My goal for this blog has always, always, always been to be honest with you guys, to offer tough love and guidance and support. Because the world has three kinds of people, but two are the most common. Two are not exactly helpful and can be downright toxic. We will start with these folks, then move on to how to win that race!
The Discourager (Enemy)
This is the person who’s going to tell you what you’re unable to do. That it’s too hard, that you’re stupid for even trying.
You want to be a successful author? Seriously? Everyone can be published. It means nothing. Do you have any idea the competition that’s out there? You need a mega-marketing budget and even then you’ll probably fail.
Okay I need to stop there because I’m depressing myself.
These people are poison and I’ve dedicated many a blog to showing you why they need to go and giving tips for getting these people OUT of your life. They need to go if you hope to do ANYTHING remarkable.
The Sugar Coater (False Ally)
Then there is the sugar-coater. This person might tell you it’s easy to make a million dollars writing a book…if you just BUY and DO this plan. A lot of folks out there willing to sell a dream. So caveat emptor there. This type of sugar-coater has lots to gain, namely money.
Yet, when we are chasing gimmicks, we’re not doing the two most important activities every writer must do—writing more books, building that platform/brand.
The sugar-coater might also be people around us in, say a critique group, who tell us everything we write is better than unicorn hair. Friends who think everything we write is genius.
While these folks are great encouragers, they might not be what we need. Too much sugar bad for us 😉 .
We might really need a tough and honest editor/critique partner to show us that maybe we don’t know as much as we believed we did. That we still have a LONG way to go and in love, offer constructive criticism.
The True Ally
I want to give you guys a balance of love and encouragement because, to be blunt, most of us have an entire family filled with discouragers. Conversely, I also want to be honest. This is a tough job. Writing a work that spans 60K-120K words (and having that sucker actually make frigging sense) is NOT EASY.
I want you to be gentle with yourselves. There IS a learning curve. But, also step it up. We’re often capable of far more than we realize.
Parkinson’s Law states that work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion. Often we think that if we could only write full-time we’d be machines, turning out book after book. Not always the case and this is why deadlines are crucial.
I find that if I have all day to do something, I get sidetracked and I’m inefficient. I wander off, start on unrelated tasks. Yet, shorten the time I have to do something? And I am ON FIRE!
This is one of the reasons that I’ve run writing sprints on WANATribe every day for almost 18 months…even when I’m the only one there. I set the timer for 40 minutes for the push. How much can I get accomplished in 40 minutes?
Often? A hell of a lot more than I would have believed.
The ally will call us on our own BS. If we’re overextending ourselves? They’ll tell us to knock it off, eat something green and for the love of all that is chocolate…take a NAP.
If we’re going day after day and week after week not producing pages? And we whine we haven’t had time. The true ally will remind us we had time for Facebook and that Firefly marathon and to get our ass to work.
As Your TRUE ALLY, Here is Some Advice
Okay so y’all know I finally released a novel The Devil’s Dance after years of writing only non-fiction. Totally new gig for me. It was also pretty terrifying for a number of reasons beyond the usual.
First, I teach craft and have been haunted by that terrible saying: Those who can DO and those who can’t TEACH. Deep down I know it isn’t true, but stuff doesn’t need to be true to still freak us the hell out and keep us up at night.
My fiction would be out there. Did I happen to learn any of what I taught?
Second, I also teach that platform is critical for any kind of success. I’ve released books with a platform and without and can—from experience—tell you which is preferable. My first NF took months to be a blip on the radar versus the second NF launching to the top five of major categories on Amazon like Business and Marketing in less than 24 hours. #GoMe
But I’ve also claimed that if you build a platform the way I teach that we can switch genres, that the brand is US. So, when I was releasing a mystery-thriller when I was known as a NF branding expert? I got to be my own test case.
Did I instantly become a USA Today runaway best-seller hitting #1 in ALL categories AND have a movie deal by the weekend because Reese Witherspoon read my book and loved it and just HAD to produce it?
YES! I DID! #OMGOMGOMG
And then I woke up from my nap. *sobs*
I didn’t. But I did really well for a first novel, breaking the top 200 in multiple categories. Got a bunch of great reviews, reviews that made me sob with joy that 15 years of hell had been worth it. Additionally, my theory on platforms held solid. I already had a base of people eager to buy and read and spread the word.
But let’s face it, fiction is a whole new leg of the race for me and I need to earn my stripes. I have more of my theories to test, namely that it takes more than one book to gain the real traction. I saw this with NF and now? Get to test it with fiction, too. We shall see how it goes.
We are all in a race and we are racing with the goal of winning. Thing is though, we all have our OWN race. What is success for me is not necessarily success for you. But the key to winning your race is to keep your eyes on your finish line.
Ever run track? Most of us have even if it was forced upon us in P.E. class. When you’re running toward that goal line, the fastest way to trip, to even fall, to lose momentum and any kind of lead? Look at where other racers are.
You know, you turn your head to check and see how far your lead is and then *ass over elbows*.
Same with writing. Truth is, writers are not in actual competition with one another. Books are not so cost-prohibitive readers cannot buy more than one. Readers can have multiple favorite authors.
You guys know I am a huge fan of writers helping writers, connecting, learning, supporting. In fact, the genius dream team Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi…creators of the, well this is easier… (do yourself a favor and just get them all ) I recommend the paper versions.
I knew these ladies before they’d ever even completed The Emotion Thesaurus (their first resource) and was even a very happy guinea pig. Since that ground-breaking resource (as you can see from above) they have come out with many more and even launched an on-line resource One Stop for Writers.
Yet, despite their AMAZING success, they took time to support ME. They wrote a post We’re in This Together: How to Help Other Authors Succeed and not only are there some fantastic tips in here I didn’t even know (but will now do), they are raffling off copies of my book. I never asked them to do this, which explained the tears. SO much love there.
Ergo why I hammer platform, platform, platform. That community we build is going to be SO critical.
Yet, it would be easy for me to look at The Emotion Thesaurus and go, *sniff* Angela and Becca have 1,252 reviews. My book only has 168. Or Such-and-Such is at this rank and I am only here. Or they hit number one and I can’t even break out of the top 100,000.
THIS is when we are looking at other writers, but not in the correct way. This is the way that makes us stumble and fall because we are taking our eyes off OUR race.
Where Comparison Begins, Contentment ENDS
We need to embrace the whole of the writing experience. The challenges, the failures, the setbacks, the wins…ALL OF IT. If we are looking to another writer it needs to be to 1) love and support them or 2) learn from them.
If I compare my first draft of Sin Eater (the second Romi book) to American Gods by Neil Gaiman, the book I am currently reading? I am going to give up…right after I lay waste to every carb in the house.
First, not even the same genre. Then Neil’s been at this a smidge longer than I have and also? I am reading a FINAL product.
We have to stop comparing our behind-the-scenes footage to the highlight reel of others. Comparison is a nasty, nasty habit and puts us on a path that leads nowhere we want to go.
And we all do it. Even me. Jealousy and comparison is natural and human, and research shows humans write better books than robots. But feel it (blip) then press on. This is me…
BE CONTENT BUT BE HUNGRY
Okay my first novel was so bad it’s now being kept in my garage because it bites. But so what?
Millions of people say they want to write a book if they could only find the time. Well I made the time and I finished. I was (eventually) content I had passed that threshold, but I had to remain hungry. Learn, improve, press on, make allies and on and on.
In the end, choose who you will run alongside of…a pride of lions or a pack of hyenas. It matters. Then run your race, keep your eyes there on YOUR finish line (then the next and the next). I cannot promise you this is easy, but I can promise it will be worth it.
What are your thoughts?
Do you struggle with comparison? I do. I’ve just learned to see it, turn away FAST and get my mind on MY race. It takes practice. Trust me. Are you getting too down on yourself? Failing to see what you HAVE accomplished and too focused and what you’re not? Where you lack? Where you could have been better, faster or whatever? Or have you gotten too content and forgotten to be hungry?
It’s okay. We have all been there.
LOVE hearing from you guys!
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Talk to me!
And 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).
Obviously, I have my areas of expertise, but I’ve wanted for a long time to fill in some gaps on classes I could offer.
Cait Reynolds was my answer.
She is an unbelievable editor, mentor and teacher and a serious expert in these areas. She consults numerous very successful USA Today and NYTBS authors and I highly, highly recommend her classes.
OMG, Like How to Write Fleek YA July 7th $40 with Cait Reynolds
How to Dominate Your Sex Scenes (No Safe Words Here) July 14th $40 w/ Cait Reynolds
Gaskets and Gaiters: How to Create a Compelling Steampunk World July 21st $35 w/ Cait Reynolds
Lasers & Dragons & Swords, Oh MY! World Building for Fantasy & Science Fiction
July 28th w/ Cait Reynolds $35/ GOLD $75/ PLATINUM $125
Classes with MOI!
Pitch Perfect—How to Write a Query Letter & Synopsis that SELLS May 25th $45
Plotting for Dummies July 13th $35 ($250 for GOLD)
Blogging for Authors July 20th $50 ($150 for GOLD)
Branding for Authors July 7th $35
OTHER Classes with Cait Reynolds
Research for Historical Romance Writing – Or, How NOT to Lose Six Hours on Pinterest July 8th $35 for Basic/ $75 for GOLD / $125 for PLATINUM
Shift Your Shifter Romance into High Gear June 30th $35 Basic/ $75 GOLD/ $125 PLATINUM
Classes with Lisa Hall-Wilson
Growing An Organic Platform On Facebook June 24th $40
Oh my gosh! Congrats on the release of The Devil’s Dance! Just read the blurb and it sounds fantastic!
I really resonated with the first few paragraphs especially. I am starting to suffer from burn out. Two-and-a-half years of mom+work+spouse+workout+manager of the house and I was so exhausted I didn’t write anything much over a long weekend.
I have nothing published yet, but I can see the comparison trap lurking…
We all feel it, Hon. I was worn out, grouchy, miserable and feeling like a failure by Saturday. I needed A NAP. Then I needed to remember all of what I blogged about today. This is the lecture I gave myself…so I shared *smooch*. You will get there. One foot in front of the other 😉 .
I am terrible about comparing myself to other writers. I think we’re all bad about that. But why can’t I write like Amor Towles?!?! Seriously. I want to be that guy when I grow up! Only female and with red hair.
What is really cool is when you learn to love what Lanette Kauten writes like. Write something that will make Amor cry.
Well if anyone needs a Drill Sergeant, you can pimp me out.. great post.
wow this hit me last night! Had family over for Memorial Day, and the writer (besides me) said his friend got a six figure deal, and now, said family member is going to break into fiction. OK. So a hitch in my step nearly dropped me. Granted, I think he is ‘out there.’ And when I say ‘out there,’ I mean somewhere in paradigm I can barely deal with. And of course, he’s wildly successful in his non-fiction. So for me, my worst enemy is me. Instead of thinking WOW, that’s great, I said WOW that’s great while gritting my teeth… Truly, I wanted to weep. When I asked what the fiction was about, answer was ‘It’s in my head.’ OK, good place to start. Other stuff was fuzzier and he lost his train of thought. He’s on too many recreational drugs? Just kidding, he’s not on any. Me either.
However, supporting other authors even those who’s stuff is not in my genre(s)is a huge aim. I don’t believe in dissing any author by name. When I see reviews that are 2 or 3 stars from other authors (you can see it in their writing), it must stem from disrespect, disdain/arrogance, jealousy, and fear someone might read someone else’s book in the same genre. If I don’t like a book, I don’t comment. Authors have to read as a reader. Read like an author and one will find anything and everything wrong with a work.
We need to shuck the strands of the little minions’ lies stuck to real kernels of truth: We CAN do it.
Platforms are a great way to promo. Your blog instigated a search for your book, and subsequent comments -> that goes to the world. Yay!
My one published book, Fabulous Foods ahem, on Amazon(https://www.amazon.com/Fabulous-Foods-Enjoying-Healthy-Comfort/dp/1496053621/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1465790917&sr=8-1&keywords=cynthia+mahoney+fnp) is a cookbook, and each revision ( ugh I did three ) received 5 stars. But I only received 3 reviews (one on each). Total. Even advertising it on FB homepage, regular page, fan page (with a ‘just click to buy’ button), blog, website (with just click to buy’ button, WordPress, Twitter … even offered a free giveaway for a week before Christmas, nada. Erg.
Should I take your class LOL yes. That’s the goal. My first marketing strategy was a hostage group. Oh, I mean through work. Took out the golf and celeb magazines in the rooms and put only a copy of the book. 🙂 That worked well. Amazon is pretty sad. So I had POD, and I made $, way more than the $1.50 I’d get in royalties from self-pub on createspace.
Keep teaching, it’s from experts who know and help others. And just as another plug I LOVED YOUR BOOK!!!!! I can’t imagine ANYONE not buying it and enjoying the heck out of it.
Thanks to my peri-menopausal mentality, I probably would have burst into tears if someone in my family showed up with a six-figure publishing deal.
Kudos to you for biting your tongue…and not curling into a Potato Bug pose.
I had to find that fake plastic smile. Coz I want a six figure deal LOL. After all the ewwwtopian weirdness spewing forth from this famed family guy, he had his very vegan burger and all was well. I had my ooey gooey red meat hamburger. 🙂
Kristen, I am SO proud of you! You are doing amazing. Whoop-whoop! xoxo
I embrace my uniqueness and the fact that I write for my reasons only. Comparison is a killer and wholly unworthy of our attention. Diversity is the juice of life — the differences between you and the next person, especially creatively, have to do with how we interact with/relate to our existence.
Raise your fists high!! Off we go!!
Ever since I adopted dauntless as my word for 2017, the voice inside my head has been the biggest discourager ever. I’m a recovering perfectionist, so I’ve always had a louder-than-a- sledgehammer inner critic. This year? Everything I write is horrible. When I finish one thing I second-guess what I should pick up next. The projects I’ve started ram into dead ends within the first 5-10,000 words. The projects that need editing and polishing make me gag and feel like slitting my wrists (except I’m allergic to the idea of making myself bleed).
So…the comparison beetle makes me want to weep, throw up my hands and forget all the work I’ve done in the nearly four years since I started writing full-time. So I’ve completed a half-dozen novels. I polished three of them and couldn’t sell them to a publisher (only got one full manuscript request for all the querying hell I went through).
I need to stay hungry. I need to remember why I loved storytelling. But first, I probably need a nap.
Thanks for all you do for the writers in the world.
I feel the pain. Not the slitting wrists, I too am allergic to the concept of pain. Querying gave me a new perspective. Each rejection meant I needed to get out my edit hammer. Which I did. And do. But as I wait for the contract (optimistically) I write my next. I started first novel in 2012 in nanowrimo. Utter crap. Thank heavens it was rejected. I would’ve died a horrible embarrassing death if someone published it. I am ever grateful to blogs like these, and Scribophile, where honest critiques were the best I’ve yet to find. Don’t nap! OK, I do at around four…
and is there any such thing as a recovering perfectionist? Isn’t the recovery a perfection motivated thing too? I suffer the same.
I hated the query letter/cover/proposal/synopsis writing. Everyone has different requirements. ! Should be universal and a LOT easier!
This couldn’t have been a more timely post! Especially the part about making comparisons. Thank you for sharing! This is definitely why I follow your blog. Just when I’m ready to throw in the towel and give up, you put out a motivational post that reminds me to just keep running the race and keep looking forward.
Also, congratulations on your new release!
Well, gee whiz. Broke 200 with your first release? That is amazing. Can you do any kind of write-up on that? Did you do ARC’s? How? Did you promote? Where? Was it all just platform? Really?
Because to see one of the many many authors who write how-to-write-a-book books actually step up to the plate and take a swing at the ball is an amazing thing in and of itself. Just putting an actual work of fiction out there puts you miles ahead of many others on the respecto-meter. (Add this to the scoped rifle and I think we need to upgrade the awesome meter.)
But then to see you hit a solid grounder and get to first base on your first at-bat. Wow. What else can be said? Just, wow.
So, yeah, many of us in the dugout wondering how you did that. With hopes and expectations that you’ll tell us at least some of that story for free. (There, I said it.)
But, seriously Kristen. Way to go. In my mind’s eye, I’m buying you a Lonestar. Just so you know.
Now, do it again. No pressure.
Great post, Kristen! I love the part about not comparing ourselves to other authors. Very insightful! 🙂
I think one of the things Kristen did was to have a following on this blog. Coz, I read it pretty much every day, and one day, there it was… she talked ever so briefly about her new fiction. Well. I went, bought it, read it within 24 hrs and went ape you know what on all my social media, my fan page, Twitter — everything. And I was not alone. Social media is Yuge. A platform is Yuger. Having a loyal following on that platform is a strategy worth its weight in gold.
My ‘platform’ and brand lies in a 2 dimensional realm — flat. Why? Cause I am not on it every day. I quite unfortunately go political on my Twitter site, and forget my OH crap, #amwriting etc. I don’t blog every day. Doink.
But truly, her book is crazy awesome so besides platform (getting the word out and understanding the brand) and reading the novel (a really well-written work), that is what I believe what got her the gold.
As we support one another, that’s part of our help, is to help each other in both critiques and when it’s published, give it some attention as a reader, not an author–I once took a red pen to a famous author’s book… I marked it up with his every horrible typo or run-on sentence, etc… I wasn’t reading as a reader.
Sigh. Now since I’ve been tied up on all social media and it’s late, I need to go write. I think I will get lunch first. Maybe see if my sister sent me a blistering political email. LOL.
Aha! So it’s Mr. Parkinson’s fault! I keep thinking “there’s time, there’s time” but in reality I am closer to my death every day and the sooner I realize that the sooner this book will be finally finished 🙂
Today I wondered if I could have this book out by the end of winter (Southern Hemisphere) but as I have never self-published a book before, I have no idea how much time to allow for editing, proofreading, cover design, formatting etc. But at least it gives me something to aim for!
Congratulations on your new book!
Thanks so much for your encouragement- and your sense of humor! Your blogs make me laugh at myself- MUCH needed, especially regarding comparing my writing to others. I read other authors, look at my umpteenth draft and am fairly certain it’s all RUBBISH! Working to keep my eyes on my part of the track (uf- I hate running…can it be an ice cream eating contest or something instead? I could rock that…)
Good advice Kristen. I’ve gone through the comparison trap a number of times. These days I feel it for a little while, learn from it and move on. I find that by seeing other people’s success it helps motivate me to keep on going. And that can only be a good thing! 🙂
Yes, comparisonitis is probably one of the most deadly poisons :-/ I guess we all tend to fall into the trap if we’re not careful. It’s always good to read reminders like yours that we should ‘run our own race’! Thank you as always for your words of inspiration and motivation. I think they really do help keep us all going 😀
It took me 12(twelve) books to become known. A lot of that was my own learning curve (steep). My latest book-I removed the discouragers and false allies from my life(and writing) and focused on creating a community of true allies. My book is a fantastic success now. Thank you for this post and I will make sure to share your book with my Tribe.
Would it be possible to contact you privately about setting up some personal (paid) consulting time?
(Dr.) Dan Kaplan
Sure, just email me at kristen @ wanaintl dot com.
Thanks for the writing sprints over at MyWANA. I’ve been trying to do one each day for writing, then a few sprints to keep me focused while cleaning. Each day I get 100-200 words closer to my goal … except when I have to erase whole pages because I’d been repeating myself. :-P. I can’t jump in all the time, circumstances vary, but still, the comradery helps when I can. (Book is phenomenal, btw. I’ll get a review posted soon. Promise.)
Hi Suzanne –
I just joined your site. Ha, ha. I keep up pretty much now with social media. Though I get off-track often. Yikes!
Will see you in the ether of the internet!
Hi Kristen: I really enjoyed reading your Blog Post. It is very refreshing to experience ‘a voice’ brimming with authenticity! I am looking forward to reading more. I am signing up for your upcoming Blog class. Take care. Mary
Wonderful! It can be a lot of fun and also yield so many fruits. Makes us better writers and also connects us to others in meaningful ways. Really looking forward to meeting you!
Her blog class is amazing.
Last year when I couldn’t find time to brush my hair I was writing so much more than this year when I have more extra time than I know what to do with. Reality bites.