Running YOUR Race—Be Content Yet Stay HUNGRY
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
July 28th w/ Cait Reynolds $35/ GOLD $75/ PLATINUM $125
Classes with MOI!
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