I read a lot of blogs, namely because I believe the best writers are 1) perpetual students, and 2) are stronger when they read a lot, particularly in other areas that might not be their genre or even directly related to writing.
One of my favorite bloggers (as some of you may already know) is successful CEO and leader in Silicon Valley, Steve Tobak. He had a really interesting post this week called Leadership Presence–Do You Have It?, which inspired me to write today’s post.
Successful Author Presence—Do You Have It?
All of us (writers) balance this fine line of complete narcissism, and profound insecurity/self-loathing. We have to believe that our ideas, opinions, stories are something others want to pay money to read in order to be successful. Yet, we are constantly plagued with self-doubt. Chronic doubt is possibly a built-in mechanism to bring balance to The Force.
Just my POV.
If a writer is too full of what he believes he knows, he won’t grow and eventually will stall and burn out. That or his hubris eventually will just drive others away. This type of writer can’t forge strong relationships because everything is a competition. Eventually others just say, Okay, sure. You’re better than us. Bye.
In the current paradigm, we need a team more than ever. Also, likability didn’t matter fifteen years ago, yet now? Likability is getting to be a bigger and bigger deal. Readers will eventually just gravitate to writers who know how to tweet without putting others down.
The Emotional Vampire
On the other side, a writer who needs constant props and ego-stroking eventually wears out those around her. She can’t grow and mature either because she’s in the business for the wrong reasons. We writers should be here to teach/inform (NF) or entertain (NF/fiction), not to use our audience as emotional hostages.
The Author With “The Right Stuff”
Yet, there are those writers who have a “presence.” It’s a tough thing to explain. But, I think Steve’s list might help me try:
They’re Not Born with It
Talent is highly overrated. Character matters in this business. It’s why I dedicate so much time to talking about the writer as a human being. Without self-discipline, drive, humility and a certain work ethic, a writer won’t make it long-term.
The writer with successful author presence generally comes from a background that’s already fired out a lot of character impurities. Whether it’s a tough childhood, bad marriage, law school, or time as a police officer, this writer has a different je ne sais quoi that stands out.
Being Right A Lot
This writer is open to listening to a lot of people and processing a lot of information quickly. Rather than taking shortcuts, this writer knows where to funnel energy. If she makes a mistake, she readjusts and doesn’t waste time moaning over making a poor choice. She throws herself into the work knowing that, if we make enough wrong decisions, we grow enough to start making a lot of RIGHT decisions.
Hey, I’ve done literally EVERYTHING wrong. But I’m still here ;).
Knowing Your Stuff Cold
There are a lot of ways to train to be a good author, but great authors must read. The authors with presence study everything. Either they inhale craft books or they devour fiction. They watch movies and series, then break stories down to see what’s working, what isn’t and how to duplicate the magic.
Every time I meet a writer who says, “Well I want to be a best-selling author, but I don’t like to read.”
The author with presence understands the basics of his craft and practices to perfection. As Picasso said, “Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.”
Confidence is often birthed from hard work. One of the reasons I am a HUGE fan of writers blogging is it helps to build confidence. Confidence isn’t BS bravado, rather it’s a mindset that any problem can be solved if broken down into enough pieces.
When I used to run critique groups, I had too many writers who just wanted ego stroking, to be told every word/sentence/idea was a rainbow nugget of gold. If I tried to point out the problems, these types of writers would fly into a hissy-fit-rage.
Yeah, that would be NO confidence.
On the other hand, I’ve also been blessed enough to work with writers like Piper Bayard, who had enough confidence in themselves to take the criticism and then ask the tough questions. “How do I make it better?” “What do you need to me do/read?”
Writers like this have enough confidence to not be derailed every time they get feedback that doesn’t tell them they’re a unicorn-kitten-hug.
Piper now has a multi-book deal with a traditional publisher, btw :).
Thinking a Few Steps Ahead
Writers with presence regard writing as a career. They think strategically and long-term. These writers (even before they finish their first books) aren’t viewing publishing like a literary scratch-off ticket. They’re already planning the next book, the series, the next series, and which publisher(s)/publishing options might be the best fit, etc.
Too many writers have desperation coming off them in waves. Why? They have ONE book and market it TO DEATH. They aren’t playing Career Chess; they’re playing Publishing Tiddly Winks.
Frequently, these writers are survivors. There is a reason we see a lot of lawyers, doctors and former military people become best-selling authors. These writers embrace pain and harness it for advantage.
Believing You’re Special
As we talked about in this week’s Boxing Series, there is a lot of resistance in this profession. The world will never be short of people who will call you a talentless hack/poseur/fake/amateur/nut.
It’s The Resistance.
The Resistance is made up of two types of people. Those too chicken $#!& to follow their own dreams, or those so full of themselves they can’t bear to share the spotlight. Both types of people build themselves up by putting others down.
The writer with presence holds fast to the internal knowledge she or he IS SPECIAL. She tunes out the haters and presses on. No matter the push-back, this writer has a calling and this calling is intimately tethered to the internal belief that she has something the world wants to read/hear/learn.
Just like no one is born with talent, none of us are born a “Writer with Presence,” but we can learn to be that writer. Just set down the ego, roll up the sleeves and WORK HARD.
What are your thoughts or opinions? What would you add to the list? What are your experiences? Have you dealt with the narcissists or even the emotional vampires? The jealous, the immature? Have you been that person and had an A-HA! moment?
I love hearing from you!
To prove it and show my love, for the month of March, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention 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 novel, or 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 March I will pick a winner for the monthly prize. Good luck!
I found this information very encouraging. I’ve been pursing most of these characteristics the last few year instead of writing. Now, I am ready to start writing and I believe I will be stronger for developing these characteristics. These words steel my resolve in the decisions I’ve made.
As much as I’d like to credit sheer talent for the success of most writers, I’ve came to the realization the most critical skill for a writer is a good work ethic. Something I’m building as I go along, which has a lot to do with my stop and go progression. But each day I write on my WIP, each time I put out a blog, then another blog, I’m improving that aspect of my life.
We can rant and rave and gnash our teeth about the AWFUL writing of recent blockbuster books. We can sneer and point at weak grammar or sloppy characterization. I doubt the the people who wrote these books sat around discussing esoteric points of great literature. More likely they sat their rears down and WROTE. Finished one book, wrote the next. Maybe self published to great scorn and derision. Learned from that incidence, and wrote another book. I might not care for their writing but oh, do I admire their work ethic.
This is a great blog. I can name a few authors who have an immediate presence and I generally buy their books because they also have a good product. Thanks!
I like this, Kristen! It gives me a lot to strive for, as I am very much a work-in-progress. I would add that someone with a Writer Presence is also generous – with her time, talent, and good will.
Thanks, and Happy Easter,
Normally it is the successful writers/authors who are the great cheerleading section for those struggling to break out. One such person is Les Edgerton, a successful author/teacher/mentor. There’s room for all of us. Deny the nay-sayers and embrace the energy of success. Great comment K.B. and very true. Just had to add my two-cents.
I agree. Candy Havens, Les Edgerton, James Scott Bell, James Rollins, are other examples of amazing, loving, humble servants of the craft. They never put others down and they are so kind and generous to the newbies. I know I wouldn’t have made it without bright stars like these folks.
And generous with comments and support :D. You are such a blessing to be around and I know you will make it because you work your tail off and have a tremendously positive attitude.
Happy Easter and ((HUGS))
I found this really encouraging. Thank you!
Awesome, Insightful post, Kristen. Since I’ve sold, I’ve been able to look back to before I had in a different light (read less desperation) — I now see it as my training ground for a lot of what you site above.
Especially in learning that you’re special. By simply surviving the submission wars and continuing to plod forward, by the end of the gauntlet, you learn to be impressed with your abilities. . . a whole lifetime hadn’t been able to teach me that! What a wonderful lesson.
Not that I’m done – I’m more a believer in hunting down opportunity with a big club than in sitting, waiting for luck.
Well said, Kristen! My husband sent me a link to a recent NPR interview with Fleetwood Mac singer Stevie Nicks. She said some things along similar lines with reference to presence and knowing your stuff cold.
A tidbit from Stevie: “‘Cause you know, you can’t just, like, be a wimp and then a year and a half or two years later decide to not be a wimp anymore. Because people will always treat you like a wimp once they have decided that’s what you are. So you can never, ever be that. You have to be strong and tough and intelligent and smart and kind of plan out what you’re going to say and know who you are. So that people will get that right away. Because then they’re always going to be great to you. And they’re always going to treat you with respect. And that’s what you want, because then they listen to you. And then they listen to your songs. And then they give you a chance. Otherwise, you get nowhere.”
It’s a great interview. Here’s the link if you want to check it out: http://n.pr/ZSqeTf
Thanks for the link! I ADORE Stevie Nicks.
Kristen and Stevie in one blog post? WINNING! off to tweet Kristen and then read the NPR interview. Maybe it’s a podcast? Squeeee! Great post, Kristen.
Wow, this was spot-on for me today. I am a newbie writer, trying to de-code the mysterious world of freelance writing. I can very much relate to the narcissism/insecurity conundrum. I have a message I believe in, yet so much self-doubt that my writing’s good enough to be the bearer of that message. It’s good to know I’m not alone in this and that perhaps it’s actually a necessary ingredient for successful author presence. Thanks!
I think another thread that runs through what you are saying is respect. Respect for the craft, respect for yourself as a writer, respect for those who provide advice/critiques, and respect for new ideas. A quote on the tee shirt from my neighbor’s boxing gym says, “Respect is earned in the gym, and retained in the ring.” I read that as hard work and courage can and will pay off.
Hi Kirsten, I always love your motivational and inspiring words within the ‘Kirsten Lamb blog’ posts! I certainly NEED to read much more and agree with so much of what you state here. I guess people’s ego’s can definately get in the way of a writing career, but at the same time unless you ‘believe’ you have that same chance to succeed (‘knowing’ inside yourself you have something special to be heard/ read) then it is quite easy to give up). Having that confidence to keep going is a bit like having faith … and I for one (just like the title of your book) know that ‘We are not alone…’ as love and light inspires, guides and assists us to ‘create’ and express from ‘within’, be it with words, pictures, sculptures or so many other forms of expression. The literary ‘world’ and road is probably littered with unfinished manuscripts, cast aside just like cars having run out of fuel / energy … so ‘WRITE ON’ everyone! Peace.
Thanks for the comment and YES. This profession is weird. We need enough narcissism to believe we have something special to write. On the other end, we need to be humble enough to learn and lean on a team. It’s no easy task, but we all struggle with it. We are definitely NOT ALONE ;).
Really great post. Thanks for writing and sharing it.Btw, I read them ALL!!!
Kristen, yep. Writing fiction can make us crazy. Brings out some ugly insecurities.
When I think of those who inspire me – Billy Wilder’s “The Apartment,” Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead – and Pixar’s terrific “Up,” there is an undercurrent of decency, of morality. It’s what makes us cry, are those warm, decent characters who are thrust into harsh circumstances and strive, sacrifice, think of others, not themselves. Other characters may be “cool” or exciting to watch, but the warm-hearted, moral characters are often the ones who make us cry.
If I give into my ‘wah-wah-woe-is-me’ narcissist and discredit other writer successes, it blocks me from achieving good writing. So the solution is to tell my raving ‘Id” to shaddup, to stop sniveling and get busy.
We’re living in narcissistic times… where there is this ‘charming’ public persona that doesn’t match with the nastier one up close. Dr. Jean Twenge has written on this, and the book, “The Culture of Narcissism” was like a tea-leaves prediction of our reality-show diva culture. I worry sometimes, in this Internet flaming, road-raging, “It’s all about me” and “I’m better than you” world… if the reading audience has changed. If human nature has.
But then I hear others in the movie theater crying along with me during a viewing of “Up.” In the shadows, my husband reaches out his hand to squeeze mine. My kids worry about Mr. Frederickson, Russell, Kevin the bird and Doug. We cheer on these beloved characters like they’re real. Because they become real.
Carol Burnett once told this story about a snooty maitre d’ at a posh NYC restaurant – who wouldn’t seat her because she was wearing a pants suit. Back then, women had to wear skirts and heels. Burnett said she apologized profusely to the man, saying she was self-conscious about her wooden leg and that’s why she wore pants everywhere. Then the maitre d’ said he’d find her seating right away. “Kill them with kindness,” Burnett said. “When you’re treated badly, kill them with kindness.”
Of course, there’s that great Dave Barry line: “A person who is nice to you, but rude to the waiter, is not a nice person.”
Recently I had a talk with my 12 year old son about what it takes to be “great”. Not only do you have to constantly work hard to improve whatever it is you’re doing, you must then put it out there for everyone to see. And don’t just put it out there, throw it out, with passion and conviction. He really wants to be a singer, that’s what started the conversation. He has an amazing voice but when he’s on stage he holds back. My thought is, you’re already on the stage, that’s the hardest part. So since you’re out there why not give it one hundred percent? I think that applies to anything in life. I’m a writer-in-training but I “throw” my stuff out there all the time. Sometimes like a boomerang, it turns around and slaps me in the face. But I’ve noticed the more I practice and the more I throw out there, the less the boomerang comes back. 🙂
Great points, Kristin. I guess it all comes down to maturity, knowing who you are as an author and feeling confident in your craft.
Excellent post, Kristen. I especially agree with the comments about devouring everything from books to movies etc. So many times a great movie or a terrific book has helped me navigate a hurdle and move forward with my own work.
Wow, this is a great topic, and I definitely have some things to work on. Having a presence in any job is important, but sometimes us writers can forget that, seeing as we mostly write alone. (Not completely without help though.) We need to be as strong as the rest of them, and to be an artist, we got to believe our work is amazing. Go writers!
We ALL have to work on them EVERY LAST DAY, LOL. This is a process. Some days we nail it, and others? Yeah. Hey, I am unashamed to confess I’ve shown my own @$$ a time or two. I want a Delorean so I can go back in time and slap myself. But, you live, you learn, you atone and you grow. It’s all we can do is our best…every…single…day.
That’s true, and I’m definitely towards the beginning of this process. I’m not one for presence, but presence is not a birth-right, it’s something you learn to have. Some people just ooze confidence, but it’s so easy for that confidence to turn to narcissism. So really, everyday’s a fight to keep a balance of your own self-esteem and not over-doing it. It’s REALLY HARD. It’s so easy just to be a NARCISSIST. It’s hard not to succumb sometimes.
Right? One side the cry-baby and the other, the bloated ego-maniac and we try to stay in between. Takes work, LOL.
Tell me about it. xD
Hi Kristen, I am reading Bob Mayers book (that you recommended a while ago) and what you said in this post, reminded me of something he said. he discusses how we know what is wrong and we just need to do it. it has took me a long time to find my voice and be confident enough to own it. However, I always struggled with identifying what is constructive criticism and what was not. I feel I am getting there now after a lot of hard work and persistence I am being to identify the wheat from the chafe. Recently, I asked someone to look at a chapters I had wrote and they pointed out that I overuse comma’s and grammar errors. I know that is my weakness but good editing and learning craft, can fix that. Then they suggested I write it in a different way; but because I have found my voice I understood that I would be speaking in that authors voice and not my own. In the past I would have been so in awe of another author I would have just done it. I know that probably sounds like such a small thing but for me it was a breakthrough, light bulb moment.
When you talked about the profound insecurity and self loathing in the beginning of this post, I could not help but think of the opening scene in the movie “Adaptation” where the Nick Cage character is gong through this mental stream of consciousness about what a poor writer he is. I think all writers must have this moment, I have them all the time, but I think one of our challenges is to move beyond that voice or keep going anyway despite that voice and not let the voice stop us.
Not to mention, that voice will surely get in the way of our writer’s presence. I also love how you talk about thinking strategically and long term. I began blogging over a year ago and did not have any readers for over 2 months. I kept writing and told myself that if I wrote honestly and sincerely, and with attention to craft – and worked on building my “team” as you put it, that people would eventually find me.
Awesome advice – thank you so very much.
As a participant in critique groups, I’ve also experienced the writer who wants to air their prose but not listen to constructive comments. Frustrating but I remind myself that I was once at that beginner’s level and others helped me along. I love studying the craft of writing and do analyze romantic comedies because that’s what I write.
As is so often the case, Kristen, you are absolutely, positively on the money.
Wow! This blog is fabulous – so many lines/concepts I want to remember as I struggle forward. Thank you!
This is something that I’ve thought a lot about lately. I think that a HUGE part of the internet is that everyone can be internet famous. EVERYONE. Just having entire social media profiles devoted to yourself speaks volumes about the amount of “everybody wins!” that’s out there right now.
I never had a blog because of this – but then, I decided to get a blog because of it. No one cares which 5 songs get my blood pumping to write – unless the do care! You know what I’m saying?
One thing I’ve found: despite how blogging was extra time-consuming at first, and has now leveled off nicely, it’s really made me even more productive with my personal work.
I don’t usually comment on your posts but this one sunk into my soul as I’m sitting here at my computer, my toddler begging for snacks, my one year old (who is supposed to be napping and woke up too early) crying in her crib and me trying to quickly write just a little bit more of my book. I constantly swing between thinking I am a genius solidly plugged into the divine and crumbling at how a third grader could probably write this book better than I. Thanks so much for your encouragement because right now I could really use a little more courage. I’m linking this post on my blog and mentioning your book.
LOL. I am SO THERE, too! I honestly believe that Hell plays the Bubble Guppies song over and over for infinity. You can do it! YOU ARE NOT ALONE ((HUGS))
Wow, thank you! Great post. You just made me realize in the very 1st part, I must be a legitimate writer, since I have all this self-doubt, but also a lot to say! And the need to push aside all those who say we are hacks, but have super high self-esteem enough to keep going. And realize we have a ton to learn…. Oh, the balance of it all….I’m sure it’s hard but hey, love the way you put it out there for us. I will reread this one often 🙂
It’s a balance promoting your current book as if it were your one and only, and keeping an eye on a long term. With marketing so important to success nowadays, you really have to balance both. I’d be interested in your ideas on that.
Keep writing books. Success in this business rests in multiple books for sale. Most writers won’t see real financial boon until at least the third book. So yeah, let people know it’s out there, keep building your platform, but KEEP WRITING MORE BOOKS.
Agreed. My question was on how to keep promoting the older ones (and the latest) as you’re working the latest. I have about a dozen books out in multiple genres, plus am in multiple anthologies and magazines. The writing part is easy–the promoting is easy (in theory) but I’m still seeking that missing element that will shoot my books to the next level.
Just talk to people. People buy from who they know and who they LIKE. Focus on conversations then once in a while mention the other books. We do pay attention :). I know I have bought SO many books from authors who I had chatted with on-line. When I saw the book I bought. OR, when I was in need of something new to read these people were the first who came to mind, so I looked up their books. Make sense?
This is good advice for everyone. 🙂 Good post!
“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”
Hi Kristen – some spot on advice here, thanks for sharing! Got me thinking… seems to me that everything for writers boils down in the end to one word – ‘professionalism’, meaning being able to step back from emotional and personal entanglement. There is no room for ego. It’s hard. Writers often get into it for emotional reasons – and this is, after all, what the writing is about; as Hemingway put it, you sit down at the typewriter and bleed. But if it’s not controlled, it leads to rubbish writing. And I think that’s especially true these days with the self-publish revolution – discovery is key, and it’s hard for the good stuff to be heard amidst the noise.
I am a fantasy writer, but I read everything, a lot of off genre stuff so I’m right with you on the reading thing. The more you read the more ideas you have and the imagination needs creative petrol; music, reading and the right kind of TV. As for presence, I think there is a moment when you crack it, when something switches on inside you and you know that you’ve made it. I don’t know how to explain it properly because I can’t but after 13 years of trying the point came when I read my work and knew that it was good… or at least publishable. Does that make sense to anyone?
I”t’s all about me” and “I’m better than you” world… if the reading audience has changed. If human nature has.”
I don’t think human nature has changed. The presence Kristen talks about sounds a lot like maturity to me in a way. And I think that the current American culture is such that everything is so easy it takes people a lot longer to mature–because I think it’s overcoming adversity or doing something that’s hard that matures you or gives you that confidence or presence as a person.
Also, I don’t think it’s a static thing. People are very dynamic and presence can come and go, depending on the person and the ups and downs of their life too. Well, at least that’s the way I see it.
Great post, Kristen!
“When your good tastes meets your nascent skill, there is a period of SUCK. It is not your fault. You know what tastes good. You simply haven’t had any practice at making your stuff that good yet. What you often forget is what gets produced has been massaged by proofreaders, editors, agents and beta reading groups, so you are seeing the work of many people before the perfect thing shows up in your book store. So be kind to yourself while you work. You will find your rhythm. And with some persistence, you will find your way.”
It is easy to be discouraged when so many forces oppose your efforts to reach the Dragon’s Lair. Our own insecurity, our own pessimism, coupled with a society which rewards certain kinds of narcissistic behavior but not others (watch reality TV), promotes braggadocio, but only certain flavors, (sports good, writers bad) and uses cognitive dissonance to make money by keeping people unsure of what is good, or worth knowing or should be followed.
In a world like this, it is probably best to keep your own compass and council and stick to writing YOUR vision, your ideas and letting the rest of the world catch up to your perspective. For some writers it happens instantly, for others it takes a lifetime. It is still worth doing. I enjoy your blog. It is always filled with an excellent perspective toward the craft of writing. Thank you.
I do not have a published novel so I do not have a successful presence. It is at the top of the list of Things To Do when I published the first novel. To be known with your works; or not to be – I will answer the question when time catches up with my labors and struggle.
Another great post! It really hit home for me in your comment on being a “Perpetual Student”. I feel like a freaking sponge sometimes, there is so much information out there and I wish I could just download it into my brain! I agree that good writers take from everything around them (books, movies, even real people) to learn from and be inspired by. My first blog post was “The Perpetual Student and the Three R’s” ( http://reneeregent.com) , and I aspire to keep on learning, indefinitely. Your posts help to that end, consistently! Thank you
Just want to say that I’m loving your blogs. I’m currently doing a major rewrite on my debut crime novel and soaking up as much information as possible. Learning to critique and be critiqued is hard but definitely necessary, as everything readers pick up should be revised even if you don’t quite agree with it.
And yes… read, read, read. : )
Thanks for the comment and awesome to meet you!
I’ve run into some writers who have gone from 1 type to another and can’t seem to find that sweet spot. I’m just going to be me, and hope that is good enough. Great post.
I am sure we can all recognise ourselves in there, a helpful post, thanks for the continual advice.
Kirsten, I am amazed by the fact that very few writers are addressing the critical issues of our time. Good fiction reflects reality; it has to or it comes across as shallow. Do you remember “The Grapes of Wrath” by Steinbeck or “1984” by Orwell?
There is evidence here http://www.ae911truth.com that is completely ignored by most, and it is a writer’s responsibility to inform and create awareness about important issues. Don’t you think?
I think that is a particular skill that not every writer possesses. I am glad there are writers more talented than I am, LOL. I work at it and maybe one day. For now? What I write is just fun.
I don’t think it has to do with talent; it has to do with awareness and responsibility. Don’t you think these are important issues?
What a great blog entry, I very much enjoyed it. I particularly liked the parts about work ethic. When my first novel was accepted for publication I started making changes in my life such as cutting back day-job work hours and setting personal goals for writing each day. That is a lot less daunting than “I have to get four novels done this year.”
One of my personal pet peeves I’d add, it probably goes with several of the types of personalities you mentioned, is the person who beats you to death with the fact they have X book out or coming out. I announce when my books are coming out, show off cover art when it arrives, things like that, but daily posts to Facebook or wherever almost seems like annoying people into buying your book. If they like you and what you write, they’ll buy it.
As for reading, even though I write scifi/fantasy/romance I read more science oriented non-fiction. Go figure.
Have a great day!
This article is great. I get trashed every time I’m at an author gathering about how many books I have coming out. I write. I finish a book and already have 5 more started. I’m planning 4 series right now, 2 of which I won’t even start writing until 2014, but I’m doing the research now. People who have 3 or 4 books out and are happy with that, good for them, but this is my career, don’t whine because I put in 8 hour 6 days a week every week without fail. If they want to write, they should write and stop playing video games.
I would not trash you because it is my goal to try to write as many as I can. I still remember going to group meetings back on 2003 and we were discussing Cait London as the guest speaker teaching how to be a successful novelist. I said out loud something like; she is a real writer. I have seen her books at bookstores. Cait is a USA Today’s bestselling American writer of over 45 romance novels since 1980. I had sat in front of her of those folding tables at several meetings and I did not realize that I had argued with her on how to be a novelist many times. Back then I did not know how to get the word count and still like my story. I had plenty of ideas to write on but for 2K short stories. My goal has been to write the novels, especially now that I have some idea of how to achieve the 50K and 90K.
Great article. I go through this turmoil once a day. I love many of the stories I have written and totally believe that two of them would make fabulous movies! But…I also see people who are with the same publishers as I am, doing far better than me, getting better reviews and producing tons of work. A couple of them have gotten traditional publishing contracts which, for me, is the ultimate goal. At times like that, I really start to doubt myself. I know you shouldn’t compare yourself to others but how else do you measure the impact you are making? Putting your work out there and often getting zero feedback, save for modest royalties, really harms my motivation and confidence. I feel like I am missing some vital ingredient that successful authors have. I don’t mean with regard to talent or lack of. I mean there is a disconnect between me and the potential audience for my work. So, despite the fact I do believe in my ability to tell a compelling story, there’s a huge part of me that thinks I’d be doing better if I was a better writer. How do I know for sure? See, told ya I was in turmoil! 🙂
I think for every writer, myself included, the art of giving and accepting critique takes learning. You must learn how to skillfully offer advice in a professional manner and accept it in a professional manner. There have been times when I disagreed with someone, and other times when the critique opened my eyes. I was glad to be there because I would not have seen it otherwise.
I do think the most important tool writers have are books already published. More than any group of people, different kinds of books teach and help writers evolve. Thank you for your insight. ~ Rebecca
Thanks for the tips and encouragement. I’ve never had much confidence on how to blog in the rght way, and this definitely gave me some ideas on how to improve my blog posts!
Having emotional hostages sounds neat to me. More fun than love maybe. . .
The best books are sometimes written by people who are not only writers, but have huge experience in some other specific field, as well, would that be medicine, art, science, etc. When some doctor is a better writer than a doctor, and when some musician is a better writer than a musician, etc. great things can happen. Knowledge and experience are aspects which should never be under-evaluated.
Well, you probably have gone through water and fire with your stuff; however, all good books have one specific thing in common: they might be not flawless, but they catch and hold somebody’s attention. They cannot be forgotten.
I believe, there can be worked out a success formula (nothing new, many authors work based on their own formulae), the only thing what each writer or artist has to do is to figure out the elements, the building blocks and their sequence.
Einstein’s formula for success (it’s not meant seriously) involves only 3 elements: work, play and keeping ones mouth shut.
PS: I speak, read and write at a native level in German, Russian and English, but my native language is Latvian, and I’m not trying to publish anything in English, but I enjoy reading your blog when I have some free minute which is not often.
Your posts are helping me build my confidence. They’re giving me that extra little push. It can get lonely out there, as a newbie selfpublished author/illustrator. So, again I thank you. 🙂
Relish your insights, Kristen, and the post-Post opinions from a diverse range of writers. I’d like to add: “Ignore Trends and Write Your Story”. Ilene (#28) tapped into this, too. Writers might have to sit tight a bit longer if they’ve written a 70s saga in the midst of vampire season, but when written authentically its time will come. Marketing will then come from a good place.
Thanks for the insight and encouragement! I think along with hard work, a writer needs to have dedication to a dream (after all, the dream fuels the work). It’s part of ignoring the resistance and believing that any dream is possible, no matter how big or crazy it may seem. NYT Bestseller? Why not! And your comment about people being too chicken $#@! to follow their own dreams reminded me of a quote by Kenneth Tynan: “A critic is a man who knows the way but can’t drive the car.”
Kristen, I am so happy I discovered you and your blog and am a subscriber! This post is packed with so many spot-on observations and encouragement. Interesting what you say about blogging. I agree. I’m going on my 3rd year blogging and it has been the biggest source of backbone for me, one that I never thought to gain (among many other pluses like connecting with awesome people and learning about their writing journeys and craft techniques).
On another note: do you have a blog segment on either the self or surroundings as being the antagonist for the character?
This was a blog that was really encouraging for me. It showed me I’m on the right path as a writer. I had studied, taken courses, spent half my life preparing to write, and now I’m in the stage of doing just that. The observations about what motivates, creates and sustains a writer are spot on. I’ve accomplished some of these points unwittingly, but the two I think are the best is just staying with the writing and learning from the mistakes. Also learning and wanting to learn from mistakes. To seek constructive criticism and use it. Thank you!
Kristin – I am leaving a reply because… First, I like your blog and stop by about three times a week. I’m a busy little fella and don’t have much time right now to worry about my author’s presence but these are some good things to keep in mind. You always provide interesting content. Secondly, I blog and when I read advice like this it provides hope that I’m doing something right. And, thirdly, I would so love for you to pick me and review something I’ve written. How’s that for honesty? Did I mention how I would love for you to pick me and review something I’ve written?
Great post (and Happy Easter!) Keep writing, keep learning, keep trying: the writer’s mantra!
I really love this article. I think adversity is definitely a key thing to writers. People who have really been through pain, trauma, lost of experiences, often write with an emotional depth lacking in writers who haven’t been through much. If a writer is brave, they will tap into those wounds–those deep, painful experiences–and capture that emotional honesty in their writing. Adversity also makes a person compassionate and humble, seeing people with sympathy. (This helps with the ego problem of just thinking you’re amazing and not listening to anybody). Pain and adversity teaches us to endure, which brings deeper quality and endurance to their writing as well. Adversity is where art and hard work comes from.
So yes, it’s hard to go through adversity…but it’s worth it.
Reblogged at http://lillian888.wordpress.com/
Thanks for a lot of interesting and good advice. I home-schooled one of my daughters and I very quickly realised the value of teaching her not just to read, but to love reading. It is the springboard for most learning, isn’t it? I totally agree, for writers, it is essential to read extensively.
Enjoying your blog. It’s inspiring me with mine. Thank you.
Pre-Internet – unless you wanted to go to a public library every morning to read the daily newspaper or the current magazines, you almost had to subscribe with magazines or a local newspaper, maybe buy a book at a grocery store.
Post-Internet – a monthly subscription with an Internet Service Provider it is automatic to read something unless you do not “log on” in regular bases like daily simply to read E-mail. There are countless E-newspapers and E-magazines, which are only a search engine a way. You can even read full-length novels, if you wanted to.
The Internet Generation, I do not think will have problems with the lack of resources available to read what is necessary to succeed.
Success is a matter of time.
Success is individually defined.
Success is personal.
Persistence stands out to me. Writers I respect keep on writing no matter what, and they keep on _editing_ until the story flows. As a reader, I recognize these authors by the smoothness of their prose. I don’t see the seams in their plots, and I never feel as though they are assuming that I am already in love with their setting or their plot devices in order to make me keep reading; these authors make me fall in love with their setting and their characters and plot.
I’ve met a lot of emotional vampires in my life – I dated a few, best-friended a few, too. Those were the days I took all their criticism to heart and well, my life was crappy as a result. I avoid them like the plague now, of course. I also see them coming from around several corners. I’m not the most confident individual – in fact, I’d go so far to say, I’ve had only morsels of confidence in small doses, splattered throughout my life. But I’ve never understood people who find criticism offensive? Especially if they blummin-well asked for it. I value the time someone takes to give it, and the lessons I will learn from it. I don’t focus on ego deflation. Perhaps because my ego doesn’t inflate in the first place? 🙂
Great post, as always! And hey, I found another blog to stalk! 🙂
I guess I’ll be the squeaky apple who disagrees with something in your post, even though I loved it as much as everyone else did.
You wrote: “Just like no one is born with talent, none of us are born a “Writer with Presence,” … ”
I’m ready to agree that no one is born a “Writer with Presence.” But let’s be honest: Loads of writers are born with talent.
It may even be their talent struggling to express itself that makes writers write in the first place.
The challenge is what to do with the talent you have, since talent itself is never enough for success. THAT much, I definitely agree with.
Thanks for the thought-provoking post.
True. I’ll grant you that. We are born with talent, juts maybe not the innate ability to see that talent into fruition. I’ve met a lot of natural geniuses who never did anything remarkable and wasted gifts many of us would love to have been blessed with.
I believe everybody is born equal from conception and it is the environment, which separates the multitudes, to have individual talents such as mental awareness to become rewarded writers. An example: articles of those, who eat more peanuts, could be smarter than the average Joe. Protein would be my guess.
Ok my head is spinning at this one! That was so well spoken! I agree 100%!
Reblogged this on Nancy M. Griffis and commented:
THIS. So many great points in this post!
Your current blog series on boxing and now on becoming a writer with presence reminds me of this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nTYz2LHttt0&list=FLlWDUGh7pAlIEwSRP1jBV7w
You’re an inspiration to me, really! I’m so happy I read your blog. I was all desperate last week because I was away and you were posting so much that I didn’t have time to read XD
Wow wow wow! This is so me! The narcissist, the emotional, needs a part on the back to believe that I am a good writer, flips out at negative feedback, boy it’s sad! But hey! The first step in getting rid of that , is realizing she’s there in the first place. Thank you for helping me identify her!
Most of us start there. I feel ur pain. Been there, done that. It’s just part of growing up as a writer :D.
l started writing in search of a story/book l wanted to read/to fill a ‘gap’ in my personal desire for a certain kind of fantasy. Eventually it matured into a desire to share that writing. l plan to work until l reach the level to ‘earn’ that place.
Thanks for all your encouraging and informative blogs.
I love your “Career Chess” comment. In regards to getting over the pain of a critique: When I was on active duty, our motto during physical fitness training was, “pain is weakness leaving the body.”
Kristen, this is another of your terrific tid-bits–a major reminder today and tomorrow. I have to bookmark this one so that I can come back to it and use it as a barometer at least once a week. That would be on Friday, just before my crit group meets. Thanks for caring enough to give us all a chance to do a self-check. Everyone needs to do that once in a while.
More like DAILY, LOL.
Definitely, Kristen. 🙂
i love it… thank you Kristen, you’ve been awesome!
What a nice post. Much of what you say about successful authors is true of my successful clients. The ones with confidence and a strong character are the ones that lose weight and transform their lives.
Successful Author Presence—Do You Have It?
This is a question that has always been proposed to me. What ever endeavor I embark upon I am successful. Well, how do measure success as a writer? Is it the number of novels you write? Is it being published? Is it how much money you make? Is it how well you are known by reading enthusiasts? Or is merely satisfaction, contentment with what you have accomplished? I have a successful author presence and I have never written a novel nor can I. I just write about my thoughts.
According to the stats on my blog my presence has been felt in the United States, France, Germany, Russia, the Philippines, Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, India, Ireland, the Netherlands, Slovenia, Poland, China, the Ukraine, Malaysia, the United Arab Emirates, Greece, Brazil, Latvia, South Africa, Sweden, Taiwan, and Peru.
To what do I credit such acclaim and success? Is it my web presence? Do people appreciate my style of writing? My writings are free to copy/paste so I have no idea who they are distributed to.