Kristen Lamb

Author, Blogger, Social Media Jedi

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Posts Categorized: Writing Tips

Editor, editors, writing, publishing
Actually, it’s you. Love, the Editor.

Harsh, I know. Alas, sometimes tough love is necessary for the greater good. Cait Reynolds here today, and what I’m about to reveal is the secret heart’s cry of pretty much every freelance editor (at least the ones that don’t just run manuscripts through Grammarly).

Having worked as a freelance editor for many years, I’ve seen it all from the articulate and amazing, to the works of pure WTH?

I’ve also been given ARCs of books that are ‘professionally edited,’ but are appallingly full of typos, grammatical errors, and trite characters and plots.

Editor, editors, writing, publishing

I’m not necessarily blaming the editors in these cases. I get it. Sometimes, a work is simply so awful that we would have to completely rewrite it just to get it into passable shape. And, for a fraction of a penny per word, it isn’t worth it.

While there are definitely things editors can do to start helping to correct and cure this epidemic of literary mediocrity, there are things that writers need to do as well. That’s what I’m going to focus on today.

An editor hates…

1. When writers think they don’t have to do at least one or two rounds of their own editing before sending us a manuscript.

I’m not just talking about proofreading for commas (though, that’s another thing coming up). Everyone is in such a rush these days to get their work up on Amazon as fast as they can. So many authors finish up a “manuscript,” hit save, and then email it to their editor without a second thought….or a second look.

Let me throw out this hypothetical situation. Say we were sending this manuscript to an editor at Harper Collins or Penguin. Would we hit save and then send it off without combing through every line?

Or, would we let the manuscript sit for a week or two, giving our brain time and distance so we can go back at it with fresh eyes? Would we read through it critically, looking for (and correcting!) everything from typos and inconsistencies to doughy dialogue and plot holes? Would we repeat this process at least once if not twice more?

Editor, editors, writing, publishing

We probably would because we know the editor is probably hard-to-please with extremely high expectations about the degree of polish in any work they receive.

So why is sending a manuscript to a freelance editor any different? It shouldn’t be.

Freelance editors aren’t entirely innocent in this, either. We take on work instead of asking for a sample to see what the manuscript is like and then refusing to work on it until the author has gone back and cleaned it up. But, Amazon KDP has both exacerbated and preyed on authors’ fear of rejection to create a murky industry that cycles off of accepting mediocrity as a norm.

I digress.

2. When authors shop around for the cheapest editing services instead of the best editing services.

Editing is one of those things in life where we really do get what we pay for.

Professional freelance editors with experience and training beyond “I love reading,” and “I’m a writer, too,” are pretty rare commodities these days. If we are lucky enough to be taken on by one of these editorial unicorns, we should expect to pay the going rate for unicorns.

Editor, editors, writing, publishing

Many authors don’t want to go that route because it would mean having to save up money and probably publish fewer books. I don’t think that’s a bad thing because not every idea will make a good book.

Also, like cheese, wine, and wisdom, good ideas and stories need time to mature. We need time to noodle and daydream, to experience those moments of sudden inspiration while doing the dishes or walking the dog.

Instead, far too many authors slap down 60,000 words for whatever idea pops into their heads and then rush on to the next idea. Because if we’re not putting out three books a month, we’re gonna get tossed off the KDP Hamster Wheel of Death.

Producing books in volume means paying for production with an eye to getting volume-discounted services.

The average going rate for editors who provide services to these authors is about $240 for two rounds of editing on a 60,000-word manuscript.

Let’s say that an average editing effort takes 20 hours. That’s $12/hr (before self-employment taxes). It’s only our aversion to fryolators that keeps us from going to work at McDonald’s.

I’m not even going to talk about how authors will pay $500-$800 for a custom cover design but want that $200 editing job to cover concept editing, line editing, and proofreading. It’s enough to turn an editor into a jumper. Or cover designer because screw this $h!t.

Editor, editors, writing, publishing

An editor gets stabby when…

3. All an author does is accept track changes and sends the manuscript back for round two.

Yes, I have received manuscripts back like this. It’s like the author just ignored all conceptual, content, and craft comments I painstakingly made. This is frustrating because it makes editing incredibly tedious. More than that, it’s disheartening.

When a writer ignores editorial guidance, he or she is also turning down the opportunity to become better at the craft of writing. A good editor doesn’t just catch typos and minor inconsistencies. A skilled editor can identify a writer’s strengths and weaknesses and teach the writer to enhance the first and correct the second.

I’m not sure why writers are so often dismissive of editorial suggestions. Is it because they are in such a rush to get the book out (I see you, KDP Hamster Wheel of Death) that they simply don’t have the time to do a proper editing job?

Or, could it be that they don’t want to take on the daunting task of tearing apart a completed manuscript and painstakingly reworking and rewriting it? Maybe it’s because they’re afraid that trying to improve their writing would imply they’re not that good to start with and probably would never be able to get a traditional publishing contract.

Ignoring editorial guidance is also disrespectful. Let’s go back to that Harper Collins example. How inclined would we be to ignore an editor from Harper Collins who returned our manuscript with suggestions for not only reworking a good third of the book to tighten the plot, but also for learning to be more succinct yet vivid with our descriptions (meaning we need to go page-by-page on our own and make changes)?

So, why ignore guidance and suggestions just because an editor is freelance?

4. There are stupid grammar and usage mistakes in a manuscript.

Seriously. While I get that there are some fine points with grammar that we all fumble with from time-to-time, there is absolutely NO excuse for using the wrong word or using a word incorrectly.

Editor, editors, writing, publishing

Words are a writer’s business, like medicine is a doctor’s business. How much would we trust a doctor who glanced at a fractured tibia and said, “Uh, seems like you broke your leg thingy.”

How about a list of cringe-inducing usage mistakes I see every single day in manuscripts and self-published books?

  • Conscious/conscience
  • Weary/wary
  • Disdain/distain
  • Wondering/wandering
  • Past time/pastime
  • Shuttered/shuddered
  • Chocked/choked
  • Peak/pique/peek
  • Lossed (not even a word)/lost
  • Passed/past
  • Lead/led

Are some of these typos or bleary brain slip-ups? Maybe, but frankly, these should be caught and corrected long before an editor ever sees the manuscript. However, when the wrong word is used consistently, that tells me the writer doesn’t actually know the meaning.

Even worse, when I see incorrect usage that has made it into the final book, I’m ninety-nine percent sure the editor doesn’t know what he or she is doing…or committed seppuku halfway through the editing process.

In terms of grammar, I get that we all have different levels of training. However, just like we don’t want a broken-leg-thingy doctor, I don’t want to see writers who don’t know and don’t bother to learn the most basic rules of language.

Editor, editors, writing, publishing

Personally, I like the Oxford English Dictionaries’ online grammar reference.

And finally, an editor really, really hates…

 5. When we can tell all a writer really wants is the look-at-me-I-published-a-book participation trophy.

The National Association of Recovering Freelancers* put out a study that said four out of five freelance editors suffer a nervous breakdown due to the near-lethal combination of shoddy writing, shoddier story conceptualization and development, and repeated exposure to bad grammar.

Editor, editors, writing, publishing

*I totally made up the National Association of Recovering Freelancers, but now that I think of it, I really like the acronym, N.A.R.F. Very ‘Pinky and the Brain.’

What drives freelance editors to give it all up? Why do they consider it more productive to search Pinterest compulsively for DIY seashell crafting than to edit a manuscript?

Part of it is the money. It’s also the soul-dulling tedium of slogging through clunky prose, bad grammar, and tired tropes (at $0.004 to $0.006 per word). Most of all, it’s nihilistic realization that so many writers care more about seeing their name on Amazon than whether their readers are getting the best possible story they could write.

Without the Amazon KDP platform, almost none of these writers would ever stand a chance with literary agents and traditional publishers. While the pre-KDP era was far from perfect, repeated rejection had one MAJOR benefit: either the writing got better, or it was never inflicted on the unsuspecting public.

Editor, editors, writing, publishing

It was the publishing industry’s equivalent of telling the broken-leg-thingy doctor to either go back to school or consider a different career like professional Zamboni driving.

See? Not all gatekeeping is a bad thing. But, freelance editors now have all the work and none of the power, and the reading public is the worse for it.

Harsh but hopeful?

The fact that you are here and reading this blog gives me hope. It means you actually care about becoming a better storyteller and craftsman. It isn’t that freelance editors want to see perfection right off the bat. We merely long to see progress.

Freelance editors do this because we love the written word. We are unflaggingly idealistic, optimistic, and altruistic…until we’re not.

Editor, editors, writing, publishing

If you or someone you love is a freelance editor who is showing signs of stress (common signs and symptoms include wild-eyed staring at the screen, increased consumption of alcohol/caffeine, and muttering, “Alas, poor literature, we hardly knew ye!”), N.A.R.F. recommends the following treatment options:

  • Vitamin D. Take your freelance editor outside and reassure them that the light will not actually burn;
  • Laugh therapy. Expose your freelance editor to a minimum of three minutes of cat videos twice a day;
  • Calm panic attacks. Repeating “All is right with Strunk and White,” in a low, soothing voice will help ease anxiety;
  • Homeopathic literature. Provide your freelance editor with Pulitzer Prize- or Mann Booker Prize-winning books. A selection of classic literature will also work in an emergency;
  • Career development. Gently suggest that your freelance editor consider a different career…

Perhaps something in cover design?

I love hearing from you!

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

Upcoming Classes!

Instructor: Cait Reynolds

Price: $55.00 USD

Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom

When: Friday, June 22, 2018. 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER

Remember Moonlighting? Dave and Maddie were the hottest thing ever…and then they kissed…and it was still kinda hot…and then they really got together and settled down to blissful domesticated bickering. And…we all stopped watching.

Because it was boring.

Remember the X-Files? The lucullan feast of smoldering restraint that was Mulder and Scully? Chris Carter refused to give the fans what they wanted with a kiss at the series end, and while fans gnashed their teeth, it was a kind of pro forma gnashing because we were still interested and could still dream about what might happen.

While the episode-based storytelling of television allows romance to be the B-plot (and only when it feels like it), novels are different. Whether we are writing squeaky clean romance or too-much-wasabi-level-hot erotica, we are always dealing with the same basic principle of THE TEASE.

And for all that romance gets a bad rap and is scorned as being ‘easy’ to write, sustaining the delicious, rippling tension and fizzing chemistry between characters is one of the hardest techniques to master. This class can help you (literally) keep the romance alive well past the 80,000-word mark and beyond!

Topics covered in this class include:

  • ‘So, I’ll tell you what I want, what I really, really want’: recognizing what the reader wants, what the reader really wants but doesn’t know, and what the reader needs;
  • How to Flirt with the Reader: giving an inch but taking a mile when it comes to sweet/romantic/sexy moments;
  • Clean and Mean: putting the spark in sweet romance and fanning the flame without risking the brimstone;
  • Down and Dirty: putting the emotion in erotica so every encounter leaves the reader panting for more…for more than one reason;
  • The Speed Dating Trap: how to balance interest, interaction, and attraction without falling for the trap of insta-love (just add fate/pheromones/booze);
  • Making it Last: how to chart a course for romance and pace it so it lasts…all book long…
  • So much more!…

A free recording of the class is included in the purchase. CLICK HERE TO REGISTER


Instructor: Cait Reynolds

Price: $40.00 USD

Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom

When: Saturday, June 23, 11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. EST

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER

There’s something dashingly defiant and alluring about a proper young lady who throws caution (and often her petticoats) to the wind and picks up a sword to fight for what she believes in.

Whether it’s Eowyn from Lord of the Rings or Elizabeth (Badass) Bennet from Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, we all love that moment when a woman rises up to prove she’s more than society ever expected her to be.

Yet the market today is flooded with fantasy and historical that carry more trope baggage than Marie Antoinette for a long weekend at the Petit Trianon (sheep not included).

In fantasy, there are girls raised in servitude who suddenly discover their magical powers and royal heritage and must (really quickly) learn to wield swords and spells in order to save the kingdom.

Historical often isn’t much better, taking naive nineteen year-olds and turning them into near-legendary brigands, highwaymen, and pirates within the space of a few months.

Lack of believability, lack of character depth and arc, and lack of world-building/historical knowledge are the three major pitfalls when creating Ye Olde Action Heroine.

Luckily, this class will give writers a map with all literary here-be-hippogriffs clearly marked. Whether your gal is besieged by dragons, in a castle under siege, or in a castle under siege by dragons, this class can help!

This class will cover:

  • En Garde! Choosing her weapons wisely;
  • Ye Olde Fight Club: getting real about time & training;
  • Why, How, and When: how to realistically get her on the path from baking to badassery;
  • Hard Knocks: how to use failure and lack of skill mastery to create compelling character arcs;
  • The Joan of Arc trap: how to avoid creating miracles and martyrs (unless you really mean it);
  • The Pirate Bride: defining femininity in fantasy and historical in order ‘rebel’ against it;
  • Consequences: what are the short- and long-term consequences of flouting convention?
  • World Building & Re-Building: getting fantasy and historical settings right for your characters;
  • And so much more…

A recording of this class is also included with purchase. CLICK HERE TO REGISTER


Instructor: Kristen Lamb

Price: $45.00 USD

Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom

When: Saturday, June 23, 2:00 – 4:00 p.m. EST

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER

Female characters have evolved from ‘damsel in distress’ to the ‘hardcore badass.’ Problem is, fictional females escaped one boring mold only to end up in another even MORE boring mold.

But with lipgloss AND karate!

Strong female characters fascinate audiences on the page and on the screen. From Atomic Blonde to Wonder Woman, Special Agent Scully to Dr. Laura Isles, women can exude power and danger in a variety of ways.

Sadly, the badass female has devolved into a tired trope with the depth of a puddle.

This class is to challenge the concept of the dangerous woman as protagonist and antagonist. Creating a powerful woman involves more than handing her weapons, a black belt, and a terminal case of RBF (Resting B$#@% Face).

    • Expanding ‘who’ the dangerous woman IS;
    • Still waters run DEEP;
    • Broadening backstory;
    • Motives matter;
    • The ‘Tomb Raider’ effect;
    • Combat, weapons, tactics;
    • Expanding her ‘arsenal’;
    • Generating authentic dramatic action/tension;
    • Making the dangerous dame ‘likable’;
    • AND MORE…

As an author, competitive shooter, and former combatives instructor, there are few characters I LOVE more than a kickass female action hero. Conversely, fewer things vex me more than the tired cookie-cutter female action hero trope. Women can be powerful in a myriad of ways, beyond hand-to-hand combat and shooting everyone in the FACE.

This said, while we’ll explore a wide variety of powerful women, if you long to write that female action hero, this class will (hopefully) make sure you do her justice.

A recording of this class is also included with purchase. CLICK HERE TO REGISTER


Can’t seem to choose between pirate princesses and bulletproof Barbies? We don’t blame you…and, you don’t have to!

With the Dangerous Dames BUNDLE, get both classes and SAVE MONEY.

Purchased separately, each class is $45. Go for BOTH and get $90 of instruction for ONLY $75. You also get to spend a HUGE part of the day with ME (Kristen Lamb) and my partner in crime Cait Reynolds.

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER

Date: Saturday, June 23, 2018

Price: $75.00 USD 

PRINCESS PRODIGY: 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. EST

BULLETPROOF BARBIE: 2:00-4:00 p.m. EST

*Recordings of both classes included with purchase.

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER

 

self-sabotage, how writers self-sabotage, writing and productivity, writing tips, how to get published, write more books, Kristen Lamb, procrastination, writers and procrastination, fear and creativity

There are SO many reasons why being a professional author is TOUGH. Much of what authors do is counter to human nature. It is NOT natural to sit still and write a 100,000 words. It’s human nature to avoid stress, pain, and trauma, while an author’s job is to inflict as much suffering as possible.

Good writers are death dealers, anguish agents, and pain peddlers (which probably is why we freak ‘normal’ people out). Yet, we know torment is necessary for the greater good. A ‘story’ without seemingly unbeatable odds, terrifying stakes, and white-knuckled tension isn’t a story.

It’s self-indulgent tripe.

The ultimate objective of any author worth their ink cartridges is to create so much pressure we might just give our readers the bends.

Yet, this is not ‘natural.’ It is also not simple. There is nothing about being an author that is easy, and thing is?

Most of us fear we don’t have what it takes.

We’re also terrified to admit this. So what do we do? We become our own worst enemies and self-sabotage. And, since writers generally are smart, we self-sabotage in ways that appear to be REAL work to the untrained eye.

Thus, today, we’re going to discuss some of the clever ways writers self-sabotage. Since I’ve been guilty of ALL of these (because I’m a ridiculous overachiever), I can speak from experience. When it comes to self-sabotage, I would have been top of the class…but didn’t study for the final until the night before.

Self-Sabotage—Give Me Liberty OR Give Me DEATH!

self-sabotage, how writers self-sabotage, writing and productivity, writing tips, how to get published, write more books, Kristen Lamb, procrastination, writers and procrastination, fear and creativity

This writer longs to be completely FREE! No boundaries, restrictions, or rules. Total liberty. They throw caution to the wind and GO!

In the writing world, we refer to folks who write by the seat of their pants as ‘pantsers.’ Many new writers start out as a pantser, because we are dying to WRITE. We love ALL THE WORDS and want to get them down and on the page. Planning takes TIME! Ruins the spontaneity. Who needs a plot? *rolls eyes*

My story can’t be forced. Plot will reveal itself. Like, it’s totally ORGANIC.

***Know what else is totally organic? Bull$#!t. Just food for thought 😉 .

Anyway, this type of writer might (mistakenly) believe that an outline or anything remotely resembling a structure equals ‘formulaic writing.’ I know, because I claimed that nonsense at one time as well.

Truth was, I wanted to play with my imaginary friends, and learning craft was hard and boring and looked way more like HARD WORK than I was comfortable with.

Also, obviously, I was an ‘exception’ due to my superior, innately born, and gifted-from-angels ‘talent.’ Thus, the rules applied to everyone but me, because *hair flip* I was smarter.

Yep, sure.

All excellent stories have structure, because a story is akin to a living organism. It needs BONES, because guess what had no bones? The Blob. If we want a squishy creature that just keeps getting bigger and bigger by absorbing more characters, descriptions, plot bunnies and adverbs?

Meet BLOB, not BOOK.

If pantsing is your jam, that’s fine. But authors who are excellent pantsers took time to learn and understand how story structure WORKS. Sometimes this is a person who’s read a gazillion books. They’ve read SO many novels, structure is almost ingrained into their marrow.

Perhaps they wrote a crap ton of bad books that fizzled and died. After years of writing utter crap, eventually they didn’t.

These authors are like the self-taught musician who plays by ear.

Problem with this approach is a writer is more likely to give up than be successful. A creative can only endure so many stillborn stories, before we just give up.

Been there.

A person who learns to play a guitar by listening to music and plucking around can possibly be AMAZING. However, classes covering even basics like finger positions and chords can help…a lot. The would-be guitarist will get to making something that sounds like actual ‘music’ far faster.

Thus, the self-sabotage is not the writer’s choice to be a pantser, rather the almost savage reaction to any suggestion regarding learning structure.

Deep down the reason the writer won’t consider a log-line, outline, basic plot points is because of two false beliefs. First, they believe if they ‘succumb’ to *shivers* structure, they therefore lack talent.

Only amateurs need paint-by-numbers. <—me

Secondly, they might also believe they really DON’T have talent/ability. Thus, if they actually read the books and took the classes, they’d have no reason NOT to write amazing stories. <—totally me, too

Fearing authentic failure, the Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death crowd makes certain to always pick the path that leads to ‘something other than them’ being the source of failure. This could be failure to ever finish, or failure to write a book that sells (either to an agent or an audience).

I’m not writing the right genre. The idea wasn’t as good as I thought. Nobody is reading BLAH genre. My book isn’t bad, it’s ‘literary’ and agents/editors/readers just don’t ‘get’ my story.

Whatever.

Any excuse other than to admit fear of not ‘having enough talent.’

Self-Sabotage—The Craft Class JUNKIE

self-sabotage, how writers self-sabotage, writing and productivity, writing tips, how to get published, write more books, Kristen Lamb, procrastination, writers and procrastination, fear and creativity

Knowing Amazon is chock full of ‘novels’—self-indulgent personal fantasy fulfillment tropes with no plot—this writer goes to the OTHER extreme. They hit the books, blogs, classes, conferences and do all the exercises. The Craft Class Junkie is a near relative of the professional college student.

This writer is perfectly okay, so long as their ‘knowledge’ is never actually put to the test. While brilliant regarding theoretical, they cave when it comes to practical application. Writers like this are always exploring various ‘methods.’

In fact, they likely never choose any method, or at least not long enough to finish and see it through. To practice with it until they are skilled.

See, writing is really, really freaking hard. Like the Give Me Liberty or Death group, Craft Junkies believe (again mistakenly) that if they were ‘good’ enough, writing a story would NOT be hard.

Which is total bunk.

Thus, the Craft Junkie might start out with the Snowflake Method, hit the inevitable second act slump, then shelve the story…because you know, snowflakes are flaky and it just wasn’t working. The story really needed this method or that method.

The Write A Novel in a Week By Channeling Your Spirit Animal! Now THAT’S the ticket.

Envision your story squirrel and merely describe what your story squirrel sees in as many words as possible.

The Liberty or Death and the Craft Junkie are two sides of the same coin.

The pantser is at least willing to write…a lot. Even if they have no idea where the hell they’re going, they at least GO. This writer actually NEEDS the craft training.

Conversely the Craft Junkie is incredibly educated, but it’s all theoretical. This author needs actual practice.

Writing is actually a trade/artisan skill which requires training AND loads of practice, practical experience, and yes…failure.

Self-Sabotage—The Background BOSS

self-sabotage, how writers self-sabotage, writing and productivity, writing tips, how to get published, write more books, Kristen Lamb, procrastination, writers and procrastination, fear and creativity

Maybe we wrote some ‘stories’ or ‘novels’ and realized we had a bunch of paper dolls, talking heads, and kept writing ourselves into a corner. Eager to get to writing (with or without an outline) we jumped the gate. We failed to take time to really know and understand our characters.

Thus, we commit to knowing every character intimately from their favorite cereal to the name of their first kitten. We will open every psychological door!

Problem is, we can fall in LOVE with the background.

Backstory is to the novel what crossfit is to sports.

Seems close to the real thing but isn’t. We can self-sabotage with planning and more planning and adding more layers.

Backstory is fun because we have no skin in the game. It isn’t our NOVEL, which will actually test our mettle. It’s the intensive activity that permits a thrill of storytelling without any of the commitment.

Like doing crossfit, I can become extremely fit, which is fantastic if my goal is to simply be super fit.

It is only when I commit to applying this crossfit training to something else (a sport) that my ‘activities’ become more than rolling around large tires and swinging kettlebells. Application is the only place my strength, endurance, and dexterity can truly be measured.

Backstory is CRUCIAL. In fact, Cait is teaching a class on backstory I STRONGLY recommend. But if we aren’t vigilant, it can end up the writer equivalent of dragging around a tractor tire and believing this is progress. Backstory is to help make us the best at writing great novels, not number one at creating character profiles.

Backstory is IN THE PAST

Meaning it’s already happened. The true test of a storyteller is to use the past create an unknown future.

Sure, Fifi has had a bad life, but when presented with a problem that pokes her wounds, HOW DOES SHE DEAL/OR NOT DEAL?

Yet, the Backstory Boss isn’t comfortable going forward because that’s scary, and the past has passed and is safer.

Just as the crossfitter knows she can do cherry-pickers all day, she’s possibly afraid that, if she played field hockey or soccer or started doing roller derby, she might be terrible. Same with the writer who’s self-sabotage manifests in a ton of busy-work.

They’re endlessly tweaking backstories or even trashing perfectly good backstories and starting over…and over.

And over.

There is an insidious addiction to preparation and yet never enough preparation to commit to the ACTUAL GAME. Fear of failure, rejection, success all powers the self-sabotage cycle. #AskMeHowIKnow

Self-Sabotage—The Research Hoarder

self-sabotage, how writers self-sabotage, writing and productivity, writing tips, how to get published, write more books, Kristen Lamb, procrastination, writers and procrastination, fear and creativity

Research MATTERS. Granted, some genres require more research than others. Cupcake Cozy vs. Epic Historical. Totally different levels of research, but might want to know a little about baking even for the cozy.

Trust me, I’m writing a horror set in the Old West. I can affirm that learning how to write historical has been an @$$ beating. I’ve read everything from Mark Twain to St. Augustine, to Goethe. I’ve watched countless documentaries, studied food, weapons, cooking, clothing, idiomatic expressions, medicine, global politics, *taps out*.

Yes, I HAD to research to make dead certain this story could reasonably happen. Granted, it is a Western Horror, but the speculative angle doesn’t give me a free pass on history/research.

As my coauthor (Cait) has lectured me, my characters cannot be riding train cars not yet invented or passing through towns not yet imagined, let alone established.

Yes, ma’am *whimpers and fetches ice pack*

In fact, research is critical for my world-building (I.e. the barber having a corner chair at the saloon pulling teeth while patrons eat and drink nearby).

Yet, there is a fine line between wanting the details to be correct ‘enough’ versus wanting them to be PERFECT. Perfect is the enemy of the finished. We will never write a perfect novel, so don’t try.

Remember the AUDIENCE

Yes, please research. It’s part of our JOB to know and understand the world we’re writing about. We’re also wise to appreciate that readers will gravitate to our novel because they LOVE the subject. It is prudent to appreciate our audience might even be knowledgable.

Thus, if we’re writing a mystery-suspense with a homicide detective as our MC, we BETTER know how that all works, because our AUDIENCE likely does. NOTE: Unless this is OUR professional background, our audience is probably NOT law enforcement (because they can’t watch Miami CSI without suffering an aneurism).

Much like if we write medical mysteries, medical personnel probably NOT our audience because they watched House once, and nearly died…of laughter.

Relax, Already

Sure retired lawyers, detectives, doctors, etc. write stories that even people who share their profession might enjoy…if they enjoy reading about WORK in their free time. But even the pros must take liberties for fiction.

Our audience generally will be people who know the broad strokes of these worlds (the ‘interesting parts’), but know them very, very well. They know about blood transfer, blood spatter, ballistics, Luminol, body lividity, etc.

Suspense, mystery, thriller readers are people who’ve watched so many episodes of Forensic Files they yell at murderers on Dateline the same way men yell at football games.

Seriously? You PAID the hit man with a PERSONAL CHECK under the video cameras at Taco BELL? You deserve the needle.

Or maybe it’s just me.

Anyway, the audience will (likely) know who does what job when and where and how. This means we (the authors) should know this stuff, too.

But, in the end, fiction is NOT reality.

self-sabotage, how writers self-sabotage, writing and productivity, writing tips, how to get published, write more books, Kristen Lamb, procrastination, writers and procrastination, fear and creativity

To paraphrase Hitchcock, ‘Fiction is life with the boring crap taken out.’ Accuracy, to a degree, draws readers into the fictive dream.

Yet, if we were completely accurate, then a murder mystery would be 400,000 pages long and detail excruciating paperwork for warrants, multiple interviews, polygraphs, interrogations, months waiting on DNA, CODIS, filing MORE paperwork, and answering every crackpot tip on the hotline.

Also gotta make sure the unit secretary Brenda Baffleghast’s retirement party is included because, you know…authenticity.

Oh and remember to include the local psychic who saw the murderer’s face burned on her toast!

Research is vital because the better we do this scouring, the easier it is to work seamlessly within our world without interrupting creative flow. The deeper the well to draw from, the richer the story, the more opportunities to create magic.

Beware of paralysis by analysis.

It is OKAY not to know everything…so long as we nail the major stuff.

I cannot have my MC traveling through the Fort Worth Stock Yards in 1860 BECAUSE IT DID NOT EXIST UNTIL 1876. 

This is a major point and something I reasonably should have researched and know while plotting.

Alas, expect some research troll to appear, majorly miffed who will write a detailed two-star review saying crap like, ‘Well, I couldn’t get into the book. The railroad didn’t use the gringle-doffer-doodle-mabobber until 1875 and the author has it in 1874. After that? I was totally thrown out of the story. I mean did the author even TRY?’

Sure did. Just not nearly as hard as you tried to be a total @$$…

At the end of the day…

All these ways of self-sabotage are not in and of themselves BAD or WRONG. It took me starting and never being able to finish 27 ‘novels’ for me to get a clue and maybe read a craft book…or ALL OF THEM. I ended up going to the OTHER extreme and was terrified to WRITE until I knew…EVERYTHING.

I’m not a plotter or pantser, I’m a plotser 😀 .

I have a hard-drive bursting with fantastic backstories I will likely never use. Not to mention I’ve listened to over TWO THOUSAND hours of audio books in less than two years. This is NOT counting time spent reading paper books or e-books on my Kindle, articles, papers….or the books taped behind my toilet.

Suffice to say my ‘research’ might have gone a tad…okay completely off the rails.

But I am much better now…. *drools*

So if you’ve been hiding in any of these self-sabotage safe spaces, it’s okay. The one leaving cookie crumbs? Probably me.

What Are Your Thoughts?

I love hearing from you! Did you see yourself in any of these ‘profiles’ or maybe…ALL of them? *hangs head* Have any to add? How do you struggle? If you’ve overcome one of these self-sabotaging habits, do you have tips, suggestions, war stories?

And if the BOG OF BACKSTORY is where you get stuck, remember Cait is teaching how to do this well…without needing safety line to make sure you return to your loved ones 🙂 .

Backstory—The Yarn Behind the Book

June 8th with USA Today Best-Selling Author Cait Reynolds

NEW CLASSES! ALL About the KICK@$$ FEMALES! 

Beyond the Princess Prodigy: Strong Females in Fantasy & Historical

Class starts the morning of 6/16/18 with USA Today Best-Selling Author Cait Reynolds 11:30 AM EST to 1:30 PM EST ($45)

Beyond Bullet-Proof Barbie: Strong Female Characters for a Modern World

The NEXT class starts the afternoon of 6/16/18 with ME, Kristen Lamb 2:00 PM EST to 4:00 MP EST ($45)

WANT DOUBLE THE DAME DANGER? Get the BUNDLE and SAVE!

Dangerous Dames Bundle: Pirate Princess to Bulletproof Barbie

Both Cait AND me for FOUR AND A HALF HOURS! Squeee! SAVE $15 for the alcohol you might need afterwards to…celebrate 😀 ($75)

***Recordings included with purchase to reduce chances of ODing on AWESOME.

Running, marathon, heartbreak hill, Boston marathon, writing, Curse

It’s Cait Reynolds blog time, which, as you know, is probably both a blessing and a curse. Haven’t blogged for a while but, it’s like the old Country & Western song: How Can I Miss You if You Won’t Go Away? But yes, I’m back which might be a blessing or a curse.

Speaking of curses, that’s what I’m here to talk about today.

Writers tend to be a superstitious bunch, much like runners. Even the most skeptical among us can tell when the stars are not aligned on a writing day. Runners can feel when their bodies just aren’t hitting on all cylinders.

From drinking the same tea while writing to wearing lucky socks for race day, many of us can’t help but look for and cling to signs/omens/Tarot readings for encouragement.

Because we ALL need encouragement.

But, sometimes, there comes a moment when it feels like all the forces of nature are against us. No amount of stretching our prose or IT bands seems to make any difference. It’s positively spooky how blocked we get.

Now, living in Boston and being both a runner and a Red Sox fan, I consider myself something of an expert in curses. I mean, it took Bruce Springsteen’s rock n’ roll exorcism during his concert at Fenway Park to lift the curse of the Bambino…and that year, we finally won the World Series.

You can’t tell me that ish doesn’t work.

Running, marathon, heartbreak hill, Boston marathon, writing, Curse
Do you know how hard it was to find funny Boston memes without the f-bomb for this post? DO YOU?!! DO YOU F*$#@*&* APPRECIATE WHAT I DO FOR YOU????!!!!

I also happen to be descended from a long line of eerily prescient/omniscient/ohnoshedidn’t Slavic women who can look right into your soul and see you didn’t wash your hands after using the public restroom.

Yeah. I know my curses.

Now, settle in, my loves. Ignore the goat demon in the corner. He’s harmless. Mostly. Oh, and careful with the salt circle. Summoning with a smudged salt circle can be…messy.

29 and Feeling Fine

writing tips, how to write a novel, Boston Marathon, Boston Red Sox, writing tips, curse, Cait Reynolds, Heartbreak Hill, writing success

Like all curses, the Mile 25 Curse begins with the seduction of possibility, invincibility, and a good pair of running shoes.

We get the Big Idea. Get all excited, develop characters, settings, plot, outlines. When we jump in, it’s both feet first and hit the ground running like we are our very own NaNoWriMo on meth.

The words are flowing. It’s easy. Effortless. This time…this time is gonna be different. We’re going to ride that wave of effortless all the way through to THE END. It’s just gonna flow.

It’s like that first run, when we blast our way through 1.5 miles at a blistering 14:06/mi pace. Hardcore, man.

We blow through the first 29,000-30,000 words of a full-length novel in record time. And it’s good work. Some of our best. We’re in it to win it, and this is rocking!

We’ve reached the end of Act I, and now, our characters are on their way. Only, the yellow brick road turns out to be paved with the broken backs of melting Peeps, and now, we’re running on a road that’s slow, sticky, and somewhat distressing.

Welcome to HELL…or Act II. Too many writers mistakenly believe writing a novel is a sprint or a fun run. No, it’s a marathon that requires training, preparations, patience and a very high pain tolerance.

Because all novelists will eventually hit…

The Heartbreak Hill of the WIP

But hey, we’ve got a plan. We’ve got an outline. The fresh idealism of the first 30,000 words has worn off, but we kinda knew this was going to happen. We had hoped it wouldn’t. But, it did. Just like we wish training for a 10k simply felt like training for two 5ks…but it’s sooo not.

So, it’s not totally shocking, and while it may take a few days to resign ourselves to the fact Act II will always be a slower, harder slog, we’re ready to soldier on.

The first stirrings of real unease might pop up around 40,000-45,000 words. We feel a little proud we’ve gotten this far. That’s a lot of words, probably around a halfway point for the whole book.

It’s also the Heartbreak Hill of our story.

Heartbreak Hill is the cruelest mile of the Boston Marathon. It’s a steady 3.3% incline for more than 2 km. Now, that may not seem like much, but remember, runners have already done 20.6 miles. There have been shorter, steeper climbs and longer, quad-punishing downhills.

Boston Marathon sign at Heartbreak Hill

Runners are caked in salt, blood, and sticky dried Gatorade. It could be beating down icy rain or unseasonably hot. Healed injuries are tweaking, threatening to unravel. The playlist is failing to inspire. Even the kisses and oranges from the Wellesley College girls (both offered freely to all) can’t quite distract from the pain.

All the cowbell in the world can’t help you now.

2014 Boston Marathon: the famous Wellesley kissing line.
Wellesley College student Lauren Dow solicited and RECEIVED kisses from the passing runners. Section: Sports, Suzanne Kreiter/Globe staff

Writers and runners slow and walk a few steps, cry a little, then grit their teeth and get back in the game. Because it’s only 5.6 miles or 45,000 words to the finish line. This is the hardest test of what we are made of. Can we ENDURE?

We got this….*weeps*

The Mile 25 Curse

I used to live right at mile 25 of the Boston Marathon, which is just before Kenmore Square (mile 25.2), where the crowds really start going wild. From Kenmore, it’s just one more mile to the finish line.

But there’s one last nasty surprise for runners. To get to Kenmore Square, they have to run over the I-90 overpass, a mini-Heartbreak Hill. It’s the psych-out sucker punch. CURSE it ALL!

Boston Marathon sign

For writers, that moment of despair generally comes at the end of Act II, or about 60,000 words-ish. It’s a sudden existential inadequacy and dread:

Oh-my-God-this-is-the-worst-stuff-I’ve-ever-written-what-was-I-thinking-is-it-too-late-to-take-up-Olympic-curling-as-a-career-instead-who-would-want-to-read-this-crap-I-suck-as-a-writer-I-should-just-go-crawl-in-a-hole-and-die.

You know…something like that.

Every writer faces a Mile 25 Curse moment. There are no talismans to protect us against it, no surefire cures. We are alone and unprepared to face our demons. Every. Single. Time.

The Mile 25 Curse can make us abandon our WIP to chase fluffy plot bunnies that PROMISE to be easier to write and give us instant fame, fortune, and a lifetime supply of Diet Coke.

The curse doesn’t care if our WIP is any good. It doesn’t care about our dreams. It has one goal: to trip us up before the finish line.

There are runners who collapse at mile 25 in the Boston Marathon, physically and mentally pushed beyond their limit. There are also the runners who slow to a walk as they digest the grim reality of one last hill. You can see them weighing the options in their heads. Should I just give up and walk the rest of the way? Do I have it in me?

How badly do I want this?

They take a deep breath…and resume running, even if it’s merely a limping jog. No way they’ve come this far to just give up.

So, they just keep running.

The Finish Line

And, really, that’s what I’m trying to tell you today. Keep pressing. Mile 25 is a finite thing. It is one mile…or 5,280 ft….or 1,500 steps, and each step brings you that much closer to the finish line.

Spencer the Boston Marathon dog will cheer you on!

When we are at the end of Act II, there isn’t that much further to go. It’s another 15,000-20,000 words at most for Act III. We know how the story is going to end (or should) and what needs to happen. There’s no more slogging through the confusing, mushy bits we’re not sure of in Act II.

This is a final sprint for the FINISH!

A marathon is about crossing the finish line. It isn’t about sashaying, moon-walking, or pronking across it. How we cross doesn’t matter. We simply have to cross it, limping, bloody, and shaking from way too much caffeine after writing the worst 12,000 words of our lives.

Nobody looks good crossing the finish line of a race. Even the 100-meter dash–sure, it’s not far enough that hair and makeup get mussed, but there’s the awkward ‘runner face’ everyone makes, which is halfway between the putting-on-mascara face and the O-face.

Not even Kenyans look their best at a finish line.

I have yet to finish a book and wake up the next morning looking like a million dollars. It’s more that I look like a reject extra for The Walking Dead. I probably smell like a reject extra from The Walking Dead, too, because who has time to shower when we’re 4,000 from the finish line?

The point is, it doesn’t matter if you are sweaty, blotchy, puffy, a drippy mess from allergies, or prone to random hysterical laughter by the time you finish your book. YOU FINISHED.

And as a fellow writer and perhaps a fellow runner…I’ll be there to cheer you on!

Coach Cait is ready! (Post-run on a GOOD day)

***

Thank You CAIT!

Kristen here. If anyone ever sees me running? RUN FOR YOUR $%#@#$% LIFE! Because there is something with teeth or a chainsaw behind me.

But, whether we are runners or not, writing is an endurance sport. I choose motherhood, grappling in Jiu Jitsu, and time with my mother to train my endurance. It helps 🙂 .

***Scroll down for new classes from Cait and for On Demand classes for hardcore storytelling training from MOI!

What Are Your Thoughts?

I love hearing from you!

Do you find yourself starting and never finishing? Is this from lack of planning? Failing to fully prepare? Not enough training? Maybe underestimating HOW FREAKING HARD writing a novel ACTUALLY is?

Are you being too hard on yourself? A commenter last time was really down she couldn’t finish her FIRST ‘novel.’ Hell, it took me no less than FIFTEEN ‘novels’ before I finished. That whole ‘endurance training thing’ 😉 .

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 PLUS ON DEMAND…

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.

The Yarn Behind the Book: Backstory

Instructor: Cait Reynolds

Price: $55.00 USD

Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom

When: Friday, June 1, 2018. 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST

Behind every good book is an entire story that happens before the reader ever opens to page one. This is the backstory, and done right, it is what sets the stage, provides clues and cues, and rescues you from writer’s block.

A good backstory will help with logic and consistency in the plot, developing complex motivations for characters, and sorting out exactly what needs to happen going forward as you either plot or pants your way to the end.

This class will cover the following topics – and much more:

  • The elements of a backstory;
  • How to take your current plot idea and work backwards into a backstory;
  • Integrating character profiles and the backstory;
  • How the backstory relates to the logline and synopsis;
  • Using the backstory to dig yourself out of corners and shake off writer’s block;
  • Why a backstory is crucial to writing a series.

A recording of this class is also included with purchase.

About the Instructor:

Cait Reynolds is a USA Today Bestselling Author and lives in the Boston area with her husband and neurotic dog. She discovered her passion for writing early and has bugged her family and friends with it ever since. When she isn’t cooking, running, or enjoying the rooftop deck that brings her closer to the stars, she writes.

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

Amazon, authors, digital age authors, writing, self-publishing, how to sell more books, Kristen Lamb, how to write better books, story

Last time, I brought up a subject I never believed would warrant discussing—cockygate.  I wish this was the first time a writer did something epically misguided to gain advantage. Some drama to sell their ‘story.’ But, I’ve been around too long. Seen too much.

Yes, I was there for the BIG BANG (dot.com implosion). I also witnessed Web 2.0 shoot out of the dying Web 1.0’s ribcage then skitter up into the vents.

Where did it GO? What is it up to? What does it WANT?

Good Question

Amazon, authors, digital age authors, writing, self-publishing, how to sell more books, Kristen Lamb, how to write better books, story

As early as 2004, I projected the digital tsunami that was going to obliterate the world as we knew it.

Why is ‘Age of Aquarius’ suddenly stuck in my head?

Anyway, it began with Napster and Tower Records, then Kodak, blah blah and starting in 2006 I began blogging and predicting the next industry to fall…and the next…and even how and roughly when it would happen. All along I insisted publishing and writers needed to be prepared because we were also in its path.

Over the course my first years as a ‘social media/branding expert’ (an occupation widely regarded as a made-up job like ‘unicorn groomer’) I noted a trend.

Pretty much every year, new and evolved ‘bright idea fairies’ (BIFs) hatched with frightening regularity. This trend continues because shortcuts are tempting. Um…cockygate.

Enough said.

BIFs masquerade as a super cool idea, when in reality they’re total gimmicks that do more harm than good.

***Which is why I dedicated a year of research to write Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World.

Social platforms change all the time.

Know what never changes? People.

Just read Shakespeare, watch Dateline, or go look up your ex on FB. People don’t change. This is why I wrote Rise of the Machines to be evergreen.

Only now I may need to update because cockygate sucker-punched us all. I feel like Proctor & Gamble now having to warn teenagers not to eat Tide Pods *sighs*.

Story Matters

Amazon, authors, digital age authors, writing, self-publishing, how to sell more books, Kristen Lamb, how to write better books, story

Yes, really.

We writers are wise to remember a few fundamentals. Stories are for the reader. Story is our product. Readers are our customers who pay money for our product. Readers want a good…story. They really want a superlative story.

Far too many authors don’t need better marketing skills, they need better storytelling skills.

This is simple, though simple is rarely easy. Superior stories are more crucial than ever if we take a quick peek at our industry.

See, when Amazon scope-locked on publishing, they knew exactly how to dismantle the establishment. According to the ancient self-help inspirational guru Sun Tzu, there are only two forms of warfare—direct and oblique.

Amazon is all about the oblique.

Who wanted to go head-to-head with The Big Six? Like, be a real publisher who discovers and cultivates awesome books? How derivative *flips hair*.

Nope. Amazon was not about to face off with NYC where legacy publishing had over a century of dominance. Besides, too much work. Instead?

Get rid of gatekeepers. Open the market to anyone who wanted to string a bunch of sentences together and call it a story. In turn, they get to call themselves ‘published authors.’ Win-win!

Not all of it was bad.

Amazon was banking that excellent books had fallen through the traditional model cracks (very true). They also gambled that some authors not only had a good book, but also possessed sound business skills (also true). Then, there were all these hungry, innovative writers eager to be cut loose and try new ideas like the blog-to-book.

The Martian never would have happened under the old regime.

There were also plenty of traditionally published New York Times best-selling authors and USA Today best-selling authors with HUGE backlists…that NY mothballed. #OUCH

Paper was heavy and expensive and the big-box-bookstore only had so much shelf-space. This meant making royalties off only the most recent title (instead of compounded royalties off 10, 20 or 50 titles).

Amazon offered a place to get these already vetted stories back into reader hands.

The only major advantage traditional publishers ever had was distribution. Yet, in a world of 0s and 1s, this advantage disappeared.

Tough truth.

Amazon doesn’t invest in authors or books. They don’t make money off one book selling a million copies. It’s far easier to make money off a hundred thousand ‘writers’ selling ten books. And, Laws of Probability dictate that, out of that hundred thousand writers, a runaway hit will emerge and with that?

A DREAM.

Between mid-list defectors and undiscovered gems, Amazon has reinvented the American Dream for writers. They also reasonably wagered it would only take a few years before legacy publishing would no longer be the first choice for many emerging authors.

The lure of these success stories would be too much to resist.

Problem was, this meant the slush-pile landed square in the readers’ laps.

Story Solutions

Amazon, authors, digital age authors, writing, self-publishing, how to sell more books, Kristen Lamb, how to write better books, story

In this new business model we do have options. We can chase the next ad/promotion/algorithm/writing gimmick like a cat after a red dot. Or we can get back to basics, the ‘stuff’ that’s worked since the beginning of time.

Earlier I mentioned humans don’t change. If we fully grasp this, building a platform becomes far easier. So does writing.

Humans have longed for great stories since the HUGE stick and ‘ability to make fire’ was the most advanced tech available.

Sadly, in the digital age, too many writers rush, either out of newbie enthusiasm or veteran panic. Emerging authors often rush the learning curve (how to actually WRITE a good story). Veteran authors who know how to write, frequently cave to rushing the process.

Faster isn’t always better. It’s like microwaving a turkey. Takes only a fraction of the time, but who wants to eat THAT?

Tips for Better Stories

Ditch the Derivative

Readers want the same but different. Bad copies of stories that are ‘hot’ are simply bad copies. My challenge is for all of us to use that robust imagination for the powers of good. Amateurs retool stories. Artists reimagine them 😉 .

A Thousand Acres—King Lear on an Iowa farm.

Wicked—The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West—There’s always more than one point of view. Let’s hear from the ‘other’ side, shall we?

The Wife Between Us—Fantastic mind-bending story. It’s as if the famous play (movie) Gaslight and Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train had a baby. But namely, it’s Gaslight reimagined in the modern world.

There are way too many tired tropes so have fun. Can you change time, setting, perspective or characters and create something fresh and new, but rooted in pedigree? What about a new story that gives the ‘real’ scoop on an old one?

Jack the Ripper as a female, a virtuous wife betrayed. The killings are motivated by a woman scorned and shamed. Could happen 😛 .

Cinderella as a serial killer. Red Riding Hood as an Old West outlaw. The Little Mermaid as a vengeful stalker (Fatal Attraction) *wink wink*. ALL THE FUN!

Y’all get the gist and Cait has a class coming up that can teach y’all how to think in new and perverse…creative ways in her class Once Upon a Plot: Retelling Myths & Fairytales.

Leave the Low-Hanging Fruit

All stories need some amount of description. Yet, I’m challenging ALL OF US to try harder. I see all kinds of samples where the hero/heroine has emerald, jade, amethyst, sapphire, onyx, (pick any precious or semi-precious stone) eyes. Hair color is like a bad drop-down menu—raven, copper, spun gold, etc.

Her eyes were blue as the Western sky.

Never read that before *rolls eyes*.

To an extent we ALL do it. I’ve done it, too. So one judgy finger pointed at y’all and THREE back at me. Yet, here’s the thing.

We are wordsmiths, and wordsmiths should be able to write a better description than any random non-writer challenged to pen a description.

His eyes were like dazzling emeralds.

Wow. Bet that burned some brain cells to come up with.

Dig deeper. Sure, sometimes we want to keep it simple so we don’t wear out a reader being super clever all the time. On the other hand, can we do a better job than penning a description we might give to a police sketch artist?

He had a shaved head, scars, big nose and ears…

Be CREATIVE!

He had the face of a man who loved to pick fights, but wasn’t any good at fighting.

Just leaving that there 😉 .

Throw a Wrench in Everything

Stories are about problems. PERIOD. Three hundred pages of pretty sentences is not a novel. It’s three hundred pages of pretty sentences. Using a crap ton of fancy words only proves we know how to use a thesaurus…and maybe should be banned from owning one.

Description is not story.

Everyone getting along is not story…it’s a sedative.

All stories have ONE core problem that must be resolved. Until that happens? Welcome to hell. No one agrees and nothing comes easily and anything that can go wrong does…twice. The MC must solve the core story problem and the crucible is never curved.

No one respects someone who wins without working for it in life…or fiction 😉 .

***Scroll down to On Demand classes for hardcore storytelling training from MOI!

What Are Your Thoughts?

I love hearing from you!

Do you struggle being a sadist to your characters? Did you do like me and look at your descriptions and go, ‘Wow, I should totally try harder’ *face palm*?

Did I maybe get the brain percolating? Mine is.

I now want to write Hansel & Gretel in the 1920s as Bonnie & Clyde-style gangsters and candy is a metaphor for BOOZE and SEX….

*Cait slaps me hard*

OWWW! *rubs back of head*

Or not.

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 PLUS ON DEMAND…

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.

The Yarn Behind the Book: Backstory

Instructor: Cait Reynolds

Price: $55.00 USD

Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom

When: Friday, June 1, 2018. 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST

Behind every good book is an entire story that happens before the reader ever opens to page one. This is the backstory, and done right, it is what sets the stage, provides clues and cues, and rescues you from writer’s block.

A good backstory will help with logic and consistency in the plot, developing complex motivations for characters, and sorting out exactly what needs to happen going forward as you either plot or pants your way to the end.

This class will cover the following topics – and much more:

  • The elements of a backstory;
  • How to take your current plot idea and work backwards into a backstory;
  • Integrating character profiles and the backstory;
  • How the backstory relates to the logline and synopsis;
  • Using the backstory to dig yourself out of corners and shake off writer’s block;
  • Why a backstory is crucial to writing a series.

A recording of this class is also included with purchase.

About the Instructor:

Cait Reynolds is a USA Today Bestselling Author and lives in the Boston area with her husband and neurotic dog. She discovered her passion for writing early and has bugged her family and friends with it ever since. When she isn’t cooking, running, or enjoying the rooftop deck that brings her closer to the stars, she writes.

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.

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

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

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 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.

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

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 

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

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