7 Things Confident Writers Don't Do

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One of the reasons I encourage writers to blog and to read blogs is that you will find inspiration all around you. A dear friend of mine, Steve Tobak, has a MASSIVE blog following and is the business blogger for CBS, Fox Business and Inc.

I love reading his posts about entrepreneurs because so much applies to authors (we are entrepreneurs of a different sort, but still entrepreneurs). The other day, he had a post called 7 Things Confident Leaders Don’t Do, and I am going to take the liberty of retooling this for writers.

In a world full of wanna-be best-sellers, confident writers don’t:

1. Do What Everyone Else is Doing

Find your own voice and tell your own story. Don’t write to the market. Find the publishing path that works for you. If self-publishing works for you, your budget and your personality, great. The stigma is fading, so be bold. If you want creative control and yearn to make the kind of living you see other indies making, go for it!

But, if you really want to go traditional, then feel good about that choice. Just make sure you have a great agent or lawyer (like Susan Spann) who can negotiate a contract that is favorable to you and your goals.

2. Worry About Weakness

Writers all suffer from an odd mix of narcissism and deep-seated insecurity. We have to have a big enough ego to believe that we have a story others will want to pay money to read, yet at the same time we worry the world will hate it and throw digital tomatoes at us.

Acknowledge weakness. Work to strengthen it, but don’t lose sleep over it. I see a lot of writers who are so terrified of failing, it paralyzes forward momentum. They edit the same book for six years trying to make it perfect instead of just shipping and moving on to the next book.

They bank everything on one book and spend hours looking at sales and reviews instead of just doing the one thing that will help them be successful…writing MORE books!

3. Waste a Lot of Time

If we want to have what no one else has, we can’t do what everyone else does. When others are going to the mall, watching television or goofing off playing Farmville, we need to be working. Real artists have a vision and go after that vision with focused intensity.

4. Try to Be Successful

Successful writers write. They know that success in this business rarely comes with one book. John Locke didn’t sell a million books in six months with ONE book. He did it with 12. I see too many writers publish one book and then beat the hell out of all of us spamming about their books. In trying to be successful, they do a lot of dumb moves that common sense would dictate is a bad idea.

Yesterday, I was on Twitter when I saw this:

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I don’t know this writer and have never read his books, yet it didn’t stop him from trying to use MY NAME to sell books. On what planet is this a good idea? When writers TRY to be successful, they listen to dumb marketing advice and spend more time selling instead of writing.

5. Breathe Their Own Fumes

Be open to criticism. Surrounding ourselves with yes-men is dangerous and keeps us from growing. That’s one of the reasons I ask for thoughts and opinions at the end of my posts (other than I do LOVE hearing from you). I never mind disagreement so long as it’s respectful. I can’t grow if I don’t know what needs to come up higher.

When I wrote my short story Dandelion I sent it to people I knew would be brutal. All of them loved the story, but most saw things I didn’t. The changes took a good story to a fantastic story that I am very proud of. But I am human. I wanted a fluffy kitten hug of “Kristen, all your words are GOLD!” yet, I didn’t. The problems they pointed out were dead on, and I was able to make the right changes.

Too many new writers are publishing books without going to people who will give them honesty. The problem is that instead of getting the rough truth in private, they get the brutal truth PUBLICLY and PERMANENTLY in one and two-star reviews from ticked off readers.

6. Fear Competition

Competition is just part of what we do. Good for us that books are not so cost-prohibitive that people can’t buy more than one. Thing is, there will always be someone who is a better writer than we are. Learn from them. I hear a lot of new writers (and I was once guilty, too) groan about certain best-sellers and tear down the writer and the book. Instead, read it. Try to see why that book resonated and broke out.

7. Try to Be What They’re Not

Most writers aren’t doing this “writing thing” until our dream job in sales comes our way. A lot of the reason that so much writer marketing is annoying and lame is artists are trying to be “power marketers.”

Less marketing and more writing.

Talk to people and build community and leave the mega-marketing to Madison Avenue. WANA methods don’t try to change your personality, so you have far greater odds of success because people will feel your social media activities are authentic.

What are some other qualities of confident authors that I might have missed? What are your thoughts? Opinions?

Note about PajamaCon Winners: We are giving the week for those who want to send in an entry to send it in. Will announce winners on MONDAY.

I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of February, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. 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 once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

And also, winners have a limited time to claim the prize, because what’s happening is there are actually quite a few people who never claim the critique, so I never know if the spam folder ate it or to look for it and then people miss out. I will also give my corporate e-mail to insure we connect and I will only have a week to return the 20 page edit.

At the end of February I will pick a winner for the monthly prize. Good luck!


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  1. Ah Kristen…this is perfect timing. As I get further and further in writing and revising this blasted first novel, I have to remember why I’m doing it. Not to please someone else, not to be famous, not to repeat what someone else has already said, not to follow a publishing formula. I do want it to be articulate, inspiring, and well-crafted, however. And I just want to (eventually) get this monkey off my back. It’s been chewing my ear for much too long…

      • DeeAnna Galbraith on February 28, 2013 at 3:50 pm
      • Reply

      Kristen, bless your fluffy kitten heart for visiting shame on us when required. Thought I’d skated past, but there are still a few don’ts hanging on.

  2. Love #2. Write more books. Exactly!! And that’s what I’m going to get back to doing after saying thanks for the great blog.

  3. Lots of good advice here. I guess I’m of two minds about self publishing. I know there are a lot of arbitrary reasons why traditional publishers choose (and don’t choose) to publish new authors, but when I see the dreck that goes out self-published I just don’t want to tar my work with that particular paint brush. It may be true that the self-publishing stigma is fading, but I figure becoming successful via self publishing is like winning the lottery: it *could* happen, but it’s most like not going to happen. If my writing is not good enough to appeal to a traditional publisher, maybe my writing is just not good enough and that is that.

  4. Kristen, I enjoyed this post. I am glad you wrote a version for writers. Your post is very encouraging and makes sense. I admit I’ve worked on the same book for 6 1/2 years, but I began it in college. Since it is historical, I took the time to research and it took me time to write while I went to school and worked. While I am editing it now and plan to finish by May, I found I needed to learn about the writing and publishing industry as it has transformed during the last decade. I was lucky to be part of a critique group when I studied abroad, and to have received critique since, but I will say I’ve worked on other stories and projects during those six years. Again, I appreciate your post!

  5. This was good to read this morning, thank you.

  6. Good marching orders. Write. Write. Write. Write.

  7. Finding readers to really critique my book is my next task. I know my son will be brutal, but I need about 6 or 7 more. Any suggestions on how to go about doing that? It would be a waste if readers just said, “I love it!” There is always loads of room for improvement. It’s my first book for god’s sake!
    Also, I wondered if you could write about editing and the difference and importance in hiring a big picture and grammatical editor.

    1. I can do that :D. Conferences are great resources for beta readers (trade) and so is WANATribe.

      1. I will head over to “the tribe” right now!

    2. Can I please read it, I am brutal honest!

      1. Definitely! You’re in!

        1. Yay!

    3. Hi Susie *waves*, I’m looking for beta readers for my women’s fiction novel. Let me know if you’d like to swap reads. I sent you a friend request on Wana.

  8. Pretty sure I’ve done all of these at one point or another, haha. Except the ‘do what everyone else is doing’ part, because otherwise I’d be writing about sparkly vampires Okay, confession time, so I don’t sound like one of those jealous authors: I actually I have a lot of respect for Meyers and her success. She believed in her work enough to see it published after being rejected a lot. I may not necessarily like her stories, but writers can learn a lot from her. Plus I just find the phrase ‘sparkly vampires’ hilarious 😀

    Now that I’ve tossed my two cents into the pot, off to the Writer’s Cave! *plays Batman theme while scurrying away*

  9. I agree with you. Good to be polite and learn from each other. I learn from the new and old great writers. A wise person seek improvement and is willing to assist other people with dreams and goals.

  10. This is the 2nd blog post I’ve read this morning that’s resounded so, so deeply with me. Between creative meaningful connections with the writing community and gaining more and more confidence in my writing, I’ve got some work to do. But like #2 says, I know where my weaknesses lie and I’m actively working to gain strength in those areas. And #5 is something I’ve always done. I learned a long time ago to only send my work to critique partners and beta readers who I know will be brutally honest in their critiques. I don’t want to hear, “I love it! You should publish this right now!” I want to hear, “This is really good, but I think you can work on making this stronger and adding more powerful visceral responses here.”

  11. This is some really good advice, Ms. Lamb! I am a new blogger and writer who is just starting out. I think you have touched upon some very valid points about following your inner voice, not following or copying what others do.

    • Janet Boyer on February 28, 2013 at 9:51 am
    • Reply

    I would add that confident writers don’t get discouraged easily. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. :o)

  12. Thanks, Kristin, I needed this post. These are all things that authors need to hear time and again. I am especially guilty of point three (pretty sure I’ve mentioned here that my first novel took eight-years…) and can especially identify with point two. That “odd mix” is like a poison cocktail during submission time!

    Definitely reblogging this one. 🙂

  13. Reblogged this on Sand from a Distant Shore.

  14. Refuse the box and break the rules when your heart leads you in a certain direction! When I first started making connections with writers, the first thing some of them tried to do was box me up and load me down with RULES. Yes, rules give us a roadmap, but they’re not (always) black and white. For our voice to come through in our writing we have to follow where it leads us.

  15. Your posts are so helpful!! Thanks!!



  16. Such good and necessary reminders. I stepped onto the hamster wheel while talking others off it. What’s up with that?

  17. Reblogged this on Dr. Shay West aka Dr. Shay Fabbro aka Dr. FAB! and commented:
    Another awesome blog from the adorable and damn smart cookie, Kristen Lamb. This advice isn’t just for writers. Use this for any area of your life 🙂

  18. Write what YOU write, even if it is low key emotionally laden stories. They’re your stories, and will remain so long after vampires sparkle in menage bondage. I’m with Rhenna and Seilann and pretty much everyone else here replying. Write your very best and cleanest story, work with good Beta readers, and keep writing. Thanks to Kristen, I now have a sticky on the edge of my screen “Suck it up Buttercup” Gets me back to my odd stories every time.

    • AnneE on February 28, 2013 at 10:48 am
    • Reply

    great post. These comments apply to scientists (and science writers) too. I really needed this today!

  19. Kristen,
    I reblogged your post yesterday at http://www.thelindenchronicles.com and find that you have a terrific following in your visions within the publishing industry. It is really good to know that there is a cyber community out there who has experienced or will experience the same things in this journey. Thanks for being there for all of us! We made #1 Best Seller in both cateogories yesterday with “The Wolf’s Moon” and would love you to critique this book! Looking forward to reading more of your blogs, as they continue to bolster your vision in the book “We Are Not Alone”!! I am also going to reblog your post today because it is so very true. Thanks again!

  20. Reblogged this on The Linden Chronicles and commented:
    This is such good advice from Kristen Lamb!

    • Jennifer Smith on February 28, 2013 at 11:06 am
    • Reply

    Great advice! I am finding a wealth of information and insight in your blogs.

  21. Reblogged this on The BiaLog.

    • stephscottil on February 28, 2013 at 11:18 am
    • Reply

    Ahh digital tomatoes, how they taunt us.

  22. This was amazing advice. I especially liked # 5. It is so hard for me to take criticism, but I am learning how to use it to my advantage 🙂 Great info!! Thanks 🙂

    • Lori Moore on February 28, 2013 at 11:24 am
    • Reply

    I loved this blog this morning, I went to a dinner last night. They spoke upon how writers talk to editors and such, I felt a little down, since my book is my first and may be my last, (I am going in for cancer testing) so what I have done; was dust off my ole novel that has been ten years in the making, and am writing like mad. This blog made me feel hope one more time, I am so glad I have found you, and can read the feedback from other writers.

    Cancer or not; I have a dream; and through that dream, I have become more inspired by the people on this blog.

    I am interested in sending in my first 20 pages for feedback, and such. I found out last night that you need to request, “what sort of feed back one wants.” So mine would be; does it capture the hearts to be a page turner, the flip side of this, is that I have a Brain Injury from Domestic Violence, so I can write from what is inside, but I cannot bring back in the written word to well, its quite an odd setup, its like someone blind but their other senses ignite.

    Thank you so much for being my early morning email inspiration.

    1. I’m so sorry to hear about the cancer. I really hope you make it through all right but also that this new fire you’re experiencing will help you break through. I’m sure at this point your writing can be very powerful. Btw my own grandfather had cancer but kept it at bay for a long time by natural remedies such as chili. (It sounds silly, but natural remedies can help)
      Good luck!!

  23. Reblogged this on Ronda's Book Reviews and commented:
    I know this post by Kristen Lamb will probably be reblogged several times, but it such good advice that I wanted to reblog it as well.

  24. Suffering from an odd mix of narcissism and deep-seated insecurity describes me well. I also love the encouragement to pull up your britches and be confident in your decision to go with the traditional route of publishing. I reblogged these valuable tools as well. Great advice. I plan on using it!

    • Kristen G. Johnson on February 28, 2013 at 12:04 pm
    • Reply

    Confident writers do not say yes to every non-writing opportunity that comes their way.
    They are confident in their call as a writer that they will make time for it and keep focused on their mission.

    Thanks for the post. I’m really enjoying your blog.
    have a wonderful day

  25. Inspiring post, as usual, Kristen. I’m working on two blogs (at least) to make up for being an MIA blogger. BTW, recently, a visitor passed on the Liebster Award to me. Must have done something right. 😉

    • Dave Stovall on February 28, 2013 at 12:27 pm
    • Reply

    Good points all and I especially like the “Fear the Competition” part. I’m writing in the adventure genre and I consider my top competition to be Clive Cussler. I cannot, however, make it through one of his books. I don’t want to publicly put down the guy’s writing but let’s just say they are a huge motivator for me. Everytime I pick up one of his books, I think, “I can write something better than that!”.

    1. Awesome. The thing about the writing community also is that somehow everybody do better if they get along with their rivals. It’s quite weird!

  26. Thanks for this reminder, especially about not worrying over what other people are writing, or “trends” or whatnot. I keep kicking myself with regret because I had great ideas I did not write a decade ago, and would now be very hot items due to market changes. I need to follow imagination, and trust in my (future) readers! Thanks!

  27. “Less marketing and more writing” Amen. Especially less marketing to other authors. Especially if it comes with a guilt trip. Please!

  28. A friend of mine sent me a heads-up about this great article…I’m so glad she did! Lots of great advice, and so much truth. Thank you, Kristen!

  29. Kristin, great way of looking at the “7 habits of successful writers”. I can always use reminders to help stay on track. Existing in this frenzy of authors and writers in this dwindling “gold rush” of indie publishing, it’s easy to get carried away in the wrong stream. (I know I just mangled several cliched metaphors, but it was fun!)

  30. Haha, loved this post. I’ll check out the guy you mentioned.
    Kristen, how long do you think one can edit on a story before it’s “edited out”? I mean, I have some projects lying around that are so bad to begin with that no matter the amount of editing it probably would never be good. How do we recognize those stories? I know the basic problem (of course!) is structure, but when do you realize this?

  31. This was good to read on many levels. I’m new to your blog but really loving what you do. I’ve been putting some fiction pieces on my blog recently, in addition to my grandmother’s story that’s become a fave of many, and getting some honest feed back. I don’t think it makes any sense to take it personally when someone is being honest. You can’t grow if you don’t re-examine your work through someone else’s eyes. Took me a while to realize that, being insecure of my ability.
    I’ll be sharing this.

  32. Reading about habits of successful writers I wonder how far one can reach with quality alone? Or how deep in shade can even a fantastic writing stay not getting all support needed to enter market the best possible way?
    I guess one more habit is important: working on perseverance every single day……

  33. Reblogged this on Kurt Petrey.

  34. Kristen, as ever you cut through the rubbishy and give us the gold “Write more”. I agree it is the only way to learn I cringe when I read some of my old stuff and I am sure I will in the future too. I think finding our voice is important if we try to emulate others the reader will pick it up. I learn something new every day and am a lot less precious about feedback than I was. Constructive feedback with positive suggestions for change is always good. Thanks for sharing.

  35. I need to hear these rules at least once a week. 🙂 Thanks for sharing with us.

  36. I LOVE IT! This is so timely and insightful, we can emulate what makes other writers tick but we shouldn’t discard who we are! Thanks for sharing!

  37. Kristen,
    #4 appears to have been written exclusively for me. Thank you for always elevating my spirits with your gravity harness of truth.

  38. This is such a good post, I shared it with the girl I writing-mentor this morning. I especially appreciated the part about writers “suffering from an odd mix of narcissism and deep-seated insecurity.” Ha! Don’t we ever!

  39. We have nine outdoor cats with two several months old kittens. All are not allowed indoors because on my asthma. I watched one of the kittens fight a three-foot long snake and the kitten drag it to our back concrete floor patio. It is what I call confidence with action. After several minutes of the nine cats surrounding the snake inside a circle while the cats were trying to claw the head of the snake as it tried to snap a bite at a cat, another full grown cat finally bit the snake in the neck to drag it in the side yard with grass. The snake was finally eaten completely. Several weeks later there was a rat of almost one foot long dead near the front door. It was a real rat like on movies and not what is commonly called an Australian possum. The cats bit the side of the neck and blood had gushed out to the concrete floor. They left it to die. Snakes must taste better to cats than one foot long rats. Real confidence is when you actually send it to a publisher or an agent. But I had the experience of: I no longer represent screenplays anymore (originally written for an ABC/Disney writing contest for a $70,000 a year writing job at L.A.) and she continued with: If you have a mystery novel, I would be happy to look at it. It was PRE-NaNoWriMo of ten years ago so I never sent her a novel because I was writing short stories for children at the time with a dream job at Disney on my mind. Confidence and action become second nature because of real life experiences.

      • Lori Moore on February 28, 2013 at 7:57 pm
      • Reply

      I would like to say, that there was an elder lady years ago in a writing class, that would solely write upon her cats daily life, the imagination that she put upon paper, was so creatively written that she could had made a best seller in children’s books upon her cat. I just loved it, and still do not know if she published it, but Wow, inspiration on paying attention to ones little love nest of an animal.

      1. It is a thought. When I get bored writing novels, I will consider writing about cats. I have a white squirrel named Shinee and a Great Horned Owl named Plato, but I was told more than a decade ago that talking animals are not what the big six really want to publish. You have to be like Walt Disney and self-publish if you like talking animal characters for stories intended for children. Even Highlights for Children magazine and Cricket Magazine frown on getting “anthropomorphism” characters. The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), back then, wrote on their newsletter by snail mail not to believe talking animals would be published by the best, like even Disney imprints. Maybe, the lady love of my next romance novel has cats everywhere.

  40. Exactly what I needed to hear! I was driving to work this morning, feeling a bit envious of someone else (hate to admit it), and then I heard the words, “We all have to follow our own path.” Maybe I was psychically downloading your post? Anyway, I am going to put this on the wall above my writing space! Thanks for a great post.

  41. Love how you convey meaningful words with funny articulation. Thanks.

  42. Reminding words these are!

  43. Reblogged this on late nights and coffee stains.

  44. Perfect timing, Kristen, as usual. Just when I was… Thanks!

  45. The problem I’ve had is being told over and over, “Get out there and market yourself. You have to blog, and facebook, and twitter, and then there’s this new thing…” It’s overwhelming. And then I don’t accomplish my main goal, which is to WRITE. I’ve been searching for marketing help, but it’s either too expensive or they just don’t do enough. Great post.

    1. I highly recommend WANA classes.Traditional marketing doesn’t sell books and only frustrates writers. Just keep writing and yes, you need a social media platform to help with discoverability but the marketing? No. Just talk to people. Create community.

  46. We all need some good old common sense talk to get us back on the right track. I have slowed my writing process over the last six months trying to create a social media presence. The fact is, my third novel should be published by now, but I have spent too much time trying to tweet, blog, pin, etc. Now my writing momentum is paused while “critical friends” read the manuscript and offer feedback. Thank you for saying it is okay to concentrate on writing; tomorrow is a new day! (Great post and I have shared it on Twitter- of course I have!)

  47. Thank you, Kristen–as so many others have said, some timely suggestions, reminders, and reassurances!

  48. Excellent post. I love to discover new authors, but avoid those who auto tweet constantly about their book and tweet lines of their book. It hints of desperation.

  49. What a terrific and helpful list of reminders! Thank you.

  50. Um, I think I’m guilty of Number 2. Thanks for saving me another 5 years on editing my debut novel.

  51. Confident writers don’t take it all to heart. When one person out of ten do not like their writing, the world keeps turning. You don’t see Rowling or Patterson crying about a bad review, (or at least I never have). Take the criticism, but don’t live by it.

  52. This is an amazing blog and I loved it so very much, especially that about little and big sacrifices one is supposed to make for larger objective..

  53. You touched on it and it’s certainly the WANA way, but the stand-out point to me is that confident writers are givers. As you said, they are not threatened by competition, but beyond that, they are not threatened by strengthening other writers. We grow individually only as far as we are willing to contribute to the growth of the those whose community we are a part of.

  54. Great stuff. Thanks for putting it … well … in writing! All I’ve wanted to do since college is write novels. I’m finally doing it (130,000 words and almost done with the first) and what do I hear from the pundits? That I must do what they’re doing, waste a lot of time on social media, and listen attentively to the echo chamber for any sign of success.

    Oh, brave new world with such people in it!

    Er, pardon me, but I have to get back to work now… 🙂

  55. This is a wonderful reminder on ‘staying true’ and how to do so – both as a writer, and when trying to push your writing so that people actually read. The marketing side of things is something I’m put off by, but the book world has changed so much that I realise the need for it. I’m so in my little box and shy and non-forthcoming, that I doubt I could market too much, but I’m in danger of not doing enough (presuming I’ll ever get to the point of being published). Aside from that, I don’t have much to comment that hasn’t already been commented – will reiterate that this is a wonderful list, backed up with great insight and logic. I love the reinforcement about the power of writing regularly, and being open to feedback.

  56. Excellent piece! On the money as always. This are wonderful points of staying true to yourself, both as a person and as a writer!

    • Laurie P on March 2, 2013 at 11:18 pm
    • Reply

    I just found you, I’m so excited. I think you’re what I need right now!

  57. Just what I needed to read/hear. My first book was just published, and I needed to hear your words of wisdom and also the comments. As a teacher and mother, my number one rule/lecture is being the authentic you. I always tell my students that I appreciate the ones who are different and are comfortable in his/her own skin. Choosing the road less traveled has been extremely successful for many; I just need to tell myself that and begin that walk down that personally unchartered road and live life. I guess it’s strange that this didn’t hit me until my 40s, but-hey, at least it hit me. Now, self, walk down that path!

    1. Hey, 40 is the new 30. Embrace your age and experience. It makes you a richer writer. So happy you’re here!

  58. Reblogged this on Conservative Calmversation and commented:
    Excellent post! Writers pay attention!

  59. Reblogged this on Jorda's Blog.

  60. Too good

  61. Some very straightforward, no nonsense advice! I guess if you’re a writer your own writing integrity and art has to come above everything else.

  1. […] 7 Things Confident Writers Don’t Do. […]

  2. […] 7 Things Confident Writers Don’t Do | Kristen Lamb’s Blog. […]

  3. […] One of the reasons I encourage writers to blog and to read blogs is that you will find inspiration all around you. A dear friend of mine, Steve Tobak, has a MASSIVE blog following and is the busine…  […]

  4. […] from Kristen Lamb: 7 Things Confident Writers Don’t Do. But they all drink coffee (joke). Read the post, great […]

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