Kristen Lamb

Author, Blogger, Social Media Jedi

Kristen Lamb — Photo

Posts Categorized: Worldwide WANACon

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Tim Simpson.
Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Tim Simpson.

It’s been amazing and terrifying to watch the changes in our industry just over the past six years. For generations, there was only a handful of items a writer needed to do. Write a book. Query. Get an agent. Land a deal. Hopefully continue writing more books. Though this was far simpler, there was a horrific failure rate and most writers never saw their works in print.

In The Digital Age, we live in an exciting time. E-books have offered new life to many works that were simply a bad investment in the paper-based world (novellas, epic fantasy, poetry). Yet, with new opportunity comes new responsibilities.

We must understand the business side of our business. And, as someone who teaches at many conferences, I know that until recently it has been rare to find an in-person conference that offers training outside the old paradigm.

I’ve been to conferences with all NY agents, only a class or two on social media, nothing about formatting or indie or book covers. This leaves a majority of writers ill-prepared for anything other than a traditional path (but this IS improving).

Yet, as we watch the trends, we are seeing that even authors who traditionally publish are still pursuing other paths as well to 1) increase income harnessing the power of combined sales and 2) maintain fan excitement 3) broaden/strengthen the platform.

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As it stands, NY is limited to putting out a book, maybe two per year. Also, bookstores only have so much shelf space (which is negotiated by an agent/sales team). Due to the new mega-bookstore model, stores like B&N make more money off items other than books. Go into any B&N and the entire front of the store is filled with Nooks and Nook accessories (instead of books).

Additionally, they only can offer discounts by stocking only so many books and for a short period of time. This means authors with backlists generally will only have the most recent title for sale, unless they happen to be one of the big names (J.K. Rowling).

Writing now has merged art with entrepreneurship. We are essentially beginning a business (even if we choose traditional). Any successful business has a business plan. Also, we must invest in ourselves and our dream. There are a number of hard truths.

Regular People BELIEVE Writing is EASY

The average person out there has no concept of how hard it is to write a book. They think we sit and play with imaginary friends all day, which we do, but making those friends cooperate can be nothing short of a nightmare. Readers only see the final product. They only see what took months or years to complete. There is also this mistaken notion that because we have command of our native tongue, that writing a book/novel is only a matter of sitting down and writing.

Image with Twig the Fairy
Image with Twig the Fairy

Yes, butt-in-chair can be the greatest challenge, but developing dimensional characters takes profound understanding of human nature and psychology. Then we have to create realistic and interesting dialogue. Add in enough description and detail to build the world without boring the reader. We have to maintain tension on every page, know how to balance scenes and sequels, understand narrative structure and on and on and on.

But, it is this misguided perception that writing is easy that can derail us.

Forget What Other People Think

Often we are afraid to take risks because we fear failure. Yet, any true success is birthed from risk. We can’t think about what other people think or 1) we’ll quit 2) we’ll slack off 3) we’ll listen to bad advice.

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Everyone has an opinion. One way humans show love is by offering “advice.” This is fine, but we have to mature enough and grab hold of what we want so tightly that we can allow other people the right to be wrong.

When I started writing, my family didn’t talk to me for two years. I even had a church elder laugh and tell me essentially that I had a better chance of being abducted by terrorists than being successful as a writer. Other family members felt I should go to law school. For a time, I listened. I even took the LSAT and gained entrance to law school.

But, I remember standing there with my acceptance letter and I had to make a choice. Did I really want to be a lawyer? NO.

Thing is, other people can give advice, and often they do this from genuine care and concern, but remember…

Only YOU will pay the price.

Image courtesy of Cellar Door Films WANA Commons
Image courtesy of Cellar Door Films WANA Commons

When we allow others to talk us into “real jobs”, they won’t be the ones who die a slow death every day. They won’t be the ones who throw up every day on the way to work (been there). They won’t be the one with a broken heart, an empty life and a mental spiral of what-ifs that keep them awake at night.

Commitment is the Cure

Lately, we have been talking about WANACon, which is coming up next weekend and today is the last day to use the code Valentine for $15 off. It’s an affordable way to learn from top industry experts, learn about ALL kinds of publishing—self-pub, indie, traditional—social media, branding, craft, platform-building and all for a reasonable price and from HOME. New York Times and USA Today Best-Selling Author Shirley Jump will be the keynote and agent pitch sessions are available. We have over 20 presentations from top professionals.

WANACon is largely volunteer because I was living of Ramen my first conference. Even though it was local, it still cost me over $300 and a lot of driving. I wanted to offer something for those who might be on a budget or have time or geographic challenges.

Yet, here’s the thing. Do I want you to come to WANACon? Yes, we have a lot of fun and it will spoil you. Regular conferences are costly and a physical beating (especially for introverts). Most conferences also will charge extra for recordings and we provide them for free because we want you to succeed.

BUT, I don’t care if you go to WANACon or some other conference. Just go to a conference. Commit. Attend/ join RWA (Romance Writers of America) even if you don’t write romance. Surround yourself with what you want to be. Connect and learn from professionals.

Publishing can feel a little like THIS...
Publishing can feel a little like THIS…

I want to encourage you to take true professional steps that transition a dream into a reality. Invest in your domain name (the NAME that will be on your books). Commit to building a platform or blogging. Platforms capable of driving sales can’t be bought or POOF out of the ether. They take time and some money.

NY will not represent an author with no platform. Most agencies will google an author and if they can’t find us? Game over. Come back when we have a platform. If we go indie or self-pub? We’re dead without a platform.

The publishing world of today offers a much better chance for success, but we have to be educated and have a plan of action. We need to invest in that dream. I can’t tell you the difference my first conference made in how I viewed my career choice and even myself.

Perception is REALITY

The world thinks most writers are just wannabes typing away at a Starbucks. Why? Because a lot of us do that. I did. In the beginning, I didn’t take myself seriously. Why would others? But, when we commit and invest, this is when we change and others often do, too.

Image via Tumblr
Image via Tumblr

If you met someone who claimed to be an artist, but they simply carried around a notebook and drew cool pictures, we’d think one thing. But, what if we talked to them and realized they had a web site with their work, that they’d worked an extra job to train with professional artists?

Someone who sings in the shower or in the church choir is one thing. But what about the person who gives up every extra hobby to take voice lessons and record their songs? Or a chef who creates beautiful dishes for people at home, but then later takes out a loan to start a catering business?

Our level of commitment is a reflection of our passion and our genuine desire to do this thing for real. 

This is February. Most of us are struggling with the New Year’s Resolutions. We all do. But whether you attend a conference a professional workshop, take classes, begin building your platform, make that shift. Otherwise, our “dream” will remain an intangible. Sacrificing time and money, risking failure, ignoring naysayers, these are the things that separate the “aspiring writer” from the “pre-published author.”

Regardless of what you write, which path you choose, which conference you attend, we support you 1000%. It’s why WANA works so hard to offer you all the tools for success: classes, conferences, WANACommons (for blog images you can use worry-free), WANATribe (social network for writers), #MyWANA and Facebook’s WANA group. We want you to have education, encouragement, resources, and a support network. The rest is in the doing ;).

As a gift, we have a free recording of Gabriela Pereira’s “How To Get the Most Out of a Writing Conference.” Use this for WANACon or any conference of your choosing. You can sign up for WANACon HERE and use the code Valentine for $15 off.

What are your thoughts? Have you been bombarded with naysayers and dream stealers? Is it hard to believe that your writing is a “real job”? I know I still struggle with that, too. What are your biggest challenges, fears? What are some of your successes? Share and inspire us!

I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of February, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less)

Image via Bill_Owen Flickr Creative Commons
Image via Bill_Owen Flickr Creative Commons

Writing conferences are extraordinarily valuable. We work in a creative field and sure, we can sit at a keyboard and write a book. But, without training and guidance, we can make our path to successful publishing far longer than it might have been with outside expert help. We open ourselves to learning by trial and error, which can cost time, money and be a real ego beating.

I joke that I should have called my social media book, I Did All The Dumb Stuff So You Don’t Have To. I did everything wrong. I believed because I was “smart”, I didn’t need help.


When it came to writing a novel, I spent four years trying to fix a train wreck. With social media, I spent two years undoing building a brand under a cutesy moniker. When it came to blogging, I blogged for a year and a half before I hit over 85 views a day because I was listening to “experts” instead of intuition. When I launched WANA International, I didn’t understand a key fundamental of life and business—Talk is cheap.

Understand the details and then you know 1) when someone is selling BS 2) you can keep others accountable 3) you will save time and money.

If we don’t know how to look for web designers, cover artists, formatters, what they should cost and what questions we should ask, we set ourselves up to be taken advantage of. We also might rely on a brand name. I know when we began teaching classes at WANA International, we chose Go To Webinar, because it supposedly was the best. That was a $1500 mistake. Their technology never worked and I refunded more than we made.

Good thing is that sometimes mistakes can lead to better things, but wouldn’t it be better to just find that better thing to begin with?

Knowledge is Power

Why are you looking for an agent? Do you know why you need one in the new paradigm? Why do you want to choose your publishing path? Why is your novel being rejected or not selling? What are the elements of a good cover and how can that impact sales? What is an author brand? What works? What is a time-suck that leads to pain, suffering and chocolate ODs?

Conferences are fabulous for connecting with experts. We recruit those we feel will offer great value, whether it is craft, business, publishing or social media. The smart writer learns from her mistakes, but the wise writer learns from the mistakes of others. Conferences connect us to people who’ve been there and can shorten our learning curve.

Every day is precious. You will never live THIS day again. It is ONE event in human history. Why not make it count? Time is a nonrenewable resource.

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Connection is Vital

We don’t need to know everyone and everything. We simply need to know enough people to gain advantage from The Six Degrees of Separation. I don’t know all the answers, but I don’t need to. I’ve met enough people on social media and at conferences that I likely know someone who knows the answer. OR, they can direct me to a person who has what I need.

Conferences allow us to network. We can make friends, create a support group, and even meet authors who might blurb for our books. If we are unsure of a publishing path, we can listen to others. Which agents are great? Which indie houses are worth a look? Which cover designers are professional and affordable?

Word of mouth is far more valuable than a fancy ad. I know. I spent $3000 for a web designer for her to essentially install a $100 plug-in. The designer was a fraud who knew how to dazzle and frighten with tech-speak I didn’t understand. At the time, I didn’t yet know Laird Sapir (who is a WANA and who we now trust for all web work). At the time, I had a feeling I was being taken, but was too overloaded to do more research. It was a costly mistake I will never repeat, but sadly one I could have easily avoided with the right guidance.

Jay Donovan of Tech Surgeons, WANA's Digital Dark Knight
Jay Donovan of TechSurgeons, WANA’s Digital Dark Knight

There are few lessons better learned than the ones that make us feel like a raging idiot. But, I am not too proud to tell you guys I’ve fallen for the Magic Beans. This is why I work so hard to blog and to bring you WANACon. My goal is that my mistakes offer some greater value to the writing community.

Transition from Hobbyist to Professional

Like the protagonists in our books, we too have turning points in our author journeys. A conference is our way of accepting the challenge and rising to the call. It means we are willing to invest in our dreams. We transition from a hobbyist to a professional. Professionals seek information, guidance and are unafraid to put their money where their mouth is.


Granted, this can be tough. I know. When I went to my first conference many years ago, I was living on Ramen an praying the lights would stay on. But I knew something was lacking and that’s why I wasn’t making any headway. That first conference changed everything and was the best investment I ever made. Something inside shifted. I walked in a wanna-be and left a pre-published author. I took myself more seriously and, as a consequence, others began taking me more seriously as well.

There are a lot of fabulous conferences out there with hardworking people putting together the best selection of experts they can recruit. I strongly recommend attending a conference this year. WANACon will never fully replace an in-person conference, but we can:

1. Be a Supplement

For years it didn’t matter if we only attended one conference a year. Publishing had barely changed in twenty years. In the Digital Age? It changes by the moment. WANACon can keep you abreast of all the shifts in the industry and keep you informed so your decisions are sound ones.

2. Be a Start

Many new writers are pinching pennies and working a full-time job. WANACon has over 20 presentations on craft, social media, business, publishing, branding, etc. We have agent and editor pitch-sessions and they are all yours to enjoy from home. Our conference is virtual and the closest thing to the real deal without a holo-deck. Other conferences might record sessions, but those cost extra. At WANACon, recordings are included so you don’t miss anything.

This WANACon does have a romance emphasis, but we are also here to help guide those who are in the NaNoWriMoWTHNow? boat.

Our conference is tailored to work around those with a job and family who might not have the luxury to drop $1000 or more and 4-7 days attending a traditional conference. Many writers are from emerging markets like Europe, Australia and New Zealand, and WANA is here to support you, too.

No airfare, hotel, babysitting or time off work. We’ve recruited talent that is just as good as any conference in the country. NYT/USA Today best-selling authors, top social media experts, successful traditionally published authors and self-published authors and more.

Completely ABSURD TSA searches NOT included.
Completely ABSURD TSA searches NOT included.

We still have Early Bird Pricing. Sign up HERE. Also, we always kick off with PajamaCon, which is FREE. You can get a sense of what the conference is like because we know are cutting edge and some of you might want to dip a digital toe in the digital waters. WANA is reinventing the conference for The Digital Age. PajamaCon is also how we ease you into what to expect and make sure any technical issues can be sorted so you can enjoy WANACon worry-free.

Also, the FABULOUS Jami Gold has more details about WANACon AND a raffle for you to win back the cost of admission, so check out HER BLOG!

Whether you choose WANACon or another conference, I cannot recommend conferences enough. Take that vital step to invest in yourself and your dream. Save time by making better choices and connecting with people who can help.

What are your thoughts? Have you never attended a conference? Did your first conference change your outlook and attitude? What were some changes you witnessed in yourself after going to a conference? I HIGHLY recommend WANACon (of course) but the Dallas Fort Worth Writers’ Workshop Conference is one of my all-time favorites. I also love RWA conferences, even the mini-cons. Cannot recommend ANYTHING RWA enough. What are some conferences you’d recommend?

I LOVE hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of January, 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 novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less)

By Jay Donovan
Yes, it’s me again, Kristen’s Tech Guy. Kristen has family issues hitting her hard and has been nursing a loved one back to health. We’ll have to wait for a future blog post to learn if Nurse Kristen is more Florence Nightingale or Nurse Ratchet.


In her seeming desperation, she handed me the keys to her blog. Again…

You’d have thought she’d have learned after I hijacked her site last time. Then again, knowing Kristen, she’s aware that I ‘sampled’ a couple glasses of wine while TechGirl and I made lasagna. Kristen’s call for help at an ungodly late hour is most likely a ploy Sun Tzu would be proud of.

Regardless, challenge accepted!

Actually, this is a fantastic chance to catch everyone up on the goings on in WANAville.


First off, thanks to everyone who joined us for the October WANACon Writers Conference. We appreciate your trust in us and hope you had as good a time as we did. For those who couldn’t join us, the session recordings are available for On Demand viewing here.

The next WANACon will be Friday February 21st and Saturday February 22nd, (hopefully) far enough from the chaos of the holidays that a conference track on what to do next with your NaNoWriMo creation makes sense, and close enough to Valentine’s Day for one on writing romance.

Keep up with all the details by visiting WANACon.com or joining our mailing list.

WANA Classes are going On Demand
We’ve heard you. And finally the technology allows us to bring you an “On Demand” class experience that is good enough to receive the WANA… ->

We’re not moving away from live classes, but with busy WANAs all over the globe, we’re structuring classes to be more flexible for those who can’t attend live.

We’ll be adding dozens of classes by amazing instructors over the next few months. Click for our Current Class List or to join our mailing list.

And a shameless plug…


Book Tours in Your PJs

On Friday, my company, TechSurgeons is adding an new Author ServiceVirtual Book Tours. They’ll use the same tech WANA uses for WANACon and live classes. At an introductory price of $50, you can rent a virtual room for 6 hours for you and up to 10 others at a time.  You’ll be able talk to your readers, share web cams, instant message with the shy ones, display PDFs of sample chapters, extras, and ‘out takes’ or whatever creative ideas you have. Contact me for more details.

WTRemember WANATribe, -the- private social media site by authors for authors.

We have Tribes for all genres and interests. And if you don’t see the one you want, you can create it. Joining and using WANATribe is free.

As a thank you prize for reading putting up with my post, here’s a video of (I believe) George Clooney and Brad Pitt dueling with a flamethrower and fire extinguisher.  Inside sources claimed this was filmed just before they went to their respective makeup artists.

Okay, that was mean. Here’s an amazingly cool video of the Ohio State band performing their “Hollywood Blockbuster” Show.

Geek in His (un)Natural Habitat
Geek in His (un)Natural Habitat

Jay Donovan is the official WANA Tech Guy and takes care of all WANA’s technology needs. He’s writing an “Expansion Pack” on the proper use of pen names to supplement Kristen’s “Rise of the Machines” and should be working on it instead of hijacking blogs and talking about himself in third person, but where’s the fun in that?

Jay’s company TechSurgeons LLC provides the geeky magic for WANACon and  WANA classes. TechSurgeons also hosts the WANAIntl.com & authorkristenlamb.com websites. He’d love to be your tech guy too.

Find him on Twitter at @jaytechdad or on Facebook

Francis, the WANA Mascot

WANACon is coming up, and we launch tomorrow evening at 6:00 PM EST (New York Time for our foreign friends) and go to 8:30 PM with PajamaCon. Since WANA is founded on a spirit of generosity, we’re offering PAJAMACon to everyone for FREE. Just go to the WANACon Page and on the right side you will see this:

Portal to F-U-N!
Portal to F-U-N!

You see in the Conference Hall A Selector I chose PajamaCon, then enter your name (or alias) and the password is “WANARocks”. Anything that pops up, just allow. We do this to keep your computer secure.

I know that WANACon is a bit futuristic and maybe some of you are shy about how a virtual conference works, so here’s a great time to check it out. Also, I’ll be there. What more reason do you need?

Ouch! I just got a cramp patting myself on the back!

Today, I want to take a little time to point out what is going to be SO awesome about WANACon (aside from teaching from top-tier publishing pros, AMAZON, free recordings, sweet price point, NO travel, no layovers, no TSA, no hotel and no overpriced restaurant food).


Okay, a moment about agents. I made an executive decision not to have agents at this WANACon. Why? Because NYC grinds to a halt roughly in November. The odds of ANY pitch (manuscript) landing a sweet publishing contract in three weeks has roughly the same odds as me becoming a bikini model. Reality dictates that most manuscripts will sit untouched until 2014. Why waste your time or an agent’s?

You want any agent selling your work when it’s fresh and they’re still super-stoked-excited…not after your book’s sat on their desk for three months. Just my personal opinion.

So, instead?

I kidnapped recruited the head of the Amazon CreateSpace team to present and show you how to make the most of all the cool tools Amazon provides to help you succeed. For those considering any kind of indie, self-publishing or hybrid publishing? Amazon’s Thom Kephart will be there to show you the ropes.

I also have the owner of Green E-Books to demonstrate all the coolest innovations in e-book technology, and he makes this stuff so simple even I understand it (and have yet to figure out my e-mail *sigh*).


We have the LEGENDS David Corbett and Les Edgerton and these two guys alone are worth the price of the entire conference.  I’ve been to countless conferences and workshops and read all the craft books. There are very few teachers who are game-changers.

Even though I’ve been writing professionally for ten years, I still attend craft classes. It is rare that I blow through half a notebook taking notes. I stalked both Corbett and Edgerton until they agreed to do WANACon…and reconsider the restraining orders :D.

Technically this is a “virtual” conference, so I’m not in violation of the 1000 feet “rule” the “courts” have established.

My Classes

I am teaching three sessions at WANACon, all classes I’m not regularly offering.

The first is Many Roads to Rome—Choosing a Publishing Path. How do you know whether to self-publish or keep trying to score a traditional deal? Not all writers (or works) are suited to be traditionally published. Other personalities will DIE trying to self-publish. Sometimes a book is great, but the publishing path chosen is ill-suited for the work. You might want to even consider a hybrid path.

This class will offer guidance on one of the most important decisions we will ever make. How DO we publish?

Then I have Killing Little Darlings with Ruthless Efficiency. Ever heard of RAMBO? I am LAMBO. I have slayed entire villages of Little Darlings. I’m going to teach you ways to spot them, cut them, kill them and maybe even not create them in the first place.

Prevention IS the best cure.

Then, lastly, NaNoWriMo Bootcamp. 

NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is the month of November. 50,000 words in one month. Sounds like a lot. If we write every day, roughy 1,600 words a day. If we take weekends off? 2,000 words a day. Granted, NaNoWriMo isn’t about writing a perfect book. It is, however, a GREAT introduction into what it’s like to keep and maintain a professional pace.

Many writers start out hot and heavy, write themselves into a corner, then burn out and DIE. Most of the time, this is preventable if we have some basic know-how and start off correctly. There is no sense in killing ourselves for a month to reach 50,000 words only to end up with an unfixable nightmare that chews on the furniture and pees on the rugs.

I would assume that anyone who vows to complete NaNoWriMo would like to create something that can be revised, polished and published. Throwing away a month of time and tens of thousands of words is hard on the body and the ego. Why not write something solid that can be shaped into something FANTASTIC?

Other Stuff

We have Susan Spann who is an Intellectual Property and Publishing Attorney to teach you about contracts. When do you sign? When do you walk away? When do you RUN away?

Some of you might want to add romance to your book or even a–GASP!—love scene. How do we write those without sounding like bad porn?

Hey, I’m here to fix your cable?

But I don’t HAVE cable….

Best-Selling Author Candace Havens has written more books than I could fit on our digital book table. She’s written at all levels of “heat” so whether you want the sweet romance or are writing erotica, Candy has the know-how to help you write scenes readers will love…instead of rolling their eyes.

For the NF Folks

We have long-time journalist Caitlin Kelly. She’s written multiple books and has worked as a freelance writer for most of her career. She’s had over a 100+ freelance articles in The New York Times and recently was published in Cosmopolitan Magazine. This lady KNOWS her stuff. She’s tough and will tell it straight, but this business isn’t for the faint of heart.

We also have media personality Amy Shojai to guide you how to write a NF proposal. Not only is she an amazing and energetic teacher, Amy has been featured on ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, and in USA Weekend, The New York TimesWashington PostReader’s Digest, Woman’s DayFamily CircleWoman’s World, and many other leading newspapers and magazines.

She regularly appears on national radio and television in connection with her pet writing. Most recently, she appeared as a dog and cat expert on Animal Planet’s DOGS 101 and CATS 101.

Then There Will Be (Of Course) Social Media

Gaping at G+? Fried on Facebook? We have you covered ;).

Web Nightmares

I can attest that getting an author web site is about as confusing and pleasant as a colonoscopy (and the after-effects can feel strangely similar).

It’s easy to get ripped off. I have been ripped off multiple times. Why? I didn’t know what questions to ASK. When we step out to do this new thing of finally being serious enough to get a website, we are NEW.

We are too dumb to know what we don’t know. Sometimes, we think if we throw more money at it, MORE MONEY=AWESOME. Or, if we are broke, we assume we can’t have a good-looking web-site.


Laird Sapir is a trusted WANA web designer. She’s smart, savvy and affordable but not at WANACon to sell you anything (unless you want). I recruited her to educate you. If you don’t have a web site, how do you find a designer? The right designer? What do you need to know? What questions do you ask? What should you reasonably PAY? How do you negotiate?

If you already have a web site, what are some things you can do to make your site more appealing to visitors? What are some changes you could possibly make that might sell more books?


This is just a sample of the awesome that will be at WANACon (you can check out the full schedule HERE). And remember, if you can’t attend or miss a session or two, you get the recording, notes and handouts FREE as part of your conference.

WANACon is just like a REAL writing conference. The only things you’re missing out on are the super high price tags, uncomfortable flights, bad conference food, a chance at getting bed bugs from your hotel, and that awkward TSA pat down. Though the guy who sold me my Interview Van works for tips and a pat down can be arranged.

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Just ignore the ankle monitor.

So you can go ahead and sign up HERE. We are also selling individual days if that fits your schedule or budget better. BUT, there isn’t ANY excuse to not stop by and check out the fun at PajamaCon. Here are our best-practices and trouble-shooting guidelines to make PajamaCon (and WANACon) as pleasant as possible. For instance, Safari will cough up a hairball with our technology. Google Chrome and Firefox play better. Simple stuff like that.

I’ll be at PajamaCon so we can meet. You can ask questions about craft, social media, branding, or even why tin foil is completely useless for keeping the aliens from reading your thoughts. It’ll be FUN :D.

For those of you who might not have met the WANA Mascot, Francis, here’s his debut film. I think a lot of us can relate. WANACon is a way to start reaching your dreams without adding time strain and financial pressure.

I hope to see you at WANACon, but at LEAST PajamaCon.

Lock the kids out of the bedroom for a couple hours and take time for YOU. Let your inner artist have a play date with the pros.

Image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Army Medicine
Image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Army Medicine

Many writers struggle. We hate our beginnings, revisions are a nightmare and endings can fizzle. We work, rework, cry, try again and still don’t nail it. The second act sags and we start wondering if maybe we should reconsider learning medical billing instead of writing.  Yet, I do have good news. I’ve never worked with a dying patient manuscript that couldn’t be saved.

Granted, we might have to do massive reconstructive surgery, but I have yet to have a patient die on the table :).

I’ve been blessed enough to help countless writers see the story they were trying to tell all along….just couldn’t seem to execute. Often this is a perceptual problem.

We can be too close to our own work.

Also, remember, high school and college English classes aren’t preparation for understanding HOW to create a work spanning 60,000-110,00 words. I might be going out on a limb here, but MFA students aside, I doubt’ y’all ever wrote a paper longer than 50 pages (more like 20). So stop beating yourself up. You might just need a little training and surgical residency.

Let’s look at some reasons for the most common maladies that can kill novels.

Weak, Flawed or Unclear Story Problem

When we have a weak, confusing or flawed story, there’s no way to know where to begin or even end. Why? We don’t know where we’re going. There is a difference between a clever idea and a defined problem in need of solving.

A recent BBT Advanced student brought me book she’s been working on since the 90s. Why didn’t it work? She had a clever idea, not a strong plot problem (the heart was weak…ok not there).

The problem wasn’t big enough and worse, the story problem made the protagonist unsympathetic. The protagonist was part of a matriarchal society who essentially used men for the purposes of propagation only. The laws had been set that if a woman didn’t birth a female child by a certain age, then she’d lose everything and be banished.

Interesting premise, but then I spotted the problem…

The writer’s goal for the book was for the protagonist to have the law changed and extend the time she had to birth a child because she hadn’t found the “right guy” and didn’t want to be exiled.

Yet, my first comment after hearing her story idea was, “Um, but you’re essentially wanting us to sympathize with a reluctant sex-trafficking slave-owner whose biggest goal is to modify an inhumane law so she has more time to get preggo. And what is the Big Boss Battle? C-Span? She changes a law? Doesn’t seem terribly exciting.”

*Cues Schoolhouse Rock’s I’m Just a Bill*

Her answer? Wow, um didn’t see that.

Without this observation, the writer could have revised into 2020 and still not have a workable story, because the core was flawed (though pretty simple to repair). She was fixing ingrown toenails when the beating heart of the story was dead.

But, with these critical pieces of information, we could go back to the drawing board surgical table and make her character into a hero. Yes, the protagonist is born into this matriarchal society that uses men like human cattle, but WHY are they doing it? What started it? What are the consequences for a society like this? What happens if protag fails?

HOW do we make the protagonist into a person who dismantles the evil system and brings freedom and restores love?

By the end of our talk, the writer still had all the essential pieces of the story, but they’d been strengthened and put into proper order. Now she has the template for a three-book work that is heroic and that addresses problems as old as humans—freedom and love.

Strong beating heart.

More Problems

There are other problems that can create MAJOR pits of WIP death.

Image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Sally Jean
Image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Sally Jean

Story SiameseTwins

We may be trying to make one book do too much (and it needs to be more than one book).

Story Anemia

Our story might be confusing or the premise too weak to support something novel-length.

Story Disfigurement

Events might be in the wrong order. How effective could we be with our legs growing out of our head? Same with stories.

These maladies can make revisions a living nightmare. How can we know what and where to cut? It’s like performing surgery with no diagnostic tools. We’re just opening the body and hoping we don’t cut out the wrong parts while leaving in the diseased ones.

Story Surgery

This is one of the reasons I run my Antagonist Class. One is coming up in three days (Sept. 20th) and this one is a early class, which is ideal for those who need a daytime class or for any of our overseas peeps.

I’m also offering an evening version on October 16th. These classes starts at a basic level $49 (webinar, recording and detailed notes) and go up to $249 (on the phone/in the digital classroom helping you plot a series or trilogy). Use WANA15 to get 15% off.

The extra levels are optional, of course, but it gives you time working with me, one-on-one to help build or repair your story problem and plot. Sometimes another set of (trained) eyes can really help. The added benefit is that once you’ve been through the process, you will have the skills to fix other unfinished works or start new ones the proper way.

Feel free to read craft books (which I recommend), but even if we only read four craft books, that’s almost 50 hours of reading time, instead of 2-4 hours with me talking specifically about your story and FIXING it.

With the skeleton created, the “Boys in the Basement” have something to work with and can come up with twists and turns, themes and subplots that only the subconscious can create.

Another Option

As y’all know, WANACon is coming soon. I’ve recruited the BEST of the BEST. Learn from the likes of Les Edgerton, NYTBSA Allison Brennan, Best-Selling Author Candace Havens, Award-Winning Author David Corbett and more. Twenty-seven sessions to help you grow in craft and social media from home and recordings are provided for free, which is essentially $5.50 a class. Check out the line-up HERE.

How to Triage Your Novel

I just work hard to give you guys as many cost-efficient tools as possible to make you the best writer you can be. To check the health of your story:


What is the CORE problem that will be solved in Act Three?

Can I state what my book is about in one sentence?

Does my book relate to larger human issues?

Is my protagonist sympathetic? Can we at least empathize?

What are the stakes? What happens if my protagonist FAILS? What will be the consequences not only for the protagonist, but the larger world around him/her?

How does my character change due to the plot problem? I.e. Slave-owner who mildly questions the ethics of her society to freedom fighter.

Am I generating drama or melodrama in each scene?

Some references to help you, Hooked (Les Edgerton), Scene and Structure (Jack Bickham), The Art of Character (David Corbett), The Writer’s Journey (Christopher Vogler), Save the Cat (Blake Snyder), Plot and Structure (James Scott Bell), Story Engineering (Larry Brooks), Three Uses of the Knife: On the Nature & Purpose of Drama (David Mamet), Writing Screenplays that Sell (Michael Hague).

***NOTE: Two of these masters (Les Edgerton and David Corbett) will be presenting at WANACon.

Do you have a WIP on life-support? Have you ever resurrected a WIP from the dead? What did you do? What suggestions do you have?

I LOVE hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of September, 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 novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

My new social media book, Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World is NOW AVAILABLE. Only $6.99.