra time you’d have, isn’t it worth it?

    I’m SO with you on the cat barfing in the dark…I thought I was the only one who’s stepped in it (cold is worse than warm, trust me) in the middle of the night. Barefoot.

    It’s a great life if you don’t weaken!

  28. Thank you, this is just what I needed to read today (except for the bit about giving up pizza and going to the gym…).

  29. Hi Kristen! As always, you provide the mot juste when I need it. I completely agree with the decathlon analogy of the writing-author biz, including the reminder that a decathlon INCLUDES a marathon among the nine other events. I struggle with how I feel about this, though, being a jack of all and master of none. If you spread yourself too thinly, do you end up not being good at anything, or merely mediocre at everything? The best decathlete in the world cannot beat a marathoner in the marathon… but then, I don’t think your best marathoners can pole vault at ALL. Hmm…I’m liking this analogy more and more. Your young Spawn IS adorable BTW–be glad it’s the B-O-T-T-L-E and not the B-O-O-B 😉

  30. thanks for the post, kristen. good stuff. very cute pics, btw – “why are you crying mommy?” made me lol.

    i find the hardest part the social media and marketing, blogging, vlogging, snogging. wait.

    yeah, reaching a wider audience than my facebook friends. on my way to amazon now to pick up your books – hopefully you’ll learn me on how to brand myself (i’ve already done it with a hot poker and it hurt) the fun way. 🙂

  31. I’m right there with you, both on the taking the writing career seriously thing (way too many folks want to be successful but never do the things that will help them do that) and on the cat sick first thing in the morning thing. Great post! I love the cute photos of the Spawn too.

    • the writ and the wrote on January 30, 2012 at 5:01 pm
    • Reply

    I’d swear you were speaking directly to me. I am struggling big time with balancing my time. There are so many things I want to write and read and do, but I work and therefore feel like I am running out of time. I know a lot of people work and I don’t mean it in a way that I am better than anyone else or superior. I know I am not. I just feel like I am running out of time.

    1. It is easy to feel that way. Just breathe. Baby steps are steps and most people don’t do even those. You are probably farther ahead than you really realize ;).

  32. Yet another amazing post, Kristen, and definitely something that I needed to hear. On some days, the juggling act between writing, schoolwork, and author platform-building is more than I can handle, and of late, all I’ve wanted to do is crawl in a corner somewhere and lament everything that I DON’T know about writing… but you’re right, success is about learning how to develop the stamina that we need to develop all the parts of our lives. Thanks for the reminder!

  33. I don’t have kids, nor cat, but one of my dogs went outside this morning, ate something nasty and barfed it all over the house just as I was about to walk out the door to work, so I can relate. Two (or is it three) jobs, reading about craft (loving Story Engineering), researching for the next novel, reading, blogging…. This is definitely some kind of grueling sporting event in which I keep getting high from the endorphins. Thanks for the analogy and the fun read.

  34. Great post. I think it applies to those who squeeze in writing while being a stay at home mom and those who are squeezing it in with working and parenting. It’s a lot. You have to do a bit at a time but keep at it. And yes, sometimes I spend too much time blogging. I confess I need to change that some.

  35. lol With that first part of your blog I was laughing but to be honest there are times with my own 2 year old girl that I want to scream or cry, but most of the time I end up laughing like a looney toon. It’s true, I am a stay at home mom aswell but aside from this one aspect I hate the phrase. Most people judge that you’re sitting on your butt watching tv all the time with no goals (thanks hollywood) but to be honest I don’t mind the misconception because when they get their own wake-up call I’ll be rolling on the floor laughing at them. As to the decathalon analogy, apt. thx for the insightful post

    • Rose on January 30, 2012 at 6:17 pm
    • Reply

    Hi Kirsten. My health frequently appears as an obstacle to my writing. However, I am soon to go into hospital to have a tumour removed from the soft palate of my mouth. My recovery will require me to be on ‘voice rest’. When my doctor told me this, my first thought was “At least I will be able to write”. So, in hospital; no voice; I can still write 🙂 Rose

    1. Get better soon. I know how you feel. Part of how I started writing is I was misdiagnosed with epilepsy. Problem is, you give a non-epileptic seizure meds and you can cause seizures. I lost my job in sales because I had to drive for my job. Eventually I got to where I couldn’t drive, then couldn’t leave the house because the more they doctors tried to control the seizures, the worse they got and I knew I was a danger to be driving. So, I was stuck at home, very ill and very alone…so I began to write. You are in my prayers and remember this, too, shall pass. *hugs*

  36. I’m new to your blog, but I will now be a subsriber. I really enjoyed this piece and I do understand the frustration of finding time to write. I’m editing book one of my trilogy and I do this early in the morning before work, while making dinner after work, and late into the night. I belong to a great writer’s group and will be going to the Philadelphia Writer’s Conference for a second year. I do blog, but I can only put one blog out a week. My blogs, unlike my book( dark, supernatural) are funny, featuring the crazy adventures my nine grandchildren can drag me into. Is this okay? Do my blogs have to be about my writing?

    1. Don’t blog about writing. You are good. Just keep posted for my new blogging classes. I can help it be easier. Thanks for taking the time to comment and I am thrilled you are a subscriber! Thanks 😀

  37. Great post Kristen! Thanks to you and your great advice I feel like I am finally getting a handle on the whole social media platform puzzle. And you are so right, it is definitely a decathalon. I’m juggling way more things now than I ever was working in my 9 to 5 job. Very challenging but I keep focused on the final goal and try to enjoy the journey along the way. 😀

  38. Oh, Kristen,
    You always make me think. Thanks for that.

  39. Kristen, I discovered your blog through googling #MyWanna which I kept seeing of favorite folks I follow and who follow me onTwitter! MyWanna hastag is used by a lot of UK authors and self-publishers,PR folks,etc. I have posted this article on my Facebook timeline and emailed to my free-lance writing mother of my 4.5 and 1.5 year old grandchildren. Your B-O-T-T-L-E ing son reminds me so much of what my dear, precious daughter-in-law goes through with my grandson! I also emailed a link to this post. I myself am so thrilled to be back writing fulltime that all my friends and family are very supportive, since I am not aggravating them! Much of my self-editing work comes after I blog several hours a day. I had been cut off from my writing peers for so long that I truly need this activity for the near future. From reblogs some of my work and dedicatory posts of my comments in back-and-forth dialogue, it seems to be working as designed to both get me back in the swim and to build my platform. I am SO glad I found you.

  40. Between reading blogs, reading your two books on social media and platform, reading actual fiction (genre-related) books, reading craft books, and writing my own blog and doing the whole social media thing, I’m also currently on contract as a professional actor, and teaching in a 2-year theatre program. Oh, and I’m writing short story submissions for some anthology deadlines and querying my novel to literary agents (two partials requested so far – yay!)

    All in all, I feel that everything is related. It’s all my author training – it’s all work. Last week I did the math.. 42 hours/week working as an actor, 48 hours/week furthering my writing career. Is it any wonder I sometimes don’t get sleep??

    Loved the post, Kristen – thanks for it!

    • Joanna Aislinn on January 30, 2012 at 7:36 pm
    • Reply

    Awesome as always, Kristen. Loved the post and feeling that I’m not on my own trying to be a writer midst a family that just wants a mom and a wife and day-job holder and laundry doer–stop! (Shakes head violently to clear it.) Ran away with it a bit there.

    Love the idea of training. I’m by all means a work in progress. As a friend once said, “I’m moving slowly from where I was.”

    Those baby steps add up. Thanks for a great reminder and for the inspiration that came packaged with it.

  41. My heart hurts thinking of you throwing up out of despair after work! We’re ALL so glad you’ve moved on and now thrive as an author/guru/blog queen. Pretty sure you kick butt as a mom, too. 😉

    I’ve learned this past year that giving writing my all requires self care and rest, too… Something we passionate workaholics tend to struggle with. I’ve also learned that the harder I work and commit myself to what I love (writing), all falls into place—not perfectly (whatever that is LOL), but reasonably and happily. Blogging has added much more work to my routine, and it’s worth every millisecond. SO glad I found your book when I did. Thank you thank you, Kristen.

    • lynnkelleyauthor on January 30, 2012 at 7:52 pm
    • Reply

    Getting organized? Dang, that’s a tough one for some of us. Spawn is so cute. Love that pizza look! I remember how I got my third child to give up the bottle (ha!). She was two and I let her drink all the milk, then bribed her with a piece of candy (yes – I’m a bad mom, but I’m sure Spawn will go for broccoli!) if she’d throw the bottle in the trashcan. She bought it. Next morning, she went straight to the trash to dig it out but it was gone. “I think some mice must have come during the night and took it.” She wasn’t happy, but she couldn’t blame me. I still can’t believe I got away with that. Good luck with Spawn!

  42. Balance is key! I’m still learning that. I tend to get so excited that I work 12-15 hour days for a while until I get burnt out and sick for a week which ends up being totally counter-productive. SO now I have to pace myself and be sure to include daily workouts, hobbies, and downtime with friends and family to make for a more balanced life each and every day.

  43. Have you been looking in my (empty) refrigerator again? Seriously Kristen! I challenge you to plan a bar mitzvah and write 2k every day! Take my bar mitzvah, please! But I’m finding a way to keep moving forward with WIP.

  44. This comment is not so much about the writing, but I sure did laugh out loud. “Mommy, are you writing? I’m hungry. All my underwear is dirty.”

    SO TRUE!!!

  45. Kristen, Thank you so much for helping this stay at home mom wanna be writer realize that she’s not alone. I’m a runner and I will use your metaphor to inspire me. Now, can you offer suggestions on WHEN exactly to fit these things into each day. I love blogging – it’s forcing me to write succinctly and regularly-in addition to my WIP. But it’s difficult to find time for social media- My husband is ready to stomp on my smart phone!

  46. Your Spawn is sooo cute. I see he’s a good help with the laundry.
    And I thought I could just write my book, sell it and it would be out there. This promoting it takes a lot of time. Time I feel I should be writing but what good is it if I write a great book and no one ever gets to find it.

  47. WORK-at-home moms. STAY-at-home sends the wrong message. It’s estimated that the work we do at home without the writing is worth about $96,000.00/yr. Where’s the check, dear? WORK-at-home moms.

    1. AWESOME correction, because seriously I WORK…ALL THE TIME!

  48. I loved this. I can totally relate. I have 4 children under 8 (the baby is 18 months and into EVERYTHING–the picture of your toddler eating leftover pizza with a knife is all too familiar). It’s a major struggle to write and tweet and blog and keep up with all basic things that my kids need, but I haven’t given up yet! Thanks for pep-talk/ reality check.

  49. Encouraging words. Been a tough year as I realized I’d set the pole vault bar too low to really compete. At least I’m armed now with knowledge of how to avoid the slush pile. It’s just that applying it to one’s own work is the difference between hurling a frisbee and a discus.

  50. I love your blogs. I always come away with something special.

  51. I love your analogies. As a former decathlete it totally makes sense to me but I’d never looked at my new career that way. Then you said it and a light bulb in my brain kicked on and said hey treat this like you treated training in college and how you’re treating your marathon training now. Productivity here I come. As soon as I convince my two year old that the toilet is his friend. Or at least better than my floor.

  52. OMG! I got to the party late – but here I am! I love you! Ok-that sounds weird. But I think it means something that I’m cleaning the toilets this morning while reading your post. You know, because you need to squirt the cleaner in. let it sit, go do something else (read this post) and then get back to it.

    I AM a marathon runner. I get everything you’re saying. I am utterly inspired. I just joined the Facebook and the Twitter on Friday (late to the party). I just started blogging in October. I think I’m starting to get it. I am so happy I found you!

    1. So happy you are here, too! If you are on Twitter, connect to #MyWANA so we can support you.

  53. Just what I needed to hear today. Thanks!

  54. The decathalon is a perfect metaphor here. Personally I’m still trying to qualify in the time management event.

    You’ve made me thankful I’ve begun my training to be a world-class author before I have kids.

  55. “People who just sit down and write until they stop? Yeah, that ain’t a novel.”

    Kristen, do I understand it right that you are against pantsing? How about Stephen King? He doesn’t outline.

    1. He is Stephen King so he can get away with things that we can’t and actually King has had many, many years of writing that have ingrained the ability to plot mentally. This needs to be developed. Carrie was not the first work King wrote, He had been writing many stories for many years and over time he honed his ability to be a storyteller. I am not against pantsing, per se. Too many writers do not understand the basics of narrative structure, so they write something that will be off-putting to readers. Even a four year old has an innate sense of story structure. There is a beginning, a middle and an end and a child will call us out of we stray. If a writer understands narrative structure inside and out and then decides to pants through a manuscript, fine. Just like a jazz musician must understand the basics of music before taking off in a riff. But too many writers just start writing and the idea isn’t strong enough to support a 60-100,000 word structure. Pantsing doesn’t mean you don’t sit down and get an idea of rough guideposts first.

      1. GREAT point. If there’s one danger to On Writing (which I freaking love) it’s that King plotted few of his books and leads readers to a sense that everyone might be able to sit down with a scenario and write their way through it. Great fun but you’re right; gotta have experience and understanding of structure. At least I do.

      2. I agree, Kristen, everyone should learn the rules, a genius is born not very often. In a way pantsing a first draft is like writing a messy outline, the opposite to the “snowflake method”, but good in unleashing your creativity. I find pantsing is time consuming and depends on inspiration way too much. Perhaps, it can work with writers like King because he doesn’t have a non-writing job to feed a family, so he can just choose to swim in his writing world indefinitely and uninterrupted. I would too recommend outlining to everyone, especially because i’m a plotter myself. But i’ve met people that are great spontaneous storytellers

        • MK on February 6, 2012 at 7:19 pm
        • Reply

        Kristin, that’s so true! I have been writing for years, and have only recently begun to express myself well in my writing (although I do outline – I’m no Stephen King, after all!). It took those years of training and really learning to write while I juggled life, and I’m still learning more every day. I do feel a sense of progression with each new story I begin and I do understand structure better than I did when I first began writing.

  56. Great post! This is my favorite line: “I can tell writers who aren’t avid readers in three pages.”
    Oh, this is so true.

    I’m a full-time educator, my field is reading and literacy. I write for fun, and I love my job and can’t imagine leaving it. SO, I’m peeking behind the curtain into the world of aspiring writers as a total fangirl. I’ve been surprised by much of what I’ve seen regarding aspiring writers and their use of social media, and this post really helped me organize my thoughts about it.

    As a reader, I never knew all of the work that it takes to be a career author. As an educator, I understand *exactly* what writers mean when they say that the product is just one small part of it. Same goes for teaching–those 15 hours of class that I teach every week? That’s the easy part! If only you knew what went into making that 15 hours so successful.

    Can I make a plea to writers? (As an avid (obsessive) reader.) –> Don’t forget us! Most avid readers are NOT aspiring writers. While it can be interesting to read a post about your writing process, we are often most interested in learning more about the stories you’ve created.

    Even though I *am* a writer, I am a reader first, and I often feel so left out from writers’ blogs. Think of the obsessed fans who create entire fansites such as Mugglenet–they scour the Internet for information–*not* about Rowling’s process, but about her characters. Her stories. Or the details surrounding certain choices she made for the story. This is what we crave. We want to burrow even deeper into the world you’ve created, if only you’ll let us in.

    So authors, please don’t forget about your readers when you’re creating your blog posts. Sometimes, I’ll learn how an author came across an idea for a small detail in a story, and that alone will be enough to make me decide to buy the book.

    1. Totally agree, Lori. I think every reader is a potential writer. When i sarted learning about writing reading became more fun, like i’ve put on 3d gasses :))

  57. I loved the decathalon analogy. Spot on. Looking at writing from that perspective highlights the need to be able to do more than just write beautiful words that millions are dying to read. We have to work on all the fundamentals, even if we don’t like to do something. Just like a decathlete who excels in running must work on the fundamentals of the strength events, even though he may hate those events.

  58. Before I entered this writing world, I thought that authors had a great deal of talent and luck to get where they are. After a while, I realized that talent and luck are small components next to learning the craft, being savvy, and persevering. Your post is a great reminder of that! Thanks, Kristen.

  59. Hey,
    I’m not a Mommy, but distractions do happen and we can lose our focus. We must rather be like tennis players never taking our eyes off the ball until the point is ours. (having watched the Australian Open…a big fan of tennis which I play). That’s my take
    Thanks for sharing.

  60. Kristin,
    I stopped by because some stranger on twitter included me in a mysterious tweet about #mywana. I asked another twitter friend what it meant, fearing I was being twitterstalked. LOL I needed to hear this stuff so I guess i need to track down my stalker and thank him.

    1. LOL…happy you’re here! Have a digital drink :D.

  61. Wonderful post! I’ve been seeing the #mywana tag a lot and always wondered what it stood for.

    I’m not a parent, but that doesn’t seem to matter. The distractions and endless other tasks that need performing seem to build up. I work a full-time non-writing job during the day and write, edit and read in every spare moment. It’s my second job and I treat it as such. Thankfully I adore organization so it helps keep me on track. I love your honesty and your tell-it-like-it-is style. We all picture our perfect lives once we are published. Somehow banking on it solving all our problems. If only that were true. I write because I love it. Do I want to be published? Who doesn’t?! But I know that I need to keep working hard at my craft.

    Thank you for this post. It was a great reminder that all that glitters is not gold.

  62. What a great post~ a mixture of tough love and real life and gentle reminders. You’re the best!

  63. Kristen…how do you manage to be helpful and relevant and funny all at the same time? You crack me up, but I end up saving and stashing away and forwarding your blog posts way more often than anyone else’s. Thanks. No, really. Thanks.

  64. Love those pics of the Spawn. He’s adorable.

    I have to agree that organization is key. That and commitment. If we can’t commit to the craziness and instead just work when we “have time” nothing happens. I spent years like that and I achieved very little. Now, each year I get a little more organized, train a little harder and stick to my commitment a little better.

    Reading your blog and others on craft and marketing helps, too.

    Thanks for the reminder.

  65. This post is the perfect reality check. There is so much a writer needs to do to succeed. But the most important of all is writing. It is so easy to skip writing when there are many exciting things to learn and do. But all the lessons learned need to be put to good use too. When you have the basic craft down, you learn the best by doing, whether it’s failing or working out.

    And I echo everyone else who adore your Spawn. What a cutie. I commisserate the B.O.T.T.L.E. issue. My twin spawn are a little older than yours and both still suck theirs. I’m a weak mom but thankfully I’m getting weaning backup. I hope you have support troops too.

  66. This post really hits home for me. Recently I’ve scaled back on my social media time in order to spend more time writing. I’m a much less effective blogger, and my pageviews and comments have taken a downturn, but that’s not really where my efforts need to go, nor is it what I’m looking for in the long run. When I get to my deathbed, I don’t want to say, ‘Thank God I turned myself into a successful blogger’. I want to say, ‘Thank God I wrote all those stories that were in my heart.’

  67. Hi Kristen! I’m enjoying your blog and this entry really held my attention and I’ve been analyzing everything I’ve been doing as a writer as a result.

    I’m still a newbie when it comes to writing, social promoting, blogging, etc. Even though I’ve been writing stories here and there for years, this is the first time I’ve been serious with putting a book out and I’m searching online for the all the information I need to become a better writer, not only through storytelling but also through promoting my book and informing people about it. I hope I gather enough information as possible and it would pay off!

    Thank you for your blog! 🙂

  68. Reblogged this on Side Quest Publications and commented:
    Kristen Lamb writes about the writer’s life. In this article, she explains that being a writer is more than just writing a book, it’s a decathlon.
    I disagree. It’s more like being in the Olympics, where the writer has to complete all Summer and Winter events, even the team sports…alone….

    1. Please ignore that trackback link; my post has been rewritten, and that address no longer exists….

  69. So is there an implication here that if one wants to be an author one ought not to publish until they’ve read enough books to generate works with the traits you associate with an avid reader? How many books is enough? How can one tell when they are ready?

    As you said yourself the stakes are high – most people will never read an author again if their first encounter with that author is a bad one. I am just unsure how to know when I am ready to publish.

  70. Hi! Just dropping by to say hello. 🙂 What setbacks…how to balance work, writing, blogging. Still haven’t figured that one out yet. You know. How to give it my all without giving your all. What I can do differently? Make technology the best friend. Dishes needs to be washed so dump everything in the dishwasher. Clothes won’t fold themselves so buy a lot of hanger and hang them. Thank goodness we no longer have to wash clothes by hand. On that thought, skipping vacuuming every week is okay, too maybe make it into a ten-day cycle instead of weekly)?

    Being a writer isn’t easy. However, we should give ourselves a break. It’s when fresh ideas come through. Otherwise, we will be so exhausted that we’ll experience writer’s block (which I thankfully got out of).

  71. What a great article! I’ve known a lot of people who do training for marathons etc, but I never sat and thought about how the process can apply to other aspects of life. Thank you!!

    1. Had to modify my blog –

      Thank you very much for the information you’ve shared (in this article and others) – it has totally revamped my plan for the career I hope to have as a writer.

    • on February 26, 2013 at 4:12 pm
    • Reply

    Thank you! I hope you don’t mind, but I am using your blog as a research source for my report (rewording everything, obviously) Thanks! You have brilliant insight.

    • Kakooza Allen matovu on March 2, 2013 at 12:10 pm
    • Reply

    you are my saviour,i want to be an author and have been writing abook.I had no clue about this,may God bless you.

  72. This is a great post. If anyone is looking for work as an author to make some extra money, leave a follow up reply. Thanks

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