Kristen Lamb

Author, Blogger, Social Media Jedi

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Posts Tagged: how to sell more books

publishing, Chef Ramsay, Gordon Ramsay, books, quality of fiction, quantity and quality in writing, how to sell more books, writer burnout, What Chef Ramsay Would Say About Writing

The past few months have been tough. I’ve struggled with being down, depressed and stuck in a rut. The writing profession I once loved just had lost its…sparkle. In a recent post, I believe I voiced what many writers have been feeling:

Don’t know about you, but I dreamed of book signings, launch parties, my novels on pretty displays in an actual store. I imagined a real book signing with devoted fans I’d be able to meet face-to-face. Those were the dreams that kept me going in my darkest hours when it made no sense to keep on writing.

I don’t think a single one of us fantasized about favorable algorithms, a massive mailing list with a solid open rate, or a depressing spot for ten copies of our book on a Costco bargain table. And I sure as hell never dreamed of working like an organ-grinding spider monkey for fractions of KU pennies.

None of us did.

 

I never minded learning and doing the business of my business. I embraced branding, blogging, social media, SEO. But something was just…off. Something I couldn’t articulate. Leave it to my subconscious to kick me in the @$$ and have the answer…in a technicolor dream (okay, nightmare).

Last night *deep breaths* Chef Gordon Ramsay royally chewed my @$$ out at…a writing conference.

Bear with me, this is bizarre but salient.

And Lo! An Angel Appeared

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More like an agent.

In my dream, I’m at a writing conference, unaware I’m an attendee (not a presenter). Right in the middle of a coffee social, the head of the conference orders me (on the spot) to stand and pitch my novel to mega-agent Donald Maass.

*panics* Is Donald Maass even repping books himself anymore? Apparently so. *dies inside*

It takes three tries to even pitch the correct novel (I pitch two works that are already finished/published). FINALLY, I pitch my Southern Gothic, which is only half finished. But like any good writer, I lie my @$$ off.

Willing my best game face, I confidently declare my novel 100% complete.

Donald Maass loves my story idea and asks I bring my novel for him to read pages aloud…in front of a giant packed auditorium. Oh-kay. No problem. I know that WIP is at least 150 pages long and he’s only going to read the opening, so whatever.

Just BREATHE

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I race up to my hotel room, only which room is mine? I try every door on the floor and no dice. Finally, I find a room where the electronic key works and fly inside, heart pounding. Since this suite looks like a drag queen’s dressing room was hit by an F-1 tornado…I know it’s mine.

How the $#@! did blush get on the ceiling? Did I really need to pack that much makeup? 

****Yes. The answer is ALWAYS YES.

Ah, but there’s one major unanticipated problem. Apparently I had author roommates and there are laptops everywhere.

Scrambling through the suite, I’m opening laptop after laptop, and, since you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a writer who uses an Apple laptop…I keep opening the wrong ones.

FINALLY, I locate MY computer (the one with the corn chips in the keyboard) and the correct files.

I’m Cool…Really

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Relieved, I rush downstairs. Maass scans the first pages and proclaims my writing is incredible! He goes on and on complimenting my work. I’m so relieved, excited even, but then….

Maass tells me he plans on reading some paragraphs from my opening, middle and END to show the emerging writers how professionals get things DONE.

*gulps*

My novel isn’t finished. I lied. Breathe. I can do this. Stick and move, right? I will my game face hoping somehow I can come out of this unscathed. Maybe say I brought the wrong file? The finished version is on the computer at home. Yes, that’s it. When in doubt?

LIE SOME MORE!

Maass is ecstatic about my writing and I say something about getting a contract with his agency. He makes a face then says somberly, ‘Your writing is superb but more is required out of authors in the digital age than just a great book. You know that, right?’

*hair flip*

I confidently declare I’m no rookie, and I totally know more is required of authors this day and age. Then I relay how I have a blog and vlogs and brand and platform and…he cuts me off.

‘No, not all that,’ he says as if talking to someone who’s been living in a cave for ten years. ‘Everyone has social media. That is SO 2014.’ *rolls eyes* ‘Can you pass the cooking test? You did know about the cooking contest.’

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‘Yes, of course cooking!’ I reply with gusto.

Donald seems to only be partially be buying my bluff. He continues, hesitant. ‘Then I assume your dish is ready. Because Chef Ramsay is on scene ready to inspect what you’ve prepared in fifteen. Only writers who can impress Gordon Ramsay will get publishing deals.’

*screams inside*

THE HELL? WHAT DO COOKING SKILLS HAVE TO DO WITH WRITING?

Never Let Them See You Sweat

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Again, I roll with it and act like this sudden revelation is not nearly as shocking as the time I found out the crush of my life, George Michael, was gay.

***Gimme a break, I was in third grade with no gaydar.

Maass liked my book. I was not going to go down without a fight. I DID have food I brought from home, since I have food allergies. Mind whirring, I recall there’s still some of the pan-fried gluten and dairy-free chicken parmigiana (half-eaten) and some leftover vegetables up in my hotel fridge.

I’m not out yet.

Yeah, not that I am Type A or anything…

I rush to my room, pull out my pathetic chicken and tear off the end I’d bitten into. Then, I rifle through the other writers’ leftovers for wilted greens and veggies to fill out the plate. Satisfied it doesn’t look too terrible, I rush downstairs with my paper plate of dressed up, gnawed on, semi-cold chicken…that’s a day old.

Fake It ‘Til You Make It

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The other writers somehow were aware they needed a novel and that they ALSO had to win a cooking contest with CHEF RAMSAY as the judge. I’m beginning to think I really was living in a cave.

How did I miss this industry shift?

It seems everyone (but me) has prepared fresh, hot glorious meals. Their dishes are proudly displayed on carts covered with fancy serving domes. Every writer (but me) is ready with some culinary creation ready to be inspected by the likes of Chef Ramsay.

….so they can be published.

What Would Ramsay Say?

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Yeah…that. I’m dead. D-E-A-D.

Initially, I think it’ll be fine. We’re writers, not chefs, so he’s gonna go easy on us. Right? You know like how he is with the kids who cook. All gentle and encouraging and telling us we gave it a nice try.

Nope.

Horrified, I watch Chef Ramsay go dish to dish shouting at writers, making them cry.

Writer #1: AVOCADO FOAM? WHAT THE *beep beep beep beep* WERE YOU THINKING? NO ONE WANTS TO EAT FOAM! We want substance, not CLEVER *beeeep*! Piss off!

Writer #2: HOW MANY *beep beep* CHEMICALS ARE IN THIS *beeeeeeep*? Who wants to eat something that would survive a *bleepity bleep* NUCLEAR ATTACK? Even the ROACHES would rather STARVE!

Writer #3: HOW MUCH BLOODY FOOD-COLORING DID YOU USE? THIS GREEN’S SO RADIOACTIVE, KIM JONG IL’S TRYING TO STEAL IT! Get the *beepity beep beep* out of here before we all DIE OF CANCER!

Run For Cover

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Chef Ramsay then spots who the next ten writers are…and his eyes narrow. He points and shouts for them to just leave and get the *bleeeep* out of his sight.

The writers all stammer the same thing, talking over one another, aghast. ‘Why? You haven’t even looked at our dishes!’

Ramsay: I don’t NEED to look. I’ve sampled your ‘dishes’ before, and I already know you’re going to try and serve me. The same formulaic bollocks just with a different garnish. What am I? Some nit you think you can fool? Bugger off! No one wants to ingest your recycled tripe. NOW GET THE $#@& OUT!

They stand, frozen in disbelief. Then they all declare he’s wrong. Their dishes are totally fresh and new.

Ramsay glares at them…then starts dramatically tossing the stainless domes off the dishes one at a time, but—to my astonishment—Chef Ramsay accurately guesses what’s under each and every dome before he lifts it…then throws it clattering.

He was correct. He knew what they’d prepared already. They were serving the same dishes…with slightly different garnishes.

What’s Ramsay Going to Say About…ME?

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Chef Ramsay gets closer and closer to me. Meanwhile, I’m sneaking bits of lettuce and leftover veggies from writers who’ve run and abandoned their stations. I’m doing all I can to dress up this sad tiny piece of dry leftovers.

I’m bracing to get yelled at because I know what I’m serving…and that I deserve the tongue-lashing.

Why couldn’t this all just be about my WRITING? My BOOK? Maass, Donald Mass, liked my book! Why am I supposed to do all this other stuff—social media, vlogging, blogging, rafflecopter, give-aways, Instagram, ads, promotion, SEO optimization—and NOW I have to also win a…cooking contest?

To get a publishing deal?

Then, as Chef Ramsay makes it to me and looks down at my chicken, I wake up soaked in sweat…with an epiphany.

Ramsay is RIGHT

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Once the terror passed, I realized the Chef Ramsay in my dream was RIGHT. First, our part of the author business is actually very simple (which I’ll talk about next post).

Writers are getting fixated on roles they don’t need to even be DOING, and quality is suffering. WE are suffering!

***I’m not judging. We’re bombarded with all we HAVE to do. It’s hard to keep the faith. Even ME.

Quality matters. This is true in branding/platform building. Instead of authors slowing down, being real and developing lasting relationships, there are authors who distribute more SPAM than HORMEL. A Billion Served is cool for McDonald’s but on social media?

YUCK.

It’s also true in the writing (which is the most IMPORTANT part of our brand, btw).

Because so many writers have sucked down the KU Kool-Aid, or bought into Amazon’s Algorithmic Alchemy…they believe they must have all this output to succeed.

They’re churning out novels, ‘box-sets’, novellas, short works every month….every WEEK! To promote all these ‘works’ they’re also churning out automation, promotion, newsletters, giveaways….

*puts head between knees*

Consequently, far too many ‘stories’ are incomplete, half-baked, over-processed or just rehashed leftovers…with different covers (garnish).

No wonder these authors won’t charge retail. They can’t! Who’d pay top dollar for the literary equivalent of a microwaved cheeseburger?

What KIND of Writer Do We WANT to BE?

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Have we taken time to even ask this?

First of all, just like there’s a viable market for fast-food burgers, there’s also a market for fast-fiction authors. Just be aware that there’s also only so much consumers will reasonably pay for this type of product…meaning quantity is a major deal. 

This career trajectory is an option. Thing is, too many writers have been led to believe it’s the ONLY option.

Nope.

Some writers naturally do well with this pace. They can turn out books readers enjoy. These authors relish the marketing and promo and have tons of fun because they’re in their element.

But, just like the market can only support so many fast-food chains, it can only support so many fast-fiction-authors. The ones who will do well? The ones who are GOOD at it.

Not everyone is.

I know I’m not. Perhaps this was behind my malaise…and my brain dragging in Gordon Ramsay AND Donald Maass for an intervention.

Ramsay was right. This Lamb is so overcooked, I DO belong on an altar.

Granted, I’ve written hundreds of posts about keeping the business simple. Ignore the fads, the algorithmic alchemy, the trends, the pressure, and on and on. But, deep down, there must have been some latent guilt that maybe I was wrong.

Perhaps I was shepherding *bada bump snare* y’all the wrong direction.

Like off a CLIFF! AHHHHHHH!

NO! We DO Have OPTIONS

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Really? Can I come out then?

The entire point of the shifts in publishing were to offer us options. It is OKAY to take our time. We can slow down and build vested audiences of followers who actually CARE. We can write excellent books worthy of retail (regardless of whether we publish legacy, indie or self-publish).

Pulp fiction always sold for pulp prices and clipped at a pulp pace. But news flash!

Pulp prices never once impacted the price of hardcovers or the pace.

Ever.

They were DIFFERENT audiences and DIFFERENT products.

Readers didn’t expect a book from Michael Crichton as frequently as they did paperback Westerns from Louis L’amour. Fans were willing to shell out cash for stacks of cowboy stories. Other fans? They eagerly paid hardcover prices for Crichton because his books were well worth the wait and the price. 

Both authors were/are legendary…and yet vastly different.

NOTHING HAS CHANGED.

Louis L’amour books were relatively short, easy to read and a nice way to spend an afternoon. They filled the time while we waited on our favorite hardcover authors.

Crichton books took incredible research, detailed plotting and were thick enough to kill a burglar. The work that went into his novels merited the price fans lined up to pay.

So guess what?

Y’all have my permission to…relax. You’ll need your strength because DANCING WITH THE EDITORS is NEXT!

Hope you still have tights that fit 😛 .

What Are Your Thoughts?

No more spicy food before bed? Even though I’ve remained steadfast on keeping this simple, I admit the panic attacks have crept in. What’s ‘allegedly’ expected from writers?

Have you lost your love for writing? The pressure just taking all the love out of it? Frankly, the dream wouldn’t have been so terrifying if some part of me didn’t partly expect it COULD happen. Jeez, what other hoops do we need to jump through? Baton twirling? Karaoke?

NO!

Cait and I are both tired of the nonsense so we have new classes to guide you through what’s necessary and what is complete BUNK. It is time to enjoy writing again.

NEW CLASSES!

Business of the Writing Business: Ready to ROAR!

Class with me, teaching what is ACTUALLY our business. February 15th 7-9 EST. $55 and recording FREE with purchase.

Self-Publishing for Professionals: Amateur Hour is OVER

This class is THREE hours with USA Today Best-Selling Author Cait Reynolds and comes with Cait’s custom workbook to guide you through everything from how to do competitive research to tracking ISBNs and distribution and more. February 16th 7-10 EST. $99 and recording and workbook are FREE with purchase.

DOUBLE-TROUBLE BUNDLE

BOTH classes for $129 (Save $25). This bundle is FIVE hours of professional training, plus the recordings, plus Cait’s workbook to guide you through everything from how to do competitive research to tracking ISBNs and distribution and more.

lies, what are you worth, how to price a book, working for exposure, pay the writer, Kristen Lamb, how to sell more books, make money writing, Amazon and Kindle Unlimited, Amazon, author branding

Today we’re going to have a talk about LIES. Deception, half-truths, misinformation, and twisted realities. In my post about the success paradox we discussed how thoughts impact us in very real and tangible ways.

Our belief systems are like our ‘programming’ but malware abounds, very often in the form of lies. If we fail to recognize the lies and internalize them as ‘truths’ it’s akin to opening that infected PDF in our e-mail….

Welcome to the Blue Screen of Doom. Only it’s in our head.

For those who read the post, I suggested some exercises at the end to get a bead on what you really believe regarding success. Before I dive into this, I want y’all to grasp one fundamental fact about the human brain.

The mind cannot tell the difference between truth and lie. What we tell it, it simply accepts and obeys. Keep that ‘in mind’ as we continue.

A World of Lies

Why are you really doing this writing thing? If it’s for fun or a hobby then read no further. For those who want to be professionals? Take heed.

Lies can come in the form of all-or-nothing-thinking. Cute sayings that sound noble, self-effacing, humble and make us appear super nice. They seem innocent, but they’re progress poison.

Let’s use some common examples. Every time I write any post regarding wealth or success, inevitably I get responses in the comments like:

There are more important things in life than success.

Money doesn’t matter the most. What about love?

I’m here to write great stories, not for the money.

All three? LIES. Utter and complete garbage. Bear with me as we unpack these.

There Are More Important Things Than Success

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Um…no kidding.

Just because success isn’t the most important thing doesn’t automatically make it therefore unimportant.  Prioritizing our dreams doesn’t immediately necessitate we a) abandon our families b) give no figs about world issues or c) seek to GUT anyone who might stand in our way faster than Cersie Lannister on bath salts.

If we’re constantly declaring success isn’t the most important thing in life, then why are we shocked when we can’t seem to get ahead? Success IS extremely important.

No one starts anything—a marriage, a family, a business, a novel—and thinks, ‘OMG, I cannot wait to fail at this. It will be AWESOME. My goal is to spend a ton of money, time and energy on my dreams for…NOTHING.’

When we say stupid things like, There are more important things than success we’re unwittingly programming in self-sabotaging behavior. We’re far more likely to put off our writing and treat it like a cute little hobby. We won’t invest money in learning to be better because who invests in the unimportant?

Also, we’re inadvertently dooming ourselves to amateur/hobbyist status because guess what, my sweeties….

To professionals? Success is VERY important.

Money Isn’t THAT Big of a Deal

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*cough* Bu!!$#!* Yes, I know love, joy, happiness and self-fulfillment are important and matter. But here again we’re back in the same dumb@$$ thinking we had with success.

Which ‘matters most?’ Your heart or your lungs? Come on! Tick tock. Choose!

Money matters. Despite what people might say, money’s a pretty big deal. In fact, the lie that money doesn’t matter has been one of the main ways MEGA MEDIA brands have gotten away with using writers as their personal serfs. Convince writers money is bad and that asking to be paid for their work is dirty…and they’ll line up to work for likes, feel-goods, and ‘exposure dollars.’

When money matters, we start thinking like professionals. A hard lesson I am still learning:

You don’t get what you work for, you get what you negotiate.

Plenty of bloggers churn out amazing content for absurdly wealthy brands for free (exposure). If we claim money doesn’t matter, this sets us up to be preyed on by those who value money…a lot.

Um…the hell? No offense Mr. Editor, but…

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Blogging aside, let’s talk books. A lot of authors work hard and are still broke. Even authors with great books. Why? Because when we claim ‘money isn’t all that matters’ we’re less likely to learn the business side of our business.

This leads to a) ignoring it b) delegating it. Delegating our business isn’t necessarily bad but unless we’re educated we’re unable to discern a good plan from a bad deal.

When writers prioritize being paid, we’re more likely to invest time, energy, money in areas where we’ll eventually benefit financially (I.e. blog on our own website). We’ll also step up our game, value our work and believe we’re entitled to reap the rewards.

That is What Businesses DO

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Businesses want to be successful and also believe money is a super huge deal. Even non-profits prioritize money! The Red Cross doesn’t run on thoughts and prayers. We writers need to reevaluate what we believe about money and how it relates to US.

Why is it okay for the owners of websites like Huffington Post to make hundreds of millions off the hard work of unpaid labor? And to act as if they’re doing some benevolent service by grifting thirteen thousand creatives in the UK alone?

What other industry could get away with this? Can you imagine engineers, surgeons, or even construction workers being paid in exposure? NO. Why then is it okay to do to us? Why are we enabling profiteering parasites?

Fear Factor

The reason writers aren’t calling out this injustice is we’ve been groomed to believe their LIES. Too many of us believe big brands are doing US a favor by posting our work to their vast audience, but riddle me this….

If our writing is so shoddy we need to give it away for free (and be grateful), why do the big brands want our posts in the first place? How are these MEGA MEDIA brands raking in hundreds of millions of dollars (via ads) off writing that isn’t even worth paying the creators a single solitary dollar for?

The fundamental difference is businesses believe a) success matters b) money is important and c) they’re offering a product consumers want. The mega media brands know those surfing the web are in search of great content. Readers want to click on blogs about fashion, dating, family, gardening, pets, etc.

Yet, be careful. These brands also want writers posting for THEM so THEY make the money…which means they’ll also post a bunch of blogs about how blogs are dying and no longer popular.

How the hell does that make any sense on any level? Critical thinking here.

If blogs are dying, then what the heck are we reading when we’re being told blogging is a dying form? Smoke signals? Jazz hands? No, we are reading a BLOG telling us BLOGS are dying.

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It’s a mental game to make us insecure, a lie to convince us we can’t do it on our own. The mega brands know if we blog on our site and create our own following, we (eventually) make the money and not them.

I Just Want to Write Great Stories 

Wonderful! All the more reason to take success seriously. Professionals hone their skills. They read and study and take classes and seek out mentors. Also—just pointing this out—why are we acting like this is an ‘either-or’ scenario? Why not both? Why do we believe we must choose?

FUN FACT: We can write great stories and also make money. #MindBlown

In fact, the more money we make, the more time we can dedicate to writing even better books. The more capital we have on hand to invest in training, refining our skills, and creating a better product…the more good books there are in the world.

Society likes to promote this caricature of the ‘starving artist’ when, in reality, the highest paid people in the world technically don’t work ‘real jobs.’ Last I checked J.K. Rowling, Stephen King, Nora Roberts, James Patterson and George R.R. Martin aren’t panhandling at stoplights for spare change.

Our culture spends billions on entertainment, but the entertainers making money aren’t working for free. These entertainers (authors included) believe they have a right to be paid for what they create.

Also, if Amazon can make billions of dollars of profit, writers can make bank, too. Write excellent books and price them to reflect actual value. If our book honestly is good enough to be published at all, then we don’t need to cat-fight over fractions of KU pennies. And, if we are playing that ‘game’? Then deep down maybe our book wasn’t quite ready to be published after all.

Food for thought.

What Do You Believe?

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Why are writers blogging for super wealthy brands for free? Why are so many writers churning out a gazillion hastily scribbled books for Amazon? A number of reasons.

As we mentioned, we’ve been groomed to be nice. It’s bad manners to self-promote and gauche to talk about money. We’re afraid of business because we don’t understand it and thus the ‘starving artist facade’ allows us a pass when it comes to learning skills and subjects that scare the crap out of us.

We want someone else to do that icky stuff so we can create *hair flip*.

Truth Bomb

Get good at the icky stuff and make money? We’ll have time to write more books and make even more money. Make enough money and eventually we can PAY people to do that icky stuff 😉 .

Another reason writers (and creatives) are so willing to work for free or for pennies is deep down we don’t really believe what we’re writing is worth paying for.

And *grimaces* sometimes we might even be correct. There is a learning curve to this. First we must LEARN, then later we can drop the L.

It’s easy to self-publish on Amazon then blame the lack of a marketing budget or our poor promotional skills for shoddy sales. You know what’s hard? Brutal even? Taking an honest look at our work admitting it needs to be better…a lot better.

Hey, I’ve been there. Y’all have NO idea how happy I am self-publishing wasn’t an option when I wrote my first ‘novel.’

The one that pees on the carpets and bites.

Yes, I want writers to understand the business of our business because it improves odds of success and protects y’all (and me) against predation. A MAJOR part of business involves brutal honesty about the product. If something isn’t selling, WHY?

If it can be fixed, then how? Fix it. If not? Then stop throwing more money at it. Nobody wanted New Coke no matter how many celebrities promoted it. If our book sucks, write a better one. Up our game and hone our skills. More promotion isn’t going to sell a crappy book nobody wanted in the first place.

Want to BE Free? Stop Being FOR Free

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I’d like to posit a friendly challenge. Take some time and consider what you’re worth. What is the actual value of your writing? The MEGA MEDIA brands have almost all jumped on the exposure dollar bandwagon, paying writers with bragging rights while using euphemisms like ‘contributors’ so that profiting off a massive unpaid workforce seems less ‘icky.’

Tossing out a challenge.

Is that post you created for X MEGA BRAND worth at least one dollar? If it is, then they need to pay you that dollar or don’t post. This all has to begin with us. If we don’t value our work, no one else will either.

And yes, I blog ‘for free’ here, but free is part of a larger strategy that serves my goals. I own my content. My blogs build MY brand, MY following, MY SEO, MY credibility. I’m here cultivating MY future fans by serving them. My blog is a mechanism to drive class sales and book sales.

Anyone who guest posts here usually is teaching a class where they are paid generously BY ME. Because I VALUE them. Also, because I’m able to make money with classes, this means I can afford to tip the photographers at Pexel (a site that’s created ways their ‘contributors’ can be rewarded financially).

Our books? What are they truly worth? Might be time to get brave and raise the price. We had a saying in sales: Value perceived is value achieved. 

The Lies END HERE

We should be grateful for exposure (LIE). Exposure is a worthless currency and has been since Paris Hilton was cool. We need the power of big brands to build our tiny brand (MAJOR LIE). Major brands will use our own writing to destroy our brand by cannibalizing our SEO. Notice there’s no place for a shopping cart to sell our BOOKS where we might make money, but plenty of space for ads where THEY make millions.

When we blog for free for a MEGA MEDIA brand we enhance our resume and up our value (LIE). We are a battery. 

Amazon, iBooks and the Big Five have all the power (LIE). Write excellent books and cultivate a following (via social media/blog/multiple books) and you can bring your terms to the table.

I need to price my books low because of competition (LIE). Last I checked George R.R. Martin was not the only epic fantasy writer, so why aren’t his books 99 cents?

Yes, I have on my sassy pants today. I know this is scary but we can do this. Do it afraid, but do it. According to the Chinese Zodiac, 2018 is the year of the Dog. Don’t know about you but, while I’m willing to work like a dog, I’m nobody’s b*tch 😛 .

I love hearing from you!

And am not above bribery!

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

NEW CLASSES!

Master Class: How to Write a Series

Taught by Kristen Lamb AND Cait Reynolds…together…in same room. It’ll be fun! Class is NEXT FRIDAY January 19th, 7-10 PM EST in our W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom. $75 for a three hour class of intensive education and lots of shenanigans.

A free recording is included with class purchase…though we reserve the right to edit out anything that can and will be used against us in a court of law.

Your Life as a Story: How to Write a Memoir

Instructor: Cait Reynolds

Price: $65.00 USD

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

Date: Friday, January 26th, 2018. 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST

We all have a story to tell, something worth preserving or even sharing. This might be the tale of our own life, or the life of someone dear to us.  Maybe we long to capture oral histories of relatives before the living past disappears forever.

Regardless, the memoir is a genre that requires an approach, voice, and technique vastly different from fiction.

Topics we cover in this class include:

  • Developing the thematic frame of the memoir;
  • Creating a compelling narrative structure out of facts and timelines;
  • The art of the follow-up question: going beyond the generic questionnaires to dig deep and mine memories to get the extraordinary details and important information;
  • Developing and refining your memoirist voice;
  • Knowing when extra research is needed, what is needed, and how to find it;
  • Filling in the gaps when no information exists;
  • Understanding legal constraints (i.e. libel) and how to maneuver around them yet maintain story integrity;
  • Recreating dialogue and excerpting from original documents (letters, journals, etc.);
  • Positioning your memoir for multiple markets.

****As always a free recording is included with class purchase.

 

 

wounds, wounded, writing tips, Kristen Lamb, character depth, layered characters

Wounds matter in life and in fiction. The last blog was a bit heavy, true. My goal was to start the dialogue about being wounded. You are not alone. I am not alone. We’ve all been hurt in some way and to some degree. Just goes with being human.

Admitting weakness, failure, mistakes, and flaws isn’t always easy. In fact, it can be downright terrifying for even the ‘strongest’ of us. It’s an especially daunting task in a world that idolizes something none of us will ever be…perfect. Wounds are part of the human experience. When we understand the nature of wounds, our fiction becomes all the richer just by adding in these layers.

All genres and all stories require wounds. No wound and no story. Even The Little Engine That Could had self-esteem issues and a confidence problem 😉 .

Wounds provide friction vital for conflict, No conflict, no story. Conflict turns pages, sells books, and cultivates fans. The entire point of stories is a flawed character overcoming some internal issue (damage) in order to triumph over an external problem. It’s why readers read fiction.

Genre Dictates Damage

wounds, wounded, writing tips, Kristen Lamb, character depth, layered characters

This said, the wounds need to fit the genre because genre acts as a guideline for reader expectations. Our goal as authors should be to meet then exceed reader expectations. Stories are all for the reader or should be, which is why genre constraints can be very helpful for writers.

No one expects a cozy cupcake mystery to explore the nature of evil. Readers who gravitate to this genre are wanting a lighter read and will resent us playing Dostoyevsky. Conversely, if a reader is in the mood for a story that probes the depths of the human condition, they’re probably not picking up a novel about a cupcake baker who solves local crimes.

Many emerging writers often shy away from damaged characters and use genre as an excuse to avoid the uncomfortable. Big mistake. A cozy cupcake mystery can give the reader the light entertainment she craves and also offer emotional resonance she needs…without being Crime, Punishment and Cupcakes (though that’s a killer title, LOL).

When we understand wounds better, it helps us cultivate layered characters who’ll make for page-turning stories, regardless of genre. Let’s look at some common sources for wounds.

Pain of Perfect

wounds, wounded, writing tips, Kristen Lamb, character depth, layered characters

First, what is perfect? Good question. Humans all across time and in every culture idolize perfect (always have and always will) though what perfect is varies vastly and changes all the time. Just take a moment to check out female beauty standards across the ages and it’s easy to see how, while the world around us might change, people don’t.

We are still ridiculous.

The ancient Incas thought being cross-eyed was super sexy. RAWR. They often fitted infants with a plank between their eyes to artificially create this ‘natural’ beauty for those unlucky enough to be born with ‘normal’ eyes. Ancient Greece was hot for the unibrow.

From ideal body type to what constitutes success to what constitutes normal or abnormal is in constant flux, and is different everywhere. It even varies from household to household depending on culture and you got it…wounds. This is where writers can have a lot of fun creating mayhem in fiction.

Falling Short

wounds, wounded, writing tips, Kristen Lamb, character depth, layered characters

No matter what genre we write, a character failing to ‘live up to’ some ideal is gold. Maybe your character has spent a lifetime being measured against the ‘perfect’ older sibling, and struggles with self-esteem. This character might flounder trying to create his/her own distinct identity.

Or flip it.

What if the character happens to be the ‘perfect’ older sibling? This character didn’t ask for family or outsiders to pick on his or her younger sibling for not being as smart, talented, pretty, ambitious, etc.

This character never asked to be the standard unit of measurement to judge another human being. How much guilt might come with that? Think of the pressure or even the fear of being exposed as a ‘fraud’?

Also, we have another ‘person’ who lacks a distinctive identity. While we have two very different ‘people’ both characters are defined in relation to the other. Outsiders have denied agency to both. It’s amazing how something as simple as birth order can create a wound that drives characters and their decisions (good and bad).

We see this sort of wound explored in everything from The Joy Luck Club (literary fiction) to Game of Thrones (epic high fantasy) to one out of every three Hallmark movies 😉 .

The Diseased Family Tree

wounds, wounded, writing tips, Kristen Lamb, character depth, layered characters

Since we’re all in the holiday season, we might be more intensely aware of how wounds can come from those closest. We touched a bit on family damage with ‘perfection.’ Family damage can come in many forms.

Joe Hill’s Heart-Shaped Box does a brilliant job of exploring the ‘anti-goal’ which is a common fruit of the diseased family tree.

Judas Coyne is a famous rockstar, wealthy beyond imagination who has everything (including a lot of emotional baggage). Hate, anger and resentment fueled his incredible success, yet false guilt and profound shame keep him from enjoying any of it. A vengeful ghost determined to destroy him body and soul might be the only thing with the power to liberate Coyne from his emotional bondage.

Sometimes the diseased family tree is not as obvious. Often, parents believe they’re giving their children the best, but are actually deluded about the nature of their motives.

In The Luckiest Girl Alive, TifAni’s mom is superficial, materialistic, and self-absorbed. Her father is an emotionally absentee ghost who resents his life. Her mother pushes for TifAni to attend an elite prep school to give her daughter all the opportunities she missed (code for ‘marry real money’). Dad doesn’t have the spine to stand up and say ‘no.’

Both parents are too self-centered to realize TifAni in that school is a ticking bomb.

Of course, not every character needs to grow up in Season Ten of The Jerry Springer Show in order to take on some damage. The road to therapy is paved with good intentions.

Parents are human, too.

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty explores how the best of intentions can poison everything.

Life Wounds All

wounds, wounded, writing tips, Kristen Lamb, character depth, layered characters

Life has 100% fatality rate. No one gets out alive. Also we’re all going to get hurt somewhere by someone. Thing is, life is all…pointy. If family doesn’t make us bleed, then school, peers, romantic interests, work colleagues, Facebook or plain bad luck will.

I know. I missed my calling writing inspirational cards 😛 .

Why am I talking about all this? Because we writers have more ‘competition’ than any other time in human history. With no gatekeepers, discoverability is a nightmare. There are a gazillion choices for books and most of them (like cable channels) are a waste of what little free time we have.

More is Not Always Better

From movies to television to books, audiences are deluged with tired tropes, boringly predictable plots and characters with the emotional depth of a goldfish. We can see this ‘glut of meh’ as a problem or use it for our advantage.

If we know why readers read, what they want, then we can work hard on what matters. Readers long for emotional connection and stories that help them deal with pain, ease their pain or maybe even solve/release their pain. They want hope that messed up people overcome big problems in spite of, or perhaps because of, wounds and flaws.

At the other side of the problem is joy, peace, true love, freedom, fulfillment, healing, understanding, wholeness! Wounds are healed and victory sealed. Who doesn’t want more of THAT?

wounds, wounded, writing tips, Kristen Lamb, character depth, layered characters

What Are Your Thoughts?

Getting tired of the same old same old? From Hollywood to books it feels like it’s just the same stuff over and over. I get giddy when I discover something truly excellent. What about you?

I love hearing from you and am not above bribery!

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

I’m running Round Four of my ‘Write Stuff’ Special. 20 pages of deep edit for $40. ONLY TEN SLOTS AVAILABLE. Get your slot HERE.

NEW CLASS! 20% Early Bird Discount

The Art of Character: How to Craft Dimensional ‘People’ in Fiction

Instructor: Kristen Lamb
Price: $45 USD (Only $36 with discount)
Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom
When: January 4th, 2018 7:00 P.M. EST—9:00 P.M. EST

No matter what genre we write, the key to writing unforgettable stories always rests with character. How do we create intriguing characters who hook readers and never let them go? What makes a character unforgettable? How do we write stories that endure?

It is easy to fall into tropes and caricatures if we lack a fundamental understanding of human nature and how this plays out in the dramatic narrative. This class will delve into how to add depth to our characters which will, in turn add, resonance with our plot.

This class will cover:

  • Discovering Wounds;
  • Understanding Coping Mechanisms;
  • How Wounds Collide to Increase Dramatic Tension
  • How to Create Dimensional Characters
  • Using Character to Plot

***A FREE recording is included with purchase.

What makes the difference between a meh novel and one we fall head over heels in love with regardless of genre? Good question and it sure would make our job easier if there existed one answer.

Though there isn’t one answer there’s a list of pretty good answers, thus for this post and the sake of brevity, we’ll pick one. Today, I posit that the reader, upon page one, is testing a potential relationship. Kinda like dating.

We (readers) BOND to the great stories much the same way we bond in human relationships. Think about it.

We even admit to this all the time without truly noting what we’re saying, “OMG, I fell in LOVE with that book! I LOVE that character!” etc.

When we authors roll with this metaphor, our job as storytellers becomes far simpler (though simple and easy are not the same thing).

Attraction

I teach a class called Hooked–Your First Five Pages (and offering it again) because those initial pages are critical. It’s like meeting a member of the opposite sex and noticing something that makes our heart flutter, that propels a longing to know more.

A vast majority of relationships start with this kind of heart-fluttering spark, though granted there are relationships where there was nothing/nada in the beginning, and, over time, something surfaced.

This happens in fiction though it’s rare. Every person who has ever recommended Girl with the Dragon Tattoo to me has told me essentially the same thing, “Oh the first hundred pages will bore the paint off the walls, but if you get past that….it’s AWESOME.”

Ok. I’m good, thanks. Not picking on this book, but just not my beer. Sorry.

I’m glad he has a great personality…. *looks for exit*

OPW versus NPW

Though not all relationships begin with an instant spark, it’s pretty amazing to have (and ideal, too). In fiction it is no longer optional. In a what I call the NPW (New Publishing World) we no longer have the luxuries of the OPW (Old Publishing World).

In the OPW, only so many authors were ever published. Discoverability wasn’t a nightmare. The competition was finite.

In the NPW? We gotta have that love-at-first-sight or the browsing reader will simply pass after glancing at the sample pages and move on until something sparks.

Story IS Seduction

All righty, so sparks are great but not nearly enough if nothing catches fire. Before Hubby, I had more than my fair share of bad dates which I want to use for the purposes of illustration.

Nothing Ned

When I was 20 a ridiculously hot Marine asked me out and he wasn’t gorgeous…he was breathtaking. Just looking at him made my knees weak…and then I went out with him.

I’m not picking on Marines because I know plenty who are brilliant, but this young man was not one of them. Though I think he was likely the most handsome man who’d ever asked me out, it was one of the most painful dates of my life. Agonizing might be a better word, namely because I find intellect attractive and this guy was about as smart as a tomato plant.

During the meal, I found myself wondering if he’d start leaning toward the light, postulating he might be able to photosynthesize his own food. Was the steak he ordered even necessary? 

Yes, I know. Not a very nice thing to think but I was only twenty. Gimme a break!

And maybe he wasn’t dumb and I simply assumed this because I was young and dumb, myself. Perhaps he was nervous or shy. But what killed the spark was he was a blank, a Nothing Ned. He parted with nothing of his own.

Me: *eagerly smiling* So, you like to mountain bike?

Him: *shrugs* Not really.

Me: *still perky* Okay, you have hobbies?

Him: *makes face* Nah. Not so much.

Me: *dying a little inside* Where are you from?

Him: *chews* Texas.

Me: *feeling the tailspin, reaching for anything* What music do you like?

Him: *butters more bread* I dunno. Really don’t listen to music.

Me: *wanting to commit Seppuku with sorbet spoon* So what do you do?

Him: *shrugs again* A lot of things.

Now maybe this guy was a genius and a layered and dimensional human being with loads of cool hobbies we could have bonded over. But, because on this ONE date he parted with NOTHING of himself, he came across as boring, dull, and frankly dull-witted.

Was he? No idea.

I didn’t have the bandwidth to endure another painful evening like that to find out. The spark of his looks were enough to get me to dinner, but nothing ignited because he refused to part with anything personal to act as tinder to make use of the spark.

Then we have the other kind of date. Again, really attractive guy, enough to spark a date and by the end of the evening…I wanted to throw myself out of a moving car.

Let’s meet…

Over-Sharing Oliver

Over-Sharing Oliver was the opposite of Nothing Ned and he spent hours using dinner as his personal confessional/therapy session relaying in vivid detail everything that had happened to him from childhood, the deets of his nasty divorce and why he hates and doesn’t trust women (but thinks I might be different—thanks) and on and on about himself.

HIS likes, accomplishments, job, hobbies, interests, opinions and thirty minutes into this ordeal I seriously wondered why the heck I was even THERE.

I felt like a prop whose sole purpose was so he didn’t look stupid eating at a restaurant and talking to himself (though he was essentially doing just that).

The Story as Romance

When we create our characters we must be vigilant to avoid the polar opposite ends of the backstory spectrum, and it IS a balancing act.

On one side the character can be a Nothing Ned. We fail to explore and articulate the backstory of WHO this character is and why he/she is a certain way. How do they see their world? Why do they act/react the way they do?

Dramatic tension cannot exist in a vacuum. There is nothing to emotionally ignite the relationship between the reader and our story.

Conversely, when we create the backstory, it doesn’t belong vomited on the reader all at once like Over-Sharing Oliver. As we talked about on Tuesday, mystery is a good thing. It keeps readers turning pages.

There is a reason the final big ending of a novel is called the climax *wink, wink, nudge, nudge*.

The reader and story bond in relationship that grows and intensifies with every struggle, setback and finally a triumph (climax)…which can be a betrayal (tosses book across room), an unsatisfying letdown (no more books by THAT gal), satisfying (cool, maybe get his next book), or a mind-blowing transcendent experience (in love, committed forever and no author does it better).

How any novel ends largely depends on the writer’s skills at wooing the reader then making them see stars 😉 . They will love YOU forever, eternally devoted. Frankly that is what we ALL want, readers and authors.

Learning to create fascinating and layered backstories is a great start, and USA Today BSA Cait Reynolds has a class on that tonight which I strongly recommend. Cait is a fantastic instructor.

Additionally, the worlds we create can in and of themselves become like a character where readers fall goofy in love because they ADORE that world (um…Cosplay anyone?).

This is why we are also offering world-building classes, because it involves so much more than one might think. Many of the MS I edit really are sad regurgitations of other worlds by other authors or, as in the case of Independence Day Resurgence a boring and bizarre cobbling of other worlds.

Hollywood: Hey, let’s retread Independence Day, slap on some Babylon 5, Battlestar Galactica and a smidge of Call of Duty Infinite Warfare. It will be awesome!

…..yeah NO.

Instead our goal is to learn to create something grounded in familiar mythos, yet wholly ours and unique and captivating. Y’all can also feel free to peruse the archives of this blog for all kinds of free posts on character, backstory and world-building.

Either way, I want y’all to succeed and to create the stories we (readers) LOVE. I want that when we think of your novel we then blather on and on like we would over some guy/gal we had a mad-stupid crush on.

What are your thoughts? Can you relate to the horrible date? The one you believed you’d enjoy and ended up only wanting to chew off your leg to escape? What about stories? What stories captivated you instantly and you’re mad in love to this day? Why?

I love hearing from you!

For the month of September, 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).

NEW CLASSES FOR SEPTEMBER AND MORE!

All classes come with a FREE recording!

We’ve added in classes on erotica/high heat romance, fantasy, how to write strong female characters and MORE! Classes with me, with USA Today Best-Selling Author Cait Reynolds, award-winning author and journalist Lisa-Hall Wilson, and Kim Alexander, former host of Sirius XM’s Book Radio. So click on a tile and sign up!

Villains & Anti-Heroes: The Characters We Love and Hate. $45.00 USD. Tuesday, September 12, 2017. 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST. Click the image to register!
Hooked: Catching Readers in the First Five Pages. $40.00 USD. Thursday, September 14, 2017. 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST. Click the image to register!
Turn Your Passion Into A Business: Making Money As A Writer. $40.00 USD. Monday, September 25, 2017. 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST. Click the image to register!
Guilty Pleasures: Writing Suspense, Thrillers, and Crime. Tuesday, September 26, 2017. 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST. Click the image to register!
Outside the Box: How to Read More, Write Less, and Up Your Fiction Game. Friday, September 29, 2017. 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST. Click the image to register!

Why is it so many new novels are—to be blunt—crap? How can we find an author we love with one book, then all the love goes away with the next? What’s going wrong? What’s missing? Where did everything go wrong?

How can we learn and do better?

First and foremost, to be an author it’s imperative to embrace some healthy sadism. We’ll chat briefly on this so the “wrong turns” in story can become far easier to spot.

We MUST Go Against Our Nature

Humans have all kinds of intricate biological wiring that propels us to AVOID CONFLICT/PAIN. Now this is great namely because our desire to avoid pain is what keeps us alive and gainfully employed. It’s also how many of us are able to endure the holidays when forced to see family.

This said, it is human to avoid conflict and to smooth everything over and civilization would implode if we didn’t heed our biology. We feel the rising anxiety and our nature steps in to “fix” everything and return to a nice comfortable homeostasis.

Avoiding conflict and pain can be healthy in life, but it spells death for fiction.

So here are a couple reasons your story might suck. Btw, remember while I have one finger pointing at you? Three are pointing back at me. I use these guideposts in my own work when I sense it’s starting to seriously suck.

#1—We Have Decoration Devoid of Substance

I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Novels are not pretty sentences or even pretty words. Sure, it’s nice to have them, but they’re not entirely necessary.

It’s like a cake. Some cakes are so intricate they’re literally works of art, but cake is meant for people to EAT. So I’d much prefer a plain cake that is so yummy angels sing than to bite into a work of “art” and get a revolting mouthful of sugar-laden lard.

Same with stories. Stories, too, are meant to be ingested, to FEED us emotionally.

Fiction is about one thing and one thing only—PROBLEMS.

PROBLEMS are the “cake” of story.

I don’t emotionally connect to a cerulean sky or a painstakingly accurate description of a forest or an 18th century tea setting. I have zip-nada invested in an outfit, a garden or the layout of a room (that’s “icing”). Most people prefer cake with icing and readers like stories with description, setting, superlative prose etc. (though to the degree varies with reader preference).

All that “stuff” can make a story better, but they are NOT story, just like icing is not cake.

#2—We Have No Plot

Plot is basically a fancy way of saying we have a core problem in need of resolution (cake) and a plan (recipe) to do just that.

I cannot connect emotionally with a detailed description of a designer outfit, but I can connect with the woman who’s wearing this outfit. I don’t care all that much about the outfit, I care about the woman and the why behind the outfit.

What is she hiding? What is she up against? What must she face to become whole?

Is she in this outfit because she desperately needs a job? Because it hides the bruises from her emotionally and physically abusive husband who controls her life? The one she must find the courage (and job) to escape?

This is why I’m a huge believer in writers being able to articulate what their story is about in ONE sentence. If we can’t do that? Odds are we have icing and no cake. Or maybe a cake that’s half-baked or missing key ingredients.

#3—We Have No Clear Plot Goal

All stories have ONE CLEAR FINAL goal. And I don’t want to hear the BS copout of:

“Well, my story is literary and character-driven. Her goal is she wants to find out who she is.”

Aside from the fact that literary and character-driven stories don’t automatically get a pass on a plot, why do we care? What happens if the protagonist doesn’t find out ‘who she is’? Why is it important? What are the stakes? Why should I (the reader) root for her?

Besides that is the wrong question entirely.

Regardless of genre, the protagonist is never finding out who she is, rather what she is made of.

For that to happen? We need a PLOT PROBLEM.

Clear plot problems offer context. If I (reader) have not been clearly shown the story problem, then I’ll be quickly bored because I lack context that makes any setback a setback.

It’s like showing me a guy driving off for a destination and not telling me where he’s going. Yet, if I know he’s driving to Canada from Texas, then accidentally turning down I-35 South because he’s arguing with his ex on the phone MEANS SOMETHING.

I can clearly SEE he’s headed for MEXICO, not Canada. The wrong turn means something and so does every setback which creates bigger and badder problems (which turns pages, btw).

By DEFINITION a setback can only happen when there is an actual goal.

We need a Death Star, a Mount Doom, and a Labyrinth or….meh.

Same in character-driven stories. We root for Evelyn Couch in Fried Green Tomatoes because we know the final goal is her growing a spine. We know she has “won” when she stands up to her bullies and to the husband who’s disrespecting her.

Bad situations are not a plot. It’s soap opera writing. Soap operas get forty years and go into infinity. Novels don’t have that luxury.

#4—Too MUCH SUGAR

We’re being way too nice. I see way too many new manuscripts and the reason they’re boring the paint off the walls is nothing is happening and everything is too easy. Everyone gets along is super sweet and lots of colorful pretty descriptions and empty calories that make us sick.

Humans have fears and faults and failures that will collide, especially under pressure. I see far too many manuscripts where nothing is happening. People talking.

Description not friction. No friction? No traction.

#5—We’re Making it TOO Easy

Yes, your protagonist has ONE core story goal in need of resolution, but there should be a ton of hardship, suffering, setbacks and pain along the way. Our protagonist must work for everything and earn every reward, even the small ones with blood, sweat and sacrifice. NOTHING should be easy. Ever.

Authors deal in solid gold rewards, not plastic participation trophies.

If our protagonist is being spoon fed the answers (dreams, journals, letters, flashbacks, “super helpful” ancillary characters) that’s cheating. If the protagonist is rescued constantly by others and it never pushes any pain points? Where’s the glory in that?

When I was in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, most people don’t last a month. Most females never make it past white belt. It takes a YEAR to earn blue belt. I had to do this grappling men twice my size.

It took me a year and a half of busted lips, blood, bruises, and strains. It also cost me a broken nose and a dislocated knee…but guess what’s framed in my office?

I can tell you that had I been handed a blue belt for attendance, it would be in some junk drawer along with the piles of other worthless awards.

Same in fiction. We revel in the protagonist’s victory only when the title of “HERO” is earned.

#6—We Forgot to Turn on the Heat

The greater the stakes the better the story. No heat and we don’t have cake, we have batter. Same in fiction. Turn on the heat.

A friend of mine had a brilliant idea for a story, but her niceness kept killing it. She emailed me that her story is about an artist who has five years to make it in NYC or he has to return to his family’s house-painting business.

I replied: NOOOOOOOOOOO!

If our artist has five years in the beginning? We aren’t too worried. There’s time. But if we know he’s at the end of five years and has only one final narrow window? Everything changes.

If the stakes are he returns to an occupation close to what he loves (painting) and also limited seasonally (house painting in NY) it isn’t that big of a deal. He can dream away what he longs to create while on a ladder touching up eaves. He also will have seasons he can still create art.

But, what if he’s returning to a job that is not only the opposite of what he loves, but can potentially drain every creative molecule from his soul? A stressful occupation that might just kill him with seventy-hour work weeks (accounting firm)? Or physically endanger his hands/ability to paint (family auto repair business)?

And while we are at it? He’ll have to return to a family that never really was supportive and will be delighted he failed and relish rubbing it in.

NOW we have a story 😉 .

Crank up that heat. Shorten timelines and up the stakes, both physical and emotional.

If your protagonist fails, it isn’t simply a failure, it needs to be an extinction event.

In the end, I have a mantra: Make it worse until you make it weird.

What are your thoughts? Have you been too easy on your characters? Maybe indulging in flashbacks to “explain” why a character is a certain way instead of making the reader work to uncover it? Have you been too nice? Unclear? What ways can you wind that tension tighter? Shorten the timeline or up the stakes? We only will value what COSTS a lot. No one values free and easy 😉 .

I love hearing from you!

For the month of AUGUST, 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).

July’s winner will be listed next time I post. Sorry, lots to do getting ready for New Zealand and I am behind.

****And MAKE SURE to check out the NEW CLASSES classes below including the final class I will teach before taking off for NEW ZEALAND! I’m keynoting there for the Romance Writers of New Zealand, which while SUPER COOL….I’d be lying if I didn’t say the trip wasn’t making me more than a tad nervous.

Speculative fiction is an umbrella term used to describe narrative fiction with supernatural or futuristic elements. This includes but it not necessarily limited to fantasy, science fiction, horror, utopian, dystopian, alternate history, apocalyptic fiction, post-apocalyptic fiction.

Basically, all the weird stuff.

Gizmos, gadgets, magic, chainsaws, demons, fantastical worlds and creatures are not enough and never have been. Whether our story is set on Planet X, in the sixth dimension of hell, on a parallel world, or on Earth after Amazon Prime gained sentience and enslaved us all, we still must have a core human story that is compelling and relatable.

In this class we will cover:

  • Discovering the core human story problem.
  • How to plot these unique genres.
  • Ways to create dimensional and compelling characters.
  • How to harness the power of fear and use psychology to add depth and layers to our story.
  • How to use world-building to enhance the story, not distract from it.

All classes come with a FREE recording!

We’ve added in classes on erotica/high heat romance, fantasy, how to write strong female characters and MORE! Classes with me, with USA Today Best-Selling Author Cait Reynolds and award-winning author and journalist Lisa-Hall Wilson. So click on a tile and sign up!

Bad Boys. $45.00 USD. Friday, November 17, 2017. 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST. Click the image to register!