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Kristen Lamb

Author, Blogger, Social Media Jedi

Kristen Lamb — Photo

Posts Tagged: Writing

Image vis Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Yuya Sekiguchi.
Image vis Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Yuya Sekiguchi.

Quitting. Not a popular word when it comes to motivational quotes. Those of us who are driven achievers often end up overwhelmed, burned out, living in a blanket fort afraid to leave the house. Why? Because we’ve ALL heard that winners never quit and quitters never win.

Which is complete and utter bull sprinkles.

Since we don’t want to be “quitters” we keep going even when we shouldn’t.

So, want to know the secret to success? Quitting. Yes, you read correctly. And, if you’re a creative professional or entrepreneur, it is in your best interests to learn to get really good at quitting.

Maybe you’ve felt like a loser or a failure, that your dream to make a living with your art/idea was a fool’s errand. We have to be careful. Never giving up might keep us from ever succeeding.

Ignore the motivational fluff and understand…

Winners Quit All the Time

I posit this thought; if we ever hope to achieve anything remarkable, we must learn to quit. In fact, I’ll take this another step. I venture to say that most aspiring writers will not succeed simply because they aren’t skilled at quitting.

Ooooohhhh.

Learning Discernment

One reason we might not recognize that quitting is our wisest option is because we lack discernment. It’s easy to get trapped in all-or-nothing thinking. If we defy family in pursuit of our dream and something stops working properly—out of pride—often we’ll persist even when the very thing we’re attempting is the largest reason we will fail.

We keep reworking that first novel over and over. We keep querying the first novel and won’t move on until we get an agent. We keep writing in the same genre even though it might not be the best fit for our voice.

We keep marketing the first self-published book and don’t move forward and keep writing more books and better books.

For the entrepreneurs (and being a creative professional falls under entrepreneurship), we can start throwing good money after bad. We started with an idea and, instead of hot-washing our results and being brutally honest? We (mistakenly) believe more money will fix a flawed plan.

Hint: It won’t.

If you are tangled in a book that isn’t working, never ends, keeps getting rejected, ask for help. Sometimes the story (plot) is there only we can’t see it. We’re too vested and emotionally blinded.

***This is why I do plot consulting 😉

Strategic Quitting & Failure Insurance 

I like to say, “Persistence looks a lot like stupid.”

The act of never giving up is noble, but never giving up on the wrong things is a formula to fail.

We have to learn to detect the difference between quitting a tactic and quitting a dream.

Original image courtesy of flowcomm, via Flickr Commons
Original image courtesy of flowcomm, via Flickr Commons

If I’m trying to climb Mt. Everest, but I’m repeatedly failing at climbing the one side, which is a sheer rock face with no way to get a footing, then it is suicide to keep trying the same thing. If, however, I regroup, hike back to the bottom (hire some experts, a.k.a. sherpas), and take another way up the mountain, I am a quitter…but I am NOT a failure.

In fact, in order to “win” I must “quit.”

Learn to Quit from the Best

Most of us are lousy at knowing how and when to quit. This is one of the reasons it is a good idea to surround ourselves with successful people, because successful people are expert quitters.

***Even if “surrounding” means following on social media, reading their books, listening to podcasts, etc.

Read any book from super successful people from all different backgrounds and in all different fields and one thing stands out. These folks learned then adopted some mad quitting skills

Just read Daymond John’s The Power of Broke, mega-blogger Jenny Lawson’s memoir Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, bazillionaire Mark Cuban’s How to Win at the Sport of Business: If I Can Do It You Can Do It, comedian Kevin Hart’s memoir I Can’t Make This Up and you’ll see what I am talking about.

This list is filled with men, women, entertainers, entrepreneurs, and business tycoons yet they all began small and experimented. With time and experience they learned when quitting was the only way to make it to the next level.

For instance, if business mogul and Shark Tank celebrity Daymond John had kept his ‘taxi’ business we might never have even heard of him.

Good Business versus a Good Start

For those who don’t know, Daymond John got his start with a small scale fashion business (that we now know as FUBU) that he ran out of a large van. Being business savvy, though, Daymond John got as much bang for the buck with that van as possible.

So, when he wasn’t delivering and selling fashion, he made additional money shuttling people from their bus stops to their doorsteps for a small fee.

NYC, however, caught on—namely from all the complaints from taxi companies—and the city started ticketing him to the point that the great idea was a no-go.

Again, fabulous concept—OBVIOUSLY since Uber eventually came along and did the EXACT same thing. But for Daymond John, it was a fabulous concept that could only work short-term to get him to the next level on a totally different playing field.

For him it was a means to an end not the end (as was the eventually the case for Uber).

As for ME…

When I started out, I had all the wrong mentors. I had writer pals who quit writing when it was boring or who quit querying after a handful of rejections. They quit attending critique because they got their feelings hurt when people didn’t rave their book was the best thing since kitten calendars.

All this wrong kind of quitting is easy to fall into.

Excuses are free, but they cost us everything.

My Life Changed When I Changed the Quitters in My Company

For me, I stalked people I admired on social media. I read a lot of books, memoirs, self-help, business books from people I admired.

I had to change my thinking and, to do this, I had to immerse myself with people who had what I wanted. It was crucial to adopt their thinking, attitudes, and, ideally, benefit from their wisdom.

A good example of savvy quitting? I turned in a hundred page proposal for Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World in the winter of 2011 to a premiere agent, a DREAM agent. But, after NYC passing on it for over a year? I thanked my agent for his efforts, then went ahead and published it myself.

Yes, I self-published Rise of the Machines in 2012. Wasn’t in my plans, and yet….

My book remains a top social media branding resource because I chose to focus on humans and not technology. Technology changes, people don’t.

When we understand what people like, hate, what makes them loyal, why they bond or flee, then it doesn’t matter whether we are using Instagram, SnapChat or any other platform. Because we know what makes our potential audience/fans/customers excited, we have an edge.

We need to always be moving forward, and sometimes pressing on requires letting go.

We can’t grab hold of the new if we are hanging on to the old. If I’d remained entrenched in my old circle of peers, that book would have never seen the light of day.

And sure, letting go of a NYC deal sucked. What author doesn’t want a contract with major house? It was heartbreaking for me to walk away from the ‘hope’ that maybe NY would one day see the value of my book.

Yet? It had to happen.

The NYC plan was a a no-go and it came time to do something different. I wasn’t quitting my dream (publishing an evergreen social media guide), I simply was quitting my approach.

If something isn’t working QUIT. Move on!

If we have to defend and justify what we are doing there’s something wrong.

Everything is Our Enemy

quitting, Kristen Lamb, productivity, success

It’s hard to know when to quit. I’m a loyal person. I’m loyal to a fault and I struggle every day with this lesson. But I’ve recently come to a conclusion. People who reach their dreams don’t get there by doing EVERYTHING. Everything is dead weight. Everything will keep us from focusing. Everything gets us distracted.

Everything is the enemy.

Sometimes we need to let go of inefficiencies or false trails, and if we don’t let go, then failure is just a matter of time.

We Actually Need More Quitting

Quit your day job. Today. This moment. Now, by quitting, I don’t mean you should throw your laptop in a waste can and take a bat to that copy machine that’s eaten every presentation you’ve tried to photocopy since the day you were hired….though that might be fun.

No, I mean mentally QUIT, then hire yourself to the dream.

Screw aspiring. Aspiring is for the amateurs and wannabes. It takes guts to be an author.

It takes guts to be any kind of creative professional. Hire yourself to the job you dream about. TODAY.

No aspiring writers, only pre-published writers. If you want to be a professional author, you must quit to win. The day job is no longer the ends, but rather the means. The day job is just venture capital funding the successful art-making business…YOU.

You are a pre-published author…who happens to also be a stay-at-home-mom, a computer programmer, a salesperson, a whatever.

Learn to Quit Being “Everything”

quitting, Kristen Lamb, success, productivityAgain, Everything is the enemy. Friends and family will want you to keep being the maid and the taxi and the babysitter and the buddy who can spend all day shoe-shopping.

Many of us will try to keep being Everything to everyone and we’ll just try to “fit in” writing, but that is the lie that will kill the dream. We can’t be Everything!

A new quote I have etched in my brain is:

I can be respected or popular. I can’t be both.

We must learn when to quit and to be firm in quitting. Others have the right to be disappointed, but they’ll get over it. And, if they really love us they will get over it quickly and be happy for our resolve to reach our dreams.

If they don’t? They’re dead weight and it’s better to cull them out of our life sooner than later.

Yes, this is hard stuff. Reaching our dreams is simple, but it will never be easy ;).

I LOVE HEARING from YOU!

So what are some of your quitting stories? Did it work? Were you better off? Tell us your quit to win story! Do you need help sticking to your guns? Hey, your family doesn’t get you, but we do! Do you have a problem and you don’t know if you should stick or quit? Put it in the comments section and let us play armchair psychiatrist!

For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of my latest social media/branding book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on AMAZON, iBooks, or Nook

***All classes come with a free recording.

THANK YOU SO MUCH for your enthusiastic support! Y’all ROCK! I LOVE HEARING From YOU!

Comments, questions? Are you tired of being told you need to be on every social site all the time? Do you just want to get back to writing STORIES? Does the idea of promotion and ads make you hyperventilate?

What are your thoughts?

JANUARY/FEBRUARY/MARCH’S AWESOMENESS (CLASSES)

The Business of Writing

Taught by Kristen Lamb on Saturday, February 2nd 1-3 PM EST ($55)

Pitch Perfect: How to Write a Query Letter & Synopsis that SELLS

Taught by Kristen Lamb on Thursday, February 7th, 7-9 PM EST ($55)

Shift Your Shifter Romance into HIGH Gear

Taught by USA Today BSA Cait Reynolds February 8th, 7-9 PM EST ($55)

Blurb Writing Blows (But Doesn’t Have To)

Taught by USA Today BSA Cait Reynolds February 15th, 7-9 PM EST ($45)

World-Building for Fantasy

Taught by USA Today BSA Cait Reynolds February 22nd, 7-10 PM EST ($99)

Story Master: From Dream to Done

Taught by Kristen Lamb, February 28th, 7-9 PM EST ($55/$349 GOLD)

Social Schizophrenia: Building a Brand Without Losing Your Mind 

Too many voices telling ALL THE THINGS! AHHHHHHHH! Taught by Kristen Lamb, Thursday, February 21st, 7-9 PM EST ($55 General Admission/ $195 GOLD)

Yes, I will be teaching about Instagram in this class.

A Ripple in Time: Mastering Non-Linear Plotting: ON DEMAND

Taught by Kristen Lamb, $55

Fiction ADDICTION: The Secret Ingredient to the Books Readers CRAVE

Taught by Kristen Lamb, Saturday, March 2nd 1-3 PM EST $55

SALES: For Those Who’d Rather Be Stabbed in the Face

Taught by Kristen Lamb, Thursday, March 7th 7-9 PM EST $65

The Business of Writing

Taught by Kristen Lamb on Thursday, March 7th 7-9 PM EST ($55)

 

revising a novel, editing, self-editing for writers, writing, Kristen Lamb

Today we’re going to talk about revising a novel. It’s a highly emotional and arduous task, but vital. Revising a novel is more than mind-bending work at a computer (or with a red pen for the retro crowd). It’s a tough emotional experience that can blindside us and land us in the mire if we don’t anticipate what to expect.

Some of y’all might be familiar with the Kübler-Ross Five Stages of Grief.  For those unfamiliar, Swiss psychiatrist, Kübler-Ross first introduced her grief model in her book, On Death & Dying back in 1969 after years of working with terminally ill patients. Kübler-Ross identified five specific stages humans experience when faced with an emotionally overwhelming event.

The emotionally overwhelming event can be something traumatic like a death, but not necessarily. The human brain is a magnificent organ. The brain’s critical imperative is, first and foremost, to help us SURVIVE. Not thrive. SURVIVE.

We have to remember this to appreciate what we’re really going through when writing and then revising a novel, especially when we are new.

Our amygdala (Lizard Brain) is roughly the size of an almond, and responsible for the fight, flight, or freeze that kept our ancestors alive for enough generations to give us cool stuff like iPhones, Ikea, and the Internet.

Problem is, the amygdala isn’t terribly ‘smart.’ It can’t tell the difference between an attacking bear…and someone dumping us via text message.

It also can’t discern between experiencing death or revising a novel. This can become a problem, because we need to be in the higher thinking centers—HELLO PREFRONTAL CORTEX—if we hope to be objective enough to revise our first draft(s).

It’s a Process

revising a novel, writing, editing, Kristen Lamb, revisions

New writers often are unfamiliar with these five stages. Thus, they can become stuck in the grief process when revising a novel. Revising a novel is grueling, which is why it helps to know what it feels like. What is normal? When are we stuck? Why or when should we look for outside help?

Good questions, so back to the five stages…

Kübler-Ross caught a lot of criticism when she introduced her Five Stages of Grief. Many (mistakenly) assumed Kübler-Ross was suggesting humans went through the five stages in a neat, linear order. Some folks didn’t experience all five, etc.

The problem, obviously, is critics assumed humans make sense.

That, obviously, was the first mistake.

Those who’ve studied Kübler-Ross’s model now realize humans are jacked up and don’t follow instructions because we are not robots. #YayScience

According to some researchers, some humans facing trauma don’t experience any of these emotions, though I’ve yet to puzzle out how that is even possible. So toss that out for our purposes. We often won’t go through the five stages linearly.

Perhaps we can even get stuck on one, or vacillate back in forth in the Feedback Loop from Hell. The Feedback Loop from HELL is what is most pertinent to the Emotional Sheol that is revising a novel.

Kübler-Ross’s five stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. It applies to losing a loved one, and yep, also applies to writing.

Denial: My Book Is PERFECT

revising a novel, Kristen Lamb, editing, self-editing for authors, writing tips

This is something we experience most intensely when we’re new and have no friggin’ idea what we are doing. I remember my first ‘novel.’ It was—and I KID YOU NOT—187,000 words long.

One day, I just started writing, and writing and writing. Finally, I said to myself, ‘Well, this seems long enough. The End.’

I wish I were joking.

My novel was AMAZING. It had love, death, murder, comedy, tragedy, witty reparatee. It had everything!

…but a plot.

I didn’t want to be…’formulaic’ *flips hair*

This is the point where we might join a writing group or hire an editor because we need help with you know commas, spelling, punctuation *more hair flips*.

Many who finish NaNoWriMo for the first time can believe that the novel doesn’t even needs revising *clutches sides laughing* and that it’s cool to publish as is.

Please for the love of all that is chocolate do NOT PUBLISH OR QUERY. Finishing a novel is a lot like losing a loved one. Many loved ones actually in that when we finish, we have to say goodbye to ‘people’ who are very real to us.

Thus, selling our house, accepting proposals from death row inmates, or publishing a book are all MAJOR decisions we should put off…until we’re again legally sane.

Okay, for writers, legally ‘sane.’

The other side of denial (for the more seasoned/jaded author) is THIS IS ALL CRAP. Resist the urge to delete or sign up for barber college. May I introduce y’all to the seasoned writer after a first draft (or NaNoWriMo):

Have a Snickers…and a nap.

Anger: How Dare You Say My Book Needs Work?

revising a novel, self-editing for novels, Kristen Lamb, writing tips

Maybe we reach out to a beta reader, a critique group or even hire a professional. This is the gut punch. Again, this is more for the newer writers since, if one sticks to the craft long enough to be a seasoned author…we spin through these stages faster than a Roulette Wheel hit with too much WD-40.

A little side-bar here…

When we decide to become professional authors, it’s wise to master the craft in every way possible. STUDY STORY. Become an expert. I read a ridiculous amount of books in almost every genre.

Yes, binging on Netflix and series IS work.

I study story structure, character arc, dialogue, theme, etc. First, I do this to help write better craft blogs, give the best classes and offer superlative services. But I also do this for my ART.

Expertise gives us insight and ammunition.

When I was new, I hadn’t studied enough and there were consequences. First, I dismissed good advice. Secondly, I didn’t have any way of discerning good advice from bad advice, which can lead to the Franken-Novel (book by committee). Thirdly, if I wanted to stand by a creative decision, I couldn’t articulate why.

But back to anger. When others (even experts) told me I had problems, I got angry. Instead of doing the tough work, I ‘fixed’ surface stuff. If we get the opinion of an expert who’s any good, I guarantee you they’ll make you angry.

As a long-time editor, I can tell you the ‘perfect’ book doesn’t exist.

Even if a book is great, a good editor should be able to spot something that’s going to take it to that next level. Often, it’s something that requires painful sacrifice. Anger is natural, but take time to cool off and see if maybe that person has a point.

If it’s something you simply refuse to change that is perfectly okay. It’s your book.

Yet, I’ve learned if something makes me angry…there very often is something there worth exploring.

Bargaining: Okay, Maybe My Novel Needs Work

revising a novel, self-editing for writers, editing, writing tips, Kristen Lamb

Bargaining is the place I believe most novels die. This is where we spend three or five or ten years reworking the same book. I can’t recall who first coined the term, but this is where we start ‘rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.’ 

We can’t bear the thought of tearing down and starting over, so we futz with prose and description, move around chapters, decide we really have a series.

When revising a novel, we do everything BUT what needs doing. Sometimes we don’t have a core story problem. Or we have a weak core problem. Maybe we don’t have any stakes, or the stakes aren’t high enough.

Perhaps there is no ticking clock, thus nothing prompting urgency in the characters.

This is the hard birthing pains part.

Maybe we DO have a series, but series have structure. We can’t just parse a book apart at a certain page and say, ‘Book ONE!’ then ‘Book TWO!’ without doing some other modifications.

We always have to remember that the human brain is wired a certain way and when writers run contrary to what’s been ingrained in the audience’s very DNA, that’s a risk.

Dramatic structure is not an arbitrary—or even conscious—invention. It is an organic codification of the human mechanism for ordering information. Event, elaboration, denouement; thesis, antithesis, synthesis; boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl; act one, two, three.

    ~David Mamet, Three Uses of the Knife: On the Nature and Purpose of Drama, pg. 73

Depression: I SUUUUUCK & My Novel is DOOOOMED

No and no. Writing fiction is mentally, physically and emotionally exhausting. This is why most of us who finish NaNoWriMo spend the first weeks of December eating jars of marshmallow fluff from our blanket fort. We’re so shredded because we’ve poured out an incredible amount of psychic energy, which needs time to recharge.

Think if you were trying to remodel a bathroom. You throw yourself into the remodel for a month. You’ve had to pee in old Folgers cans, borrow a neighbor’s bathroom, you have to go to the gym to shower.

Finally, after thirty days, the functional stuff is in place: shower, sink and toilet work.

But you insist on continuing without charging any of the tools. Oh you plug in the drill while you break for lunch, then go back to trying to instal cabinets, but the drill is sluggish and dies.

That table saw you’re using to cut the flooring is portable because it has a battery pack. But you do the same thing you did with the drill. You plug in the battery while you run down to the mini-mart for a Monster drink…then BACK TO WORK!

Can you imagine the nightmare of ‘finishing out’ a bathroom with tools that barely have a charge and keep dying? The mistakes one might make by stopping and starting over and over to plug in the charger for a half hour?

THIS is what can happen if we start revising a novel too soon. We are worn out. Our tools need time to charge. We need perspective and if we force the process…we can make small problems much bigger.

Editing too soon, can cut the beating heart out of a perfectly good story. Premature editing KILLS.

Expert Intervention

Or, maybe you’re out of your depth. Using our bathroom analogy, you were able to do everything but some electrical wiring and plumbing. You have to flush the toilet to turn on the lights. Maybe it’s best to admit we’ve done all WE can do and just hire some help.

Yes, it costs some money, but what is your TIME worth?

If you have a plot problem I (or another expert) can fix for you in an hour or two, which is better? Calling us and fixing the problem and finishing the book or spending the next year fixing the problem when you could have written another book?

I have never met a plot I couldn’t fix. I’ve done in less than an hour what clients couldn’t do in years. So many cry and ask, ‘Why didn’t I call you sooner?’ My answer. It doesn’t matter. You called. And quick tip. It is OKAY to not know EVERYTHING 😉 .

Acceptance: Let’s Fix This

You’ve rested, grieved, watched Netflix until your brain hurt and, overall, gotten some distance. I recommend checking out a previous post, Self-Editing: 7 Tips to Tighten the Story & Cut Costs. This post has a lot of DIY tips that will keep costs down if you do hire an editor, because the good ones are not cheap.

If you go to the Editorial Freelancers Association, you can see the standard rates and different types of editing. A developmental editor isn’t the same as a proofreader. Yet, I WILL say, that if we fix as much as we can on our own (sort of like that bathroom remodel), when we DO hire a pro we gain major advantage.

First, the expert can SEE what needs fixing MUCH faster. Secondly, it’s easier for them to do their thang. The means YOU saved THEM TIME so YOU SPEND a lot less MONEY.

#YouAreWelcome

Revising a Novel: DIY Dilemmas

As an editor, if I can’t get past the word echoes, passive voice, bad punctuation, POV shifts—simple fixes but MASSIVE distractions—then you’re burning cash. If we can’t see through this stuff that’s easily fixed on your own quickly, then it will take more TIME to get to BIG issues like plot, characters, arc, etc.

I offer my ‘Write Stuff Special’ namely because I want writers to have an affordable way to experience a true deep edit. This is my way of helping y’all save a ton of money. When I was new, there were some pros who helped me out and this is how I pay it forward.

I can tell every bad habit and good habit in only a few pages. More importantly, I can spot major structure problems as well and will give suggestions how to fix them.

This saves a TON of time ‘fixing’ stuff that doesn’t need fixing.

***Agents can see this stuff, too, which is how they can reject a book with only a small sample. If a writer doesn’t grasp POV in the first 10 pages, it’s unlikely to get any better and no one wants to be trapped in The Blair Witch Project.

Fresh Eyes Help

Remember that even the mega-authors have editors. We never outgrow needing fresh eyes to help us get unstuck. These experts are invaluable. Using myself as an example, I had a major problem with finishing up my mystery-thriller The Devil’s Dance. 

Agents spotted a problem, other editors spotted a problem, even beta readers spotted something was…off. They couldn’t tell me what. #Great

Finally, I handed it to my then editor and NOW my current coauthor. I kid you not, she read three pages and went, ‘Your problem is BLAH.’ And she was dead on.

*rails at heavens*

I’d read and reread my MS countless times over the course of a year and didn’t see that all I needed to do was remove three sentences.

Who do you think I now call FIRST when I am stuck?

Speeding Up the Cycle

Hopefully, now that we’ve explored the emotional rollercoaster that goes with revising a novel you’ll relax some. This is all natural. No, we won’t always go through all five stages. Sometimes we’ll hit them in a different order.

I have yet to figure out how one experiences NONE of these…but whatever.

Regardless, if we know this is a PROCESS and the parts of the PROCESS then we can more easily recognize when we’ve gotten STUCK.

Once we know we are stuck, we can then act. We can take a nap, work on something else for a while, take a class, read some books, crochet, watch Game of Thrones all over from beginning to end to recharge our bloodlust and dysfunction.

Whatever.

Just know if you’ve written a novel, even a crappy one, you did something that countless people claim they want to do…and DON’T. You finished and the most critical piece of success—in ANYTHING—is learning to be a finisher.

So give yourself a pat on the back and maybe a treat 😉 .

Before I ask for your thoughts, I want to make a little announcement…

Author Holiday Hotline

All the On-Demand bundles are ON SALE. We’ve saved all the best classes for a limited time for ON DEMAND. This means professional author training in your home, no pants required.

I STRONGLY recommend the gift that’s going to keep blessing you all year, all career long. We record all classes to make training accessible and convenient, but these recordings take up A LOT OF STORAGE space. Come the new year, we’re going to have to free up space on the servers and these classes will be gone for good. Some we might not offer again.

We have classes on speculative fiction, plotting, character, blogging, social media, etc. Scroll down and pick out the ones you want, then you’ll have the recording to watch on YOUR schedule.

Also, we have two more classes for December and some listed for January. If you sign up before December 24th, you can get $10 off.

GET $10 OFF ALL LIVE CLASSES. Use the promo code Jolly18.

What Are Your Thoughts?

Are you stuck revising your novel? Find yourself looping back and forth and never getting free? Hey, I’ve been there. Does this help you see the pattern? Give you some spark that YES, YOU CAN BE FREE! Revising a novel is TOUGH, so give yourself a break. If this job were easy it would be called rocket science 😛 .

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this!

Also, check out the FANTASTIC HOLIDAY DEALS we have! A lot of our On Demand classes need to be wiped from the server to make room for more training, so if you want professional training AT HOME? While in jammies during December when calories don’t COUNT? Grab you SOME! Gift it to yourself, a friend, YOURSELF!

ALSO, I’m offering my Write Stuff Special for a LOW holiday price. 20 pages of deep edit/critique for $55 and there are only 7 slots left. If you need some outside feedback to get you on the right track? Get a SPOT, TODAY! (You can use when you are ready).

In the meantime, opinions!

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).

LIVE CLASSES! REMEMBER TO USE Holiday18 for $10 off!

The WANANANO Bundle

Instructors: Cait Reynolds, Kristen Lamb
Price: $79.00 USD 
Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom
When: (see below)

  • The Sticky Middle Saturday, December 14, 2018, 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST
  • NANONOWWHAT? Thursday, December 13, 2018, 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST (Just enough time to recover…)

Get two live classes plus all recordings for 30% off! You can also purchase each class individually.


The Publishing Triple Threat Bundle

Instructors: Kristen Lamb, Cait Reynolds
Price: $155.00 USD (buy now and get that last tax deduction in before the end of the year!)
Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom
When: (see below)

Normally, it would be $210 USD for these three classes.

With the Triple Threat Bundle ALL THREE CLASSES (10 HOURS LIVE and RECORDINGS) for ONLY $155 USD. (Three classes for the price of TWO!)

You can also purchase each class individually.

***Registration is open until an hour before the final class. If, however, you want to attend ALL THREE CLASSES LIVE, MAKE SURE TO SIGN UP BEFORE THE FIRST CLASS ON JANUARY 10th.


ON DEMAND CLASSES!

ON DEMAND BUNDLE – Author Branding TKO

New Year New YOU! As they say, fail to plan and plan to fail. 2019 is almost here and the Author Branding T.K.O. delivers the training you need to make 2019 a success.

In this bundle, we’re going to take on then tame the three most terrifying topics. By the end? Easy peasy! You’ll wonder why this stuff ever had you so freaked out in the first place.

Normally all three classes would be $155…as well as spread across the entire year. But now, with the T.K.O. BUNDLE, all three classes in one place (your place) for only $99.

***Get your bundle TODAY. Only available for purchase through 12/24/18. Get your bundle before these classes go away with 2018. Gotta free up space on servers for 2019….


ON DEMAND BUNDLE – The Author’s Toolkit: Go PRO in 2019

Maybe have a New Year’s Resolution to write that novel? Have you started far too many promising stories, only to get stuck and never finish? Perhaps you just want to learn how to write FASTER without compromising quality? This bundle is the training you need to be a lean mean writing machine.

The Author’s Toolkit Bundle is six hours of intensive training that will help you write at a professional pace while minimizing revisions.

SIX HOURS of PROFESSIONAL TRAINING all at the same time, delivered to your computer. $165 when purchased separately, but in The Author’s Toolkit Bundle ONLY $99.

***Only available for purchase through 12/24/18. Get your bundle before these classes go away with 2018…


Blinding them with Science: The “X” Factor Classes

Tired of writing Soylent Green? Too many unfinished books trapped in the Twilight Zone? Ready to get weird…but way faster and at a professional level of weird? You came to the RIGHT PLACE! Cait and I are professional weirdos….(that sounded way more awesome in my head).

Anyway, the Blinding Them with Science Bundle is SIX HOURS of professional level training in speculative fiction at your fingertips.

***Just promise us that when you enslave the human race, we get cookies.

Three mind-bending classes for one low mind-blowing price. $165 in classes for only $99. ON DEMAND. Meaning enjoy at home in jammies.

***Only available for purchase through 12/24/18. Get your bundle before these classes go away with 2018…


ON DEMAND BUNDLE – Dangerous Dames: Creating Strong Female Characters

DOUBLE TROUBLE WITH KRISTEN & CAIT! Get the One-Two BAM! Two Power Classes with ONE T.K.O. PRICE!

Dangerous Dames BUNDLE. Regardless of time, place, or planet, these classes will train you to craft legendary bad@$$ females audiences can’t get enough of.

Normally $90 for both classes. With Double Trouble Bundle, enjoy BOTH classes for ONLY $75.

These classes are pre-recorded and won’t be offered again. This is the last chance to enjoy these classes before we free up space on the servers.


About the Instructors:

Cait Reynolds is a USA Today Bestselling Author and lives in Boston with her husband and neurotic dog. She discovered her passion for writing early and has bugged her family and friends with it ever since. She likes history, science, Jack Daniels, jewelry, pasta, and solitude. Not all at the same time. When she isn’t enjoying the rooftop deck that brings her closer to the stars, she writes.

 

Kristen Lamb is the author of the definitive guide to social media and branding for authors, Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World. She’s also the author of #1 best-selling books We Are Not Alone—The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer. She’s just released her highly acclaimed debut mystery-thriller The Devil’s Dance.

Kristen has written over twelve hundred blogs and her site was recognized by Writer’s Digest Magazine as one of the Top 101 Websites for Writers. Her branding methods are responsible for selling millions of books and used by authors of every level, from emerging writers to mega authors.

Kristen Lamb, self-help, self-improvement, habits, creating habits of excellence, self-discipline, stop making excuses, write more books, head out of your but

Get your head out of your ‘but.’ Yes, that’s ‘but’ with a singular ‘t.’ If we want to accomplish anything remarkable we have to own all of it—the good, the bad, the ugly. Often fears, doubts, insecurities, and bad habits wriggle in, and they’re so sly it’s frequently tough to notice them. How do we SPOT these dream killers?

It’s all in the ‘but.’

How do you know if you need to get your head out of your ‘but’?

You might find yourself saying things like:

‘I wrote as much as I could for NaNoWriMo, but this is just a really bad time of year and so busy.’

‘I was going to go to the gym, but there were all these emails I had to answer.’

‘Sure, I thought I had it in me to be an author, but it’s impossible to sell books these days unless you have a massive marketing budget.’

I’ll stop here. Y’all get the point and we all do it. My goal today is simply to make y’all aware of your ‘buts.’ ‘But’ is a red flag that we are settling for less. You can’t get your head out of your ‘but’ unless you learn to recognize when it’s there (other than everything is very DARK).

Sorry, couldn’t resist 😛 .

What Are You Hitching Up To?

Some of y’all are old enough to remember that life-changing song *bows head in reverence*…Conjunction Junction.

*cues R&B voice*

Conjunction junction, what’s your fuuunction?

Hookin’ up words and clauses and phrases…

And! That’s additive, like this and that. But, that’s sort of opposite, not this but that...

If you remember the Schoolhouse Rock video, you’ll recall they used a brilliant visual—train cars—to help kids understand exactly how conjunctions work. The conjunction acted as the link-up, the hook-up that connected one train car (clause, word, phrase) to the next train car. Change the conjunction and one changed the entire meaning.

BUT…Life

Change the conjunction and YES, we change the entire meaning…even in life. We often begin with a positive goal (clause) BUT here is the excuse (really GOOD reason) of why we can’t do X.

If we pay attention to our ‘buts,’ we’ll start seeing all the excellence we keep talking ourselves out of. Because here’s the deal, our subconscious mind knows the truth and that’s why we feel so icky when we cop out. Many of us seek to numb that icky feeling with Instagram, audiobooks, Netflix, cookies, or even hard liquor and crochet.

But no matter how much vodka-laced pot-holders we make? The pain remains.

We can even try to distract ourselves with GOOD activities like cleaning the house until one could perform heart surgery on our bathroom floor.

It won’t make any difference.

Deep down, our hearts and minds know the truth. We copped out. Sure, we might SAY, ‘Yo, BRAIN! I know I was going to finish that novel, BUT look how clean my house is!’

Then BRAIN looks at HEART and they both cross their metaphorical arms, roll metaphorical eyes and reply, ‘That’s great, EXCEPT your goal wasn’t to have the World’s Cleanest House. Your GOAL was to finish NaNoWriMo. Get your head out of your but.’

*goes back to vodka-induced crochet projects*

Watch Your Buts

Whenever I spot a ‘but,’ it now gives me pause because I know what it’s going to hitch to—a REALLY GOOD REASON. I declare I’m going to write so many words, finish a novel, complete NaNoWriMo, clean out the closets, finish revisions, organize the garage, locate the mythical the floor of my closet—A.K.A. ‘Floor Narnia’—BUT (insert really good reason here).

I use my ‘but’ to give me a pass, to assuage my guilt (temporarily). ‘This week, I SHALL organize my closet, BUT…

head out of your but, Kristen Lamb, self-improvement, self-help, excellence, creating good habits

…look how NICE my dining room (we never use) looks!’

head out of your but, Kristen Lamb, self-help, self-improvement, habits of excellence

Okay, aside from the MAJOR issue that my GOAL was not to clean my already mostly clean dining room, I hope y’all spot the problem here. Sometimes our ‘but’ offers a really GOOD REASON that is a complete non sequitur. It has nothing to do with the goal we wanted to accomplish in the first place.

Or, it can be imaginary melodrama.

For instance, the image (above-above) is an actual *hangs head in shame* picture of my closet. I could say, ‘This week I am going to clean out my closet, BUT I might die.’

This is a valid fear because I could fall, break my neck, and my cat would not alert my husband something had gone HORRIBLY WRONG. Nope, Ruby would simply nap on my dead body until my corpse cooled enough to no longer be as comfortable as the clothes she dragged off my hangars.

And the thing is, I will eventually die anyway, so why not leave this earthen plane with a clean closet?

Wow, how did my Nana just speak through me? *looks around for orbs*

The lesson here (aside from the childish joy of homophones) is that we can use unrelated ‘buts’ to (attempt to) mitigate our guilt. ‘No, I didn’t go to the gym, BUT I pinned a TON of helpful workout articles on Pinterest.’ 😀

It works, but only temporarily because…

CRACK KILLS

Kristen Lamb, self-help, self-improvement, writing, finishing more novels, head out of your but

We can’t address the ‘but’ without also discussing the accompanying ‘crack.’

Lighten UP! Laugh already.

In order to reach our goals, we first have to honestly assess who’s supplying our crack.

But–>crack. They go together.

Whenever we seek to do something remarkable, such as trade a bad habit for a good one, cut off a toxic relationship, set a boundary that’s going to allow more peace, joy and prosperity, we must be wary of ‘but’ because every ‘but’ always deals ‘crack.’

‘I know I’m an excellent writer and I’d finish that novel, but there is so much competition these days.’

See the crack?

There has ALWAYS been competition. Even before the digital age, a writer had better odds of being elected to congress than being a NYT Best-Selling Author. Most writers NEVER saw their work published…ever.

According to Book Expo of America statistics, as of 2004 (before social media and explosion of digital and Web 2.0) authors had a 96% FAILURE RATE.

96% of all books published (and most were published traditionally) sold less than a thousand copies. Of that 96% half that number sold less than 500 copies. 

 

I finished NaNoWriMo, but I’m not a REAL writer because I’m not yet published.

First of all, ditch the Schrodinger’s Novel nonsense. It’s fiction, not an existentialist debate. You wrote a crap ton of words, you are a writer. Granted you might not yet be a GOOD writer, but you ARE a writer.

#ProblemSolved #YouAreWelcome

For anyone who even FINISHES a ‘novel’—even a horrible first ‘novel’ that chews on the furniture and pees on the carpets like my first ‘novel’—YOU FINISHED. YOU accomplished something that 95% of those who start never finish.

Alas, the BUT deals the CRACK in your confidence. It steals your victory. The ‘but’ robs the momentum you rightfully earned, the momentum that is necessary to propel you to the next level and the next and the next.

Sure, perhaps you finished a sucky book. YOU FINISHED! In order to be a successful novelist (successful at anything actually) then we must first learn to be FINISHERS. You must get your head out of your ‘but’ to see what YOU ARE accomplishing.

Escaping Your ‘But’

First of all, learn to lighten the hell up on yourselves. I ‘joke’ that I am NOT a Type A, I am a Type A+ because I did the extra credit unlike the rest of you slackers 😛 . Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Yes, I emotionally distance using humor.

*shock face*

In recent months I’ve learned a hard truth. I was my greatest enemy. Every time I accomplished anything, there came the but. 

Sure, you cleaned out the closet, but your garage is a public safety hazard.

Goody goody, you wrote a thousand words on your WIP but you haven’t blogged OR Wow, you wrote an amazing blog, but your novel is collecting DUST you SLACKER.

I realized I was incapable of accepting a compliment. Someone would tell me I looked pretty, then I’d say something quippy that undermined the GIFT another person was trying to GIVE ME.

Someone on Facebook: Kristen, what a beautiful scarf you made!

Me: Yeah, well thanks. It only took four years to learn one stitch. 

The first step to getting your head out of your ‘but’ is awareness. Trust me, I have been here.

Pain with Purpose

If you need to get your head out of your but, odds are you’ve already been through some…okay, a lot of pain. The shame of not finishing, the guilt of slacking off, the nonstop voice in your head telling you how much you SUCK.

Time to put an end to this.

This is a trick I used and still am using. To warn you, this method is VERY high-tech and possibly cost-prohibitive. You’ll need safety goggles and three or four small farm animals. I recommend ‘ducks.’ #FunWithPuns

Anyway…

Get a bag of those THICK office rubber bands and apply like SO…

Then, every time you use the forces of ‘but’ for evil? Repeat what you just thought or said then, using two fingers, clasp the rubber band, draw back and SNAP THAT SUCKER HARD. 

Hard enough to HURT.

If you’ve applied this move correctly it should be painful, but writers are masochists so y’all will eventually dig it.

Whenever you think some crap like, ‘I finished NaNo, but it’s just a bunch of unreadable garbage.’ Repeat that self-defeating phrase aloud then SNAP! 

Then rub the red and stinging area gently and, in a soothing voice, say what you SHOULD have said to begin with.

***It needs to be something your brain will buy as truth.

For example, ‘I finished Nano, and if I finished THAT beast, I KNOW I have what it takes to finish the revisions because I am a finisher!’

Or: ‘I got to 30,000 words during Nano, which proves I am capable of writing over 7,000 words a week.’

Sure, this rubber band exercise seems silly but it works.

I was not cognizant of how negative I was in regards to myself until I learned this trick. Every time I THOUGHT something negative about myself, I snapped that band. Then, I restated the counterproductive thought aloud and, while rubbing my nearly bloody wrist, I then said what I SHOULD have said to begin with.

Oh, and trust me, my wrist HURT. I had to change wrists quite often.

Physical Pain is POWERFUL

Very often we’re already in pain, but we’re suffering in a generalized fugue state of ‘everything sucks.’ It’s amorphous and thus difficult to deal with swiftly and directly.

It was not until I did something that transformed my thought life into a physical reality that I gained awareness. That hard SNAP on my wrist made the intangible VERY tangible.

I had NO CONCEPT how cruel I was being to myself.

In a million years I would’ve never talked to anyone the way I spoke to myself (inwardly and outwardly). Every glance in a mirror was how I needed to lose weight, try harder, dress better. I’d clean one room only to berate myself for all other rooms I failed to clean. Even if I cleaned ALL the rooms, they needed to be repainted.

Any wonder why I felt like crying all the time?

I couldn’t change what I failed to recognize.

That ONE—okay 865–rubber bands changed my life. Every SNAP made me aware of a thought. Saying it ALOUD changed the pattern. Every thoughtless, nasty comment muttered? SNAP.

Eventually, my body was all, ‘YO, BRAIN! This $#@! HURTS! You and MOUTH gotta STOP!’ and my brain (and mouth) had to tap out and not only stop the defeating phrases, but replace those with productive ones. When I would hear the ‘but’ and the excuse? SNAP! Then I say what I CAN do.

‘But’ Training

A final thought if you need to get your head out of your ‘but.’

It is OKAY to ask for HELP. In fact, it is WISE. WE ARE NOT ALONE!

 

Trust me, you are not the only one who might have your head up your ‘but.’

Me? I recruited my family. We all had rubber bands and when we heard negative talk we called each other out. This helped a LOT…and we eventually got over hating each other.

Aside from this, not all ‘buts’ are bad. Our ‘but’ might be showing us a deeper problem that needs fixing:

‘I always have great ideas for my novels, but I never can seem to finish.’

‘My books get great reviews, but they don’t sell.’

‘I keep querying, but only get rejected.’

THESE ‘buts’ are clues we might need some help, guidance, training or all of the above. Something is going wrong in the PROCESS and if we can be honest enough to admit we need help, that’s when real growth can happen.

What Are Your Thoughts?

I LOVE hearing from you! Have you struggled, too? Do you need to get your head out of your ‘but’? Are you like me and working to be kinder to yourself? Do you struggle with beating up on yourself? Negating any progress you make? Do you need training to be kinder to YOU? Hey, I am always a work in progress.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this!

Also, check out the FANTASTIC HOLIDAY DEALS we have! A lot of our On Demand classes need to be wiped from the server to make room for more training, so if you want professional training AT HOME? While in jammies during December when calories don’t COUNT? Grab you SOME! Gift it to yourself, a friend, YOURSELF!

ALSO, I’m offering my Write Stuff Special for a LOW holiday price. 20 pages of deep edit/critique for $55 and there are only 8 slots left. If you need some outside feedback to get you on the right track? Get a SPOT, TODAY! (You can use when you are ready).

In the meantime, opinions!

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

LIVE CLASSES!

The WANANANO Bundle

Instructors: Cait Reynolds, Kristen Lamb
Price: $79.00 USD 
Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom
When: (see below)

  • The Sticky Middle Saturday, November 24, 2018, 1:30-3:30 p.m. EST (Skip hanging out with the family – you don’t really like them, anyway!)
  • NANONOWWHAT? Thursday, December 13, 2018, 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST (Just enough time to recover…)

Get two live classes plus all recordings for 30% off! You can also purchase each class individually.


The Publishing Triple Threat Bundle

Instructors: Kristen Lamb, Cait Reynolds
Price: $155.00 USD (buy now and get that last tax deduction in before the end of the year!)
Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom
When: (see below)

Normally, it would be $210 USD for these three classes.

With the Triple Threat Bundle ALL THREE CLASSES (10 HOURS LIVE and RECORDINGS) for ONLY $155 USD. (Three classes for the price of TWO!)

You can also purchase each class individually.

***Registration is open until an hour before the final class. If, however, you want to attend ALL THREE CLASSES LIVE, MAKE SURE TO SIGN UP BEFORE THE FIRST CLASS ON JANUARY 10th.


ON DEMAND CLASSES!

ON DEMAND BUNDLE – Author Branding TKO

New Year New YOU! As they say, fail to plan and plan to fail. 2019 is almost here and the Author Branding T.K.O. delivers the training you need to make 2019 a success.

In this bundle, we’re going to take on then tame the three most terrifying topics. By the end? Easy peasy! You’ll wonder why this stuff ever had you so freaked out in the first place.

Normally all three classes would be $155…as well as spread across the entire year. But now, with the T.K.O. BUNDLE, all three classes in one place (your place) for only $99.

***Get your bundle TODAY. Only available for purchase through 12/24/18. Get your bundle before these classes go away with 2018. Gotta free up space on servers for 2019….


ON DEMAND BUNDLE – The Author’s Toolkit: Go PRO in 2019

Maybe have a New Year’s Resolution to write that novel? Have you started far too many promising stories, only to get stuck and never finish? Perhaps you just want to learn how to write FASTER without compromising quality? This bundle is the training you need to be a lean mean writing machine.

The Author’s Toolkit Bundle is six hours of intensive training that will help you write at a professional pace while minimizing revisions.

SIX HOURS of PROFESSIONAL TRAINING all at the same time, delivered to your computer. $165 when purchased separately, but in The Author’s Toolkit Bundle ONLY $99.

***Only available for purchase through 12/24/18. Get your bundle before these classes go away with 2018…


Blinding them with Science: The “X” Factor Classes

Tired of writing Soylent Green? Too many unfinished books trapped in the Twilight Zone? Ready to get weird…but way faster and at a professional level of weird? You came to the RIGHT PLACE! Cait and I are professional weirdos….(that sounded way more awesome in my head).

Anyway, the Blinding Them with Science Bundle is SIX HOURS of professional level training in speculative fiction at your fingertips.

***Just promise us that when you enslave the human race, we get cookies.

Three mind-bending classes for one low mind-blowing price. $165 in classes for only $99. ON DEMAND. Meaning enjoy at home in jammies.

***Only available for purchase through 12/24/18. Get your bundle before these classes go away with 2018…


ON DEMAND BUNDLE – Dangerous Dames: Creating Strong Female Characters

DOUBLE TROUBLE WITH KRISTEN & CAIT! Get the One-Two BAM! Two Power Classes with ONE T.K.O. PRICE!

Dangerous Dames BUNDLE. Regardless of time, place, or planet, these classes will train you to craft legendary bad@$$ females audiences can’t get enough of.

Normally $90 for both classes. With Double Trouble Bundle, enjoy BOTH classes for ONLY $75.

These classes are pre-recorded and won’t be offered again. This is the last chance to enjoy these classes before we free up space on the servers.


About the Instructors:

Cait Reynolds is a USA Today Bestselling Author and lives in Boston with her husband and neurotic dog. She discovered her passion for writing early and has bugged her family and friends with it ever since. She likes history, science, Jack Daniels, jewelry, pasta, and solitude. Not all at the same time. When she isn’t enjoying the rooftop deck that brings her closer to the stars, she writes.

 

Kristen Lamb is the author of the definitive guide to social media and branding for authors, Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World. She’s also the author of #1 best-selling books We Are Not Alone—The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer. She’s just released her highly acclaimed debut mystery-thriller The Devil’s Dance.

Kristen has written over twelve hundred blogs and her site was recognized by Writer’s Digest Magazine as one of the Top 101 Websites for Writers. Her branding methods are responsible for selling millions of books and used by authors of every level, from emerging writers to mega authors.

Money is fundamental to our lives but taboo in polite conversation…much like sex. But just like sex, money is one of the main drivers of human behavior. And what do we pattern our characters’ behavior on? Yup. Exactly.

Now, of course, I would never be so crass as to suggest that any of our protagonists are motivated by such indelicate—even sordid—things such as money or sex (*rolls eyes, but soldiers on*). Protagonists are always ultimately convinced to act solely from altruism, and villains are the ones who simply must be avaricious and lustful. (*accidentally rolls eyes so hard I fall over backward*)

Money, writing, history, historical fiction

Except, sex and money are just shorthand proxies for deeper, more complex psychological stimuli. In this case, ‘sex’ as a motivator encompasses everything from our biological impetus to procreate—because the world by now totally needs more humans *eye roll…OW!*—to the pleasures and comforts of companionship.

‘Money’ is the stand-in for scarcity, acquisition, and competition for what we need to survive, from basics like food and water to the finer points of existential fulfillment.

And, while plotting is totally Kristen’s wheelhouse, it’s safe to say all plots boil down to one basic premise: a character wants/needs/lacks something and must overcome obstacles to obtain it.

No matter what genre we write, character motivation matters. Therefore, money matters.

Haves, Have-Nots, and Have-a-Snickers-Cait-You’re-not-Yourself

I am not the kindest editor, and I’m a downright PMS-ridden-harpy when it comes to historical anachronisms.

Wanna trigger the transformation? Just drop any of the following little gems into prose:

Characters using generic ‘gold coins’ to pay for bread and cheese (a whole other rage topic for another time);

WORSE, using those same coins across international borders (because universal currency, exchange rates, and value of goods was so standard and easily handled. Genghis Khan’s forced standardization of currency conversion across his empire is a totally underrated achievement of his. Too bad Europe was all like, “Yeah, no, thanks, we’re good with our seventy-five-and-counting different currencies. Try back next century, yeah?”);

Money, writing, history, historical fictionLook, I get that researching and figuring out how to include depictions of money sounds about as much fun as listening to Gilbert Gottfried read Strunk & White at open mic night. But, we just have to suck it up and look at it as penance for our sins. Or something like that.

Wanna see the harpy pop out again? Give me a servant girl with more wardrobe changes than a Lady Gaga concert. Or the poor farming family whose feisty, independent daughter is always buying and reading books. Or the Regency version of the Mary Sue Shopping Spree.

Quick, anybody got a Snickers? I’m feeling a little peckish.

Money doesn’t grow on trees

Here is the most important tip for using ye olde economics in historical fiction:

Ask questions.

What questions, you ask? (OMG, stop me, I’m so punny!)

Money, writing, history, historical fiction

ALL the questions, because to paraphrase/absolutely slaughter Socrates: we’re not always smart enough to know what we don’t know.Here’s a basic set of questions I use:

Where (literally) in the world are the characters? What are the local industries, geographical resources, etc.? Ship-building on the coast, sheep-shearing inland.

What are the major imports/exports of that region or country at the time? Robin Hood didn’t ever eat corn-on-the-cob (corn is SO 1492!).

What do the characters do for a living? How much is the wage or income for that time period/region/profession/social status? What would the modern equivalent be? The world wasn’t just nobles, peasants, and beggars. There were comfortable—even wealthy—craftsmen, tradesmen, physicians, lawyers, accountants, etc.

What is the currency of the region/country? What were the denominations in use? Was currency used at all, or was it a barter system? Nowadays, who remembers the French ‘franc’? How about the French ‘livre’ or ‘louis d’or’? Okay, yes, I do, but I’m a nerd.

Did they have servants? How many and what kind? What did they pay them? Elbow grease was the original renewable energy source, and even relatively poor families might have a ‘girl’ come in once a week to help out.

What exactly would a character own? Capsule wardrobe or queen’s trousseau?

If you are feeling a little freaked and a lot overwhelmed by the seemingly enormous, torturous research paper I have just assigned you…don’t. This is fiction, and while relative accuracy is necessary, footnotes are not required.In fact, I’m about to show you how to cheat.

My money’s on the answer…

I totally get it that not everyone dreams about spending hours organizing one’s non-fiction library by time period-topic-region. *cough*

Money, writing, history, historical fiction

So, for those out there who just want to get the job done, I present…the quick and dirty way to research just about anything for historical fiction.

Make sure you have a way to organize the research you gather because the last thing any writer wants is to find that *exact* detail we needed, then waste hours trying to find that page again.

Always start with Wikipedia. Print out or save the relevant articles. Make note of dates, places, foreign language words that will need translation if used in the story, specific terms, etc.

Don’t click away yet! Scroll down to the bottom and look at the footnotes! There’s gold in them thar hills! The cited books and articles are the next level of resources for when there’s time/interest.

Next up? Ask Dr. Google. The first entry is almost always Wikipedia, but usually the next hits are also established sources. Google also has great ye olde currency conversion links.

If you know an impecunious doctoral student, bribe them with home-cooked food in exchange for help accessing JStor, one of the largest online repositories of scholarly articles. Also, many public libraries and alma maters offer a wide range of research databases.

Often, Google provides the most precise results from Google Books (because Google is a self-referential bastard). Google Books basically is like a mini-Project Gutenberg (where all kinds of out-of-copyright primary sources are available for free download). Google Books will even HIGHLIGHT the relevant phrases on the pages of the book, and you just can’t get more silver-platter-research than that.

Adding it all up

All joking aside, here’s the process in a nutshell:

  • Get your questions ready.
  • Get ready to organize your findings so you can find ’em again.
  • Go to Wikipedia and print the heck out of the articles…and don’t forget the footnotes!
  • Do a Google search to find other professional or academic resources.
  • If you need to dig deeper, go to the public library or use alumni privileges to access JStor and other academic and research databases.
  • Search Google Books for info hidden in rare and out-of-print books, and Project Gutenberg for free, downloadable primary sources.

Money, writing, history, historical fiction

Time is money

I often get asked, “How long should I spend researching?”

The answer is easy.

It depends.

*ducks*

Money, writing, history, historical fiction

No, really, it does depend on a lot of individually-determined factors, like how familiar we already are with a time period, how comfortable we are with historical research, or even how much mind-numbing 18th-century prose we can take reading before we tear our hair out, wonder WTF we are doing with our lives, and go become meter maids because that looks like so much more fun than this *ish*.

However, I do think a good milestone is when our brains ‘click.’ Certain names, dates, facts, or events keep popping up consistently, and we begin to feel an almost-comfortable familiarity with them. Another good test is when we don’t need our notes to tell our long-suffering significant other/friend/stranger-duct-taped-to-chair/cellmate about the time period and what people lived like and could afford.

Money, writing, history, historical fiction

Like all things in writing (and life, but that’s another dissertation for another time), learning to research money takes time and practice. Luckily for penurious writers, the one thing researching money doesn’t take…is money.

(Unless people want to give me Amazon gift cards so I can make headway on my 35-page book wish list. Then I’ll totally take the money because then I can get more books and make things like this ‘Catalogue Raisonné about money, trade, economics, and shopping in history.)

money, history, writing
Want more of these Catalogues Raisonnes? I have a whole page of them over on my website. Just click the image!

NEW CLASS!

Instructor: Cait Reynolds
Price: $55.00 USD
Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom
When: Friday, November 16, 2018. 7:00 P.M. – 9:00 P.M. EST

So…how’s NaNoWriMo going for you?

The first 10k words? No problem. Another 5k? I can pants that.

Now…I’m at 18k words with 14 days left…and 0 clues about where to go from here.

Sound familiar? This is what I call ‘The Sticky Middle,’ and it is a treacherous swamp that can swallow even the most accomplished, focused writers. It is the moment when writers are most likely to be pulled under by the forces of writer’s block, insecurity, and exhaustion.

The Sticky Middle is the root cause of 98% (I’m guessing here, but I’m pretty darn sure I’m right) of all unfinished first drafts. This class will teach you how to get out of The Sticky Middle…not just for NaNoWriMo, but for every book you write from now on!

This class will cover:

  • Walking into Quicksand: Half of getting out of The Sticky Middle is knowing how we got in there in the first place…and how to avoid making these early mistakes next time;
  • Maslow Stripping: Assessing where characters are when we get stuck…and what we need to take away from them in order to move forward;
  • The Treasure Map: Making sure we have our eye on the prize (i.e. the ending), and how to use that to get through The Sticky Middle;
  • Stop! Break it Down!: (Couldn’t help myself with that…) A blunt, practical way to tackle the amorphous goo that is The Sticky Middle and wrestle it into realistic, achievable, bite-size steps.

A recording of this class is also included with purchase.

REGISTER NOW!

About the Instructor:

Cait Reynolds is a USA Today Bestselling Author and lives in Boston with her husband and neurotic dog. She discovered her passion for writing early and has bugged her family and friends with it ever since. She likes history, science, Jack Daniels, jewelry, pasta, and solitude.

Kristen Lamb, writing tips, creating dimensional characters, fiction, flawed characters, too dumb to live, writing, the wound, the flaw, plotting, characters and plot, how to sell more books

Which is more important? Plot or character? Anyone currently doing NaNoWriMo is all, “WORDS! ONLY WORDS MATTER NOW! Get off my case, Blogger Chick. I’ll figure out plot and character later.”

*awkward silence*

To write great fiction, we need both. Plot and characters work together. One arc drives the other much like one cog serves to turn another, thus generating momentum in the overall engine we call “STORY.”

If we goof up plot? Readers/Audiences get confused or call FOUL. Watch the movie Ouija for what I am talking about *shakes head*.

Goof up characters? No one cares about the plot.

New writers are particularly vulnerable to messing up characters. We drift too far to one end of the spectrum or the other—Super-Duper-Perfect versus Too Dumb to Live—and this can make a story fizzle because there is no way to create true dramatic tension.

This leaves us (the frustrated author) to manufacture conflict and what we end up with is drama’s inbred cousin melodrama. 

Kristen Lamb, writing tips, creating dimensional characters, fiction, flawed characters, too dumb to live, writing, the wound, the flaw, plotting, characters and plot, how to sell more books

If characters are too perfect, too goody-goody and too well-adjusted? If they always make noble, good and professional decisions? Snooze fest.

Again. Bad decisions make great fiction.

Kristen Lamb, writing tips, creating dimensional characters, fiction, flawed characters, too dumb to live, writing, the wound, the flaw, plotting, characters and plot, how to sell more booksOf course, the other side of that is what I call The Gilligan Effect. Yes, I am dating myself here and I apologize if I upset any DIE-HARD Gilligan’s Island fans, but I remember being a kid and this show nearly giving me an aneurism (being the highly logical child I was).

After the third time Gilligan botched up the escape off the island? Kristen would have gone Lord of the Flies and Piggy Gilligan would have mysteriously gone “missing.”

I also recall how the stranded party could make everything out of coconuts except a freaking BOAT, and the only reason I kept watching was because it was better than being locked outside to play in heat that shifted asphalt to a plasma state.

Yay, Texas summers!

Yet, I’ve read books with characters that make Gilligan look like a rocket scientist…then been compelled to hurl the book across the room.

Kristen Lamb, writing tips, creating dimensional characters, fiction, flawed characters, too dumb to live, writing, the wound, the flaw, plotting, characters and plot, how to sell more books
This is me after reading certain books *stabbing self*

Flawed vs. Too Dumb to Live

Today we are going to talk about how we can make characters flawed without crossing over into TDTL (Too Dumb To Live) Territory. This commercial never gets old *giggles*

Let’s hide behind the CHAINSAWS!!!! *clutches sides*. Or this one about gals tripping too many times in horror movies. BWA HA HA HA HA HA!

Okay, I’m back *giggles*.

Great stories are filled with characters making bad decisions, and when this is done well, we often don’t really notice it beyond the winding tension in our stomach, the clenching that can only be remedied by pressing forward and seeing if it works out okay.

When characters are properly flawed, the audience remains captured in the fictive dream.

When we (the writer) goof up? The fictive dream is shattered. The audience is no longer part of the world because they’re too busy fuming that anyone could be that stupid. They also now cease to care about the character because, like Gilligan? They kind of want said TDTL character to die.

If this is our protagonist? Extra bad. Our protagonist should make mistakes, just not ones so egregious the reader stops rooting for him/her.

Bad Decisions Birthed from The Flaw

When we create a protagonist, we should remember that all strengths have a complimentary weakness. If a character has never been tested by fire, the protagonist is blind to the weakness.

For instance, great leaders can be control freaks. Loyal people can be overly naive. Compassionate people can be unrealistic. Y’all get the idea.

This dual nature of human strength paired with fallibility is why plot is just as critical.

Plot as Crucible

The plot is the crucible that tests the mettle and reveals and fires out the flaw. The strength ultimately will have to be stronger than the weakness because this is how the protagonist will grow to become a hero by story’s end.

A great example of this is one of my favorite movies, The EdgeAnthony Hopkins plays billionaire Charles Morse. Charles is extremely successful and very much in his own head. Though he’s a genius, he lives the sheltered existence of the uber-wealthy.

What happens when all that “head-knowledge” is what he needs to survive a plane crash in the unforgiving wilderness?

Kristen Lamb, writing tips, creating dimensional characters, fiction, flawed characters, too dumb to live, writing, the wound, the flaw, plotting, characters and plot, how to sell more books

When the plane crashes and he and the other two survivors make it to shore, Morse does the right thing. He knows they need to get dry before they all die from hypothermia. He also realizes Stephen, the photographer, is in full panic.

What is the intelligent thing to do? Put the photographer to work doing something fruitful to take his mind off his fear.

Bright (Bad) Idea Fairy

The problem, however, is Morse assumes the photographer has the same knowledge-base and doesn’t take time to show Stephen how to use a knife properly and the man is badly injured as a result. Now we’ve already had a problem (plane crash) and now we have a complication (bad injury) and then it gets worse.

Morse, again, being an in-his-own-head-guy and unaccustomed to having to communicate WHY he wants certain things done, tells Robert Green to bury the blood-soaked fabric.

Green is jealous of Morse and rebellious and instead of following instructions and burying the material? He hangs the blood-soaked rags from a tree where an incoming storm whips up the scent of a newly opened All You Can Eat Buffet.

Soon, the men are being hunted by an apex predator with the munchies for humans.

***Side note here. Look at the genius in the choice of character names. Morse, a cryptic person who must unravel the “code” of his situation and realize the bear is actually the (MUCH) lesser threat. Green, the man who envies to such a degree it drives him to plot a murder. Stephen is the first to die. “Stephen” was also the first Christian martyr, the first innocent to die for the greater cause—salvation.

#DeepThoughts

Back to FLAWS

Kristen Lamb, writing tips, creating dimensional characters, fiction, flawed characters, too dumb to live, writing, the wound, the flaw, plotting, characters and plot, how to sell more booksBut all of this was birthed from a myriad of flaws. Morse failing to communicate and assuming his comrades are operating with the same head knowledge (because he’s never had to use this type of information in a real-world way).

As a billionaire, Morse has never been required to explain himself before. He doesn’t understand that this might be a good time to START.

Additionally, the two photographers are city people who don’t have the training/understanding to know 1) NOT to drag a knife toward the body and 2) that the smallest scent of blood will draw predators. BIG ONES.

These men are used to the “civilized world.”  When thrust into the wild, they make a critical error. They fail to properly appreciate that their position at the top of the food chain has drastically shifted.

Only ONE member of our stranded coterie gets that they’ve suddenly gone from ordering OFF menus to being ON the menu #DailySpecial #MarketPrice #JokesInPoorTaste…

Where was I? Oh, yes…

Bad Decisions Depend on Circumstances

Sometimes characters will make bad decisions simply because this is a completely new world or a set of circumstances they’ve never faced, thus have no way to fully appreciate. The “bad” decision was not a “bad decision” before the adventure.

A good example? Merry and Pippin in The Lord of the Rings. In the Shire, people talk and are sociable. These naive characters haven’t yet felt the consequences of this new and dangerous world.

To them? Chatting away and freely sharing information at The Prancing Pony is NOT a bad decision in their minds. Neither is frying bacon on top of a mountain.

They’ve always lived a life that if they were in a pub? They drank and made friends. If they wanted bacon? They just made bacon. They’ve never had to think beyond their mood or stomachs. The Hobbits don’t have the experiential base to grasp that fire is a “Come and Kill Me” beacon.

Bad Decisions & The Wound

Kristen Lamb, writing tips, creating dimensional characters, fiction, flawed characters, too dumb to live, writing, the wound, the flaw, plotting, characters and plot, how to sell more books

We’ve talked about The Wound in other posts. In Thelma & Louise what is the wound? A lifetime of male oppression. In Thelma’s case, her husband controls every aspect of her life.

Thus, when she finally does get on her own, she has poor judgement and is naive and that’s how she nearly ends up raped in a honky-tonk parking lot.

Louise has been a victim (shamed and alone) and doesn’t trust men or the law. Thus, her baggage is what leads her to shoot Thelma’s attacker, but then also dovetails into the really, really bad decision to run.

But if we look at all these examples from an analytical distance, these characters are just DUMB. But why aren’t they TDTL? Context. Because of plot we (the audience) are not staring down at them like specimens through a microscope. We empathize with “bad” decisions. Why? Because there’s context (their world).

Making “Stupid” Forgivable

Kristen Lamb, writing tips, creating dimensional characters, fiction, flawed characters, too dumb to live, writing, the wound, the flaw, plotting, characters and plot, how to sell more books

Great writing is a sort of alchemy that transforms the raw material of “stupid” into the literary gold we recognize as “damaged,” “broken,” and/or “naive”—which we have ALL been at one time or another.

This hits us in the feels. We relate, connect, and BOND with the characters because we’ve been there, done that, and have the scars to prove it.

In The Edge, “bad” decisions are forgivable because most of us are not wilderness experts. Readers can empathize with maybe doing something seriously stupid if stranded in a similar fashion.

In The Lord of the Rings we, the audience, have “been” to the Shire—and know what world created the childlike Merry and Pippin. Thus, we appreciate these characters are grossly out of their depth and give them a pass.

In Thelma & Louise we can understand how damaged people make poor decisions because, unless we’ve been living under a rock, we’ve made similar choices, and suffered consequences created from fear not reason.

What this means is that, while ALL of these characters made really wrong decisions, they are necessary and pardonable decisions that serve to drive the character arc and thus the plot’s momentum.

That is the final note on characters making bad decisions.

Plot Puppets

Kristen Lamb, writing tips, creating dimensional characters, fiction, flawed characters, too dumb to live, writing, the wound, the flaw, plotting, characters and plot, how to sell more books

Do we have a character making a mistake, withholding vital information, acting irrationally because it is coming from a deeper place of flaws, circumstance or wounds?

Or, do we have a character playing marionette? Characters are making a mistakes because we NEED them to. The tension has fizzled, so let’s just let them do something epically stupid (and random)?

Audiences can tell the difference between mistakes that are organic and flow from deeper emotional waters versus something contrived. And we can ALL be guilty of forcing characters to make bad choices simply because we sense tension is missing. Even I have to go back and ask the tough question…WHY is this character doing this?

What are your thoughts? I love hearing from you!

What are your thoughts regarding characters making poor decisions? What are some of your favorite examples? Ever quit a book, movie, or show because you wanted everyone to DIE? What are some great examples of characters who you should hate, but you forgive? Why? Can you think of what activated empathy instead of disdain?

I would love to hear your thoughts on this.

FYI: I’m AM loading new classes. They’ll be up next post. I know I said that last time, but whatever. I lied 😛 .

What are some classes y’all need? Topics you’d like me to talk about here on the blog. I dig suggestions!

BTW: October’s winner for the comment contest is Bjørn Larssen!

Please email your 5000 word WORD document to kristen at wana intl dot com. One-inch margins, double-spaced, Times New Roman font, please. Or you are also welcome to choose to send me a query or synopsis instead. Query shouldn’t exceed 500 words and synopsis 2,500 MAX. Congratulations!

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