Failure, Betrayal & Setbacks—Sometimes the Only Way Out is THROUGH


Setbacks. We all have them and, strangely, they like to cluster together and dog pile us at once. The trick to setbacks is to adjust our perspective of what happened and use them to to make us stronger, wiser and grittier.

You might not believe me, but instant success is not always good for us. There is something about the process of learning and doing and failing and starting again and again even when we want to give up that is healthy. In fact it is vital for any kind of long-term achievement.

I know because I’ve encountered my share of people who were promoted too soon, beyond the scope of their abilities and far past the strength of their character. And it ended badly every…single…time.

Growth is a Process


All human growth is a process. It has steps. We skip steps at our own peril. Everything we are doing is training for something bigger. If we get the promotion too soon? We are going to be ill-prepared for the dream.

And this is what I want you guys to keep in mind when you face setbacks.

There are all kinds of stories of folks who won the lottery who then ended up bankrupt. Stories of athletes or musicians or actors who got promoted too fast too soon before their skills and character could develop. We even have writers who by some fluke, saw vast success with a book only to never be able to duplicate that lightning in a bottle.

Don’t get me wrong, this is sort of like the whole “Money can’t buy happiness” line. I sure would love my chance to test that theory 😉 . And instant success? Would love me some of THAT. But since instant fame and fortune are not the norm, and since I assume most of you have no desire to be flash-in-the-pan-successes…

We must learn GRIT.

Today I want to talk about the three most common types of setbacks and what they can teach us if we are open to the lesson.

Setback #1—The Judas Kiss


E tu, Brute?

I’m pretty sure anyone who’s lived longer than a few years has been through a betrayal. And not just any betrayal. The one you never saw coming.

Writers are emotional creatures. Our art springs from our heart and if our heart just got rammed through a Vit-A-Mix? It’s really hard to focus. Maybe it was a writing partner who bailed halfway through the novel you were co-authoring together. Maybe someone in your personal life took major advantage of you and you’re reeling from it. Maybe you got majorly screwed over at work.

Thing is? It happens. And it is never ever pretty.

I’ve been through my fair share of betrayals, but guess what? We can cry and whine and feel sorry for ourselves or we can use it. I just absolutely love the song “Fighter” by Christina Aguilara regarding betrayal:

‘Cause it makes me that much stronger
Makes me work a little bit harder
It makes me that much wiser
So thanks for making me a fighter
Made me learn a little bit faster
Made my skin a little bit thicker
Makes me that much smarter
So thanks for making me a fighter

Humans are flawed. Many come with baggage (and not just carry-on). The only way to avoid ever being hurt is to isolate ourselves, but then we are deprived of the many wonderful people out there who can and will make excellent friends and partners.

The same fire that will boil out the users is the same fire that will also reveal the gold around us.

If I hadn’t been through four other crappy writing partners who totally flaked? I would never have found my current gem, Cait.

So yeah, just expect that knife in the back. As you get older and wiser it does happen less frequently and hopefully we will get to a point it never happens. But the blunt truth is risk and reward are related and so it can still happen to the wisest among us.

Just expect it, plan for it and learn to roll with it.

Setback #2—You Just Aren’t Ready


Most of us have been there as writers. We have worked and worked and edited and polished and we think THIS! THIS is the book that will make it…only to realize we still have no idea what the hell we are doing.

Before the digital age, becoming published was a very slow, private, and painful process. Most aspiring writers remained just that.


The process of querying and being rejected and rejected and rejected…and rejected again weeded out those who were not truly committed. It forced us to get better, to go to conferences, to take classes and try again and again.

Thus, by the time we actually were published (if we made it that far) the book was actually pretty decent. Granted there is no accounting for taste (so I am not claiming everything NY published was better than unicorn tears), but when we compare the books published 15 years ago against this modern era where publishing is instant and no gatekeepers are required?

Vastly different quality.

And before anyone shouts me down, I am an indie. I love many indie books and think some of the best writers of our time are not traditionally published. But we ALL have seen the books that probably should have had more work before being offered for sale 😉 .

Here’s the deal. Some writers still are not ready even once “published.” Maybe we need to write more books to become better storytellers. Maybe we write great books but we just do not have a platform/brand that can drive sales.

Hey, my first book We Are Not Alone—The Writer’s Guide to Social Media was an excellent book. It was groundbreaking and desperately needed. But, my first royalty check was good for a dinner at Chili’s. I didn’t have a solid platform yet. I hadn’t built my brand enough.

In short? I wasn’t ready. And the reason I mention this is, what if I had gotten discouraged and given up? What if I hadn’t just faced this setback for what it was? I needed to grow.

Sometimes we need outside help to see if we are ready and where and how to grow. My mentors did it for me and now I pay it forward to you guys.

This is why I am offering my favorite class Hooking the Reader—Your First Five Pages. Instead of rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic, sometimes those outside professional eyes can help us work smarter, not harder. I am offering two upgrades where you get me ripping through your pages to help you get better. I am a master at taking out little darlings 😉 …


Setback #3—Burning Bridges

Ah, the burning bridges

Now there are two types of burning bridge situations. In one? We hold the box of matches. Maybe this is when we decided to quit the day job to write full time. We are in control of said bridge burning.

But then there is the other scenario.

This is where you go over the bridge to maybe pick up some nibbles for the family and stretch your legs…and you come back to your bridge ablaze with no way home.


I’ve been here, too. This might be the job loss you weren’t expecting, or a death or an illness. In my case, I was misdiagnosed with epilepsy thereby ending my career in corporate sales. I had no choice but to sink or swim. Only after I’d lost everything was I willing to dare to pursue my childhood dream.

I mean, why not? I had nothing left to lose.

I would love to say I was always that evolved when I faced this, but I wasn’t. I spent a year crying and in depression that I was a failure. Bemoaning my lost career and whining so much I couldn’t even stand myself.

It wasn’t until I quit crying over my burned bridge that I could harness the freedom it gave me. I had no way back and nothing left to lose. It made me much braver than I ever would have been with some kind of a safety net in place.

And trust me, this is probably THE most terrifying of all the setbacks, but we have to make a choice. There is no un-burning the bridge, so the only thing we can control is our attitude. So cry, call a prayer hotline, gripe in my comments and get it all out…then dig in. Sometimes the only way out is through.

What are your thoughts? Have you ever had a betrayal SO bad you thought you wouldn’t make it? Did it make you better? What did you learn. Do you struggle with knowing if you are ready? Have you ever attempted something too soon? What did you learn? Have you ever had a bridge blow up on you? I want to hear your stories!

And remember next week at W.A.N.A., we are starting that Master’s Class series with Hollywood Producer Joel Eisenberg so make sure to get your spot!

I love hearing from you!

And to prove it and show my love, for the month of FEBRUARY, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. 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).


Remember that ALL CLASSES come with a FREE RECORDING so you can listen over and over. So even if you can’t make it in person? No excuses! All you need is an internet connection!

NEW CLASS!!!! Hollywood Producer Joel Eisenberg’s Master’s Series: HOW TO MAXIMIZE YOUR EARNING POTENTIAL AS A FULL-TIME AUTHOR (Includes all classes listed below) Normally $400 but at W.A.N.A. ONLY $199 to learn from Joel IN YOUR HOME.

OR, if it works better, purchase Joel’s classes individually…

Potentially Lucrative Multi-Media Rights $65 February 21st, 2107

How to Sell to Your Niche Market $65 February 28th, 2017

It’s Not Who You Know, It’s Who Knows YOU $65 March 7th, 2017

Making Money Speaking, Teaching, Blogging and Retaining Rights $65 March 14th, 2017

Individual Classes with MOI!

Blogging for Authors $50 February 23rd, 2017

Plotting for Dummies $35 February 17th, 2017

Pitch Perfect—How to Write a Query Letter and Synopsis that SELLS! $45 March 20th, 2017

NEW CLASS!!!! The Art of Character $35 February 24th, 2017

Hooking the Reader—Your First Five Pages $40 March 18th, 2017

For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of my latest social media/branding book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on


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  1. Reblogged this on authorkdrose.

    • lanettekauten2016 on February 16, 2017 at 4:05 pm
    • Reply

    I was completely ignored by a writing partner I really wanted to work with, but every time I said I needed to bounce around some ideas, she put me off. I eventually abandoned that project, not because of the writing partner but because I struggled with the voice of the main character and because it really wasn’t my genre–just an interesting new shiny to play with. Several months after rebuffed a few times by my partner, she started bragging about her new writing partner. That hurt. Like knife in the heart hurt. Honestly, it was for the best since we don’t even work in the same genre, but we’re humans and rejection and replacement hurts. But the good news is I’m back on track with the type of stories I usually write.

  2. Reblogged this on Writing and Musing and commented:
    This a good reminder not to give up just because growing as a writer is tough!

  3. Kristin, always something to ponder in your posts. Yep, a writing partner flaked on me many times. Always promising material so I could write it for him. It was his book, so the only setback was it took up my time and energy to plod him along. Not doing that any more. I’m concentrating on my own book now. Your posts keep me going forward! Thank you, ?Christine

  4. Great words, Kristen. I’ve been dealing with some of these same issues of late. Right now, I’m warm and toasty sitting next to this bridge. Heh.


  5. There is no feeling sorry for yourself in this profession. Either you do and keep doing, or you don’t.

  6. Reblogged this on Mystery and Romance and commented:
    Oh those bridges!

  7. The flaky writing partners … ugh … the worst. Not only do they make you feel like you’ve done a terrible job writing a book, but they also give inaccurate writing advice (pertaining to things like structure and plot and stakes). And not knowing any better, thinking *they* know more than you, you follow their terrible advice and make a so-so book awful. Moving backwards in a writing journey is debilitating. But you’re absolutely right–you learn from stuff like that, and now I’ve found two great beta readers I can totally bounce things off. Great post!

  8. Ah, setbacks. If we didn’t have them, what would help us build character?
    I will say that I have had my “pity party” moments in the last (nearly four years now) since I started this professional writing thing. But they didn’t last for long because if you’re down, you’ll never make it to the goal. I think it’s part and parcel of an artist mentality to second-guess ourselves and get depressed when something we spend months and months on ends up going nowhere. Grieve it and move on to the next thing.
    Someday I will have the platform I need to make it as an indie AND the traditional contract I want just to “know” I’m writing on level with the professional I claim to be.
    Thanks for the encouragement.

  9. Reblogged this on ugiridharaprasad.

  10. Ah setbacks. My writing set-back came in the form of an unburned bridge. A successful day job that wasn’t writing but really paid the bills. Made me turn my back on writing for over fifteen years.

    1. OK, based on a quick scan of your blog, please tell me you learned and are going all-out into writing in your spare time. You’re insightful, witty, and have a presence!

      1. Thank you!

        Still plugging away writing between work and kids. I have 3 novels written, and all are in various stages of editing. My goal is to have one completely edited and out for submission by June.

    • Richard Snow on February 16, 2017 at 11:36 pm
    • Reply

    I guess you’ve seen this, but it literally always makes me choke up,

    • Richard Snow on February 16, 2017 at 11:41 pm
    • Reply

    I guess you’ve seen this, but it literally always makes me choke up: It’s J K Rowling speaking , at Harvard about the benefits of failure.

  11. I loved your blog about failure. I can’t even remember when the big economic crash happened, time goes so fast. five, seven or ten years ago? But I do remember crashing and burning spectacularly. I’m a wildlife artist and had clients from every corner of the world commissioning me for paintings. That lucrative source of income died almost overnight. My writing, at that time, was something I’d done in the closet like forever. A dear friend and mentor from Inspiration for Writers encouraged me to push through with my writing–after all, what else did I have to lose. I eventually joined her company as an editor and I published 3 books in between. The road was incredibly rocky and filled with potholes and crippling failures, but I made it because the hard road was the only road.
    I love all your blogs, Kristen. Thank you.

  12. Reblogged this on sailorpoet and commented:
    This motivational and humbling article applies to much of what we do in life, but I find it especially wise as I set out on a quest of sharing this thing I have been doing for over 30 years in a public forum for the very first time. I hope you take the time to read it and absorb Kristen’s wisdom.

  13. Ah, the Judas Kiss.

    One day you’re having dinner at your business partner’s house, the next week she’s resigning by email. Email, after working together 20 years. This rather upset my plans to spend less time at the day job and more time writing… however, there’s nothing else to do but dry my tears, get up, and keep going.

    My goal remains the same, just gonna take longer to get there. It’s hard for me to burn this bridge, because there are others who rely on it. My plan was a gradual dismantling, but perhaps a more creative solution is needed!

    It is painful going through hard times, but as you say, there are no shortcuts to building grit. It’s good to know others have trodden the same path and recovered from setbacks. It’s good to hear you tell it like it is.

  14. Great Blog! I submitted my first very rough draft to 5 agents who wasted not time rejecting my work. One of the five was kind enough to explain that my work wasn’t ready and provided a long list of reasons for the rejection. It was a setback, but also a step forward. I used the information she gave me to become a better writer. When I look back on my original draft, I’m ashamed and embarrassed that I would have ever sent something like that out for consideration.

  15. Reblogged this on Writer's Treasure Chest and commented:
    Kristen Lamb, one of my all time favorite bloggers and writers informs us about Failure, Betrayal & Setbacks. Thank you very much Kristen.

  16. This is a great post. We all have setbacks. We all have problems. How we decide to deal with those problems makes all the difference. Great post!

  17. Reblogged this on Swamp Sass and commented:
    We all have setbacks. It’s how we handle them that makes the difference. Thanks for this reminder.

  18. Reblogged this on mallie1025 and commented:
    Good advice in this blog

  19. What a great read. The title is something we all can relate too for sure.

  20. Reblogged this on Erotic Vampire and commented:
    Words of wisdom from the invincible Kristen Lamb. Thanks again Kristen for a post that came at the perfect time.

  21. Kristen, you say it how it is. I LOVE that. I NEED that. And so many other people do too. Everybody hurts sometimes… (Bad REM reference) But I also, like you, found my true calling of writing through a series of unfortunate events. I went to college to get my degree in interior design. I was hot. I was on the ball. I was the best designer in town. I even opened my own business that turned out to be pretty awesome. Then, after the birth of my daughter, I got sick. Very sick. Sick to the point that my husband had to lift me out of bed to take me to the bathroom. I wanted to die. For real. Long story short, I became disabled. I still am to this day. BUT… I was determined to make lemonade out of lemons. That’s the old adage, right? So I said that I would write a book. And I did. Was it good? Yes. Was it professional and great? No. That’s why I’ve spent the last 7 years of my life striving to be a better writer. I’ve taken classes. I’ve cried. I’ve written the words of my stories in my own blood. And then I’ve taken those stories and lit a match to them. Why? Because I need to be better, I need a drive that forces me onward despite the crap that has rained down on me and the betrayal and doubt my family has poured upon me like a cheap salad dressing. I know I can do this, and you are the person I look to for inspiration. Your advice is like a healing balm to a solitary author’s skin. It’s sweet and inspirational and soothing. Thank you for the countless hours you put into your work, your blog, and your need to help others. You have aided me beyond words, and many other voiceless authors out there as well. You keep doing you. Because without an advocate of your standing, we would all feel alone. And we are not alone, betrayal or otherwise. We are strong and passionate and deserve to be treated the way a true professional is treated. With respect. Again, thank you. And one day, some of us will finally rise above and see the true fruits of our labor. If only we can hang in there…

    1. Awwww you are making me cry (((((HUGS)))). Trust me, y’all have helped me as much if not more. This has been the worst five years of my life in maybe ways and being here, connecting with all of you has often been the only thing to keep me going. Lots and lots and lots of love!

  22. Reblogged this on Don Massenzio's Blog and commented:
    Check out this post from Kristen Lamb’s blog on how to power through setbacks and failure.

  23. One of the great riddles is how we need to strive with all our might to succeed, but also…not accept failure, but recognize the inevitable and essential-ness of it.

  1. […] Source: Failure, Betrayal & Setbacks—Sometimes the Only Way Out is THROUGH […]

  2. […] can be a mentally and emotionally grueling journey. Kristen Lamb explores how to deal with and learn from setbacks, Elizabeth S. Craig has time savers for writers, Chuck Wendig urges us to write unafraid, and […]

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