Writer Victory!—#1 Voluntarily Submit

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I learn through anecdotes, examples, illustrations, images and I LOVE acrostics. My husband and I like to go to the Thursday service at our church, namely because the week has usually pounded us soundly enough that we need some spiritual encouragement. The group we attend is small, but the point is to nurture us so we can serve as guides and be the light for others.

Anyway, this week, the lecture used an acrostic for VICTORY. I was taken aback how remarkably this acrostic applied to my own fifteen-year-journey as an author. I wanted to share an author variation with you guys, because, in a world of “instant success” it is easy to become lost, discouraged and want to give up.

Today, we will discuss V, which stands for “Voluntarily submit.”

“Submit” might be a word that raises your hackles. We’re writers. We march to the beat of our own kazoo. Ah, but do we? Maybe we do more conforming than we care to admit.

Can we be successful being rigid? Likely not. There’s a lot of power in submitting. As anyone who practices Aikido or Ju-Jitsu can tell you—bending beats breaking 😉 .


Voluntarily submit to who you are. Writers don’t write because it’s a hobby or fun. We write because we must. We aren’t happy when we aren’t putting words on a page. This is part of why I blog.

Our craft often involves other things than the actual writing. It could be research or revisions. Maybe it involves watching entire seasons of Battlestar Galactica or Breaking Bad in order to better understand plot, arc, or character.

I think these times can be uniquely hard for us because we aren’t writing. I know when I dropped down to blogging maybe once a week, I fell into a funk, a weird depression I couldn’t name. All that was wrong? I wasn’t writing.

I learned that blogging or even simply doing a daily writing exercise is vital to maintaining my joy, essential for creative homeostasis.

Voluntarily submit to the idea that you will be criticized. We are criticized by others too scared to be different, too chicken to follow their bliss. Conformity is more important than creativity.

For years, I worked corporate jobs I hated to please people I didn’t like and impress those who didn’t care. These people didn’t care about anything other than my validation that being safe was sane. Paychecks were paramount.

So long as my life testified that dental benefits were more important than dreaming, no one was bothered. Ah, but when I had the audacity to challenge the status quo, I no longer reinforced The Great Lie, the Social Soma that keeps the masses medicated, caffeinated and indoctrinated. When I sacrificed my joy on the altar of people-pleasing, I had no pushback.

And life was very, very empty.

When we understand criticism is usually a sign of doing something right? It’s easier to not take it personally and keep pressing.

Voluntarily submit to the process. Understand it’s okay to be new. It’s okay to write junk (though please don’t publish it). Often we’re afraid to write that crappy first draft. We can get paralysis of analysis.

We read more craft books (which is great and KEEP doing this) and go to more conferences (again, AWESOME), but we can do this at the expense of doing the work. We can get so afraid of failure we never begin. Or, if we do begin, we edit and edit and edit the magic right out of our prose and never finish.

WANA, Kristen Lamb, We Are Not Alone, WANA International, how to be successful writer

Image via Marie Loughin WANA Commons

Because Draft One doesn’t read like Cormac McCarthy, we feel like failures, forgetting that even McCarthy’s first draft doesn’t read like Cormac McCarthy (thank you Jonathan Maberry). We are absorbing works from all our author heroes and it’s easy to forget that what we open (whether in paper or on a Kindle) is something that has been rewritten, revised, and then edited countless times by the author and also outside professionals.

It is a fully-formed pearl…not the gelatinous goo inside an oyster pried open too soon.

Voluntarily submit to honest and brutal feedback. Granted, we don’t need to offer our manuscript to people who just want to shred our souls. But we can’t shelter our WIPs from the world if we’re professionals. Professionals ship, they publish. I would rather be gutted in private and be able to repair my weaknesses than to send and ill-formed work into the world for public slaughter.

Many a writer has become angry with me when I don’t tell them every word is a unicorn kiss, but that’s not life. We don’t all get first-place trophies for trying. We can get one-star rabid reviews from nasty people with nothing else better to do than to be jackasses.

And these will come no matter how good our work. There is no such thing as the perfect book. The flip-side is deep down we will die a little if 20 reviewers blast us about things we could have corrected if we would have been humble enough to listen to correction early.

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I’ve fallen victim, myself. When I wrote my first book We Are Not Alone—The Writer’s Guide to Social Media peers told me including MySpace was a bad idea, that MySpace was making poor decisions. I hated Facebook at the time and was really rooting for MySpace to pull its digital head out of its digital butt. They didn’t. And virtually EVERY criticism I have ever had over that first book revolved around me mentioning MySpace.

I learned to listen.

Voluntarily submit that there are rules that govern our art. Yes we can break the rules, but we need to understand them first. If we don’t that is being an amateur and not a pro. Pros study the rules then bend them or even shatter them, but pros understand we write for ourselves and for others. If we get too weird, we can confuse and frustrate our audience.

The Wright Brothers appreciated the RULES of gravity and physics, thus were able to create ways to DEFY them.

Voluntarily submit to the notion that this job is WORK. A LOT of it. There are a million reasons this profession is not for everyone. In fact, most will give up. Pros don’t find time, we MAKE time. Time isn’t hiding in couch cushions with the remote. We have to do a lot of things we don’t feel like doing—research, writing, social media, etc.

We can have no gain without sacrifice.

Right now? It’s four in the morning. Spawn woke me at 3 a.m. after sneaking into bed with us. I awoke to his feet in my face because there is some scientific law that dictates that small children must sleep like a CLOCK.

I couldn’t go back off to sleep so I’m here. Writing. And yes, tomorrow…today??? I will be tired. I AM tired and I still have a company to run and a house to clean (on top of writing my books). But 1100 words have been given new life and hopeful they will give YOU new life as well.

What are your thoughts? Are there areas you find harder to submit to? Do criticism crater you? Do you find a million things to do—laundry, dishes, organizing—because you feel guilty for writing? Are you too hard on your first drafts instead of granting yourself permission to not be PERFECT? What creative exercises do you do to put words on the page daily to keep your writing mojo?

To prove it and show my love, for the month of MAY, 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. 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).

I will announce April’s winner on Monday. Sorry, didn’t see the whole Spawn School drama coming and I want to be fair.

If you want more help with plot problems, antagonists, structure, beginnings, then I have a FANTASTIC class TOMORROW to help you!


Understanding the Antagonist

If you are struggling with plot or have a book that seems to be in the Never-Ending Hole of Chasing Your Tail or maybe you’d like to learn how to plot a series, I am also teaching my ever-popular Understanding the Antagonist Class on May 10th from NOON to 2:00 P.M. (A SATURDAY). This is a fabulous class for understanding all the different types of antagonists and how to use them to maintain and increase story tension.

Remember, a story is only as strong as its problem 😉 . This is a GREAT class for streamlining a story and making it pitch-ready.

Additionally, why pay thousands for an editor or hundreds for a book doctor? This is a VERY affordable way to make sure your entire story is clear and interesting. Also, it will help you learn to plot far faster and cleaner in the future.

Again, use WANA10 for $10 off.

I’ll be running the First Five Pages again at the end of May, so stay tuned.

And, if you need help building a brand, social media platform, please check out my latest best-selling book, Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World.


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    • Martha Carr on May 9, 2014 at 10:21 am
    • Reply

    In the end we all have to run our own race and be true to the reason we’re writing in the first place. Learning that has given me not only peace within my craft but also within my life. Great post.

  1. A swordsmith will also tell you that a sword that is made to bend will not break in battle like one that is made too hard. Awesome post! I need to work harder on making more time myself. Thanks for the inspiration.

  2. A lesson sometimes learned after the fact.

  3. Reblogged this on Chad B. Hanson.

  4. For me it’s the perfection thing. I find it incredibly hard to get a first draft out because I can’t stop myself from wanting it to be perfect and it of course never is. Once that’s done though, I love editing!

    I guess I need to learn to voluntarily submit to sucky first drafts. I like that concept a lot, by the way, voluntarily submitting as an active course of action rather than something passive that is imposed on us.

  5. A great post, Kristen, and each point is difficult. For me the most brutal volunteering was submitting to the process, to the idea that I couldn’t write perfection when starting out, that I couldn’t write perfection into my first draft, and that I still can’t write perfection EVER. What I can do is write my best effort and keep learning. That’s what humans do.

  6. God, I needed to hear this today. I’m having a hard time submitting to the fact that this stuff takes time. Sometimes a lot of time. Sometimes (most times?) more time than I want, and that that doesn’t mean that I’m failing or remedial or stupid or BEHIND (for God’s sake, I self publish to AVOID the stress of deadlines) if I need to go back to the drawing board to fix a major problem. I figured out there WAS a problem and that was a win. This is an opportunity to straighten things out before I spend months MORE on the wrong path. But, God, GOD, that’s SO HARD for me to submit to. I still feel like I’ve wasted time and there’s almost nothing worse for me than that since I have so little of it to waste in the first place. So thanks. I needed to hear this today.

  7. I don’t like criticism any more than anyone else, but my biggest stumbling block right now is sitting down and putting words on paper (actually on screen). I’m beginning to think there’s something wrong with the story that’s holding me back. Now I just have to figure out what.

    Great post.

  8. Thank you, Kristen. A great rally speech before heading into the weekend. I hope to get some writing done.

    I’m at the part where I’m afraid to be who I am on the internet. After working in internet marketing so long, I’m stuck in professional mode.

    Anyone have any advice on channeling your true voice? I know that is the only thing readers will genuinely respond to.

    1. Blog. A lot. I cannot recommend it enough. And voice will always change and mature because we are making it stronger. It is not a static thing.

      1. That’s a great point, Kristen. As long as we keep writing, we will always evolve as thinkers and communicators.

        I just started blogging on WordPress after reading your Rise of the Machines: Human Authors in a Digital World (for those who haven’t bought it, buy it!).

        I’m working your plan and am overwhelmed at having gotten such a positive response. I DO feel like I’m building my confidence and starting to come out of my shell.

        I still have days where I’m afraid to offend someone. It’s hard to resist the dangerous urge to pander.

        I have to make mantras of what you wrote above–especially, “Voluntarily submit to the idea that you will be criticized.”

        Thanks for the pep talk, Kristen. And thanks for your book! It helped me believe that I might be able to pull-off this self-pub thing.

      • Sarah Brentyn on May 9, 2014 at 3:34 pm
      • Reply

      I agree with Kristen. Blog. Then blog a little. And, for the love of trolls and crickets, throw away the “rules”. Your voice will emerge because, well, it’s yours. Not everyone will like it but not everyone has to. And it’s YOURS. Own it. Love it. Blog it.

      (Loving Rise of the Machines, too.)


      1. Thank you, Sarah! Your and Kristen’s attitudes are contagious and your words give me STRENGTH. I will blog, and I will blog a lot, and they will come…

  9. My big areas of weakness are feeling guilty for writing instead of serving others–but then when I don’t write I become a bitter martyr. I worry that I’m not yet making big bucks and I also suffer from the random days of comparison overload (the days I should have stayed in bed). But as you say, I can’t give up writing. Life would be meaningless without it.

    • pjsandchocolate on May 9, 2014 at 11:52 am
    • Reply

    My problem is that I’m a slow writer AND I’m practically alone with 5 yo twins and a house/yard to clean and maintenance because the husband has a traveling job. Before kids and hubby’s job – it was 2-3 years to write and edit one MS. Now, it’s substantially more. I’ve had to resign myself to writing and editing at a snail’s pace and then putting the MS aside to publish when I’m about 50, because the kids will be out of my hair by then and (theoretically) I can release 1 book a year, which seems to be the minimum reader demand these days.

  10. Reblogged this on Daven Anderson's Blog and commented:
    “Voluntarily submit to honest and brutal feedback.”
    You, the writer, should always be receptive to valid criticism.
    Remember, though, if you re-write your work just to please your critics, you lose your unique voice. The #1 pitfall critique groups can fall into is “writing by committee.”
    You don’t want to follow all critiques, even if they are valid.
    But when you choose not to heed a valid critique, you need to provide equally vaild reasons why you have kept it “your way.”

  11. Just the encouragement I needed today. I finished going through all the edits and changes recommended by my beta readers. I’m still not sure the story is saying what I want and only a few of them seemed to see my point.
    Instead of starting to put the polish on (and it needs it), I’m thinking of going through once more to revise – add subtleties. But I don’t want to be that person who never finishes. I know me. It will NEVER be good enough, even if it wins stellar acclaim. I’m feeling happy that I don’t hate the story anymore. I know, weird.
    I always appreciate your blogs. I’m a lifetime learner so keep that information (and encouragement) coming.

    • Joanna Aislinn on May 9, 2014 at 12:20 pm
    • Reply

    Great post, as always. Sometimes I get sidetracked from keeping up, but it’s been a rockin’ week–just sayin’ 🙂

  12. Great post! My hardest thing about all this is the time issue. I’m fine if I’ve been able to stay away from gluten, but when my food gets cross-contaminated I spend 5 weeks in pain and another 2 dealing with insomnia. I’m in the insomnia phase right now. Looking forward to getting back to normal, and getting my screenplay written! 😀

  13. I guess my question is how to know when my creativity needs room to breathe (distance and refuelling) vs. when I’m simply procrastinating and making excuses. Does anyone have any tips on knowing which season you’re in?

      • Sarah Brentyn on May 9, 2014 at 3:22 pm
      • Reply

      When I’m procrastinating, I find myself doing things I really don’t want to be doing. When I need a break, I generally find myself enjoying a book, playing with my kids, relaxing with a glass of wine… Try taking a look at the activities you’re doing and see if that gives you a clue as to whether you are refueling or escaping.

      1. Good POINT!

  14. I totally agree with you! I have my work shredded by author, Bryan Davis. He is a perfectionist, and helps me strive for the same level of excellence he produces every four months (you can check out his latest, Reapers, to see what I mean).

    I’m a relatively newbie writer—or at least I’ve been working toward being published for three years. I’m on round thirty or so of editing/revising, and I know it’s still not ready. But I believe it’s close.

    I encourage my fellow writers to cast their pride to the lions and jump in the lime-light of professional evaluation. As the wise King Solomon said: Plans fail when there is no counsel, but with many advisers they succeed. (Proverbs 15:22)

  15. Reblogged this on Natasha Sapienza and commented:
    For my fellow writers, this is a worthy read.

    • Sarah Brentyn on May 9, 2014 at 3:31 pm
    • Reply

    Love this post, Kristen! Love it!

    “If you want to achieve greatness, stop asking for permission.” Victory will be ours! Bwa-ha-ha! (Or something like that.)

  16. Yes, I agree. It’s easy to get our hackles up about some of these things, but it’s better to understand the process and profession of writing and accept its realities than to try to beat our heads against them.

  17. Good post. I have recently taken a break from writing and am waiting for some direction from above about what I should be doing. While I am enjoying doing things in the garden, I have been a little on the cranky side!

  18. Some of the things you wrote in this post were mind blowing! Mostly because it was like you were talking about me. Feeling a ‘weird depression’ during my no-writing days, fear etc. all made perfect sense. I started blogging regularly last year but I can do a LOT better. I am still struggling with time and the fear of starting my own novel. This dream has come to a point where it’s brimming with hope and excitement. Yet still, it seems like as distant a reality as peace on Earth. Mostly because it just pops up in my head occasionally and goes back into hibernation because my mind tells it that I am not ready. That’s a whole lot of crap really. So your advice gives me hope. I need to START. Period. Thank you so much!

  19. This is great, thank you. I am SO hard on myself when I go back to that first draft and don’t find perfection. I’ve even put a sign on the wall to remind me to stop doing that.

  20. I’m getting better at accepting that the first draft is all over the place and carrying on nonetheless. What I still struggle with is how long it all takes! I write 1000+ words each day I write – but that isn’t every day.
    Especially just now, as I’m recovering from wisdom-tooth surgery – although I am writing a blog post about it (horror stories, anyone? bring them on!) so I guess I’m still moving. I think the problem is I don’t know how much to expect of myself. Tips?

    1. Do more than you believe you can. A friend of mine (and new writer) came over today and I suggested writing sprints. I challenged her to 1000 words in 40 minutes. She didn’t make the thousand (“only” 800) but it was her BEST writing because the sprint gave her no time to edit or over think. It was all emotion and it ROCKED.

  21. Great post and a lot of insight in it as well. So much of my problem lies in wanting to make each chapter perfect before I move on. I am slowly learning the best thing to do is just get the damned story down FIRST!

  22. I am so at the stage of wanting my drafts to be perfect. I know I need to push past it and just get done but it’s an eternal struggle.

    • Karen on May 9, 2014 at 10:24 pm
    • Reply

    Wow! Well said! You really got me thinking…I need to be writing daily. I need to stop thinking nobody will want to read what I write and just write it anyway. Write it for me because it wants to come out, needs to come out. Thanks so much for posting this. Can’t wait to see the other parts.

  23. Kristen,
    Excellent post! You are so practical and I love your willingness to share.
    Thank you.

    1. THANK GOD people were willing to share when I was a noob with my head up my butt. I am paying it forward 😀

  24. Reblogged this on Planted in the Sky.

  25. Some great reminders. Thank you for being willing to get up at 3am and write them! Hope you got some rest anyway 😉

  26. Interesting advice!

    I have recently learned that it is important to submit to the idea that plans rarely work out. When things go sideways, it’s usually my writing that gets squeezed out.

  27. Thank you for this. I am having a difficult time with my writing today (fanficiton I might add….bad me) and I just figured out that the reason is that I am afraid to put my own emotions into that work 🙁 so thank you for reminding what I am and what I am doing

  28. Reblogged this on Kentucky Mountain Girl News and commented:
    KMGN: What do you think?

  29. It’s so easy to pretend everything I write is perfect. Learning to take criticism and listening is such a lifesaver! I’d rather suck in private rather then blunder in public.

  30. I have 5 published books and writing them, disciplining myself to write, editing, etc. isn’t the problem. I’m discouraged right now because many/most of the book stores in my area no longer do book signing events and I have a lot of trouble finding venues to get my books out there. Blogging, two websites, and FaceBook helps but I like the personal appearances and getting to meet the public, too. I’m about ready to throw in the towel. 🙁 Any suggestions?

    1. Book signings don’t sell books. Social media has replaced that. Just keep writing and add in a blog if you don’t have one. Book signings never sold books. They were the only way for authors to connect personally with audiences and readers and we now do that on-line. Blog. write more books, make friends. Remember WHY you really write and the money will come. And, even if it doesn’t you will be happy. We all have to face the reality that a lot of authors aren’t appreciated until they are dead….so have FUN.

  31. Your blog is very interesting; I am following it. Please check out mine. You find it ot be of interest to you. Blessings to you.

    Senior Pastor/Equipping the Saints
    Philip 3:10, “That I May Know Him”

  32. As difficult as it is to take, I need to voluntarily submit to the fact I will be criticized, no matter how polished a manuscript is. The trick is to get those first criticisms from people you trust, before the whole world sees the book.

  33. I use my blog as a way to get me writing as well. I always love your posts, they are some serious food for thought, and I want to thank you for this blog. It’s taught me quite a bit 🙂

    1. Thanks for letting me know. I grew so much because of senior writers willing to take precious time to help me. I work hard to pay it forward ((HUGS))

  34. Reading your post was very timely for me… just got a brutal critique on my opening chapter. My first of the sort. But your post reminded me that I need to continue to submit, despite feeling that I’m exposing my most vulnerable sides. I will keep submitting. Thanks!

    Just reblogged this post on my Tumblr:

  35. Reblogged this on Love's Last Refuge and commented:
    Good wisdom, lots of common sense, for aspiring authors and even for those who are old hands at this business.

  36. Kristen, It’s said that if we leap, then the net will appear, and I truly believe that this is a credo writer’s have to live by, because without a little faith, that; by submitting we succeed, where would our dreams be?

  37. Just a little add on to my last comment – I liked this post so much, I’ve reblogged it for you. Thank you for the insightful words.

  38. Reblogged this on An Unexpected Life Chosen.

  39. Great post with positive motivation sprinkled through to “just do it” as Nike says. I especially appreciated reading it as I’ve finished my first draft and on reading it realized I need to do a lot of rewriting because the story needs to be told in a different fashion or style. These tips are going to be helpful in keeping me going.

  40. My main issue is not getting started – finding all those little things that need doing.

    I have an issue where I love doing the actual writing, but every time I try to plan or come up with something to write about, I lose my confidence it in almost immediately.

  41. Thanks for these reminders, Kristen. I might have needed them, I realized. 🙂

  42. When I am writing my first draft from my outline I wizz through it. I have no trouble ‘making time’. Once the first draft is done and it’s time to edit, that’s when I seem to suffer from paralysis and ‘what now’ syndrome. I kinda know what I need to do but I tend to freeze. Something to work on.

  43. Criticism has never faltered my resolve. I have grown so thick-skinned to ass jockeys simply blaming me for being a human being not of their preferential liking that i long ago gave all the feks i had to give. Making time can be difficult as my day job at Wally World tends to be overly demanding. Gotta pay for bills and editing/publishing fees, conventions, etc some how right? Least till writing can become my ONLY profession.

    No what crushes me is failure. All my life I have been throttled by people who believed that everything i do should be successful and if i fail i am immediately useless in my craft, or at whatever job/position i am undertaking. Sadly most of these twits are even BIGGER failures than I so its a matter of “oh hi kettle name’s pot nice to meetcha!” Sadly this however still bothers me, its hard for me to admit failure, which sometimes makes it hard to accept criticism if i have made a critical error somewhere. Its why I always read your blogs for new techniques and to spot my mistakes before i make them.

    It helps also to know I’m not a failure and I’m not the only one making mistakes. Just falling in similar pot holes that everyone else does.

  44. Reblogged this on remnantscc.

  45. Another great post!

  46. I always follow this site I always follow this site

  47. Exactly what I needed today! And I’m thinking your very first point is actually sort of a prerequisite to the rest (UH-OH!), though I may be reading a lot into it, perhaps, bringing a lot of my own stuff a log, like we do. So funny but up until recently, I’ve been that kind of crazy one, the one who tells it like it is, lets it all hang out, etc., etc. And I’m beginning to see that THAT is not the same, for me at least, as who I really am. Who I really am: not just the would-be writer in me (who wants to write about things the rest of my would not necessarily choose!), but also the pessimist, the knower/experiencer of so many uglinesses, and the entertainer and unwitting believer of some pretty off-the-wall notions/ideas. Anyway, thank you.

  48. I’m reading this post almost a week late, but it seems very timely that I did it today. I do realize that part of the reason why I get down is because I’m not writing enough. I’m not doing what I do best in the world, which is like purposely denying a part of yourself to grow. That’s just awful. Thanks for this reminder.

  1. […] Check out her latest post here: Writer Victory!—#1 Voluntarily Submit  […]

  2. […] « Writer Victory!—#1 Voluntarily Submit […]

  3. […] been working on an Author Acrostic for Victory. V for voluntarily submit. I for identify problem areas and defects. Today we are at C for change your […]

  4. […] Writer Victory!—#1 Voluntarily Submit […]

  5. […] was for Voluntarily Submit. I was for Identify Problem Areas. C was for Change Your […]

  6. […] far we’ve made it through most of our Writer Acrostic. V is for Voluntarily Submit. Know there will be trials and challenges and there is far more strength in bending than breaking. […]

  7. […] we tackle the next letter in our Writer Acrostic. Thus far, we’ve covered: V is for Voluntarily Submit. Anticipate trials and challenges and understand there is far more strength in bending than […]

  8. […] today we tackle the final letter in our Writer Acrostic. Thus far, we’ve covered: V is for Voluntarily Submit. Anticipate trials and challenges and understand there is far more strength in bending than […]

  9. […] favorites:  Rachel Aaron – Don’t Stomp on My Cake!  ;  Kristen Lamb – Writer Victory series  ;  Lauren Sapala – Self Doubt: The Writer’s Constant […]

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