Professional Authors Need H.E.A.R.T.—What It Takes to Make It In The Digital Age of Publishing

Image with Twig the Fairy

Image with Twig the Fairy

Sorry I’ve been lax about posting. The Attack of The Peanut cascaded into a splendid ER visit and a bad case of Shingles. Nothing to make a gal feel young like a case of Shingles. I now need denture paste and glitter. I am sure there is some mayhem I can create with that 😉 . Oh, and I want an obnoxious pink cane with a tennis ball on the end so I can sit in my driveway and yell at people that they’re driving too fast.

Where was I?

Oh, yeah, was going to chat some about writing (in this weird gap I get between waking up and pain meds kicking in). No precise time when THAT happens so should be FUN. Being laid up in bed doped on pain meds gives you LOTS of blog ideas…and seriously weird dreams. How does one translate competing in ice skating against Nancy Pelosi and she wins because she has the better Monster Truck?

I REALLY want a Monster Truck.

Anyway, WRITING.

Today we will use an acrostic because they’re cool and keep this ADD teacher/blogger on SQUIRREL! …um, task.

Writing takes H.E.A.R.T.

Image via Flickr Creative Commons. Bansky's "Peaceful hearts Doctor" courtesy of Eva Blue.

Image via Flickr Creative Commons. Bansky’s “Peaceful hearts Doctor” courtesy of Eva Blue.

Hard Work—Yep, no magical program that can whip out a NYTBSA. But frankly, would we want one? Those in writing for the wrong reasons (make a quick buck) abound. Some succeed but they’re rare. Most of us do this writing thing because of LOVE. We love to write, to teach, to share, to tell stories. We are explorers who can venture into the human mind or into galaxies never before imagined. And no matter where we go, there is coffee.

That’s a perk *bada bump snare.*

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One thing that CAN feel weird though is often what we do doesn’t feel like work so it freaks us out that we’re being lazy. No, trust me. Reading books, watching movies, series, TV IS work. We’re studying the craft. And others can laugh at you, but who mocks the NFL player who watches the same football replays over and over? Or plays Tic-Tac-Toe and no one wins? I have yet to see them draw a line through any of the Xs or Os. *rolls eyes*

Ok. We laugh at them. But they don’t care and make millions for throwing a ball. Take a lesson.

We might be weak at something. Remember that our greatness is only limited by our strongest weakness. We can be a pro at dialogue, but if we have no clue how to plot effectively? We can limit how well we connect to the reader. Still focus on your strengths, but acknowledge and develop your weaknesses so your writing is balanced.

Allies—Again, this is why I started WANA. I knew what it was like to be completely alone trying to do this writing thing. I might as well have told friends and family I was pursuing a career in coloring books.

What a WANA Coincidence! (Susie Lindau, Moi, Julie Hedlund, Piper Bayard)

What a WANA Coincidence! (Susie Lindau, Moi, Julie Hedlund, Piper Bayard)

The world oddly devalues what we do, yet they spend most of their disposable income on what artists create—music, movies, books, video games, TV, TV series. Writing changes the world. It’s ended slavery, given hope to the hopeless, been the greatest catalyst for equality and often is the spark that lights the scientific innovation. *cough* Star Trek. Thank Gene Roddenberry for that smart phone the world is addicted to.

But you will need others to remind you that what you are doing is important. Also, learn to spot allies versus energy vampires. We all have them. People who have problems they want us to solve and then they do what they were going to do in the first place.

Use those words wasted on someone who won’t listen anyway and put them on a page. Also, learn to say NO to time-suckers and YES to allies. No is rarely popular, but I’ve learned I would rather be respected than popular.

Empathy—The mark of an excellent writer is how well she can get in a character’s skin/head. Study people. Listen. Pay attention. Get in another person’s head/heart for real. What would they think, say, feel? If we fail to do this authentically, readers will spot it.

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Rhino Skin—I wrote an old post about critique groups someone stumbled across. I mentioned that we gutted each other’s work. This vexed the commenter, but why? I would rather someone be hard on me in private than get slayed in reviews that are for public view permanently. And even if the person is a total jerk? Great training for this thing called reality. There are some reviewers who will post venom for the sole purpose of being mean. I don’t know why. But bullying has always been around and likely not going away. Though I’ve been blessed with wonderful, thoughtful reviews on Amazon, there are people on Goodreads who clearly never read my book who gave me one star just because they could.

Image courtesy of the generous Schristia via Flickr Creative Commons

Image courtesy of the generous Schristia via Flickr Creative Commons

But, if you’ve been in a critique group of respectable peers who give tough love? @$$clowns are easier to write off (or write INTO a novel).

If you can possibly find and join and RWA group? DO IT, even if you don’t write romance. This is the greatest collection of pros you can hope to find.

We have to develop discernment (which comments are crap and what’s worthy of looking into), but even if it’s pure jealous hate B.S.? Still useful. Hey, we always need someone to shame/torture/kill in our next novel, right?

I won’t sugar-coat. If you write anything, especially anything worthwhile? The haters will flock to you. You are the light that reveals their fear and suckiness. Actually hate is proof we are doing something right. But it will still hurt. I’ve been in martial arts my whole life and getting hit in the face still hurts. I just no longer take it personally.

Same with writing. Feel the sting, then let it go….until you can create a plot involving a serial killing H.R. Manager with tragically small man parts or a former coworker with terminal cellulite.

Time—Rid THIS phrase from your lexicon. “I can’t find the time.” Time is not the remote control hiding in your couch cushions. Pros don’t find time, we make time. You are a priority and so is your writing. Again, it is better to be respected than popular. I’m not saying these can’t coexist. But, those close are NOT writers. They do NOT understand us and won’t. Most people have no clue why anyone would write anything unless there was a grade at the end or a boss expected it.

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We will have to say NO. Guard your gift because I can’t do it for you. No one can. As the late great Robin Williams said, “It’s like partial circumcision. Either go all the way or $#@%#@$ forget it.”

Before we go, I AM going to mention a series of classes I have coming up in early September. I call them the Going Pro Series. Back to School for AUTHORS. There’s Craft, Branding/Social Media, and Business (which publishing path might be the best fit for YOU/your work). Often we make stuff too complicated. Hey, we are writers. It’s our thing. I am here to help.

These classes are designed to streamline ALL you do. In craft, you will learn essentials, how to plot leaner and meaner and write better and faster than you might believe you can. Branding/Social Media? It’s simple and doesn’t take nearly as much time and effort as some might tell you. Business? We writers are in the Entertainment BUSINESS. Which path is a good fit? Not all writers were meant to self-publish. Not all works are good for traditional. This series is a guide to help you accomplish much more with far less effort. Feel free to take one (use WANA 15 for $15 off), but if you take all three in the BUNDLE? The cost is a lot less (and notes and recordings are provided for free for all classes).


What are your thoughts? Which parts of the H.E.A.R.T. are hardest for you? Do you put everyone and everything ahead of writing? Are you feeling pressured and strapped for time? Need help going a thicker skin? Feel at war with family or friends over your desire to write?

I LOVE hearing from you!

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


For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE here’s my newest social media book, Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World is NOW AVAILABLE. Only $6.99.


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    • lala412 on August 22, 2014 at 8:42 am
    • Reply

    I definitely need a thicker skin. I’m getting one, but I still get frustrated when I feel like the person must not have actually READ the book…

    1. Good critique will help you discern that and be able to shake off the @$$clowns. I’ve gotten insane reviews from people who clearly never cracked my book. That discernment will keep you sane or at least encouraged.

  1. Shingles suck! I know this for a fact. Hang in there….My favorite example of people around me who don’t get it…Him: “Hey, um, honey, whatcha doing?”
    Me: “Working” (barely lifting my head from screen)
    Him: “Oh, writing?”
    Me: (glares)
    Him: “Well, you know, it is Saturday morning.”
    Me: “And your point is?”
    Him: “When will you be done?
    Me: (rolls eyes)
    Him: “How much did you make last month anyway?”
    Me: “Go away if you value your ….never mind.”

    1. Liz-
      My husband doesn’t “get” it when I’m writing (or standing in the kitchen stirring a pan over an unlit burner), but he would never act like the “him” in you example. I’m sorry you have to deal with that. Hang in there! We writers get your early Saturday morning obsession.

  2. Going from Nancy Pelosi winning a skating competition because of her monster truck to a perfect reference to “Up!” in two sentences I can only say, “I want whatever drug they’re giving you”.

    Currently my hardest part of “HEART” is “A”, “R” and “T” in that order. I hope I’m not lacking “art”, but I’m not part of a peer group. I know, my bad, but I can’t find the time. Oh, yes, you brought that one up too, didn’t you? The problem is… oh, wait, you invalidated my excuses. Oh well, I guess I better get back to work.

  3. I hate that your body decided to slam dunk you with multiple crises. You’re a living embodiment of your post by even posting today! I have to remind myself that I asked for the negative things that go with being an author.

    No fairy publisher appeared in my mirror, promising me fame, success, and a New York Times Bestseller. Though my latest book was on the New York Times front page. But then, my cat jumped up on the bed and knocked it off to curl up and go to sleep. Cats!

    I loved the Delusional image that started your post off. You don’t need to hear of my recent cancer surgery, fun dreams fueled by the pain med’s (one involved my surgeon coming for my face with a pizza cutter!) What you might like to hear is that I look forward to each and every post you write, though I do not always comment — when you are a rare blood courier, time is the true myth! May you get better soon, Roland

  4. Respected over popular, indeed! (although I see nothing wrong with being both).
    And yes I often have to conjure time out of the air. At least 20+ years in retail has blessed me with hippopotamus-tough “skin”. I would not fault a one-star review which was rational and made only valid points (and those kind of reviews are VERY rare!)

  5. Love this post! I went to school for TV Broadcasting and Comm. Media. We were actually required to watch tv and movies to study the craft. If it weren’t for this, and constantly hearing (and knowing) that you need to read a lot to write a lot, I’d feel like I was being lazy too.
    As far as which part is the most difficult for me, it’s making writing a genuine priority. My husband is one of my biggest supporters, but he’s also the issue when it comes to this problem (along with our pups). I need to carve out more time to write, but make sure I’m still balanced. I know I’ll feel better when I do.
    Also, again you are correct (I believe you’ve said it before). No one will understand a writer like a writer. I’m discovering this first hand now that I’ve published my book, and most people around me know that I write.

    P.S. Kristen, don’t feel old! My husband got shingles around the time we got married (he was 26).

  6. Great post!

    Your comment about hate, “Actually hate is proof we are doing something right,” I’d like to know more about. Since hate is so common in critiquing an artist’s work, and something we all will experience in our writing careers, I’d like to know more about your views on the topic.

    1. I can blog about this JUST FOR YOU!

  7. I loved that you made mention of energy vampires. It resonated with me the way things do when you don’t really want to look at them. It’s nothing new to say writing is isolating business, but it’s my luxury and choice to do what’s required. Still, it’s hard to reconcile my work with the dynamic of some of my friendships – some are more high maintenance than others, yet knowing this doesn’t stop me from answering the phone. You brought something up and put it right on my desk. Now I’m thinking of the word priority as well as the adage “not every opportunity is a good opportunity.”

  8. As always, thanks for being real. There are haters everywhere not just the book review world,jr. High school breeds them. After awhile just becomes “another mean girl.” Too bad we can’t send them to Mars.

  9. I’ll tell you, I’m sick of explaining that I can’t go here or there because I’m writing. This is not a hobby of mine, this is my life. Why don’t people get that? My husband does thank God, but friends often complain that I’m always tucked away with my computer. I’m losing popularity fast, but my writing has never been better. For me, that’s enough. Great post!

  10. I feel like I’m on a deserted island for about six hours during the day on Monday-Friday. It’s great, but I tend to be at the opposite end of the time spectrum – when was the last time you stepped away from the manuscript (research, blogging, social media) to just hang out with friends? Oh right. They all work “real” jobs and aren’t available at 2pm on Wednesday afternoon. Pick up that writing craft book and sit out on the deck instead. Human interaction is essential and I need to get out more.
    Great post, as usual. I hope you feel much better today. (And, no, I didn’t miss that your examples spelled heart H.A.E.R.T?)

    1. Hey, I blame Vicodin! I warned y’all pain meds could kick in. But you guys are smart and get to EDIT ME!

    2. That’s the empathy part. We have to be part of the human experience or we are too isolated to understand.

  11. “Time” is probably the biggest one that I hear about when it comes to getting things done.

  12. It’s great to hear from such prominent writers that inspire you. You inspired me today with your words and stories. I think stories are what makes the world go ’round. Thanks for this post!

    • authorpamelabeason on August 22, 2014 at 10:46 am
    • Reply

    H-A-E-R-T? Love the post as always, but I’m thinking you need a little more caffeine or drugs or sleep. I’ve never wanted a monster truck. I want a backhoe. I figure the neighbors will listen to my request for quiet if they know I can flatten their house.

    1. Hey, I warned y’all I was on pain meds :P. Just checking to see if y’all were paying attention….yeah.

  13. Kristen, your posts are always such a joy. I couldn’t live without my beta readers. I eliminated one friend because she was too nice. She then wondered why my mother got to be a beta reader. My response, “Mom’s not that nice.” Actually she’s a sweetheart but she tells it like it is! Back in my corporate days, I once broke out in hives when we discovered we didn’t have enough money to fund loans that day. It’s fascinating how our bodies react to our stress. Thanks to my empathetic warehouse banker, proving how important relationships are, all was well. Now go take more drugs and get some rest!

  14. Just a quick note to say I’m still an avid fan of your blogs – carry on!

  15. Oh, time, time, time. The day before yesterday I had time and no brain. Yesterday I had brain and little time, so I wrote something that made me smile. Finding time isn’t my problem, I guess, but finding the strength to banish that guilt over using time for “just” writing, not earning money. Because, weirdly, even the writing that DOES earn me money (my plays) feels wrong when I’m doing it. Because the payback comes months, or years later.

    1. If I may, we ALL do different activities for FUN. Some watch TV, go to a game or read a book…one of those FUN things YOU just so happen to do is WRITE. Humans NEED fun to survive, so go write guilt free! 🙂

      PS. This comes from someone who struggles with feeling guilty when I’m not being productive…

    • cromercrox on August 22, 2014 at 12:10 pm
    • Reply

    That’s not HEART. That’s HAERT. Just sayin’. (Channels Beowulf.)

    1. I warned y’all I had pain medicine :D.

  16. Great post, thanks for my motivation today! For me it is “T”. Also looking forward to seeing more on the “Back To School For Authors”. Get Better Soon 😉

  17. “The world oddly devalues what we do, yet they spend most of their disposable income on what artists create—music, movies, books, video games, TV, TV series.”

    -Perfect quote.

  18. Hear, hear! Here’s to heart <3 I'm all over the H, I love my A, have no problem with E and am working on T. It's R I'm going to have to sort my head out over, and soon!

  19. Wonderful post, as always, Kristen. Love the sentiment in the “someone told me I was delusional” image. I’ve saved to image to Pinterest and to my desktop, for those times I need a giggle.

    Writers need Allies. It’s impossible to explain to others why we do what we do. Other writers understand. And you’re right — the world devalues what we do, while gobbling what we create. And wanting our creations for free. 🙂

    The hardest part of HEART for me is Time; accepting that writing takes time, and being patient with myself.

  20. I love this post. I will check out your book.
    Laughed hard at the thought of a career in colouring books. Then again, someone out there must have a career in colouring books. Now that I think of it I think I buy more colouring books than novels. (My son lives for colouring)
    A career in colouring books? I think you’re on to something!

  21. Hope you feel better soon. Hubs got diagnosed with Shingles yesterday–so know you’re not alone in being the only young’un to get it. >.< He highly recommends the oatmeal bath if you're still looking for relief.

  22. Rhino skin. Definitely something I need to develop.
    I have only just recently decided to pursue my desires to write without questioning if it is “the right thing to do.” At certain point you realize that carefully calculating your life to neatly fix into a box marked “success” is exhausting. It rarely ever yields the results you actually want.
    Straight out of high school, I knew I wanted to go to college. Straight out of college, I knew I wanted to go to graduate school, last semester of graduate school I knew I wanted to get my PhD and go on to teach Sociology at the university level. That was the plan…my identity.

    Yet, after struggling financially and trying to keep all of the balls in the air, I wound up tripping at the finish line and never officially earned that Masters degree. Here I am, a twenty six year old with an education and world of ambition, working unreliable shifts at a gas station.

    It was my last straw.
    I started writing. My goals are still in their infancy, but in the mean time I started blogging for fun and to hone my skills, while trying to find a voice that other people will find helpful or inspiring. I became quite versed in social research writing and lost touch with the less official mediums.

    I am really excited. Just trying to learn all I can and hopefully I will get to a point where I can throw my hat into the ring of some amazing authors!

  23. i really must visit MyWana again, i think i need a bit of that support . I have most of the other stuff, but i may not be quite thick skinned enough. i’ve got a new book with beta readers that if i publish it is likely to get me some flack. I’m wondering if it’s worth the risk. i guess i should just get back in the mud pool and cake some more of the thick stuff on.

    Once again, thanks for the thought-provoking post.

  24. It’s the other E I have struggles with: Energy. I’d like to think it’s not H in disguise…
    I must get to work on that rhino skin, too: nothing steams me up faster than an unjustified attack (on anyone). Maybe some Allies could help!

  25. I always enjoy reading your blog posts. I’m sorry to hear about the Shingles attack, but glad that the meds are giving you some relief from reality. (Also sorry to hear about the horrific peanut allergy – that’s pretty scary since I always use a spoon of peanut-butter to take away the taste of my meds.)

    I really love how you deal with harsh critics – I laughed out loud at the idea of the “HR manager with tragically small man parts” and the “former co-worker with terminal cellulite.” Ooh, I can think of a few mean people I’d like to write into my next few novels…

    Hope you feel better soon.

    • Christine Hendershot on August 23, 2014 at 1:02 pm
    • Reply

    Kristen, I look forward to each of your blogs! Your sense of humor is more than entertaining; it’s inspiring! I often laugh out loud at your clever quips! I’m sorry to hear about your latest health scares. I know that shingles is really awful! And please, stay away peanut butter!! I just released my first book out into the world and although all the comments, so far, have been very positive; I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop. So your thoughts on critics were especially timely!! In approximately 4 weeks I will receive my Kirkus review…YIKES!! Then, I too, might need medical intervention!

    You have not heard the last of me; I plan on taking some of the courses you offer very soon. Thank you for all the words of encouragement, and the laughs!

    Christine Hendershot

  26. I’m ready to become disciplined and get back to writing. So … I’m looking into your courses. Thanks for being there.

    Shingles suck!

  27. Since I am just beginning to truly work on writing finding your blog was timely! My biggest struggle, “Hasn’t it all been said before by someone who said if much better than I possibly could?” That thought can be paralyzing but I am determined not to let it take up space in my mind! Looking forward to learning more from you – thanks!

  28. Wonderful blog, and it really helped me re-focus, hope you are feeling better!

  29. Oh poor you, shingles are awful! My husband had them in his 30s on his chest and scalp. Crazy painful. Hope you recover soon.

    I def need to work on my rhino skin and making the time to write. Summer has been a struggle with both kids home, but school is coming (at least for one!).

  30. This post comes at a good time. The rhino skin is getting there. I’m looking for a job (Unfortunately today’s economy warrants this decision.) and those rejections are helping. I’ve gotten a couple of bad reviews myself, but more good ones, so it balances out. Time is the issue for me, but I do have a peer group that I absolutely adore. They keep me accountable, so I do schedule my time. Today, I have two sick kids at home, so we’ll see how it goes.

  31. I clicked on the link to your allergy article and was shocked to see the so called “art” “jokes” essentially telling people with allergies to just go off and die. I suppose the spawn will have to do without PB sandwiches. i hope youre better.

  32. I find it challenging to comprehend if I possess talent or if my passion to write is simply a cathartic expression of my emotions.

    1. my sentiments exactly. is it real, or is it memorex?

  33. Critical reviews that offer constructive criticism have helped me do better work, and I’ve always appreciated them. Sometimes though, I see reviews, whether for my work or others, that just seem designed to be mean and belittling. Rhino skin is a must for things like that. You have to be able to shrug it off. If you can’t, it might make you crazy. Worse, it might have a negative effect on your writing.

    I always get the best advice here!

  34. The hardest thing we find is to juggle writing with all the OTHER aspects of the job (ie, editing, platforming, etc). . . . Have you done a post yet about platforming for fiction writers?

  35. Thank you so much for this post! I love writing and any advice helps. This post has truly inspired me to write more often. I have just started writing my first blog as a writer and it’s great, but I’m still trying to work on the T part (Time) in H.E.A.R.T. I need to give myself some more time and space during the day just devoted to my writing. I get so distracted by everything else going on that I don’t do it all the time. I hope all is well and have a nice day!!

  36. Hi, Kristen! I recently found your blog through my editor, and subscribed right away. Just thought I’d mention that I did link back to you a few days ago on this post. I loved the whole thing, and it was super-timely for me on the day you posted it. Blessings!

  37. I’m not exactly certain what letter I’m in the midst of: since just recently got out of bed (quite literally!) from a fractured leg [see my blog, if deeply curious!], I’m at a point of ‘little to no interest’ level of my story-writing. I have promised myself that I will begin, at least, make a list of potential topics for my blog, by the end of this week.

    1. Read. Rest. I am getting over Shingles and I know how you feel. ((HUGS))

  1. […] Professional Authors Need H.E.A.R.T. — What It Takes to Make It In The Digital Age of Publishi…, from Kristen Lamb: There are a lot of things you need in your corner if you want to become a […]

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