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Kristen Lamb

Author, Blogger, Social Media Jedi

Kristen Lamb — Photo

Posts Tagged: Blog? It’s Me

Welcome to the eighteenth installment of Twitter Tuesday. In the spirit of Twitter, this blog will be short and sweet and to the point. The tips offered here are all based off my best-selling book We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media. If our goal is to build an author platform in the thousands to tens of thousands, then we will have to approach Twitter differently than a faceless corporation or even the regular person who does not possess a goal of becoming a brand. My tips will help you rule the Twitterverse without devolving into a spam bot.

This Week’s Fail Whale–The Hashtag Ho

Yes, Hashtag Ho. I thought Hashtag Hoarder might work, but Hashtag Ho was funnier. Oh, I have to be careful on this one, because I still am guilty of this if I am not careful. Hashtag Hoes loooove hashtags, and they use so many #s that the original message gets garbled and likely lost. (For those who don’t quite understand what #s do, go here).

#Writers! #Authors need to build a #social #media #platform to help sell #books and #ebooks and #manuscripts and make #friends so we can survive in #publishing. Go to my #blog about #blogging #pubtip #writegoal #writing #writer

I know that sometimes I have done this trying to make one tweet do ALL things, but I found I was missing the point when it came to Twitter. Twitter is about working as a team and building a group of friends we can count on to HELP us spread our message.

We are better off using only two or three #s, then having our community retweet (RT) and CHANGE the hashtags. Why? Well, there are a lot of people on Twitter who don’t know what the # does….so we probably just look like a lunatic with a Twitter virus that infests our messages with ##########. A good way to get unfollowed.

And others, who know what the # does might just see us as trying to take over as many # conversations as possible. In reality I think most of us are trying to be efficient, but we could be seen as rude. It is easy to forget that a message riddled with symbols might just get ignored because it isn’t easy to read.  I also think  one unintended consequence is that other people might be less likely to RT, because we already did everything ourselves. So the message ends up with far less momentum.

This Week’s Twitter Tip–The Hashtag Helper

Many of us probably would be less prone to be Hashtag Hoes if we could plug in with Hashtag Helpers. We wouldn’t be inclined to feel we needed to do EVERYTHING on our own. That has been one of the beautiful things about this new group #MyWANA. The entire purpose of #MyWANA is to boost and support each other, so I think this notion of being a Hashtag Helper has come more naturally for a group whose sole purpose is to serve each other.

Hashtag Helpers want to help others spread their influence. They know we cannot do everything alone, and this Twitter pal can be counted on to jump in and lend a hand. If they see our blog posted in #MyWANA, they immediately RT and CHANGE the hashtags so that other writing #s will benefit from the information. The incredible part of being a hashtag helper is it sets a good example. Many people on Twitter don’t think to CHANGE the hashtags.

Wow. We can really do that?

So when they see us being Hashtag Helpers, it inspires them to do the same. The more Hashtag Helpers we have on Twitter, the better place it will be for all.

Tweet ya later!

Almost any of us who decided one day to get serious about our writing, read Stephen King’s On Writing. Great book, if you haven’t read it. But one thing King tells us we writers must be willing to do, is that we must be willing to, “Kill the little darlings.” Now, King was not the first to give this advice. He actually got the idea from Faulkner, but I guess we just took it more seriously when King said it…because now the darlings would die by a hatchet, be buried in a cursed Indian filing cabinet where they would come back as really bad novels. …oops, I digress.

Little darlings are those favorite bits of prose, description, dialogue or even characters that really add nothing to the forward momentum or development of the plot. To be great writers, we must learn to look honestly at all little darlings. Why? Because they are usually masking critical flaws in the overall plot.

Today we will address two especially nefarious writing hazards that like to lurk below the wittiest dialogue and most breathtaking description:

Hazard #1—Mistaking Melodrama for Drama

Hazard #2—Mistaking Complexity for Conflict

These two related booby-traps are often hidden beneath our little darlings (clever dialogue, beautiful description, etc).

That is probably why Stephen King recommended we kill them. Yes, kill them dead. No burying them in the Pet Semetary, also known as “revision.” Killing means killing….as in delete forever. Or at least cut them cleanly from the story and hide in a Word folder to give yourself time to grieve and move on with the real novel. Yet too many times we hang on to those favorite characters or bits of dialogue, reworking them and hoping we can make them fit…at the expense of the rest of the story.

Th-they come back….but *shivers* they are…different.

Let me explain why it is important to let go.

Hazard #1—Mistaking Melodrama for Drama

Drama is created when a writer has good characterization that meets with good conflict. Good characterization is what breathes life into black letters on a white page, creating “people” who are sometimes more real to us than their flesh and blood counterparts. The problem is that characterization is a skill that has to be learned, usually from a lot of mistakes. Yet, time and time again, I see writers—as NY Times Best-Selling Author Bob Mayer would say—moving deck chairs around on the Titanic.

In a last ditch attempt to spare a darling, a writer describes the character more, or gives more info dump or more internal thought, or more back story, yet never manages to accomplish true characterization. So, when something really bad happens, we the reader just don’t care. Les Edgerton, in his book Hooked explores this problem in detail if you would like to read more, but to keep it short and sweet I’m going to explain it this way.

Most of us have driven down a highway at around rush hour, so picture this scenario.

We notice emergency lights ahead. The oncoming traffic lane is shut down and looks like a debris field. Four mangled cars lay in ruins, surrounded by somber EMTs. Do you feel badly? Unless you’re a sociopath, of course you do.

Now… You look into that same oncoming lane and two of the cars you recognize. They belong to friends you were supposed to meet for dinner.

Before you cared…now you are connected.

That is how good characterization makes the difference. If we open our story with this gut-wrenching scene in a hospital where someone is dying, we are taking a risk. Readers will certainly care on a human level, but not on the visceral level that makes them have to close the book and get tissue.

I have had to pry many, many darlings like these away from desperate writers “parents” unwilling to take the scenes off of life support. They wrote opening scenes of car accidents and hospitals and death and child abduction so vivid they couldn’t read their own work without tearing up. I did the same thing early in my writing journey. The problem, however, was this…no one but us cared.

We hadn’t done enough development of the story to make the readers just as vested as we were. And, because we were so determined to keep these gut-wrenching scenes, we never dug in and did the real work that would have made the audience cry too.

Hazard #2—Mistaking Complexity for Conflict

Complexity is easily mistaken for conflict. I witness this pitfall in most new novels. In fact, back in February at the DFW Writer’s Workshop Conference, I had an opportunity to talk to a lot of new and hopeful writers in between classes I was teaching. I would ask them what their book was about and the conversation would sound a bit like this:

What’s your book about?

Well, it is about a girl and she doesn’t know she has powers and she’s half fairy and she has to find out who she is. And there’s a guy and he’s a vampire and he’s actually the son of an arch-mage who slept with a sorceress who put a curse on their world. But she is in high school and there is this boy who she thinks she loves and…

Huh? Okay. Who is the antagonist?

*blank stare*

What is her goal?

Um. To find out who she is?

These conversations actually made me chuckle because now I know what Bob Mayer felt like the day he met me :D. My first novel was so complex, I don’t even think I fully understood it. But back to the conference. Most writers wanted to land an agent, yet, out of everyone I talked to, only two could state what their novel was about in three sentences or less.

The tragic part is that most of the novels did not have a genuine conflict lock. Protagonist wants this. Antagonist wants that. What they each want is destined to lock in conflict. Great tactic taught by Bob Mayer in his Novel Writer’s Toolkit. It is my opinion that all these writers, deep down, knew they were missing the backbone to their story—CONFLICT. I think they sensed it on a sub-conscious level and that is why their plots grew more and more and more complicated.

They were trying to fix a structural issue with Bondo putty and duct tape and then hoping no one would notice. How do I know this? I used to own stock in Plot Bondo.

The problem is, complexity is not conflict. We can create an interstellar conspiracy, birth an entirely new underground spy network, resurrect a dead sibling who in reality was sold off at birth, or even start the Second Civil War to cover up the space alien invasion…but it ain’t conflict. Interstellar war, guerilla attacks, or evil twins coming back to life can be the BACKDROP for conflict, but alone are not conflict.

And, yes, I learned this lesson the hard way.

Little darlings are often birthed from us getting too complex. We frequently get too complex when we are trying to b.s. our way through something we don’t understand and hope works itself out. Um, it won’t. Tried it. Just painted myself into a corner. But we get complex to hide our errors and then we risk falling so in love with our own cleverness—the subplots, the twist endings, the evil twin—that we can sabotage our entire story.

I sincerely believe these little darlings are like fluffy beds of leaves covering pungee pits of writing death.

Be truthful. Are your “flowers” part of a garden or covering a grave? We put our craftiest work into buttressing our errors, so I would highly recommend taking a critical look at the favorite parts of your manuscript and then get real honest about why they’re there. And then kill them dead and bury your pets for real.

You have rewritten me 14 times. You think I’m going to leave without a fight? Hssssssss.

So what do you do with your little darlings? What’s been your experience? Do you have any tips, tools or tactics to help us dispose of the bodies?

I love hearing from you! 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. 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 every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end of May I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck!

Note: I am keeping all the names for a final GRAND, GRAND PRIZE of 30 Pages (To be announced) OR a blog diagnostic. I look at your blog and give feedback to improve it. For now, I will draw weekly for 5 page edit, monthly for 15 page edit.

Important Announcements

This week’s winner of 5-page edit is Marilag Lubag. Please send your doc (1250 words) to kristen @ kristen lamb dot org.

Make sure you join our LOVE REVOLUTION over on Twitter by following and participating in the #MyWANA Twibe. Read this post to understand how this #MyWANA will totally transform your life and your author platform.

My book We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media hit THREE best-seller lists on Kindle yesterday. #2 in Computers & Technology, #13 in Authorship and #17 in Advertising. THANK YOU!!!!! This book is recommended by some of the biggest authors AND agents in New York, so make sure you pick up a copy if you don’t have one already.

Also, if you want to learn how to blog or even how to take your blogging to a level you never dreamed possible…get your copy of Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer  today. This book hit #1 on the best-selling list in less than 48 hours thanks to all of YOU!!!!! Not only will this book help you learn to blog, but you will be having so much fun, you will forget you were supposed to be learning.

Happy writing!

Until next time….

I have been doing social media for a number of years, and it has been wonderful to see how writers have embraced technology. I remember back in 2006 I had a hard enough time getting many writers to learn to use e-mail, let alone join Facebook.  Yet, it was really only in 2009 that I started thinking of myself as an expert. Namely I watched a lot of social media people teach tactics that were more likely to give writers permanent hair loss than anything. They were trying to overlay a Corporate America template on to a writer’s career. Not a good fit.

Kind of like watching me try to put on size zero skinny jeans…lots of grunting and pain and the end result ain’t pretty.

Anyway, writers finally did perk up to the fact that they needed to be on social media, yet we had an information vacuum. Many writers took off doing the best they could, and, in the process, made a lot of errors. Hey, I was one of them. Need I remind you of texaswriterchik?

*slaps forehead*

The thing is, I am teaching writers how to do this social media platform thing the correct way. This is all great and wonderful if you are new and haven’t started building. For others? I see the digital blood drain from your face when I give the bad news:

I’m sorry, but your platform needs major reconstructive surgery. I need to put your brand in a temporary coma so it doesn’t die while we do the transplants. Do you have insurance?

Some people suck it up, bite on some leather and resolve to get it over with. Others? Denial is more than a river in Africa.

I hear a lot of, “Writers just need to do what works for them.”

Yes….but, um, no.

I will use an example to illustrate. Say I want to make chocolate cake. My end goal is a chocolate cake. So I set out cooking, but I don’t want to use butter, and I don’t like eggs, and definitely no flour and I just can’t bring myself to use chocolate. Instead, I want to use vanilla pudding, and slices of bananas and top it off with vanilla wafer cookies and LOTS of whipped cream.

So you say, “Wait, but you aren’t making chocolate cake.”

And I say, “Well this is how I make chocolate cake.”

And you say, “But, you just made banana pudding. That’s NOT chocolate cake.”

And I get huffy and reply, “Stop judging me. Maybe YOU make chocolate cake differently, but everyone needs to do what works for them.”

You would think I was a lunatic. Yes, I made a dessert….but I didn’t make a chocolate cake.

If our end goal is to brand our name, which it should be…then there are right and wrong ways to go about this. My lessons are to make our name alone a bankable asset. Our NAME will have the power to drive book sales so we have more time to write, or prank call or even make origami monkeys.

There is a HUGE difference between having a social media presence and becoming a brand. And I know I am about to do some sacred cow-tipping, but it needs to be done.

My new book, Are You There, Blog? It’s Me Writer is a great book to teach you all you ever wanted to know about blogging to build an author brand. There is little point to contributing content to the Internet if it doesn’t build our brand.

Tweeting under a cutesy moniker. We have discussed this one before, but some people are new (here is the post). Every time we tweet, that is an “advertisement” that contributes to building our brand. The only acceptable Twitter handle is the name that will be on the front of our books. Period. If we are tweeting under @FairyGirl, we are contributing great content—blogs, articles, conversation—but we have the WRONG name top-of-mind.  Readers cannot buy a book by Fairy Girl, so all that tweeting is wasted effort.

Writing on Group Blogs at the Expense of Our Author Blog I have run into writers who were very prolific, contributing to multiple group blogs. Group blogs are wonderful. They can help us learn to blog better and can offer accountability. Yet, if we are writing for three different group blogs, but then not blogging on our own site? That is BAD. Group blogs will not brand an individual author. Yes, we will have a social media presence…but that isn’t a brand. I read a lot of WONDERFUL group blogs, but the name of the group is what will be top of mind. Writers in the Storm, Adventures in Children’s Publishing, and Writer Unboxed are three of the best group blogs, but I would be hard-pressed to give the names of the contributors. And, the ones I can name have their own separate blogs that buttress their brand.

I care very much about you guys, and I want all of you to be successful. But part of caring is giving the truth. When we decide to go from hobbyist to professional, we sometimes have to make the tough choices. We have to say no to friends, family, kids and pets. We have to spend time working when we would rather play. If we are contributing to a bunch of group blogs, but our own blog is infested with dust bunnies and spam bots? We might need to make a choice. Hang out with friends? Or build our career?

Our own brand is paramount. The more bankable our name, the more books we sell. The more books we sell, the more successful (and enjoyable) our writing career will be.

There are right ways and wrong ways and smart ways to build a brand. Can we brand ourselves by only blogging on group blogs? Sure. Anything is possible. I could theoretically take I-35 south from Texas and get to Canada. It involves a very tedious journey through South America over Antarctica, up the other side of the globe and over the North Pole. The Earth IS round. I will get to Canada eventually, BUT the odds of me giving up and going home are far more likely than me reaching Canada.

Is my taking I-35 South WRONG? Technically, no. But it is a formula to give up.

Many writers find social media to be a huge time suck, namely because they either have no plan or they have a flawed plan. I used to think it was a time-suck, too. But I wasn’t approaching social media correctly. I have made all the dumb mistakes so you don’t have to :D.

My two books have hit the top of multiple best-seller lists using the methods I am teaching. And I am not the only one who has experienced this kind of dramatic success. I have a stack of testimonials. Yes, we are free to do social media any way we please. No Facebook police will drag us to digital jail. But I think most of us would rather spend more time writing and less time trying to Bond-O a faulty platform.

What are some tough choices you guys have had to make for your writing? What are some tough choices you face, but maybe don’t know what to do? Have any advice or suggestions? Put them in the comments!

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 every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end of May I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck!

Note: I am keeping all the names for a final GRAND, GRAND PRIZE of 30 Pages (To be announced) OR a blog diagnostic. I look at your blog and give feedback to improve it. For now, I will draw weekly for 5 page edit, monthly for 15 page edit.

Important Announcements

Make sure you join our LOVE REVOLUTION over on Twitter by following and participating in the #MyWANA Twibe. Read this post to understand how this #MyWANA will totally transform your life and your author platform.

My book We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media hit THREE best-seller lists on Kindle yesterday. #2 in Computers & Technology, #13 in Authorship and #17 in Advertising. THANK YOU!!!!! This book is recommended by some of the biggest authors AND agents in New York, so make sure you pick up a copy if you don’t have one already.

Also, if you want to learn how to blog or even how to take your blogging to a level you never dreamed possible…get your copy of Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer  today. This book hit #1 on the best-selling list in less than 48 hours thanks to all of YOU!!!!! Not only will this book help you learn to blog, but you will be having so much fun, you will forget you were supposed to be learning.

Happy writing!

Until next time….

This Week’s Mash-Up of Awesomeness

The peeps on MyWANA found this nifty little site. A Writer Thesaurus to help us ALWAYS find the right word.

The Red Shoes–A Fairy Tale of Addiction and Compulsion

You guys just KNOW I had to list the wonderful blog, 5 Reasons Kristen Lamb Rocks

Screenwriting Guru Michael Hauge on Character Development

Finding a balance between showing and telling by the AWESOME Jody Hedlund

Writing with Passion–How that Led to My First Book by the wonderful Natalie Markey

In the world of e-publishing, where is Microsoft?

Villains Dissected by Terrell Mims

On Muderati–Characterization–Controlled Hallucination or Craft?

Great blog by Albert Berg on the Fear of Failure

For more AMAZING posts, make sure you connect with #MyWANA for the best people and posts in the industry 😀

Today, we are going to segue from the normal Twitter Tuesday lessons, and revisit Twitter personalities I like to call the Twintrovert and the Twextrovert. Why? Because I love making up annoying words by slapping the “tw” in front. No, it’s Twue, :D.

Wonder Twin Powers, ACTIVATE!

Hello, my name is Kristen Lamb and…I’m a nerd. There, I said it. When I was a kid, I used to spend hours at my desk copying my set of encyclopedias or playing with my microscope. You know, the one that had three slides of celery cells stained different colors. Admit it. You had one, too.  

I started writing “novels” before I knew my entire alphabet. My first novel was a real tear-jerker called, “AAAH B Y Love ZQ 197 Z” (love was the only word I knew how to spell). As you can tell by the title, it was the story of Princess Kristen and how she defeated the space aliens that invaded the kingdom on a pink dragon and threatened to take away all the rainbows and make the people all wear ugly boy jeans.

Eventually, as I grew older, I taught myself how to draw but using my dad’s collection of J.R.R. Tolkein calendars and my uncle’s Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manuals.

The nerd doesn’t fall far from the tree.

My Baby Photo

Who ever heard of YA? I was reading Tolkein, L. Ron. Hubbard, and David Eddings by the time I was 12. When I wasn’t drawing or writing or reading, I was playing video games. Wait? Not much has changed. Only now I play an Xbox 360 instead of an Atari.

Why am I taking you down this memory lane of my years as a nerdling? What does this have to do with social media? 

Historically, writers have been portrayed as that odd introvert with such bad social skills he had to make up people to hang out with. Okay, so in ways it is still true.

There is a strong misconception that extroverts don’t make good writers because they can’t spend enough time alone to finish a manuscript. Um…no. Extroverts with no self-discipline can’t finish a manuscript. But guess what? Introverts with no self-discipline can’t finish a manuscript either. They spend their time reading stories instead of writing them. Introverts might be able to write the book better, but extroverts can sell more copies 😀

My point is that social media is a very natural place for nerds…I mean, writers to gather. Don’t believe me? Hang out on #MyWANA for five minutes. We can feel free to be who we are, and even find people who march to a different kazoo just like us.

Social media is a direct reflection of who we are. Lately we have been talking about how publishing is changing faster than anyone can keep up, and I believe it is for the better. But, what no one seems to be mentioning is that writers are changing too. That is awesome news!

Social media is helping writers capitalize on their strengths, and mitigate their weaknesses.

The Extrovert

I am an ENFP (Extroverted Intuitive Feeling Perceiver). ENFPs are the most common personality type for comedians and cult leaders. I have capitalized on this. ENFPs are Tigger if he were high on Red Bull and allowed to plan a bounce-house party…with ice cream cake.

I love bouncing around and making people smile. I am the comedian of the personality types. Social media allows me to use that strength somewhere other than the written page. Yes, I write humor…but I now have the ability to use my humor to build my platform as well.

I know that when I first became a writer, it was hard. All that alone time made me crazy…okay, crazier. I would spend day after day writing technical manuals…only to later hold the poor baristas at Starbuck’s hostage because I hadn’t talked to anyone in DAYS and I had 120,000 words I hadn’t used up.

Social media has added balance to my professional life. With social media, I can take breaks from my work, go on Twitter and be a social butterfly. Then, when it is time to get back to work, I minimize the screen until I make a certain goal. Interaction with others becomes my reward for buckling down and making word count. I can be a writer and be myself.

Some of us extroverts are as bad as a highly caffeinated-meth-addicted-squirrel that someone handed a keyboard. We have to learn that buzzing around the Internet chit-chatting only becomes useful if we have a manuscript to sell.

We have to learn to shut up and… OOH Shiny!

What was I saying? Oh, yeah. Shut up and focus. *scratches head* Need to write that on a Post-It.

The Introvert  

I LOVE introverts. Seriously. I collect them. I think it is the challenge to get them to smile…or speak. I’ll take a grunt. I liken it to a sea otter trying to pry open a clam. I’m having fun while the poor clam…I mean, introvert, is having a panic attack. I have gotten better at appreciating the clam’s unique perspective, but I still won’t let them settle under the mud and hide.

Photo of me and Bob Mayer when I first showed him Twitter.

Social media is helping introverts develop skills needed to be successful. Just like the extrovert must develop the discipline to sit in a chair and write, the introvert must learn to interact with others effectively in order to succeed in the Brave New World of Publishing. Introverts can no longer hunker down in an office for months while friends and family slide food under the door and empty the pee out of the Folger’s can….

Okay, maybe you guys aren’t THAT bad.

But the point is that introverts can no longer hide, grunting to your older sibling (marketing department) to speak for you and get you what you want. The beauty of Twitter is that human interaction is on YOUR terms, and I find that often transforms the shyest introvert into a wild Twitter party animal.

You know what they say about the quiet ones *wink, wink *

I often wonder if this is part of the resistance to social media. The extroverts are the first on board (duh). We get to socialize and that counts as WORK? Sign us up! But the introverts? I think some writers are hesitant to embrace social media because it is out of their comfort zone. Maybe you find people terrifying and you never did say the right things and what if people judge you or think you are dumb?

The best part of social media is We Are Not Alone. Okay, yeah it is a shameless book plug, but it is true. This idea is the fulcrum on which all my teaching rests. WE AREN’T ALONE!!!! WE AREN’T DOING THIS BY OURSELVES!!! This is why I launched #MyWANA, the Love Revolution!!!!

Extroverts and introverts can now become a team.

Wonder Twin powers….ACTIVATE!

We are two sides of the perfect writer. Think about it! Introverts are amazing examples of focusing on the writing, and extroverts are attention whores…I meant, better at promoting the final product. But we need to do BOTH if we hope to survive AND thrive in this new world of publishing.

As an extrovert, if I start being Chatty Cathy too long on Twitter, I guarantee you I will hear from one of my more introverted tweeps.

“Um…Kristen. Aren’t you supposed to be writing?”

Busted.

The other side? Extroverts are the quintessential party hostesses. Seriously. If you are terrified of social media, befriend a Twextrovert (new word, and you’ll only find it here, folks). This is the person on Twitter who knows EVERYONE and who can be counted on to introduce you to a large group of friends painlessly. Before you know it, you’ll go from 1-200 friends and you’ve only tweeted 6 times. Twextroverts are born promoters, and your greatest ally. If you aren’t good at selling, befriend a Twextrovert and they will sell for you…cuz they like to make you smile.

If you’re a Twextrovert? Befriend a Twintrovert, that Twitter pal who can be counted on to send you a DM.

“Shut up and write before I send the flying monkeys.”

Social media makes us not only strengthen where we are weak, but it provides a way to team up with others, and they can be our strength. Extroverts can get introverts to come out of their shells, and introverts can ground their extroversive pals and remind them they need to focus and return to the work. Balloons need to be tethered or they fly away, explode and end up killing a sea gull.

So are you a Twintorvert or a Twextrovert? Make sure you pop by #MyWANA so we can stalk you….um, support you. Has social media helped you develop some aspect of your personality? Strengthen a weakness? Maybe help you become aware of a bad habit? I want to hear from you!

I love hearing from you! 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. 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 every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end of May I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck!

Note: I am keeping all the names for a final GRAND, GRAND PRIZE of 30 Pages (To be announced) OR a blog diagnostic. I look at your blog and give feedback to improve it. For now, I will draw weekly for 5 page edit, monthly for 15 page edit.

Important Announcements

Make sure you join our LOVE REVOLUTION over on Twitter by following and participating in the #MyWANA Twibe. Read this post to understand how this #MyWANA will totally transform your life and your author platform.

My book We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media hit THREE best-seller lists on Kindle yesterday. #2 in Computers & Technology, #13 in Authorship and #17 in Advertising. THANK YOU!!!!! This book is recommended by some of the biggest authors AND agents in New York, so make sure you pick up a copy if you don’t have one already.

Also, if you want to learn how to blog or even how to take your blogging to a level you never dreamed possible…get your copy of Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer  today. Thanks to you guys, this book is #15 on the best-seller list on Kindle. YAY! Not only will this book help you learn to blog, but you will be having so much fun, you will forget you were supposed to be learning.

Happy writing!

Until next time….

Before we get started, I would like to announce that my new book Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer is now ready for purchase at B&N in e-book. This week, we are going to take a break from talking about the antagonist and, instead, focus on some common writing errors that seem to plague virtually all new writers. I generally like blogging about the larger issues, namely structure, because that is the killer. If the story’s plot is fatally flawed there’s little hope of connecting with a reader. If we need a Dungeon Master Guide and a team of sherpas to navigate our story’s plot, then finding an agent is the least of our worries. So plot matters, but, to be blunt, there other rookie mistakes that can land us in a slush pile before an agent (or reader) even gets far enough to notice a problem with plot.

So today I am putting on my editor’s hat and going to give you a peek into what agents and editors (and even readers) see in those first five pages that can make us lose interest.

If Your Novel has More Characters than the Cast of Ben Hur, You Might Need Revision

Whenever the author takes the time to name a character, that is a subtle clue to the reader that this is a major character and we need to pay attention. Think Hollywood and movies. If the credits roll and there is a named character in the credits, then we can rest assured this character had a speaking part. Many characters in our novels will be what Bob Mayer calls “spear carriers.” Spear carriers do not need names.

I did not know this, years ago, and I felt the need to name the pizza guy, the florist, the baker and the candlestick maker. Do NOT do this. When we name characters, it is telling our readers to care. Sort of like animals. Only name them if you plan on getting attached.

We do not have to know intimate life details about the waitress, the taxi driver or even the funeral director. Unless the character serves a role—protagonist, antagonist, allies, mentor, love interest, minions, etc.—you really don’t need to give them a name. They are props, not people.

And maybe your book has a large cast; that is okay. Don’t feel the need to introduce them all at once. If I have to keep up with 10 names on the first page, it’s confusing, ergo annoying. Readers (and agents) will feel the same way.

If Your Novel Dumps the Reader Right into Major Action, You Might Need Revision

Oh, there is no newbie blunder I didn’t make.

Angelique leaned out over the yawning chasm below, and yelled to Drake. She needed her twist-ties and fuzzy pink pipe cleaners if she ever was going to diffuse the bomb in time. Blood ran down her face as she reached out for Gregor’s hand. They only had minutes before Sondra would be back and then it would all be over for Fifi, Gerturde and Muffin.

Okay, I just smashed two into one. Your first question might be, Who the hell are these people? And likely your second question is Why do I care?

Thing is, you don’t care. You aren’t the writer who knows these characters and is vested. We have discussed before how Normal World plays a vital role in narrative structure. As an editor, if I see the main character sobbing at a funeral or a hospital or hanging over a shark tank by page three, that is a big red flag the writer doesn’t understand narrative structure.

Thing is, maybe you do. But, if we are new and unknown and querying agents, these guys get a lot of submissions. And, if our first five pages shout that we don’t understand narrative structure, our pages are likely to end up in the slush pile. When we are new, we get less leeway about trying to reinvent narrative structure, and the thing is, three-act structure has worked since Aristotle came up with it. There are better uses of time than us trying to totally remake dramatic structure.

It’s like the wheel. Round. It rolls. The wheel works. Don’t mess with the wheel. Don’t mess with narrative structure.

Some other picky no-nos… .

Painful and Alien Movement of Body Parts

Her eyes flew to the other end of the restaurant.

 His head followed her across the room.

All I have to say is… “Ouch.”

Make sure your character keeps all body parts attached. Her gaze can follow a person and so can her stare, but if her eyes follow…the carpet gets them fuzzy with dust bunnies and then they don’t slide back in her sockets as easily.

Too much Physiology…

Her heart pounded. Her heart hammered. Her pulse beat in her head. Her breath came in choking sobs.

After a page of this? I need a nap. After two pages? I need a drink. We can only take so much heart pounding, thrumming, hammering before we just get worn out.  That and I read a lot of entries where the character has her heart hammering so much, I am waiting for her to slip into cardiac arrest at any moment. Ease up on the physiology. Less is often more.

Adverbs are Evil…

Most of the time, adverbs are a no-no. Find a stronger verb instead of dressing up a weaker choice.

She stood quickly from her chair.

She bolted from her chair.

Also be careful of redundant adverbs.

She whispered quietly…

Um, duh. The verb whisper already tells me the volume level.

She can, however, whisper conspiratorially. Why? Because the adverb isn’t denoting something inherent in the verb. To whisper, by definition is to be quiet BUT not necessarily to conspire. The adverb conspiratorially indicates a certain quality to the whisper.

I will do more of these in the future, but the points I mentioned today are very common errors. Many editors and agents will look for these oopses to narrow down the stack of who to read. These are also habits that can frustrate readers should the book make it to publication. I know some of you are thinking of self-publishing and that is certainly a viable path these days. But, if we have 42 characters by page five? We are likely going to frustrate a reader.

Avoiding these pitfalls will make for far smoother, cleaner writing.

Some books to help you clean up your prose and become a master at your craft? Story Engineering by Larry Brooks is a MUST HAVE in your library. Another MUST HAVE reference?  102 solutions to Common Writing Mistakes by NY Times Best-Selling Author Bob Mayer,

What are some troubles you guys have? Maybe some questions you want me to address? Throw them up here. Takes a load off my brain so I don’t have to think this stuff up all by myself. Any tips, suggestions, books you recommend we read? Did this blog help you? Confuse you?

I love hearing from you! 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. 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 every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end of May I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck!

Note: I am keeping all the names for a final GRAND, GRAND PRIZE of 30 Pages (To be announced) OR a blog diagnostic. I look at your blog and give feedback to improve it. For now, I will draw weekly for 5 page edit, monthly for 15 page edit.

Important Announcements

Make sure you join our LOVE REVOLUTION over on Twitter by following and participating in the #MyWANA Twibe. Read this post to understand how this #MyWANA will totally transform your life and your author platform.

My book We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media hit THREE best-seller list on Kindle yesterday. #2 in Computers & Technology, #13 in Authorship and #17 in Advertising. THANK YOU!!!!! This book is recommended by some of the biggest authors AND agents in New York, so make sure you pick up a copy if you don’t have one already.

Also, if you want to learn how to blog or even how to take your blogging to a level you never dreamed possible…get your copy of Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer  today. Not only will this book help you learn to blog, but you will be having so much fun, you will forget you were supposed to be learning.

Happy writing!

Until next time…