Kristen Lamb

Author, Blogger, Social Media Jedi

Kristen Lamb — Photo

Posts Categorized: Publishing

time management, Kristen Lamb, setting priorities, writing a priority, building focus, psychology, success, how to become a professional author, self-help for writers, priority

For most of my life, being ‘right’ was my single greatest priority. Years ago, I believed I knew everything. Okay, that’s a lie. More like a couple weeks ago I believed I knew everything.

More lies. Dang it!

Truth is, this morning I knew everything then got some caffeine and realized I was completely full of it. It takes work for me to stop and ask the hard questions daily to keep me grounded.

What if I’m wrong? Why am I really doing X? What is my motive? Am I afraid of something? Do I really believe what I’m saying I believe? Where are my pants?

Calm down.

I don’t spend vast amounts of time gazing into my navel searching for the Lint of Truth…especially since everyone knows the dryer has the Lint of Truth (left by socks who’ve achieved enlightenment and thus shed corporeal form).

#Duh

Self-examination is still important. Alas, it’s also a tricky tightrope to walk, and takes years of practice not to fall on your head with a pole jammed somewhere painful.

We can lean toward questioning everything so much we become paralyzed neurotics incapable of making any decision. Conversely, if we don’t stop to examine what we’re doing and why? Let’s just say…

Persistence is a noble quality, but persistence can look a lot like stupid.

The Priority Problem

time management, Kristen Lamb, setting priorities, writing a priority, building focus, psychology, success, how to become a professional author, self-help for writers, priority

If I could boil down the essence of modern human angst into one core idea, I’d say we’re all facing a priority problem. We’re being relentlessly told we can have it ALL, when no…no we can’t.

I’m from Generation X, and people my age have lived fully in two completely different worlds. We were the bridge generation from the industrial world into the digital world. We played the first video games, but also remember being…bored.

I’m old enough to recall a time when if you missed a T.V. show, well sucked to be you. Television stopped at midnight only to resume at 5:00 a.m. with morning news, faith healers, and Captain Kangaroo.

Back in my day *waves cane* the phone would ring and we had ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA who might be calling. The highlight of my preteen life? When I got a phone cord long enough to extend the ENTIRE PHONE SYTEM UNIT into my room.

Cordless phones? Witchcraft.

I mostly played outside in the dirt. We slinked through barbed wire to traipse through rattlesnake infested fields searching for buried treasure—finding only fire ants, rusted tools, and the joy of bull nettle.

Under my cult-leader-type influence, we set way too much stuff on fire (using that Chemistry set I got for my birthday). Being a super non-PC generation, we killed a lot of imaginary Russians, made ashtrays in art class for Mother’s Day, and we all wanted to be Bruce Lee.

***True Fact #1: Once knocked myself out with nunchucks. True Fact #2: Eventually got pretty good at nunchucks. True Fact #3: We all wanted ninja throwing stars for Christmas, and 98% of parents did not find this at all odd.

Yet, I also played a lot of Atari. I even created multiple small business ventures using child labor (little brother and friends). We pulled weeds, washed cars, picked up dog poop all to score enough cash to imbibe in Pac Man and ice cream at the corner store….

Until we ran out of money and the clerk kicked us out. Then we had to resume being bored.

In school, teachers introduced us to computers that didn’t do much of anything useful…except allow us to die of digital dysentery.

Life was comparably simple for kids and adults. Get up, do your job, stay out of trouble, and go to bed. Rinse, wash, repeat.

Mom was awesome keeping up with bills because there were only like…five of them. Television had three channels. People didn’t expect you to be accessible 24/7. If you called and no one answered?

You called…back.

Later.

Overload

time management, Kristen Lamb, setting priorities, writing a priority, building focus, psychology, success, how to become a professional author, self-help for writers, priority

Contrast my life in 1988 with 2018? It takes everything for me not to pack up and move to Alaska. Except I’m too lazy to pack, hate being cold and never developed a taste for moose.

But seriously. Not only are we bombarded with calls, ads, emails, real mail and junk mail, but we can’t seem to escape.

Ever.

Which is not exactly what’s so bad. What’s insane is we believe there’s a way to actually keep up with all this crap. But we can’t, because our world isn’t real.

When I was a kid, I spent time at other kids’ houses daily. Not BS ‘play dates’ where everyone dresses in ‘real clothes’ and cleans the house like it’s friggin’ Thanksgiving. All this so two sticky kids can whack each other with Jedi light-sabers that LOOK like actual light-sabers…instead of a stick.

The on-line world is filtered. Since websites thrive when people click, only the extremes are ever represented. Extremes get more clicks.

We’re deluged with the extremely beautiful, thin, fit, smart, talented and the teenager who’s now a billionaire because he invented an app that makes a thousand unique fart noises.

On the other end of this spectrum sits the nine-hundred pound man, the hoarder whose home is crammed with toaster pizzas and feral cats, and the dude who believes he’s really a unicorn and suffers profoundly because he needs an implant (a horn) in his forehead to feel ‘whole.’

I have no idea what should be important when everything is important.

I’m supposed to make millions of dollars, write books that fundamentally change the global culture, never age, have six-pack abs, a perfect marriage, rescue animals, save the rainforest, all while keeping a house so clean one could perform surgery in my bathroom.

The bathroom I refurbished myself using recycled tires, wire hangars, and wooden pallets. All held together with unenlightened dryer lint and non-GMO, vegan, eco-friendly glue I made…in my ‘free’ time.

Priority? Save the planet THEN show off on Faceplant, Flitter, Sintrest and Instasham.

Busy, Busy, Busy

time management, Kristen Lamb, setting priorities, writing a priority, building focus, psychology, success, how to become a professional author, self-help for writers, priority

I’m from the buckle of the Bible Belt and we have a saying. If the devil can’t make you bad, he’ll make you busy.

I’ve noticed that, unless I am mindful to unplug, get quiet and recalibrate, it is super easy for me to lose my way. Why? Everything is overwhelming. I hate my phone, am afraid of my mail and won’t shop until we’re down rationing toilet paper.

Every store is a mega-store with a zillion choices. This means I go all white girl and ‘literally can’t even.’

As an introvert, I’d choose being water-boarded to shopping. This puzzled me, but then I thought about how it was when I was a kid in the 80s. Stores were smaller and there weren’t a hundred choices in pasta sauce.

Michael’s (a craft store) was the size of a CVS (corner drug store). By the time I wended through sixty-two aisles to find ONE pair of knitting needles, it was time to go to Costco…which is the size of an aircraft hangar.

Then there’s the grocery store (for the stuff I don’t want to buy in BULK) and it has fifty aisles which include toys, clothing, and shoes.

SHOES? IT IS A GROCERY STORE.

Sure, I went out to do five things. By the time I got home (nine hours later) I’d walked seven miles. I was exhausted from the mental onslaught of trying to pick between seventy-five varieties of gluten-free rice. All these stores, in order to provide everything and save time…are the largest time-killers I must contend with.

Though if I grew my own tomatoes this wouldn’t be a problem. TP is a definite priority, yet a tad more challenging. Corn cobs? Maybe grow corn, too.

Priority Parallax

time management, Kristen Lamb, setting priorities, writing a priority, building focus, psychology, success, how to become a professional author, self-help for writers, priority

Objects on ‘To Do List’ might actually appear more important than they really are. When everything is a priority, nothing is. Ironically, I actually don’t engage in a lot of social media, which is weird because I’m an expert and write blogs and books about it.

Yet, unlike other experts who claim we must be everywhere all the time and endlessly entertaining (and promoting), my priority is to write more books, not be a mega-marketer.

It’s why I created a social media/branding system based on quality, with a focus on meaningful interactions. Author engagement over author omnipresence. A brand is vital and so is social media, but our PRIORITY is to build a brand and still have time to write great books.

But social media isn’t the only place insanity can take over. I can have a Pinterest worthy home…or go to jail for murdering my family. Life is about choices and I’m pretty sure prison white not my color (and I’d miss my family).

Every day is a habit or waking, taking QUIET time to reflect, then whittling everything down to what TRULY matters.

Because ‘having everything’ is playing life like Pac Man instead of chess.

In Pac Man you never win. It just gets faster and faster and harder and harder UNTIL YOU DIE. Chess? There is strategy, patience, willingness to ‘let go’ of even ‘important’ pieces to protect the most crucial one. In chess, you CAN actually win!

Go fig.

Entropy is real and alive and a beast in the digital age. Much we can’t control. Trust me. Target gives no figs I really don’t want eighty aisles of STUFF…especially when they only ever have two checkout lanes open, despite having forty.

*wonders if thirty-eight of the registers are real or props*

Only So Many Figs to Give—If It Isn’t TRULY a Priority?

time management, Kristen Lamb, setting priorities, writing a priority, building focus, psychology, success, how to become a professional author, self-help for writers, priority

We might want to have everything, but everything is a lie. We can’t make all things a priority because then, well…welcome to Hell’s Tilt-A-Whirl.

Back to those crucial questions I mentioned in the beginning? If we’re exhausted, strung out, and feeling like losers, it’s time to stop for a priority check (and a dose of reality).

The media is a lousy measuring guide because we will never be enough. If we were, they couldn’t sell us more STUFF. They sell us crap we don’t need by making us feel like losers, that we are missing out on the AMAZING…when we really aren’t.

Most of life is in the average. We’re only capable of being remarkable in a couple places. Why? Because being remarkable takes focus and a LOT of hard work. So choose the PRIORITY, then learn to be cool with the rest.

My home is clean…enough. It’s covered in cat fur but that’s because I value my pets more than the opinion of others. If they don’t like the cat fur, feel free to come over and clean. I’ll cook 😀 .

A final caveat on this? If I want my writing to be exemplary, where does it rank on my ‘list?’ Is it a priority? Since I’m OCD and a neat-freak, I know NOT to clean anything until I write. I must do this because my PRIORITY is to be a superlative author/blogger, NOT Martha Stewart for an hour before my kid and cats destroy everything.

If my writing keeps ending up at the END of my list, more hard questions.

Why am I procrastinating? What am I afraid of? Is my writing always last because I believe I don’t have what it takes? Remember noble distractions can mask as priorities.

Obviously I’m not finished with my novel because my family needed help with *insert crisis here*. Clearly family is a PRIORITY.

Maybe. But might want to do a gut check just in case 😉 .

What Are Your Thoughts? Then GET OFF MY LAWN! 😛

Do you feel guilty about doing NOTHING? Struggle to get of the hamster wheel of To Dos? Does it seem like the ‘easier’ our world tries to make life the harder it gets? Is it an active effort to keep priorities in line? Do you find your writing constantly put off for…later?

Do you miss being unavailable? And people not being ticked off because you were unavailable? Sigh. What do you miss about the ‘good old days’? I get it, modern life does have a lot of good, but I do miss having nothing to do.

Have a hard time doing anything for yourself? Because it feels too selfish. Once EVERYONE else is tended, THEN…maybe…

There are cool classes below if you want to have fun honing your skills. Otherwise? Feel free not to scroll down 😉 . Working to make this easy, y’all.

I love hearing from you!

What do you WIN? For the month of MAY, for 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).

Also NOW OFFERING MORE CLASSES…

Hooked!

Instructor: Kristen Lamb
Price: $40.00 USD Basic/$65.00 USD Gold Level/$95.00 USD Platinum Level
Where: WANA Virtual Classroom
When: Thursday May 10th, 2018 7:00 PM E.S.T. to 9:00 PM E.S.T.

The first five pages are the most essential part of the novel, your single most powerful selling tool. It’s how you will hook agents, editors and readers. This class will cover the most common blunders and also teach you how to hook hard and hook early. This class is two hours long, 90 minutes of instruction and 30 minutes for Q&A.

***A free recording is included with purchase of ALL classes.

General Admission is $40 and there are some SUPER COOL upgrades! Get your spot HERE

Retelling Myths & Fairytales

Instructor: USA Today Best-Selling Author Cait Reynolds
Price: $65 USD Standard (Cool Upgrades Available)
Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom
When: FRIDAY May 25th, 7:00 PM E.S.T. to 9:00 P.M. EST

Myths and fairytales are as fundamental to human existence as communication itself. We grow up hearing these stories, being formed by them, and often rebelling against them.

One of the hottest trends in publishing right now is bringing these stories back and giving them new life with creative interpretations and retellings.

Done right, a retelling can capture the public imagination, give us new insights into our society and ourselves, and sweep us away to a time and place where everything, including justice and happy endings, is possible. Get your spot today! HERE.

On Demand Training!

Ready for Book Beast Mode? I Live to Serve…Up Some TRAINING!

For anyone who longs to accelerate their plot skills, I recommend:

ON DEMAND Plot Boss: Writing Novels Readers Want to BUY. 

Two hours of intensive plot training from MOI…delivered right to your computer to watch as much as you like 😀 .

The Art of Character is also now available for ON DEMAND.

And if you’re ready for BOOK BEAST MODE and like saving some cash, you can get BOTH Plot Boss and Art of Character in the…

Story Boss Bundle (ON DEMAND).

Almost FIVE HOURS with me, in your home…lecturing you. It’ll be FUN! 

I also hope you’ll pick up a copy of my debut novel The Devil’s Dance.

The Devil's Dance, The Devil's Dance Kristen Lamb, Author Kristen Lamb, Kristen Lamb novel, Kristen Lamb mystery-thriller, Romi Lachlan

Outlaster, outlasters, Craig Groeschel leadership, Kristen Lamb, tips for success, self-discipline, how to develop habits for success, habits of successful people, traits of successful authors

It’s only human to want a drive-thru breakthrough, a dream in a box, the winning lotto ticket to life. Yet, I posit instant success is about as healthy as instant rice (and just as suspicious).

To achieve anything remarkable, it’s critical to become an OUTLASTER (a term I learned from Craig Groeschel, who happens to have a fabulous leadership podcast, btw).

Dreamers are born, but Outlasters are forged 😉 .

Outlasting

I had years of honing this skill. Some of you may not know, but I dropped out of high school twice. 

***Note: I am the reason for the current Texas truancy laws 😀 .

Returning to high school and graduating at 19 was seriously humbling. My GPA was so low, my classes (very literally) were one step above Special Ed. When I took my SAT, the scores were so bad, I thought they might check me for a pulse.

Super glad they gave me some points for spelling my name correctly.

After a year and a half of junior college I won an Air Force scholarship to TCU to become a doctor. Six months in, the school didn’t close when we had a bad ice storm and I slipped and fractured my back…losing my scholarship.

This was before the days when places were required to have handicap access, so for two semesters, I trudged up stairs on a cane and had to stand during all my classes because I couldn’t sit.

Not awkward at all.

It took me six years of working crap jobs, but I finished. Maybe not with the best grades, but I finished. In the years that followed, I drifted without purpose working sales and I got in a really bad habit of making way too many excuses and quitting when anything got too hard. It took yet another health disaster to show me my poor character in Technicolor and remind me to become a finisher.

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Time in a Bottle

We all have heard the saying, ‘DaVinci had the same 7 days and 24 hours.’ I would actually make a different point. Folks like DaVinci, Mozart, Shakespeare actually had LESS time.

There was no electric lighting and pulling all-nighters was a good way to go blind by candlelight. Thus, I’d say the difference is that these artists lived intentionally.

We all want to know the secret to success. First of all, I am going to add a caveat. Success is a very personal thing. What is success for you isn’t success for me.

***Mine includes a secret lab, bouncy house and trebuchet.

Yet, study after study shows that people who write down their goals are far more likely to reach them.

Why?

Mission Impossible–> Mission I’m Possible

Mission statements help our subconscious guide us where we want to GO. A mission statement also helps us know what activities are a time-suck, time-waste, what can go, what needs to stay, what should be added, etc. All this helps us be proactive instead of reactive. We’re thinking, acting and deciding with intent.

Living intentionally requires we learn to be OUTLASTERS.

Outlaster, outlasters, Craig Groeschel leadership, Kristen Lamb, tips for success, self-discipline, how to develop habits for success, habits of successful people, traits of successful authors
Original image courtesy of Flickr Creatinve Commons, courtesy of Ali Samieivafa.

We can take craft classes, join a gym, type on the WIP, start a blog, but the difference between those who make it and those who don’t is that those who make it KEPT GOING, even if it was just a tiny bit of effort daily.

Blogging & Writing

When I started blogging, I was THRILLED to have a hundred hits a day. Granted, most were spam bots, but I was in no position to be picky. At least CheapViagraBargainPrice cared enough to comment.

I so lick your blog. What brilliant words using you do. Must tell my brother.

If CheapViagra had not licked my blog…I very well may have given up.

Anyway….

Now, my blog gets an average of 1.1 million hits a month. My site grew from likely 100 visits from dedicated followers (actual humans) to my website a month to now almost 100,000. This did NOT happen overnight and there was a lot of ugly crying along the way.

Suffice to say, those who started blogging when I did have mostly dropped away. Blogging is crucial for a brand and selling books. It is the strongest and most resilient form of social media and yet?

Most people give up.

I’ve also noticed how many people in 2009 were super passionate about writing. They claimed they’d do ANYTHING to publish and write full-time. Now? Most are gone. New dreamers regularly fill the vacuum. But, how long will they last?

***Refer to The Real Odds of Author Success.

Here’s the thing. Starting is crucial, but also easy—okay, easier. It’s fresh and wonderful and emotional. There might even be all kinds of people to cheer you on.

But how will you fare when the new wears off and those who pledged undying support and loyalty move on to a new shiny because we weren’t an overnight success?

The key to making it in ANYTHING from writing to business to marriage to losing weight is to become an OUTLASTER.

Traits of an Outlaster

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Original image via Lucy Downey from Flickr Creative Commons

Outlasters have clear and achievable goals.

Notice I didn’t say realistic goals. Reach for the stars and we may hit the moon. BUT, my goal to be a NYTBSA is an achievable goal because I’m a writer. If I have a goal to become a professional NBA player? Last I checked short middle-aged women were not in high demand in the sport.

Outlasters write down goals and have CLEAR Mission Statements.

The Mission Statement keeps us focused. We learn where to say yes and where and when to say no.

If my goal is to become a NYTBSA in the next five years, I know it is unwise to volunteer for every church event, school event, and family drama need. It becomes clear that I need to set word count based off MY goals. My word count will be very different if I want to write ONE book a year versus THREE.

Outlasters understand the power of letting go.

Yes, Outlasters MUST hold on, hold on for LIFE! But to the right things.

Often letting go is more important than holding fast. This can involve letting go of hobbies, hangups and habits or even WIPs that just need to be put to bed. But the toughest? Letting go of people.

The best analogy I can think of for this is climbing Everest. If we want to climb Everest, there are teams of sherpas that guide you to the first base camp. As you go to each higher level, the team becomes incrementally smaller and this is necessary.

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Not everyone in our life is meant for the summit. Some might even get us killed.

We will mourn people we need to let go of, but often letting go is a good thing. True friends believe in us even when all outside evidence says we are a failure. Anyone can claim to be our friend when life is all kittens and unicorns, but what about when everything goes horribly wrong? This is where true allies are revealed. We find them (and they reach for us) in the darkness.

Outlasters WORK 

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Luck is fabulous and would LUV me some luck. But I still believe the harder I work, the luckier I get. This said, working smarter is key. Feel free to make all your clothes by hand, but running to Target for new t-shirts might be a better use of time if your goal is to be a pro writer instead of a clothing designer.

There are no shortcuts. We MUST endure. And endurance can be small. It can mean we are so ill we can’t see straight, but we post a couple things on Facebook or ask a friend to guest blog…then go back to sleep. It is the small deposits and investments that accumulate over time.

But we write that book, remove that debt, lose that weight little by little. That’s what endures. Fad diets and quick fixes don’t change our character. Just like eating well and exercise should be a lifestyle, being a writer is a WHOLE new way of living. It isn’t a hobby or a thing or our little fun…it is who we ARE. Writers WRITE.

Outlasters Understand the Long-Tail

If we look at life day by day we will get discouraged. It’s kind of like going back to the gym and then getting on the scale every hour to see what’s changed. Formula for a breakdown. Outlasters just keep writing, keep failing, keep learning, keep trying and they do it over and over and over and over.

Outlasters CANNOT Succeed Alone

Part of why I built and pay for W.A.N.A. Tribe (We Are Not Alone—W.A.N.A.) is that we are who we hang around. We’ve been running writing sprints in the main Chat for over three years, M-F from morning to night. Sure, it costs me money but I’m investing in my success and yours. We can enjoy a place free of ads, spammers, politics, drama, data mining, and distractions.

We are all about hard, focused WORK…with fun and play and goofing off in between the 40 minute sprints.

I view W.A.N.A.Tribe as my office, my workplace, my support team. Trust me, my tribe members will notice if I’m not showing up, if I’m not working.

The committed are there every day, and just knowing this is enough to dissolve excuses that might have derailed me otherwise. If they’re vested enough to show and work, then I need to get my @$$ in gear and honor them.

Beyond this?

Find positive, professional, driven people and you WILL come up higher. Psychic vampires, whiners and complainers need to GO. Take inventory and seek out those you admire. Study them. Listen and learn from them. This is a tough road, but no one ever said we had to do it alone.

We all fall, bump our noses and bloody our knees. That is GOOD. Keep pressing. You got this 😉 .

I love hearing from you!

(And am not above bribery.)

What are your thoughts? Have you been struggling to keep pressing? Discouraged? Do you put everyone and everything ahead of your goals? Have you taken time to even define your goals? Does life seem to stretch you like taffy? Are you overwhelmed? Why? Have you learned to set goals and boundaries? What did you do differently that make the BIG difference?

Or the small difference that eventually grew BIG?

What do you WIN? For the month of MAY, for 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).

Heads Up! May 3rd 7-9 EST I’m teaching Pitch Perfect—How to Write a Query Letter & Synopsis that SELLS.

****Free recordings are included with all classes.

Want to know how to write a synopsis? I will teach you HOW. Synopses are vital for any form of publishing and this class will walk you through how to write a query and synopsis that sizzles!

Also NOW OFFERING…

The first five pages are the most essential part of the novel, your single most powerful selling tool. It’s how you will hook agents, editors and readers. This class will cover the most common blunders and also teach you how to hook hard and hook early. This class is two hours long, 90 minutes of instruction and 30 minutes for Q&A.

***A free recording is included with purchase.

General Admission is $40 and there are some SUPER COOL upgrades! Get your spot HERE.

 

MORE CLASSES!

Ready for Book Beast Mode? I Live to Serve…Up Some TRAINING!

For anyone who longs to accelerate their plot skills, I recommend:

ON DEMAND Plot Boss: Writing Novels Readers Want to BUY. 

Two hours of intensive plot training from MOI…delivered right to your computer to watch as much as you like 😀 .

The Art of Character is also now available for ON DEMAND.

And if you’re ready for BOOK BEAST MODE and like saving some cash, you can get BOTH Plot Boss and Art of Character in the…

Story Boss Bundle (ON DEMAND).

Almost FIVE HOURS with me, in your home…lecturing you. It’ll be FUN! 

I also hope you’ll pick up a copy of my debut novel The Devil’s Dance.

The Devil's Dance, The Devil's Dance Kristen Lamb, Author Kristen Lamb, Kristen Lamb novel, Kristen Lamb mystery-thriller, Romi Lachlan

Kristen Lamb, how to write a synopsis, why do writers need a synopsis, synopsis, querying an agent, how to get a literary agent, narrative structure, writing tips

There is one word known to strike fear into the hearts of most writers. Synopsis. Many of us would rather perform brain surgery from space using a lemon zester and a squirrel than be forced to boil down our entire novel into one page.

Yes one.

But alas we need a synopsis for numerous reasons. First and foremost, if we want to land an agent, it works in our favor to already have a FABULOUS synopsis handy because the odds are, at some point, the agent will request one.

Sigh. I know. Sorry.

A Quick Aside

When it comes to synopses, I lean toward the, ‘Better to beg forgiveness than to ask permission’ camp. This is where already having a seriously spiffy synopsis helps.

Think of it this way. E-mail is necessary, but also tedious. Getting lots of email and having to juggle it all, frankly, sucks. Agents get a lot of email. Since I’m also a person who gets a ridiculous amount of email, I LOVE people who save me work. They save me time when they save needless steps.

Most queries these days are via email and since agents don’t like getting their computers crashed by a virus? This means the query will be pasted into the body of the email (no attachments).

Believe it or not, agents like writers. In fact they need writers. They don’t get paid without a writer (who has a book). Last I checked, agents also really like being paid in money—not adorable pigmy goats. Trust me, you will only make THAT mistake once.

To Boldly Go…

So we are clear, agents need writers. Their goal is to make the authors they represent as successful as possible. When the author wins, so does the agent. This is why they’re very picky who they add to their cadre. Just as much as agents are looking for reasons NOT to read our book, they’re simultaneously looking for reasons TO read our book.

I know it’s a paradox much like time travel. Don’t think about it too long or your brain will cramp.

In my opinion, there’s nothing wrong with ending your query with: I have taken the liberty of pasting the one page synopsis of my novel below for your convenience.

Worst case scenario? They don’t scroll down. OMG!

But best case is they DO scroll down and they like it! Better yet, you are off to an awesome start because you just saved them a crap-ton of time. Proper initiative is a great way for us (the writers) to make a good impression. Yes, agents want to discover that fabulous book, but it’s even better if that fabulous book comes with an author who makes their life/job easier.

Why Do We Need a Synopsis?

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If you don’t want to automatically include the synopsis that’s fine, but if you write a really good one (which IS possible if the story is strong)? Why the heck not?

All right, so what if you aren’t brave enough to include a synopsis and are praying that the subject never comes up and the agent skips all this and asks for a full. Okay, great! Problem is, if you do get a book deal, often the editor will want you to write a synopsis for the book you’re writing next (for approval of course).

Ugh, so if you go traditional, really no dodging it.

Some of you might be saying, Oh, but Kristen! Traditional is sooo yesterday and I am self-publishing. I don’t need a synopsis.

Technically correct, but actually I do recommend a synopsis for all the reasons writers loathe writing them.

Why All the Angst?

Kristen Lamb, how to write a synopsis, why do writers need a synopsis, synopsis, querying an agent, how to get a literary agent, narrative structure, writing tips
Dramatization of writers off to work on a synopsis.

A big reason writers hate writing synopses with the power of a thousand suns is because we believe every word is precious and every character vital and necessary. We lack perspective, especially if we haven’t had any time or distance away from the work.

This is normal.

But a bigger reason many writers hate writing the synopsis (particularly for first-time novels) is the synopsis makes it painfully obvious we have no story or a terribly flawed story.

The synopsis strips away our pretty prose and all our verbal glitter and it lays our story bare.

Today I want to talk about the BIG PICTURE stuff. What is it our synopsis is really out to reveal? If we don’t first grasp that, no amount of tips I give for writing a great synopsis will help.

Synopsis as Skeleton

The synopsis is the skeleton of our story. What do skeletons do? They support everything else. The skeleton is the guidepost for all that is to come.

We can see the skeleton of a fish and ‘see’ the fish even without benefit of gills and scales. We can see an elephant skeleton and get an idea of scope and size and finished ‘entity/product.’

But most importantly, we don’t have to be a doctor to look at a skeleton and tell that something is horribly wrong.

Kristen Lamb, how to write a synopsis, why do writers need a synopsis, synopsis, querying an agent, how to get a literary agent, narrative structure, writing tips
Image via Wikimedia Commons.

We don’t need a lot of imagination to see how this skeleton above is going to flesh out, pardon the pun. We can see at a glance that this human skeleton is going to have a lot of problems because of the various deformities.

The same holds true with a story skeleton. If the narrative orbital sockets are located in the posterior, we don’t care how pretty the eyes are if they are in the @$$.

Kristen Lamb, how to write a synopsis, why do writers need a synopsis, synopsis, querying an agent, how to get a literary agent, narrative structure, writing tips

There is no amount of witty dialogue or clever prose that is going to rescue a plot that is missing vital parts or has them in the wrong place.

Yes, we are sending a synopsis in hopes of selling a story, but how is the synopsis doing this? Plain and simple? The synopsis is letting the agent see if the skeleton is solid, symmetrical and is of a creature that is rare, cool and maybe never seen before.

Kristen Lamb, how to write a synopsis, why do writers need a synopsis, synopsis, querying an agent, how to get a literary agent, narrative structure, writing tips
Image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Steve Starer.

An agent is also looking at a synopsis because she knows it is the fastest way to reveal terminal (deal-breaker) errors.

***For the self-published folks. Technically you don’t need to write a synopsis, but if you can’t for any of these reasons below, the novel might not yet be good to go and this could save a bunch of nasty reviews.

Is the premise weak?

I get pages all the time from ‘finished novels’ but there actually is no story. Just because we have 80,000-100,000 words doesn’t mean we have a story. It means we have a lot of WORDS.

Is it really a novel or just melodrama?

Do we have a solid plot or is it ‘scene’ after ‘scene’ of bad situations?

Does the ‘plot’ rely on trickery? Gimmick? 

Often writers are having a panic attack about writing the synopsis because the entire book rests on a ‘clever’ twist ending that really isn’t a twist but rather a gimmick.

I.e. It was all really a bad dream.

No.

Does it require deus ex machina to resolve?

The protagonist endures plight after plight and all seems lost when she finds…………a journal!

No.

Does it actually resolve?

New writers often don’t understand structure, which naturally means they don’t yet understand that series follow similar structure guidelines to a singular novel.

***And btw, it is OKAY to be new, so breathe!

Even series still follow three act structure. But say the story follows four or even five act structure. Doesn’t matter. The story is not over until the core story problem introduced in the beginning is resolved.

Every book in a series must read as a standalone. Readers should be able to pick up Book 5 in a series and enjoy a complete story and understand what’s going on without having yet read Books 1-4.

If Book 5 blows the reader away, she’ll want to go read Books 1-4. However, if Book 5 makes no sense at all without first reading Books 1-4? We’ll pass.

We read for entertainment, not extra homework.

NO BATMAN ENDINGS.

Stay tuned for next week book!

Often I get, Oh well the reader will have to read the next book to know if she lives. Nope, not how that works unless we write for Days of Our Lives.

No matter the structure we use, our story must come equipped with a satisfying resolution, or that story is missing legs.

In the case of a connected series, often a gatekeeper to the Big Boss is defeated but the journey continues toward that final showdown. No being clever by withholding a resolution.

Is the writer breaking genre constrictions in unforgivable ways?

For instance, romance comes with an HEA (happily ever after) or the more modern HFN (happily for now). No HEA/HFN? It ain’t romance.

If the author is selling the manuscript as romance in the query, but the story ends in a breakup? The agent knows this is a new writer who doesn’t understand genres have rules and expectations.

Is the story just not all that remarkable?

Once the plot is laid bare, is it truly anything unique? A fresh twist on an old idea? Or is it really more of the same?

My book is about a thirty-eight-year-old female executive who decides she wants to have a baby and the struggle of being an older mom.

Okay *falls asleep*.

My book is about a thirty-eight-year-old female executive who finds out she’s pregnant with her first child at the same time her teenage stepdaughter reveals she, too is expecting.

*perks up* Hmmm, interesting.

The Good News

When we can write a concise and interesting synopsis, it shows our level of skill and the strength of our story. If we can write tight and clean here, it bodes well for the book. If your brain is in knots writing your synopsis, relax.

If the story is there the synopsis is too. It’s only a matter of unearthing it.

I love hearing from you!

(And am not above bribery.)

What are your thoughts? Have you been struggling with the synopsis and think it’s because there might be bigger issues going on? Are you a more seasoned writer and remember the nightmare of trying to fit a first-time “novel” into a single page? Any thoughts? Questions? Suggestions?

What do you WIN? For the month of April, for 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).

Heads Up! If you need help, on May 3rd 7-9 EST I’m teaching Pitch Perfect—How to Write a Query Letter & Synopsis that SELLS.

****Free recordings are included with all classes.

You’ve written a novel and now are faced with the two most terrifying challenges all writers face. The query and the synopsis.

Query letters can be daunting. How do you sell yourself? Your work? How can you stand apart without including glitter in your letter?

***NOTE: DO NOT PUT GLITTER IN YOUR QUERY.

Good question. We will cover that and more!

But sometimes the query is not enough.

Most writers would rather cut their wrists with a spork than be forced to write the dreaded…synopsis. Yet, after reading this post, you now know why this is a valuable skills all writers should learn.

Also NOW OFFERING…

The first five pages are the most essential part of the novel, your single most powerful selling tool. It’s how you will hook agents, editors and readers. This class will cover the most common blunders and also teach you how to hook hard and hook early. This class is two hours long, 90 minutes of instruction and 30 minutes for Q&A.

***A free recording is included with purchase.

General Admission is $40 and there are some SUPER COOL upgrades! Get your spot HERE.

 

MORE CLASSES!

Ready for Book Beast Mode? I Live to Serve…Up Some TRAINING!

For anyone who longs to accelerate their plot skills, I recommend:

ON DEMAND Plot Boss: Writing Novels Readers Want to BUY. 

Two hours of intensive plot training from MOI…delivered right to your computer to watch as much as you like 😀 .

The Art of Character is also now available for ON DEMAND.

And if you’re ready for BOOK BEAST MODE and like saving some cash, you can get BOTH Plot Boss and Art of Character in the…

Story Boss Bundle (ON DEMAND).

Almost FIVE HOURS with me, in your home…lecturing you. It’ll be FUN! 

I also hope you’ll pick up a copy of my debut novel The Devil’s Dance.

The Devil's Dance, The Devil's Dance Kristen Lamb, Author Kristen Lamb, Kristen Lamb novel, Kristen Lamb mystery-thriller, Romi Lachlan

Kristen Lamb, genre, why genre is important, The Devil's Dance, The Devil's Dance Kristen Lamb, narrative structure, publishing, how to get an agent, how to get a publishing deal, genre and structure, how to find readers

Genre is a word that makes a lot of new writers cringe. Many (mistakenly) believe any kind of boundaries will somehow impair or restrict creativity and crater imagination. This is why so many emerging authors (myself included) avoid learning about structure or how to plot until forced to…at gunpoint.

Fine! Yes, I’m being melodramatic, but close enough to the truth.

It’s easy to understand why we want to skip all that boring stuff. We’re eager to write, to create, to unleash the muse! Yet, in our haste, we can lose sight of what we stand to gain by truly understanding the fundamentals and respecting boundaries.

For any author who wants to eventually sell enough books to make writing a full-time occupation, genre is one of our greatest allies.

Genre Dictates Location

Kristen Lamb, genre, why genre is important, The Devil's Dance, The Devil's Dance Kristen Lamb, narrative structure, publishing, how to get an agent, how to get a publishing deal, genre and structure, how to find readers

Location, location, location. Yes, I remember being a neophyte, breaking out in hives when anyone mentioned I needed to choose a genre *shivers*. My book wasn’t a genre, it was all genres. It was a novel everyone would love. I didn’t need something as prosaic as…genre.

Yes, I was a clueless @$$hat so y’all can already feel better about yourselves. When we’re new, obviously we don’t understand the intricacies of the publishing profession. Why? BECAUSE WE ARE NEW.

***By the way, it is okay to be new. We all begin somewhere. Stephen King didn’t one day hatch as a mega-author.

Before we even get to how genre impacts story, we must remember publishing is a business. Many of you long to submit to an agent in hopes of a sweet contract with the Big Five. Great! You yearn to see your books on a shelf in a bookstore. Wonderful! Me too. *fist bump*

So where would the bookstore shelve your novel?

This is a critical question all writers must be able to answer. Ideally, we need to know our genre before we ever begin writing the novel, for reasons we’ll get to in a moment. But first…

Genre Lands Book Deals

Kristen Lamb, genre, why genre is important, The Devil's Dance, The Devil's Dance Kristen Lamb, narrative structure, publishing, how to get an agent, how to get a publishing deal, genre and structure, how to find readers
Meh…there are better ways.

If we want to publish traditionally (legacy) the first step—beyond finishing the book, obviously—is landing an agent. Writers who take the business seriously research agents ahead of time because this is a partnership.

We don’t want just any agent, we want the right agent. Conversely, agents aren’t looking for any book, they’re on the hunt for books they can sell.

Most agents have a list of the sort of books they’re in the market to represent (which genre). Thus, if an agent’s bio states she’s looking for Young Adult and New Adult novels, we’re wasting her time and ours by querying our Middle Grade series. By doing a bit of research, we can locate agents who’ll be the ideal fit.

Agents create these wish lists for a reason. They know publishers all have wish lists, too. The agent’s job is to pay attention to those wish lists and hustle to deliver the goods. Their goal is to sell our book to a publisher and negotiate the sweetest deal possible for us (the author), because this benefits them, too.

Agents pay attention to the publishers’ shopping lists. If the publishers are no longer wanting Dystopian YA novels, the agent then knows that trying to sell the next Hunger Games is a fruitless endeavor.

Even if our book IS the next Hunger Games, agents won’t rep it because they already know they’re highly unlikely to sell it.

Genre Sells Books

Kristen Lamb, genre, why genre is important, The Devil's Dance, The Devil's Dance Kristen Lamb, narrative structure, publishing, how to get an agent, how to get a publishing deal, genre and structure, how to find readers

Now, traditional publishers might reject a certain genre for any number of reasons that have nothing to do with the quality of the book. Maybe they’ve already filled the X amount of slots reserved for a Dystopian YA. They don’t want to oversaturate the market. Perhaps Dystopian YA is not selling like it used to because Steampunk YA is picking up steam *bada bump snare*.

Thus, if you have an amazing Dystopian YA, you can go indie (if they’re open to representing it) or self-publish. Genre is still incredibly important because when we list our book for sale on-line, again, we have to tell Amazon (and other on-line distributors) where our story belongs.

Major publishers do, too.

Genre will directly impact metadata and will serve as a guide for keyword loading within the product description. Genre and the associated keywords will also influence which books are listed alongside ours (or vice versa). When we look up Gone Girl, we see…

Kristen Lamb, genre, why genre is important, The Devil's Dance, The Devil's Dance Kristen Lamb, narrative structure, publishing, how to get an agent, how to get a publishing deal, genre and structure, how to find readers

This is how on-line retailers help readers find books they’re likely to enjoy more easily.

Genre Draws Fans

This is one of the reasons we really don’t want to write a novel totally unlike ANY other. The story never before told is a unicorn, first of all. It doesn’t exist.

Also, a novel that can’t be fit into any genre is unlikely to draw fans. Whether readers are browsing a bookstore or browsing on-line, they generally know what sort of books interest them and head that direction.

If they’ve just finished Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl and they’ve read all of Flynn’s other books and want to read more books LIKE hers, genre is the flashing arrow pointing readers to similar novels (and authors).

This is a fantastic way for authors who aren’t yet household names to be discovered. Fans of the genre can then evolve into fans of that author.

Because readers can discover our work on a shelf or on-line, our odds of selling more books vastly improves.

This isn’t rocket science. People are unlikely to buy something they a) don’t even know exists or b) can’t find.

Genre Builds Brands

Kristen Lamb, genre, why genre is important, The Devil's Dance, The Devil's Dance Kristen Lamb, narrative structure, publishing, how to get an agent, how to get a publishing deal, genre and structure, how to find readers

As Cait mentioned in her post on best practices for publishing success, genre focus is a major factor in becoming a successful author. When we focus on a specific genre we build an author brand and cultivate a devoted fan base far faster.

A qualifier here, though. Just because we write a Psychological Thriller doesn’t mean we must only write Psychological Thrillers forever and ever. Often genres have ‘kissing cousins’ and, so long as we remain within that general genre region, it’s all good. Suspense, Mystery, Thriller, Sleuth, are close enough to count.

Once we’ve published enough books, built a solid brand and cultivated a large devoted fan following, then we gain more freedom to try something new.

Genre Helps Plotting

Kristen Lamb, genre, why genre is important, The Devil's Dance, The Devil's Dance Kristen Lamb, narrative structure, publishing, how to get an agent, how to get a publishing deal, genre and structure, how to find readers

When we choose any genre, there are certain reader expectations. Once we know what’s expected, we can then deliver what readers want. We also have a better idea how to plot. If we don’t understand how/why a thriller is different than a suspense, that’s a problem.

Let’s use these ‘kissing cousin’ genres as an example…

A thriller has large (global) stakes on the line. In the beginning a bad thing happens and it is a race against time to stop the MASSIVE bad thing by the end.

For instance, Lee Child’s debut novel Killing Floor is about a former MP-turned-drifter thrust by fate into a problem with global consequences. Reacher’s goal is to stop bad guys’ plan to inundate the market with counterfeit bills (which would destabilize the U.S. economy).

A suspense has more intimate stakes. In Thomas Harris’ book The Silence of the Lambs, the goal is to find and stop Buffalo Bill from murdering Size 12 women for his ‘woman suit.’ Ideally, Agent Starling will stop Buffalo Bill before the latest victim (a senator’s daughter) is killed. The stakes, however, are not global.

The F.B.I.’s image is at risk, Starling’s career is on the line, the latest victim’s life is in jeopardy, but overall?

Skinny girls are totally safe.

When we understand the dictates of a genre, we can plot better and also know what we’re selling (to agents, publishers, and readers).

Genre and Structure

Since this week is my birthday and the week I am re-launching my novel, The Devil’s Dance I’m going to indulge 😀 .

Kristen Lamb, genre, why genre is important, The Devil's Dance, The Devil's Dance Kristen Lamb, narrative structure, publishing, how to get an agent, how to get a publishing deal, genre and structure, how to find readers
My precious…

I’ve been blogging for a while about structure, and we’ll deep dive the different types of structure and how to use them and why and when more in another post. All have pros and cons.

Some structures are better suited for certain genres. When we know what genre we are writing, then selecting the perfect framework becomes easier.

The most well-known and widely read is the traditional three-act Aristotelian structure. This story structure works as well today as it did a couple thousand years ago. My debut novel is a mystery-suspense and I used traditional three-act structure and ALL THE COLORS!

Why THAT Structure?

I chose this straight-forward structure because, for me, it was the best scaffolding for the story I wanted to tell. I wanted to craft a story that blended the humor of a Janet Evanovich with the gritty edge of a Dennis Lehane. I’d always joke that my book was Legally Blonde meets Killing Floor. Since I was already being ‘creative’ with the KIND of story I was telling, I felt it best to not also try to be creative with structure as well.

***No novel quadruple axel for me, thanks.

Kristen Lamb, genre, why genre is important, The Devil's Dance, The Devil's Dance Kristen Lamb, narrative structure, publishing, how to get an agent, how to get a publishing deal, genre and structure, how to find readers

I wrote The Devil’s Dance purely to entertain. The sort of novel one might inhale on vacation, or when stuck in an airport. Fun, gritty, straightforward and a very fast read. Since I wanted it to be a quick read, linear structure was ideal.

Yet, maybe we want to offer the reader a challenge beyond what straightforward linear structure can offer. This is when we might select a non-linear structure. A fantastic example of this is Into the Water by Paula Hawkins, which is also a mystery-suspense.

Kristen Lamb, genre, why genre is important, The Devil's Dance, The Devil's Dance Kristen Lamb, narrative structure, publishing, how to get an agent, how to get a publishing deal, genre and structure, how to find readers

Granted there are at least nine POVs and shifts in time ranging from the 17th century all the way to the 21st. The time shifts and different POVs delivered red-herrings galore. For mystery fans who want a challenge?

This book definitely is a brain-bender.

Keep in mind, though, that the downside to non-linear structure is readers can easily become confused, bored or lost. Good thing Paula Hawkins is a master storyteller, just sayin’. I’m on my third pass through to catch what I missed.

In the End

Genre is incredibly helpful in a vast number of ways. We can know and meet (then exceed or challenge) reader expectations. Since we know what fans want, we can serve them something they want or even something they never KNEW they wanted (I.e. Harry Potter). Knowing the story we long to tell helps us plot faster, since the objectives are clearer.

Once our story is complete, we know how to query our novel and to whom. Also, when the book is finally published, genre helps readers find our books!

I look forward to helping you guys become stronger at your craft, and next time we’ll resume talking abut structure. Those new to my blog, I hope you’ll check out this series. Look to the column over there–>

Need More Help? I Live to Serve….

For anyone who longs to accelerate their plot skills, I recommend my On Demand Plot Boss: Writing Novels Readers Want to BUY. Two hours of intensive plot training from MOI…delivered right to your computer to watch as much as you like 😀 .

I’m offering The Art of Character (March 22nd 7-9 EST). More advanced material, and lots of FUN! Just because we’re tackling advanced material, doesn’t mean we can’t make it a party. As always, recording is included with all classes FREE of charge 😉 .

Also, my Bullies and Baddies: Understanding the Antagonist is a great follow up, and this class will help you plot faster and tighter than ever. It’s being held March 29th (7-9 EST).

I love hearing from you!

And am not above bribery!

What do you WIN? For the month of March, for 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).

How to Write Unforgettable Settings Readers Never Want to Leave, settings, writing settings, tips for writing settings, writing tips, Kristen Lamb, The Knight Literary Agency, Diedre Knight, Margie Lawson, Christina Delay, Cruising Writers, Cruising Writers Retreats, writing retreats

Setting is an extremely powerful tool that can hook readers into a world they never want to leave. Oddly, too many writers fail to appreciate just how powerful settings can be. Details make the difference between the mediocre and the magnificent. Settings, written properly, can come alive and transition from boring backdrop to becoming an actual character (I.e. Hogwart’s).

Setting should be more than a weather report or a simple description of a room. When we harness the power of settings, we add in nuance and layers, give characters far more dimension, and deepen the emotional timbre of voice.

Today, we have a special treat. Award-winning author, Christina Delay (who’s represented by The Knight Agency) is here to give us tips to elevate the meh to the magical.

Take it away, Christina!

The Power of Settings

How to Write Unforgettable Settings Readers Never Want to Leave, settings, writing settings, tips for writing settings, writing tips, Kristen Lamb, The Knight Literary Agency, Diedre Knight, Margie Lawson, Christina Delay, Cruising Writers, Cruising Writers Retreats, writing retreats

You know that feeling when you read a masterful piece of writing and your entire world fades away? It’s as if you feel this inaudible click as those words shape themselves into a key that unlocks a place inside you?

Wanna write a scene like that? (Of course you do, so keep reading!)

Most unforgettable scenes have one central element that the author focuses on. It can be the emotion conveyed in the scene, a character revelation, an action-packed fight, or quick-witted dialogue, but every one of these elements has a central device that must be included.

Setting.

Without setting as the backdrop to each of these integral story elements, they simply cannot carry the power. It’d be like watching a film before it was edited, and you realize that the roaring dragon is really a stick with two legs and some wires propped in front of a green screen.

Setting carries your story.

So why pick boring, beige places to set scenes? Which would you prefer? Hanging out in a dentist’s office for 12-15 hours or wandering around The Shire for 12-15 hours?

Readers are the same.

Tips for Writing Unforgettable Settings

How to Write Unforgettable Settings Readers Never Want to Leave, settings, writing settings, tips for writing settings, writing tips, Kristen Lamb, The Knight Literary Agency, Diedre Knight, Margie Lawson, Christina Delay, Cruising Writers, Cruising Writers Retreats, writing retreats

Focus on Details

For scenes that need to pack a punch, delve into the details. Much like visiting a new place for the first time, in those scenes we need to have time to look around and soak it all in. We need to adjust our scope so that we take a close-up view of a few details.

But make these details specific.

Which moments or parts of the setting mean something to your character? And why? These are the moments we can reveal a little piece of backstory about our character, or allow a piece of the setting to lead them to a revelation.

Take this example from Tana French’s The Likeness and pay close attention to what she does with the details:

But children are pragmatic, they come alive and kicking out of a whole lot worse than orphanhood, and I could only hold out so long against the fact that nothing would bring my parents back and against the thousand vivid things around me, Emma-next-door hanging over the wall and my new bike glinting red in the sunshine and the half-wild kittens in the garden shed, all fidgeting insistently while they waited for me to wake up again and come out to play. I found out early that you can throw yourself away, missing what you’ve lost.

Share Setting Secrets

How to Write Unforgettable Settings Readers Never Want to Leave, settings, writing settings, tips for writing settings, writing tips, Kristen Lamb, The Knight Literary Agency, Diedre Knight, Margie Lawson, Christina Delay, Cruising Writers, Cruising Writers Retreats, writing retreats

Even if we’re writing a scene in Nowhereville in the middle of the desert where there’s nothing to meet the eye, work to find the secret of that locale to make it come alive. If we can’t find or create that secret, then that’s a setting best forgotten (changed) because it won’t resonate with readers.

In my personal travels and my travels with Cruising Writers, I always look for the secrets that only a person who had been there before would know.

For example, our Cruising Writers retreat to France in 2017 opened my eyes to a whole new level of setting. From the ruby red of poppies brushing against the bare vines of a French vineyard to the muted sound of church bells, muffled by wisps of fog, to the ruins of castles and tower lookouts speckling the rolling hills of vineyards.

After visiting France, you might bring in the dust from the unpaved roads or the narrow streets that American cars could never fit on, the paint on the edges of 500-year old buildings that have been scraped off of cars clipping their corners.

Maybe you’ll bring in the dog with sanitation issues that leaves a trail all around the French farmer’s market.

In every overarching setting you select for your book, find the secrets that only you know that will also bring to life the world for your readers.

Remember the Power of Lighting

How to Write Unforgettable Settings Readers Never Want to Leave, settings, writing settings, tips for writing settings, writing tips, Kristen Lamb, The Knight Literary Agency, Diedre Knight, Margie Lawson, Christina Delay, Cruising Writers, Cruising Writers Retreats, writing retreats

Have you ever noticed that sunlight looks different depending on where you are? Warm oranges and soft yellows weave between the trees during sunset on the West Coast. Sunset on a Caribbean cruise is neon and full of glamour. Think about what else comes with light and strive to thread those elements throughout your writing.

The feel of the summer sun on your skin after you’ve climbed out of freezing cold water, how your skin prickles when you pause in front of that diamond of light pouring in from a window in the middle of winter. The way the light can appear ominous or heavenly when set against a storm.

How to Write Unforgettable Settings Readers Never Want to Leave, settings, writing settings, tips for writing settings, writing tips, Kristen Lamb, The Knight Literary Agency, Diedre Knight, Margie Lawson, Christina Delay, Cruising Writers, Cruising Writers Retreats, writing retreatsBeyond Google Earth

When you hear the writing advice, ‘Write what you know,’ I believe that applies to setting as well as theme. I’ve lived in Houston, Texas most of my life. This means I can write the details of living in Houston better than someone who lives in California, because I understand the nuances of my city.

Likewise, I can write the setting details and secrets of a cruise ship much better than someone who has never been on a cruise, but less well than crew member who lives on the ship. Google would only get me so far in doing research on a location. The best way to really get the details right is to visit the place in which we’re setting our story.

Write Settings That WOW!!!

Boring, dull, or filler settings? Who has time for that? There are so many books out there, so many titles to choose from, and readers want to be wowed. Settings can separate the so-so stories from the so-long and NEXT!

Setting is one of the most memorable parts of any great story, and as storytellers we need to give it the weight it deserves. Follow these tips, focus on the details, the secrets, and the firsthand experience, and elevate your writing to an entirely new level.

Do you agree that setting is one of the most important story elements? What are some of your tricks for writing unforgettable settings?

Thanks Christina!

As y’all can see from her bio (below), Christina is hostess of the Cruising Writers and this year I’m one of the SPEAKERS *evil laugh*. So if you have long dreamed of being trapped on a boat in the middle of the ocean with me…

What? The Stockholm’s sets in quickly 😛 . Perhaps wrong approach. Trying again.

If you’ve been promising yourself a retreat, why not make it a paradise getaway? Think of the fun. Learn about craft, sun, experiences and HELLOOOOO! Agents and editors are reportedly lousy swimmers—*wink, wink, nod, nod*—so they have to talk to us 😀  #GeniusIDEA .

Seven DAYS of mischief and mayhe..um, becoming better writers. What other trip can you take where you leave with a great tan, loads of amazing memories, and maybe even a book deal?

How to Write Unforgettable Settings Readers Never Want to Leave, settings, writing settings, tips for writing settings, writing tips, Kristen Lamb, The Knight Literary Agency, Diedre Knight, Margie Lawson, Christina Delay, Cruising Writers, Cruising Writers Retreats, writing retreats


About Christina

Christina Delay is the hostess of Cruising Writers and an award-winning author represented by Deidre Knight of The Knight Agency. When she’s not cruising the Caribbean, she’s dreaming up new writing retreats to take talented authors on or writing the stories of the imaginary people that live in her heart.

Cruising Writers brings writers together with bestselling authors, an agent, an editor, and a world-renowned writing craft instructor writing retreats around the world.

Cruise with us to Grand Cayman this October with Kristen Lamb (Bestselling Author and Marketing Jedi), Rachel Caine (Bestselling Author of 50+ books), Deidre Knight (The Knight Agency), and Alex Sehulster (St. Martin’s Press).

How to Write Unforgettable Settings Readers Never Want to Leave, settings, writing settings, tips for writing settings, writing tips, Kristen Lamb, The Knight Literary Agency, Diedre Knight, Margie Lawson, Christina Delay, Cruising Writers, Cruising Writers Retreats, writing retreats

Or get ready to Dive Deep and join us on a 7-day Immersion Cruise with Margie Lawson this December to Jamaica, Grand Cayman, and Cozumel!