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Posts Tagged ‘Kristen Lamb’

Welcome to Toolbox Saturday where you’ll find tools for various things from writing to whatever.

I’ve blogged about using a training budget before, but sometimes you may find your budget is hovering around $0. What do you do then? Spend time trolling through other author’s blogs, especially those who offer eBooks (and other types of media) covering topics you’re interested in, and prowling over social media networks. There are three things to be gained from this.

Read the rest of 3 Ways to Get Free (Or Almost Free) Training.

This blog, The Road to Writing, will be discontinued Dec. 31, 2011. If you would like to continue receiving great tips and inspirational posts please remember to subscribe to my new blog by RSS or email for LOL Mondays, Spirit Wednesdays and Toolbox Saturdays.

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What makes you uncomfortable with or defensive about your story is worth looking at closely for two reasons: 1) it could be a hidden gem, or 2) it could be a little darling.

Hidden Gems

Sometimes as we write our subconscious seeds our stories with hidden gems, like how or where your protagonist will find the answer to his surface problem*.

In Bob Mayer’s book, Novel Writer’s Toolkit, he talks about a writer getting stuck with a particular problem in the story (the main character needs to discover some vital information in order to solve the mystery) and not knowing how to resolve it. It only took a quick look back through what was already written to find the answer in a short bit of description (several journals the character had seen on a shelf in another character’s office).

Another possible hidden gem your subconscious could work in is a story-worthy problem.

While it is important to give at least a minimum amount of thought to what your protagonist’s underlying issue is, sometimes the real issue develops deep within your own mind and isn’t revealed until you begin writing.

For instance I recently wrote a scene where my main character’s father, an ordinarily soft-spoken and gentle character, speaks condescendingly to his son, my protagonist. It’s a scene I’ve hated reading because it makes me uncomfortable. I’ve considered several times removing it, but couldn’t bring myself to do it.

However, since going back to basics with this story and trying to develop myself into more of a planner and less of a pantser, I’ve realized this scene reveals my main character’s story-worthy problem — the need to believe in himself. Had I taken it out before finishing the entire story I might have missed this very important detail.

Little Darlings

On the other hand, those “special” scenes that we feel the need to defend as “necessary” may not be necessary at all. They could be little darlings, as Stephen King calls them, and need to be eliminated (or at least banished to a folder far far away from the rest of your civilized manuscript).

To know the difference you can ask this very important question: does this move the story along? If it does, great! If it slows things down you may need to cut it. At the very least you’ll have to revise it, which means shortening and tightening.

A lot of my personal little darlings tend to be flashbacks and memories. They’re fun scenes and often moving, but necessary? Probably not. Some of the information needs to remain, but there are certainly better ways to scatter it through the rest of the story.

One example from my WIP is a flashback where my protagonist’s father is teaching him what the term “warming up” means. It’s cute, even endearing, but it really slows down the story. Instead, I’ll be re-writing the flashback into a memory, most likely as a couple of sentences instead of the several paragraphs it currently is. It’ll be painful, but it’s necessary.

Writing a great novel can be tough, but thankfully we’re not alone. There are multitudes of free blogs and inexpensive books we can read to help us learn about craft. Best of all, there are other writers and readers out there we can get in touch with thanks to social media who can become our mentors and beta readers. With all those great resources available, it makes it that much easier to decide if that scene is a hidden gem or a little darling.

How do you make that decision?

*For more information on surface vs. story-worthy problems check out Les Edgerton’s book Hooked.

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This week I found myself having nightmares about conspiracies and daydreaming about a long vacation at some remote beach. That’s when I realized my life was once again out of balance.

Who among us hasn’t felt like they were running uphill at full speed for days on end? It’s a common experience, especially if you’re trying to balance more than just a small family and your writing career. For most of us we’re balancing a day job, family (and all those household things that go with it), volunteer activities and a host of other responsibilities as well as launching (or maintaining) a writing career.

Yet even in the midst of all those responsibilities, and maybe even because we have them, it is important to find a balance between them and our peace of mind. The following 5 links can help you achieve a better balance.

  1. Downshifting: The First Day of the Rest of My Life, by J.D. Roth: J.D. shares his personal journey from being a regular 9-to-5 Joe with huge debt and lots of wasted time to being a problogger with finances in great shape and no time to finding a balance between his new self-employed status and having time to do nothing.
  2. 10 tips on leading a balanced life, by Allen Galbraith: Although this post is written for the 9-to-5 crowd and those self-employed in businesses other than writing, there are some helpful tips nonetheless.
  3. 5 Tips for Better Work-Life Balance, by Jen Uscher and Miranda Hitti: These tips are more generalized (and also more focussed on 9-to5ers) but, again, some of them are helpful, especially when it comes to family and household responsibilities.
  4. WE ARE NOT ALONE: The Writer’s Guide to Social Media, by Kristen Lamb: This book is specifically for writers and is a great tool for learning how to manage marketing via social media so that it doesn’t become a time suck.
  5. Sensitive (Mental) Health: HSPs and Burnout by Elaine Aron: This very short article is specifically for highly sensitive people, though I think some of it applies to non-hsps as well.

Balance is attainable, even if for a brief period. What are some tips you’ve discovered on maintaining a balance between your writing career and the rest of your life?

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“People forget what you say, but they remember how you made them feel”–Warren Beatty

Caring for others, wanting to help our fellow humans, comes rather naturally for highly sensitive people, so why shouldn’t promoting ourselves and our products be just as natural? Most likely because we’re thinking of “selling” rather than “marketing.”

Sell: to persuade or induce (someone) to buy something: The salesman sold me on a more expensive model than I wanted.

Market: “on the market” (to make) available for purchase

Although the difference, linguistically speaking, is subtle, there is a huge difference in the way the two are carried out.

When we think of sales, we often think of a stereo-typical used car salesman — pushy, irritating, hard to get away from. I don’t know any HSP who wants to be that person. Trying to “sell” ourselves and our products leaves a sickening feeling in our psyche. And it’s no wonder since we’re consistently thinking of how the “other” feels. We know people don’t like to feel pushed into buying what they don’t want.

However, marketing is simply letting everyone know what we have available. To market ourselves we only need to do what we do best, be kind to others. The rest will slowly take care of itself.

Kristen Lamb and JP Aguiar have similar takes on using social media, Twitter in particular, to market ourselves that really speak to the way HSP’s live.

Kristen calls her suggestion the Rule of 3’s:

  1. Conversation:  Find someone to say something to. It doesn’t need to be a lengthy chat, just a word of encouragement or congratulations. Anything friendly will do.

  2. Information: Tweet a link to a post or article you found helpful, though not necessarily your own.

  3. Reciprocation:  Retweet a link from a fellow tweeter, preferably one you think others would really enjoy.

JP calls his suggestion The 5 Fingers To Social Media Learning:

  1. Index Finger – Know Your Goals: What do you want to accomplish through social media?

  2. Middle Finger – Share The Luv: Be human. Be available. Watch for opportunities to communicate with others, then do it.

  3. Ring Finger – Build Your Community: Sharing great information and being available naturally builds relationships, which will grow your following, your community.

  4. Pinky Finger – Share You Share Yours: Be yourself, but keep it to a minimum. Remember, it’s about building a community, not selling a used car.

  5. Thumb – Be Supportive and Helpful: Watch for the needs of others. All writers like, and need, some help getting the word out about their books, blogs, etc. Be that help.

Selling anything can be difficult, but making yourself available and letting others know you have something they might be interested in isn’t nearly as hard. Social media can be a marketing dream for a highly sensitive person, especially when we dig into our natural talents to be attentive and helpful.

What other ways have you found to market your products that hinged on putting your customer’s needs first?

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I’ve been writing most of my life, but that doesn’t mean I’ve got it down cold. If anything, I’ve learned I have a lot to learn. For example, although my first novel may spend the rest of eternity tucked safely in the darkest corner of the deepest drawer away from anything living it might otherwise harm, I would have to say I did a much better job of delivering back story in it than I’m doing with my current WIP. Of course, that begs the question: why?

Because my first novel was conceived and drafted under the tutelage of a wonderful high school English teacher (Thank You, Ms. Patti Jo Peterson!) who understood the need to plan the entire thing out before jumping in. This one I began as a total pantser. ‘Nuff said.

So what’s the big deal? I’ve always been a pantser.

That’s true, but I’m discovering that being a pantser can really cause problems later on. After reading posts like How do you know what to cut? Tune into the rhythm of your story by Roz Morris and 7 Deadly Sins of Prologues–Great Novel Beginnings Part 2 by Kristen Lamb, I’m seeing that what I thought were awesome scenes were really just a cheap way of dumping information. Not a great way to win readers over.

Fortunately there are ways to get that important information to your reader without slowing the story down. Roni Loren suggests 5 ways to include back story in her post How to Dish Out Backstory in Digestible Bites.

  1. Dialogue: Just beware of making this tool a hammer when you really need a screwdriver. It needs to happen naturally and in a way that doesn’t make your characters sound as if they are reciting a history lesson to your reader.

  2. Flashback: Most experienced writers strongly caution against using these. From my own experience I know using flashbacks can be tantalizing, but as Kristen Lamb says, “Flashbacks, used too often, give the reader the feel of being trapped with a sixteen-year-old learning to drive a stick-shift. Just get going forward, then the car (story) dies and rolls backward.

  3. Memory: I think this one is trickier because you can easily fall into creating a flashback. Roni uses this example — “Ex.) He smiled at her, and for a moment, she was reminded of the boy he used to be, the one she used to love.  (See, that tells us they had a previous relationship and that something changed along the way.  Just enough to whet the reader’s appetite.)

  4. Thoughts: This is my favorite both in writing and reading. It’s a great way to let readers into the characters internal world and have a glimpse of what their past has made them into. Unfortunately, it’s easy to abuse this one, too. Beware of pages of italicized text. They’re probably hiding an info dump.

  5. Action: Current action in a story can detail past events. Roni uses this example — “i.e.  A news story comes on TV talking about a cold case murder that relates to your MC.

Roni’s parting suggestion is probably the best piece of advice a writer can tuck away in her toolbox: “The easiest way for me to figure out how to put in backstory is to think like a screenwriter.  They cannot tell you things in a movie, they have to show it all.  So how would I convey this information if it were a movie?

As I continue to work and re-work my WIP I know I’ll run into the need to include back story, but with all the great resources available, like Kristen Lamb’s blog Warrior Writers, Roz Morris’s Nail Your Novel, and Roni Loren’s Fiction Groupie, finding an answer on how to include that important past information in ways that don’t slow down the story won’t be so difficult.

What about you? How do you include back story without killing your novel’s pace or choking your reader?

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The road to publication is filled with pain and tears… bloodshed… mayhem…. I’m being melodramatic here. Of course, that could just be that I’ve recently read several posts about how painful the publication process can be and how difficult it is to write good fiction. Here’s a small sampling:


“This is literally years of work you’re seeing. And hours and hours of work each day. The amount of time and energy I put into marketing is exhausting. I am continuously overwhelmed by the amount of work I have to do that isn’t writing a book. I hardly have time to write anymore, which sucks and terrifies me.” — Amanda Hocking’s post Some Things That Need to Be Said


“When it comes to traditional publication, at times, it may feel like the journey is filled with one root canal and subsequent infection after another. We know what’s coming—the long waits, the rejections, the stinging feedback. We’ve heard others talk about it, we brace ourselves for it, but then when it comes we’re unprepared for how much it really hurts.” — Jody Hedlund’s post Enduring the Pain in the Quest for Publication


“I’ve been blogging for a little over three years. I’ve been writing fiction since … well, pretty much since I could write. My blog posts are read by thousands of people. Only 1% of the fiction I’ve ever written has been published. Fiction is incredibly hard to do well.” — Ali Luke’s post Why Fiction is So Hard to Write



Admittedly, I’m picking on these blogger/authors, but it’s only because these posts spotlight the prevailing problem I’m seeing amongst writers, both new and not-so-new. We’ve picked up the bad habit of looking at the challenges, the hardships, and forgetting the real reason behind why we write. Most of us write because we can’t stop writing. We may ask, “Is it time to just give it up?” as JM Tohlin did before finally publishing The Great Lenore, but when it comes down to brass tacks we simply are unable to.

There’s about as much choice in sitting down to craft a story as there is in breathing.

The fact is, yes, getting published traditionally is hard and being self-published can mean hard work (unless you’re JA Konrath). But here’s another fact: dwelling on how hard it is doesn’t get the story written. It’s time we dragged ourselves out of the pit of despair, step down from our high horses, and get to work.

So in the spirit of moving forward, here’s 4 great links to help get you in the groove:

  1. Opportunity Comes in Overalls by Kristen Lamb: She’s a social media expert with a sharp sense of humor who seems to know just when we need a kick in the pants and that’s exactly what she gives us in this post.

  2. A Perfectionist’s Guide to Editing: 4 Stages by Jami Gold: Jami’s a paranormal author on a deadline battling the imp of perfection, something many of us are doing, and gives us 4 great ways to ignore and use our inner perfectionist.

  3. Nail Your Novel by Roz Morris: This book is a plotter’s dream (and can help pantser’s too 😉 ) as it gives easy to use steps in developing a novel from the first spark of an idea to the finished product.

  4. Hooked by Les Edgerton: This book is the simplest guide I’ve found thus far on how to fashion a beginning that’ll keep ’em reading to the end.



What other ways have you found to pick yourself up and find that forward momentum you lost?

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If you’re a highly sensitive person like me, then you’ll understand how stressful marketing yourself, your product or your business can be. If you aren’t an HSP, then today’s marketing landscape with its hurry, scurry push in social media probably doesn’t bother you. You may, in fact, thrive on the pressure, the excitement. The downside to that is that mistakes can be made at a faster rate and be more challenging to correct.

It’s also true that HSPs will suffer more stress and anxiety if we jump into all of the things we’re told we should be doing before we take the time to fully plan where we want to end up or if we don’t pace ourselves the way we need to — at a slower rate than the rest of the world. Regardless of whether you’re thinking about blogging or using Twitter or Facebook or any other social media, as an HSP it is imperative to think it through and take your time.

I’m currently working my way through Kristen Lamb’s WE ARE NOT ALONE: The Writer’s Guide to Social Media, which I highly recommend, but I have to continuously remind myself that I am not in a race. As Kristen has pointed out in previous blog posts, writing is more of a marathon than a sprint. Building an author platform goes right along with that. I may not be able to fit in 15 minutes each for Facebook, Twitter and MySpace (or whatever other social media outlet I’ve chosen) everyday, but I can certainly spend that much time on one per day, blog at least once per week and still have time left to work on my “masterpiece”.

Jumping into anything before you’re truly ready, or even mostly ready, gives a higher possibility of failure. It also means a greater possibility of losing your passion to write altogether. Still, it’s very difficult to reign in our enthusiasm, especially if we’re newer to the process. As Jody Hedlund says in her post The Pressure To Jump In Too Soon, “It’s hard enough to have patience. Therefore, when we get involved in the cyber writing world, eventually, we might begin to feel left behind or the pressure to keep up with what others are doing—even if we’re right where we need to be.”

Jody suggests 5 things newer writers can do to keep those feelings of pressure to a minimum, which I think really speak to HSPs:

  1. Concentrate on your writing because that is what will sell.

  2. You can put aside the book you’ve written without editing it. Consider it a project to revisit later when you’ve had more experience.

  3. If your story isn’t working or you’ve lost the passion for a project, it’s okay to put it away unfinished.

  4. Take the time to try out other genres. You may find your best writing isn’t in the genre you thought it was.

  5. Most importantly, spend less time thinking about what everyone else is doing and more time being you. As an HSP you know you’re unique. Capitalize on it.

It’s not the popular choice to take the slow lane when trying to forge ahead in a writing career, but for highly sensitive people it can be the best way. What other ways have you discovered to keep your career moving ahead while maintaining the balance you need as an HSP?

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