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Kristen Lamb

Author, Blogger, Social Media Jedi

Kristen Lamb — Photo

Posts Tagged: becoming a writer

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of jayneandd

My goal for this blog has always, always, always been to be honest with you guys, to offer tough love and guidance and support. Because the world has three kinds of people, but two are the most common. Two are not exactly helpful and can be downright toxic. We will start with these folks, then move on to how to win that race!

The Discourager (Enemy)

This is the person who’s going to tell you what you’re unable to do. That it’s too hard, that you’re stupid for even trying.

You want to be a successful author? Seriously? Everyone can be published. It means nothing. Do you have any idea the competition that’s out there? You need a mega-marketing budget and even then you’ll probably fail.

Okay I need to stop there because I’m depressing myself.

These people are poison and I’ve dedicated many a blog to showing you why they need to go and giving tips for getting these people OUT of your life. They need to go if you hope to do ANYTHING remarkable.

The Sugar Coater (False Ally)

Original image via Lucy Downey from Flickr Creative Commons

Then there is the sugar-coater. This person might tell you it’s easy to make a million dollars writing a book…if you just BUY and DO this plan. A lot of folks out there willing to sell a dream. So caveat emptor there. This type of sugar-coater has lots to gain, namely money.

Yet, when we are chasing gimmicks, we’re not doing the two most important activities every writer must do—writing more books, building that platform/brand.

The sugar-coater might also be people around us in, say a critique group, who tell us everything we write is better than unicorn hair. Friends who think everything we write is genius.

While these folks are great encouragers, they might not be what we need. Too much sugar bad for us ūüėČ .

We might really need a tough and honest editor/critique partner to show us that maybe we don’t know as much as we believed we did. That we still have a LONG way to go and in love, offer constructive criticism.

The True Ally

Original image courtesy of Flickr Creatinve Commons, courtesy of Ali Samieivafa.

I want to give you guys a balance of love and encouragement because, to be blunt, most of us have an entire family filled with discouragers. Conversely, I also want to be honest. This is a tough job. Writing a work that spans 60K-120K words (and having that sucker actually make frigging sense) is NOT EASY.

I want you to be gentle with yourselves. There IS a learning curve. But, also step it up. We’re often capable of far more than we realize.

Parkinson’s Law states that¬†work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.¬†Often we think that if we could only write full-time we’d be machines, turning out book after book. Not always the case and this is why deadlines are crucial.

I find that if I have all day to do something, I get sidetracked and I’m inefficient. I wander off, start on unrelated tasks. Yet, shorten the time I have to do something? And I am ON FIRE!

This is one of the reasons that I’ve run writing sprints on WANATribe every day for almost 18 months…even when I’m the only one there. I set the timer for 40 minutes for the push. How much can I get accomplished in 40 minutes?

Often? A hell of a lot more than I would have believed.

The ally will call us on our own BS. If we’re overextending ourselves? They’ll tell us to knock it off, eat something green and for the love of all that is chocolate…take a NAP.

If we’re going day after day and week after week not producing pages? And we whine we haven’t had time. The true ally will remind us we had time for Facebook and that Firefly marathon and to get our ass to work.

As Your TRUE ALLY, Here is Some Advice

I can carry you, Little Buddy.

Okay so y’all know I finally released a novel The Devil’s Dance after years of writing only non-fiction. Totally new gig for me. It was also pretty terrifying for a number of reasons beyond the usual.

First, I teach craft and have been haunted by that terrible saying: Those who can DO and those who can’t TEACH. Deep down I know it isn’t true, but stuff doesn’t need to be true to still freak us the hell out and keep us up at night.

My fiction would be out there. Did I happen to learn any of what I taught?

Second, I also teach that platform is critical for any kind of success. I’ve released books with a platform and without and can—from experience—tell you which is preferable. My first NF took months to be a blip on the radar versus the second NF launching to the top five of major categories on Amazon like Business and Marketing in less than 24 hours. #GoMe

But I’ve also claimed that if you build a platform the way I teach that we can switch genres, that the brand is US. So, when I was releasing a mystery-thriller when I was known as a NF branding expert? I got to be my own test case.

Did I instantly become a USA Today runaway best-seller hitting #1 in ALL categories AND have a movie deal by the weekend because Reese Witherspoon read my book and loved it and just HAD to produce it?

YES! I DID! #OMGOMGOMG

And then I woke up from my nap. *sobs*

I didn’t. But I did really well for a first novel, breaking the top 200 in multiple categories. Got a bunch of great reviews, reviews that made me sob with joy that 15 years of hell had been worth it. Additionally, my theory on platforms held solid. I already had a base of people eager to buy and read and spread the word.

But let’s face it, fiction is a whole new leg of the race for me and I need to earn my stripes. I have more of my theories to test, namely that it takes more than one book to gain the real traction. I saw this with NF and now? Get to test it with fiction, too. We shall see how it goes.

The RACE

Image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Pedro Travassos

We are all in a race and we are racing with the goal of winning. Thing is though, we all have our OWN race. What is success for me is not necessarily success for you. But the key to winning your race is to keep your eyes on your finish line.

Ever run track? Most of us have even if it was forced upon us in P.E. class. When you’re running toward that goal line, the fastest way to trip, to even fall, to lose momentum and any kind of lead? Look at where other racers are.

You know, you turn your head to check and see how far your lead is and then *ass over elbows*.

Same with writing. Truth is, writers are not in actual competition with one another. Books are not so cost-prohibitive readers cannot buy more than one. Readers can have multiple favorite authors.

You guys know I am a huge fan of writers helping writers, connecting, learning, supporting. In fact, the genius dream team Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi…creators of the, well this is easier… (do yourself a favor and just get them all )¬†I recommend the paper versions.

I knew these ladies before they’d ever even completed The Emotion Thesaurus¬†(their first resource) and was even a very happy guinea pig. Since that ground-breaking resource (as you can see from above) they have come out with many more and even launched an on-line resource One Stop for Writers.

Yet, despite their AMAZING success, they took time to support ME. They wrote a post We’re in This Together: How to Help Other Authors Succeed¬†and not only are there some fantastic tips in here I didn’t even know (but will now do), they are raffling off copies of my book. I never asked them to do this, which explained the tears. SO much love there.

Ergo why I hammer platform, platform, platform. That community we build is going to be SO critical.

Yet, it would be easy for me to look at¬†The Emotion Thesaurus¬†and go, *sniff* Angela and Becca have 1,252 reviews. My book only has 168. Or Such-and-Such is at this rank and I am only here. Or they hit number one and I can’t even break out of the top 100,000.

THIS is when we are looking at other writers, but not in the correct way. This is the way that makes us stumble and fall because we are taking our eyes off OUR race.

Where Comparison Begins, Contentment ENDS

We need to embrace the whole of the writing experience. The challenges, the failures, the setbacks, the wins…ALL OF IT. If we are looking to another writer it needs to be to 1) love and support them or 2) learn from them.

If I compare my first draft of Sin Eater (the second Romi book) to¬†American Gods by Neil Gaiman, the book I am currently reading? I am going to give up…right after I lay waste to every carb in the house.

First, not even the same genre. Then Neil’s been at this a smidge longer than I have and also? I am reading a FINAL product.

We have to stop comparing our behind-the-scenes footage to the highlight reel of others. Comparison is a nasty, nasty habit and puts us on a path that leads nowhere we want to go.

And we all do it. Even me. Jealousy and comparison is natural and human, and research shows humans write better books than robots. But feel it (blip) then press on. This is me…

BE CONTENT BUT BE HUNGRY

Okay my first novel was so bad it’s now being kept in my garage because it bites. But so what?

Millions of people say they want to write a book if they could only find the time. Well I made the time and I finished. I was (eventually) content I had passed that threshold, but I had to remain hungry. Learn, improve, press on, make allies and on and on.

In the end, choose who you will run alongside of…a pride of lions or a pack of hyenas. It matters. Then run your race, keep your eyes there on YOUR finish line (then the next and the next). I cannot promise you this is easy, but I can promise it will be worth it.

What are your thoughts?

Do you struggle with comparison? I do. I’ve just learned to see it, turn away FAST and get my mind on MY race. It takes practice. Trust me. Are you getting too down on yourself? Failing to see what you HAVE accomplished and too focused and what you’re not? Where you lack? Where you could have been better, faster or whatever? Or have you gotten too content and forgotten to be hungry?

It’s okay. We have all been there.

LOVE hearing from you guys!

****The site is relatively new, and I am sorry you have to enter your information all over again to comment, but I am still working out the kinks. Also your comment won’t appear until I approve it, so don’t fret if it doesn’t appear right away.

Talk to me!

And to prove it and show my love, for the month of MAY, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

NEW CLASSES!

Obviously, I have my areas of expertise, but I’ve wanted for a long time to fill in some gaps on classes I could offer.

Cait Reynolds was my answer.

She is an unbelievable editor, mentor and teacher and a serious expert in these areas. She consults numerous very successful USA Today and NYTBS authors and I highly, highly recommend her classes.

OMG, Like How to Write Fleek YA July 7th $40 with Cait Reynolds

How to Dominate Your Sex Scenes (No Safe Words Here) July 14th $40 w/ Cait Reynolds

Gaskets and Gaiters: How to Create a Compelling Steampunk World July 21st $35 w/ Cait Reynolds 

Lasers & Dragons & Swords, Oh MY! World Building for Fantasy & Science Fiction 

July 28th w/ Cait Reynolds $35/ GOLD $75/ PLATINUM $125

Classes with MOI!

Pitch Perfect—How to Write a Query Letter & Synopsis that SELLS¬†May 25th $45

Plotting for Dummies July 13th $35 ($250 for GOLD)

Blogging for Authors July 20th $50 ($150 for GOLD)

Branding for Authors  July 7th $35

OTHER Classes with Cait Reynolds

Research for Historical Romance Writing РOr, How NOT to Lose Six Hours on Pinterest July 8th $35 for Basic/ $75 for GOLD / $125 for PLATINUM

Shift Your Shifter Romance into High Gear June 30th $35 Basic/ $75 GOLD/ $125 PLATINUM

Classes with Lisa Hall-Wilson

Growing An Organic Platform On Facebook June 24th $40

 

 

Image via Lisa Weidemeier WANA Commons
Image via Lisa Weidmeier WANA Commons

This is the first month of a new year and we all have our resolutions in place. But in order to succeed, we need to understand the terrain, the challenges we face. That’s what this series is going to address—Enemies of the Art. And yes, I am blogging five days a week now. My goal for this year is to master brevity.

Today’s enemy is Approval Addiction.

We all want approval. We long for admiration, a pat on the back, a nudge or a wink that tells us we have done something right. Yet, the dark side of this is that approval can be a drug. It lures us in with a rush that is fleeting. We start chasing the rush and can lose our art and ourselves if we aren’t careful.

My grandfather started out life on a cotton farm, reading books as he walked behind a plow, his pale skin fried to a crisp daily in the unrelenting Texas sun. He was willing to give up everything to escape the spiders that bit his hands and arms as he picked the bowls of cotton every harvest. At 16, he lied about his age, joined the Army, fought in WWII, used the G.I. bill to get his college education and used that degree to eventually grow a tiny drilling company to rule the NYSE. The company he built was a major rival for Halliburton. Though the oil bust of the 80s decimated the business, his story is still one of American greatness…

…and none of us could ever live up to it.

My father wanted to be a writer, but he wanted outside validation even more. Writing wasn’t a real job. In trying to gain approval, my dad ended up failing at every occupation he tried because he wasn’t being true to his gift. He died still writing poems and short stories in little notebooks, in between fixing bikes for $8 an hour. Tragically, he never earned the approval he so desperately wanted.

Before my father died, I’d fallen into the same people-pleasing trap. Yet, when my father passed suddenly, it was a splash of ice water in the face.

Who was I living for?

Quick History of Kristen’s People-Pleasing:

Was asked to do commercial modeling at age 14.

*table full of family members starts laughing* Kristen, thinks she’s going to be a model! You really should focus on what you have, brains not looks.

Won a full AFROTC scholarship to become a doctor, the most sought-after scholarship in the DOD.

You won? Wow, they must have been short on their quota for women.

Decided to open a green house-cleaning business to help put myself through school (FIFTEEN YEARS before “green” became the vogue thing).

Kristen, you aren’t good at math¬†(was tutoring Chemistry, Physics and Economics at the time). Everyone knows women aren’t good at business.

No matter what I did, the very people I was trying to please were never happy, and did you notice all the contradictions? When I wanted admiration for my looks, I only had smarts. When I sought approval for my smarts, I wasn’t all that bright.

Did they sit up all night thinking of ways to emotionally wreck me? No. They were likely being helpful, trying to spare me from pain. Maybe they were even jealous. They probably had the same crap said to them at one point.

Who knows and who cares? The thing is they never were happy and likely never would be either.

People-pleasing will kill your faith in yourself. It will distract you, drain you and the only one who will suffer is YOU. Last week we talked about burning our ships.  One of the major reasons we fail to strike the match is we fear rejection. Burn the ship of approval. Do this for you. Do it for the art.

This above all: to thine own self be true, and it must follow as the night the day. Thou canst not then be false to any other man.

¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ~Polonius’ advice to his son Laertes in Shakespeare’s¬†Hamlet.

Do you struggle with approval addiction? Have you had a hard time going against friends, family or even your spouse? What is your biggest challenge? Have you overcome approval addiction? How did you do it? Tell us about it. What tips might you 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. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. 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).

And also, winners have a limited time to claim the prize, because what’s happening is there are actually quite a few people who never claim the critique, so I never know if the spam folder ate it or to look for it and then people miss out. I will also give my corporate e-mail to insure we connect and I will only have a week to return the 20 page edit.

At the end of January I will pick a winner for the monthly prize. Good luck!

I also¬†hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books¬†We Are Not Alone‚ÄďThe Writer‚Äôs Guide to Social Media¬†and¬†Are You There, Blog? It‚Äôs Me, Writer¬†.¬†And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in the biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left to write great books.

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