January 25, 2019– I know a thing or two about resistance, as I’m sure you do; we are human after all, and finishing anything is hard. Sure, it may be easy to finish an entire tub of Ben and Jerry’s Half Baked Ice Cream in one sitting, but it’s a lot harder to finish things that matter in our lives. Do you know how many people have started manuscripts that they’ve never finished? Or how many of us have unfinished paintings or works of art that have sat in drawers and on shelves for decades? The answer to both questions is too many. To make my point, let me tell you a story.
My sister and I decided that we were going to run a race in our city called Around the Bay. It wasn’t five or ten kilometers, it was thirty and I had no idea how the hell I was going to do it. I started training for about five months beforehand, and five days a week I would run along the mountain brow in the wee hours of the morning. I increased my kilometers over time and eventually was able to run twenty-five kilometers without a problem. Race day came and the first twenty kilometers were a breeze. I was happy, and felt great, and was sure that I could finish the race. Well, guess what happened? During the last ten kilometers, I fell apart. I was so close to the end, but I was ready to quit. I seriously thought about calling a cab or throwing myself into traffic just so I could lie down. Why? Because resistance is most powerful at the finish line. We ended up crossing the finish line arm in arm and it was an experience that I will never forget. Am I glad I did it? Yes. Am I glad it’s over? Also, yes.
Here’s why resistance is most powerful at the finish line of your writing:
Because we can’t see the ending. Could we see the end of the race/the ribbon? Not a chance. We were still too far away, but let me tell you when we did finally see the end, we sped up and finished. We got it done. Same goes for your writing! Know that there’s an ending and as much as you want to give up and throw in the literary towel, don’t. Keep going. Just put one word behind the next, and you’ll get there. It will take time, but you’ll get there. You may not be able to see the ending, but it’s there. If we don’t finish something, how can we move on to the next thing?
Because we’ve worked so hard for so long. We’ve been working on the same manuscript for days, months, and even years. We have worked so hard, and we are past the point of caring. If this is you, know that you’re almost there. Stay disciplined, sit in your seat, and type. It’s one of the most challenging things to do, but unless we keep pushing, we will never finish. Know that just like everything, there is always a beginning and an end. All we have to do is persist.
Because we’re tired and we don’t think that we can keep going. During that race, my mind played tricks on me. It said that I couldn’t possibly take another step and that it would be so much easier just to stop and give up. I was not only physically tired but mentally tired too. I didn’t want to do it anymore. What the hell was the point of starting if I wasn’t going to finish? Why would anyone in their right mind run twenty-kilometers of a thirty-kilometer race and give up when they are almost done? Because it’s easier. Don’t take the easy way out of your writing. Finish the race and complete what you set out to do. Don’t quit. You will have an amazing sense of satisfaction and a major confidence boost when you finish what you start. This gives you momentum and you’ll find yourself saying, if I could finish that, I can finish the next thing.
If you’re struggling to finish your race (manuscript, blog, poem, speech), remember that resistance is most powerful at the finish line. Take the resistance that you’re experiencing as a sign that you are so close to the end. Don’t give up now; you can do it! X LLB
January 23, 2019– I’ve never been a good listener. My husband, on the other hand, is a professional listener. Seriously, he’s the best listener and observer that I’ve ever met. He listens not with the intent to reply, but with the intent of learning something. He’s always said to me, “If you listen you might learn something instead of talking all of the time.” He’s right, and for years I struggled to listen, to really listen to what people were saying. Listening is only half of the battle. According to scientists, only 7% of what is said is verbally communicated, the other 93% is non-verbal.
So, how does becoming a better listener help us write better? Here’s how:
It Inspires Us. I can’t tell you the number of times that I’ve been out in public at a coffee shop or waiting in line and have overheard a juicy conversation. Some of these conversations have even made it onto the pages of some of my books. By listening and observing people in public, this allows us as authors, not only to come up with story/dialogue ideas, but it lets us correctly write and convey the body language of our characters.
It reminds us that less is more. I’m a huge believer of why use eight words when four will do. When we listen instead of speak, we become acutely aware of people who talk too much. We observe the ramblers, the non-stop talkers, and the interrupters and they remind us not to blather on in our manuscripts. Our eyes glaze over while listening to them talk, and we like our readers, eventually tune out and our thoughts wander onto other more interesting things. As an author, the last thing we want is for our reader to lose interest in what we are saying.
It gives us credibility. By listening to the way that conversations flow around us, we become better writers. Our dialogue is believable and fluid. We observe the way that people speak, and the terms used, and the pauses, and double entendres. When we write in the way that we talk, we reach a greater audience and our written character dialogue seems more natural and less forced.
The next time you feel like interrupting someone, don’t. Instead, observe everything about them, the words they use, their gestures, and of course their body language. I promise that doing this one thing will make you a better writer. X LLB
January 21, 2019– Being an author is fun! Book signings and launch parties, and seeing your book on the shelf in the bookstore are definite perks of the job, but there’s a certain type of person who shouldn’t be an author. I’m not saying there are people who can’t be authors, I’m saying that there are people who shouldn’t be authors. Ready to find out who those people are? Here we go! You shouldn’t be an author if:
You aren’t willing to physically work hard. Know what’s funny? That most people think that being an author is easy and that the hardest part is writing the book. Well, I’m here to smash that misconception into a million shiny pieces and tell you the truth. The truth is, being an author is hard. It’s physically and mentally demanding and if you don’t believe me, follow me around during the day of a book signing or launch. Who sets up the table? Who plans the display? Who brings the books? Who gets the dates and locations sorted? Who orders the inventory? Who makes sure that the signage and marketing are on point and convey a purposeful message? Who advertises the event? Who invites everyone they know? Who does the social media promotion? Who stands there for hours in the middle of a store promoting their book while the general public ignores them or pretends not to see them? Who takes a gamble on events and drags everything they own to said event just in the hopes that they’ll sell their books? WE DO. AUTHORS DO. No one does it for us, and we are directly responsible for our success. Oh, and if you’re thinking, yeah, but if you’re traditionally published your publisher does all of this for you. WRONG. The tides are turning and now, more than ever, authors are responsible for most of this stuff, if not all.
You hate and/or are scared of rejection. I’ve personally been rejected enough times that the rejection letters could easily wallpaper the side of my house. But did I give up? No. If you hate rejection, give up easily, are easily discouraged and allow people’s opinions to dictate your success or allow those opinions to force you to give up on yourself and your dreams, being an author isn’t for you. To be in this game, you have to welcome and get used to rejection, because every no, leads to a yes eventually.
You have a thin skin. You will be ridiculed, have people pick apart your work, have people tell you that they hated your book and that you’re a no talent hack, you’ll have people (my extended family) unfollow you on social media because they say you post too much, you’ll get hate mail, you’ll have people say that you should move on to something different, you’ll be reviewed online with less than stellar reviews, you’ll take complaints, and you’ll be absolutely hung by your ankles by people who attended your speaking engagement and said the best part about your speech was your shoes. Yes. This is just a piece of what I’ve experienced as an author. And this isn’t even the worst part. As an author in the public eye, you’re subjecting yourself to all of this and more. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. But, you have a choice to either take what these people say, believe it and get out of the game forever, or you can keep going, keep improving, and keep living life on your terms. Let’s face it, the only people who are going to discourage you from living your dream, are the people who gave up on theirs.
You lack discipline. You’re late, or you miss deadlines, or you aren’t writing every single day of your life, or aren’t willing to do late nights and early mornings, being an author is something you should seriously reconsider. Authors, I would like to think, are some of the most disciplined people on the planet. We do the things we have to do before doing the things that we want to do. Would I rather be outside or poolside, or on vacation, or reading a book instead of writing one? Sure, but there are things that need to be done before any of the other things can take place. A quote that I have hanging on the wall above my desk reads, “You will not always be motivated, so you must learn to be disciplined.” This keeps me in check and reminds me that even though I don’t feel like writing, editing, working, running my business today, or whatever it may be, that I’m going to anyway no matter how I feel.
You are horribly shy and/or unwilling to interact with the public. People don’t buy your book, they buy you. Your success is hugely influenced by the way that you interact with the public. If you’re at a book signing and you think that you’re going to sit in the chair behind the table with a stack of books, with hands folded in front of you, waiting patiently for people to line up to see you, you’ve got another thing coming. YOU ARE NOT STEPHEN KING AND NO ONE IS HERE TO SEE YOU. Read that again and if you’re offended by that, send me some hate mail, or re-read number 3 on this list and get over yourself. You have to hustle, you have to interact, and you genuinely have to be interested in your readers. You have to get out there, approach them, and tell them about yourself and your work. If you’re not willing to do this, find another career because you’ll never cut it.
Are you one of the people who shouldn’t be an author? I hope not, but if so, remember that it’s never too late to change. X LLB
January 18, 2018-Read the title again. It sounds confusing, I know, but in reality, it’s quite simple. This year I want you to challenge your challenges! But what does that mean? Let me help you with the process:
Make a list of all of the challenges you’ve had in your writing career to date. I’m talking everything. Some of these challenges might include not getting a traditional publishing deal, not meeting deadlines, not getting enough or any speaking engagements, not selling enough books or earning enough income to survive with your work. Maybe it’s not having enough time to sit down and write or scheduling blocks of writing sessions. Perhaps you haven’t been able to join any associations, or you haven’t been able to do any continuing education for your writing. Whatever the challenges you’ve experienced, write them ALL down.
Make a list of all of your writing accomplishments to date. Yes, again, this means everything! Perhaps you’ve been able to read your book in schools, or maybe you’ve had something published in one of your favourite magazines, perhaps you’ve been able to secure a grant for the historical fiction book you’re writing, or maybe you’ve been asked to be a guest speaker somewhere. Maybe you’ve started a blog that has received tons of visits, or maybe you’ve self-published a book on Amazon. Whatever the accomplishment, however big or small, be sure to write it down.
Find the gap in between. This is where challenging your challenges comes in to play; look over your list of accomplishments, look at everything you’ve been able to do thus far, you should be proud of yourself! Now study the two lists you’ve made and find the gap in between, the difference in between your challenges and your accomplishments is ACTION. So, let’s go back to the challenges list and use not having any speaking engagements as an example. Why haven’t you had any? Have you put forth enough action? Have you contacted everyone you know? Have you sent out emails introducing yourself and what your work is about? Have you labeled yourself as an expert in your field and have you knocked on every door to see if people are interested in what you have to say? Now, if you look at your list of accomplishments, do you remember what you had to do to get there? Do you remember the hours you put in? Do you remember the emails, postcards, phone calls, rejections, and getting up and trying again? When you apply enough effort to something, eventually, you get exactly what you want. Apply the same amount of effort to your challenges as you did to your accomplishments, and soon enough, the list of accomplishments will grow, while the list of challenges, changes.
I love the saying, you can do anything you set your mind to, even though I believe something needs to be added to that statement. Here’s what I’ll say instead, “You can do anything you set your mind to and anything can be accomplished with enough effort, discipline, and action.”
This year, I challenge you to challenge your challenges. Happy writing! X LLB
January 16, 2019– Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? Thou art more lovely and more temperate. Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May, And summer’s lease hath all too short a date.
Sigh. Talk poetry to me. Another sigh, as I cup my chin in my hands and gaze adoringly into your eyes. Ok, we aren’t Shakespeare, far from it, I’m speaking for myself anyway even though I would beg for a fraction of the talent that he had. What’s the deal with poetry in the marketplace? Why is so hard to sell? Why doesn’t it get published as often as other genres? These are just a few of the questions that I get pretty regularly. Here’s are some answers:
Poetry has a very niche audience. In mainstream publishing, there’s a small market for poetry books. Even established, well-known poets don’t sell thousands of books – maybe not even hundreds. I know what you’re going to say…”But, what about The Sun and Her Flowers or Milk and Honey?” Yes, those books did sell thousands, but they are the exception to the rule.
Poetry doesn’t sell. Let me rephrase that, poetry doesn’t sell as well as mainstream fiction does. I believe that the world needs poetry and poets, but I also believe that I don’t want to take an enormous financial risk in publishing an unknown poet’s poems. The cold, hard truth about traditional publishing is that publishers want to make a profit. This is our business and our livelihood. The cost of publishing a book is in the thousands, to begin with, and as publishers, we want to make damn sure that at the very least, we get our investment back. Publishing poetry is one gamble that I’m not willing to bet on. We are in this business to make money just like anyone who is in any business is.
Poetry is subjective. You may hate Shakespeare (perish the thought, he is an absolute genius and I am a huge fan of his work) but there are those in the world that would fight you to the death defending his sonnets. You may love Robert Frost (again, what’s not to love?), but others may find his poetry dry and outdated. Poetry is art and art is subjective. Yes, writing is art, but mainstream writing is less subjective. You can say, “I love thrillers!” and cover an entire genre, whereas, with poetry, it’s much more specific.
The point is, if you love to write poetry, keep writing! Write for yourself and your friends and family. There are a few publications that are still accepting poetry submissions and a quick Google search will let you know where to send your work if you’re so inclined. Here’s to your success! X LLB
January 14, 2019- As authors know, occasionally we must give lectures about our books or our work. Public speaking is something that we should be used to by now because we’ve been preparing speeches since we were kids. Public speaking doesn’t have to be scary and it doesn’t have to be scarier than death, (I’m not kidding when I say that people would rather choose death than to stand in front of a crowd and talk…seems crazy to me!) because here’s all you need to know to successfully speak in public.
Prep your stuff. Chances are that you know what you’re talking about when you’re speaking on your profession or when talking about your book, but It’s always good to prepare in advance in case the butterflies make you lose your mind and forget everything you’ve ever known. A couple of index cards are great when giving a formal speech with some notes jotted down in point form, or when speaking about your book, practice what you’re going to say or read (like an excerpt from your work).
Vocal power. Speak slowly, pause, breathe, and smile. The last thing you want to do is come across as incoherent. Remember that episode from Seinfeld with the low talker and the close talker? Don’t do either of these things. Speak slowly, clearly, and loud enough so that the audience at the back of the room can hear you. If you’re nervous about speaking in public already, the worst thing to happen is for someone to shout from the back of the room, “WE CAN’T HEAR YOU!” Cue red cheeks and sweat stains. Remain calm and speak with confidence and power.
Listen. When the question period of your lecture comes, be sure to listen to what your readers/clients/associates are asking you. Pause a few seconds before you answer and never, ever interrupt when someone is asking you a question. Make your questioner feel good and avoid making negative associations. Don’t make them feel bad or wrong and watch your body language. You’ll have your fair share of dumb questions, but keep those feelings to yourself. We’ve all asked a dumb question at one time or another!
So, get out there and tell the world about what you do and what you’ve written! They deserve to know how awesome you are. X LLB
January 11, 2019– Man, there are some pretty cool names out there. I remember the first time that I thought, “Whoa, that’s a cool name that totally suits his profession!” The gentleman I’m talking about is a real person named Harvey Karver. Want to know his real-life profession? Butcher. No joke. How perfect is that?
Naming your characters properly is as essential as picking an excellent title for your book, and really, they do the same thing; they let your reader know subtle information about the book or the person, both if you’re a pro. So, what do I mean when I say you’d better pick a great name? Here are three simple tips!
Get your era right. You’re not going to find a Chase, or a Stormi, or a Madison in a period piece or historical fiction novel. Know the names that were popular in the era that you’re writing about or risk your credibility as an author and your entire career for that matter.
Don’t do trends. See the names above? Chase, Stormi, Rayne, and Colt are names that sound like they’re ripped from the Kardashian’s Baby Naming Handbook. These names are unique enough but tend to be overdone in romantic fiction especially. Plus, anytime that you use a trendy name, you take a chance of aging your book too soon.
Say them out loud. Does your character’s name sound right? Does it sound like it belongs in the genre you’re writing? Does it have a nice ring to it? Does it work with your character’s profession and personality? If not, choose something different. There are thousands of names out there and if you’re not stuck on yours, keep trying until you find something that you love and that you believe. Because if you don’t believe it or like it, chances are that your reader won’t either! There is name-generating software available on the web. Do a quick Google search for fictional character names or name generator.
Oh, and one more important piece of advice; if there’s any possibility that you’ve named your fictional character after someone in real life, be sure to put in a disclaimer at the beginning of your book in order to keep from getting sued…especially if that person is still living!
January 9, 2018- We haven’t done one of these for a long time and we’re way overdue to have some fun; I love photo writing prompts! They certainly help me break out of writing ruts when the ideas just aren’t flowing. The picture prompt below has unlimited opportunities to write about; this photo can break into multiple genres. Your imagination is the only limit! Have fun with this and happy writing. X LLB
January 4, 2019– Humans lie. Whether it’s white lies or big lies, or the lies in between, we all do it at one time or another. Lying can be essential for your manuscript depending on the genre! Here’s a really cool infographic explaining how to detect a lie; this is great for implementing into your manuscript if one of your characters is being interrogated by the police, or if a parent in your story is asking their teenage son what time they came home on Saturday night, or if you want to convey some subtle gestures throughout your novel for when your character is being less than truthful. Here’s to your success, and that’s no lie! X LLB
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