March 20, 2019- Ahhh, habits! When we think of the word habits it’s often with a negative connotation. Bad habits include not exercising, exercising too much, smoking, too much alcohol, not enough sleep, shopping, spending, and whatever you think bad habits should be defined as. We all have habits and most of the time we run on autopilot because of the habits that we’ve created. For example, when you walk into Starbucks, what do you order? Why? Because it’s a habit and it’s automatic.
However, habits are useful when we use them properly; new habits can be built into our daily routine or stacked on top of the habits that we already have (habit stacking)! Habit stacking should not be confused with multi-tasking which is completely inefficient. The new habit should include a time of five minutes or less to complete, should be simple, should improve your life, and should fit nicely into your daily routine. Let’s look at a couple of examples of how you can incorporate this simple method into your daily life (I’ll use some of the things that I do as an illustration):
Upon waking, I brush my teeth with my opposite hand (creates new neuropathways and increases creativity) and silently repeat five positive affirmations until I’m done brushing.
Every time I exercise, I listen to an audiobook. I’m working out for an hour, but I also am “reading” an hour in my field.
Any time I’m driving somewhere, I listen to a Ted Talk. They’re short and packed full of information that is useful.
Every time I sit down to write, I turn off my phone. This minimizes distraction and is a simple thing that is automatic.
Any time I have to wait somewhere like my doctor’s office or if I arrive at an appointment early, I always bring along a notebook with paper and write down as many new ideas for books as I can before I get called in.
After dinner, I always put on the kettle and while I wait for the water to boil I plan my tasks for the next day from the most important to the least.
All of these actions are non-invasive, they don’t take up any additional time, and you don’t have to overhaul your life to fit them in. So, make a list of the simple, good habits, that you want to create for yourself and see where you can stack them! I’d love to hear if this worked for you; send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and me about your experience. X LLB
March 13, 2019– If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook you may have seen me post about a book I was reading last week; The Willpower Instinct, by Kelly McGonigal, is an excellent read for anyone who wants to know how self-control works and how our brains process things. There are three key sentences that really stuck out and I’ve since employed them for the business/writing tasks that I don’t love to do.
That’s it, pretty simple, right? Now, let’s combine them to make a powerful statement. If you’re struggling with doing mundane tasks consider the examples below. The more specific you are, the better this works!
I will write 500 words in an hour and I won’t get distracted by social media during that time because I want to reach my goal and finish my book.
I will wake up early to finish my blog post and I won’t answer return emails until this afternoon because I want to go for a walk with my spouse after breakfast.
I will finish my fabulous presentation on grammar by Tuesday and I won’t turn on my phone until it’s completed because I want to show my boss that I deserve a raise.
You guys get the point! This will work in many areas of your life such as organization, education, writing, reading, leisure activities, relationships, and more. It works because I will, I won’t, and I want, allow us to be clear on what our priorities are and they draw a firm line in the sand showing us what we are willing and not willing to do and what the pay off is. This technique works really well and I hope that you’ll try it yourself! Let me know if you do and if it worked for you by sending me an email at email@example.com.
March 4, 2019- Awesome video to share with you today! Filmmaker Andrew Stanton (“Toy Story,” “WALL-E”) shares what he knows about storytelling. Clue 1- starting at the end and working back to the beginning. (Contains graphic language …) Enjoy!
February 25, 2019-I had a fantastic trip to New York this month, and I learned so much at the SCBWI conference. The Society of Book Writers and Illustrators is just one of the many excellent organizations you can join as an author; the guidelines and specifications are online, so be sure to check them out if you’re interested in becoming a member.
Being an author is a tough business, but you should never give up if story writing is your dream. Here are a few things that you should know:
You are way more capable than you believe. You can do this, you can deal with the rejections, you can write something special and meaningful. Some days it may seem like you’re banging your head against the desk because the words won’t come, but I assure you, you can do this! Keep going.
Lots of people believe in you and want to see you succeed; they also want to help you in achieving your goals. Your family, friends, community, spouse, loved ones, and teachers all want to see you make it! They’re cheering you on, and if you ever need help, all you need to do is ask them, and they’ll be thrilled to do so. We can’t be in this business alone, and we won’t get very far by ourselves.
You have a choice. You can choose to listen to those who want to try and change your purpose, your work, your ideas, your vision, and your path, or you can go with your gut and keep writing and sharing the stories you want to tell.
The truth is, the publishing and writing industry is contradictory at times, and you never seem to get a straight answer. Keep digging for information and advice and go with the choices that speak to you. If you’re a children’s author and you think you need an agent, don’t hesitate to go with your gut even when you get conflicting information.
This is a business. Our business is books and storytelling. Our job is to tell the stories and then sell the stories.
I hope that you get the chance to visit New York and see all that it has to offer! From museums to sporting events, to Broadway and beyond, the arts and inspiration are around every corner. X LLB
February 18, 2019– Today we’re talking about book reviews; wait a second, there is a format for writing a book review? Let’s get real, there are formats for every piece of writing that you could ever think of!
Book reviews offer you a chance to share your perception of a book’s good and bad parts and to share info with other readers that they may find useful. Of course, book reviews also allow others to decide whether they should read the book themselves.
Here are the do’s and don’ts of writing a book review:
Do provide a general overview of the book. Include the author, title, publication info such as the publisher and year of publication, and genre. In a few sentences us a taste of the book and your overall opinion of it.
Do say WHY you liked or disliked the book. Be specific! What did you love about it? What did you hate about it? What could have made it better?
Do take a stand. The whole point of a book review is to make a recommendation to your reader. Remember that it is possible to like and dislike parts of the same book! Don’t be afraid to share your opinion!
Don’t give too much away. If you’re reviewing fiction don’t give away key points of plot or the ending or twists that could ruin it for other readers.
Don’t make your review too long. A paragraph or two will do. Pick the thing that interests you most and the thing that you think will most interest your readers.
Don’t be a jerk. If you didn’t enjoy the book, that’s fine, but don’t be insulting. Let your reader know why you were disappointed in the book while still being calm and unemotional.
So there you have it! I look forward to reading your reviews online for some books I’m thinking of reading!
February 15, 2019– I do a lot of talks and host a lot of classes on writing and publishing, and at least once per class this question comes up: What does it take to become a successful author/entrepreneur? Is there a secret formula? Is there a quick fix, magic wand or potion that can help? If you read my blog or have met me in person, you’ll know exactly what I think of that. The short answer is NO to all of the above. What I can tell you is that there are strategies and actions that will lead you to success and that they’re way better than any magic wand.
Believe that you can do it. I know, I know, I’m usually a hard ass that says stop wishing and start working, but I want to remind you that if you don’t believe in yourself, no one else will. See? There’s the cynic you’ve all come to know and love. You’ve got to have the mental posture for success. Believing in yourself requires daily dedication, encouragement from within and positive self-talk. What’s that famous saying? Whether you think you can or think you cannot, you’re right!
Have the right people around. I’m talking about everyone from the people you employ to the people you hang around with on a frequent basis; if they’re not forcing you to up your game and become a better author and entrepreneur, then you’ve got the wrong group. If you want to be successful, you have to hang around successful people. Have a mentor, have the right heroes, and have people that you look up to.
Expose yourself to what is new. Did you learn anything today? Your competition did. You must stay on the cusp of what is happening in your industry to stay informed and relevant. The more you learn, the more you earn. Are you reading publications that will make you a better writer? Do you subscribe to content that will make you see things from an entrepreneur’s perspective? Are you learning the business and are you striving to be better than you were yesterday? Can you name the current trends in your industry? If you said no to any of the above questions, you’ve got a lot of work to do.
Take responsibility. Can you guess who is directly, unequivocally, 100% responsible for your success? That’s right, YOU — no one else. When the bus goes sideways, and you’re the driver, you have no one else to blame. Blaming others for your actions, decisions, and ramifications of those decisions is a gigantic waste of your time. And let me tell you something else, if you blame others, you won’t be in business very long. Successful people take responsibility for every choice they make and for everything that happens to them whether good or bad. Your name is on the door so act like it.
Take action. Come on; you had to have known that this was coming if you’re a regular reader of this blog. Action is the only way to get what you want. You can dream about things until you finally wake up and see the world for what it is; the only people who reap rewards are the people who are willing to work for them. Nothing happens until you do something. Don’t be all talk and no action. I can’t stand people like that. You are what you DO, NOT what you say you’ll do.
Here’s to your success! May you get what you deserve. X LLB
February 6, 2019– I’m sure that most of us have heard about the power of positive thinking and how optimism can add years to our lives. I do not disagree with all of that good stuff, but I am saying that there are both sides to a coin; sometimes thinking about what could be wrong, is the right thing to do. Let’s back up for a second.
The Power of Positive Thinking was written by Dr. Norman Vincent Peale and is an international best selling book with over five million copies in print; pretty impressive! Here’s what an excerpt online says about the book: The Power Of Positive Thinking will show you that the roots of success lie in the mind and teach you how to believe in yourself, break the habit of worrying, and take control of your life by taking control of your thoughts and changing your attitude. Great! Is that all I have to do is change my thoughts? Not so fast. Here’s where the skeptic in me shines through.
It’s one thing to think good thoughts, but it’s quite another to take action toward your goals. You can sit on your sofa all day and think about collecting cheques in the mail, but if you don’t get off your butt and earn some money, you’ll lose your house eventually. It’s not to say that I’m a pessimist, I’m really not. I believe that all things start in the mind and that if you control your thoughts and your attitude, and put forth consistent action toward your goals, that you can achieve anything. But, it’s the combination of these things that is the ticket. You can have a terrible attitude and take tons of action toward your goal, and I’d be willing to bet that you won’t achieve it. Sometimes it’s a good thing to think negatively…let me explain.
Here’s how the power of thinking negatively can actually help us in the long run:
It causes us to THINK before we act. Thinking of the worst case scenario allows us to stop and think before we make rash decisions. It allows us to think CLEARLY not QUICKLY. Thinking negatively can help us consider if the next move we make will create an unexpected chain reaction in the future. Quitting your full-time job to start a writing career is a big risk. We should think of this situation from a slightly negative point of view in order to have the best possible plan going forward. Perhaps once we see our budget and expenses are in order, we could take the leap, for example.
We won’t take success for granted. To say, “Don’t worry! Everything will be okay!” to someone who is unable to pay the bills is like poking holes in a sinking ship. If you practice this type of thinking while ignoring reality, you are being reckless and dangerous. We need to eliminate false illusions that create or compound our problems instead of pretending they don’t exist. One of my biggest fears? Being a one hit wonder. Nothing scares me more than being a has-been. That’s why when I look at things, I look at them from a slightly skewed, negative perspective that reminds me to work harder even on the days when I don’t feel like it.
It let’s us know where we are vulnerable and how to fix those vulnerabilities. Thinking negatively can let us examine where our weaknesses lie. Let’s say that you’re going to pitch your book to some agents for the first time ever, what could your vulnerabilities be? This goes for anything with your writing whether it’s submitting a query, doing a public speaking engagement, or signing a book deal; if we don’t know what our weaknesses are, how can we possibly fix them?
Yes, think positively and have a good attitude! But every now and then, examine the situation from the other side of the dock. Happy Writing! X LLB
February 1, 2019– Things come in waves around here and I think that it’s kind of funny; sometimes all I’ll receive is middle-grade manuscripts, then the next time I’ll receive sci-fi submissions, and lately everyone seems to be sending me their ideas for children’s books. Since I’ve had such an influx of kid’s book submissions, let’s talk about how to better your chances of getting a picture book deal with my house.
There have been a ton of incorrectly submitted kid’s book queries and manuscripts in their entirety sent to me as of late (we’ll talk about queries in another post) so I thought that I’d be very specific on what to submit.
Time– Know that if you do get a deal signed with me, your book (any book) will take 2-5 years to hit the shelf. If this is too much time for you to wait then you have bigger problems and this industry will eat you alive. Patience is of the essence and great things take time. We are not in the business of rushing a book, throwing it on the shelf, and hoping for the best. Every single thing is calculated beforehand in terms of a marketing plan, securing the best illustrator for the project, editing the manuscript, obtaining dates for book signings, and cover design. If you’re not in this for the long haul and don’t have a ton of patience, you’re going to be in trouble.
Word Count– Is your picture book between 250-800 words? My personal preference for this type of book is 600-800 words. I prefer this length because it gives us time to get the story across and create a compelling character without leaving any loose ends.
Character– Is your story character driven? Is your character relatable? Does the character participate in a universal childhood experience? If your story is none of these or only one of these, it’s back to the drawing board for you. Don’t bother submitting because you aren’t ready and you don’t understand your market.
POV- Which point of view is your story told from? There’s only one that matters and it’s the child’s point of view. Don’t make mom or dad the main character. Kids see the world from their perspective and not ours. This means that if they’re in a grocery store for example, they probably won’t be able to reach a box of cereal from the top shelf. Or maybe it’s a mass of people in the store and the child comes to eye level with everyone’s butts. You get the point (of view).
Fresh-Is your story something new, fresh, and from a different angle? Let’s use the universal childhood experience again; picky eater books all read the same except for the very good ones. Dragons Love Tacos is a perfect example of a good one because it deals with foods that kids hate, but it puts a fresh and fun spin on it. Sure, making tacos for dragons may not be a universal childhood experience, but not liking certain foods is! Another awesome example of a fresh, different angle kid’s book is The Day the Crayons Quit. Talk about genius!
Kids-And perhaps the most important question of all is, will your book appeal to kids? They are the target audience and if they don’t like it, you can believe that their parents won’t buy it for them. If you’re not writing with kids in mind, then you shouldn’t be writing for kids in the first place.
There you have it! Before sending in your work, know the rules above and I promise that you’ll better your chances of working with us. X LLB
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