Tag Archive: Kristen Lamb


In our last blog, we discussed goal-setting. No sense starting to write unless you know what your objective is. Now that you’ve decided you not only want to write but want to become a professional writer, what’s next?

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Unless we’re experienced columnists or reporters for newspaper or magazine, in which case we would have made the decision about becoming a professional a long time ago, we probably need some help. Very few of us were born with the knowledge of how to write, much less how to market ourselves and our writing to agents, publishers or the reading public.

Where can we get that help? If you’re a recent graduate with a teacher or professor who has real knowledge of writing and the publishing industry and with whom you have established a strong rapport, you might seek him or her out.

If your aunt happens to be Nora Roberts, or John Grisham is your brother-in-law, you might go to them. If you can catch them with the time to sit down and talk to you.

Most of us don’t happen to number people like that among our relatives and close friends. What do we do? Where can we turn for help?

How about a critique group? We can find them in most major cities—and a lot of small towns—across the country. Surely we can find one, even if we have to drive to the next town for the meetings.

But wait—are all critique groups created equal? Unfortunately, no.

So, how do we decide what group, if any, to join?

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Who is in the group? Are there any writers who are successfully getting published in the field we’re interested in? If everyone there writes poetry and we want to write novels, the group probably isn’t going to be that helpful.

Okay, here’s a group over here where everyone is working on a novel, but the only one who has one published is a guy who self-published and has sold 300 copies in the two years it’s been out. Do you think we’ll find the kind of expertise we need from that group? Somehow, I doubt it. If it’s the only group around, it may be better than nothing. We might find help editing our typos and misspellings, but that’s about it.

We need to find a group comprised of people working on the same sort of thing we want to write—preferably one where at least one member has had some success at it. If our bag is short stories, we need a group with several short story writers.

Oh, I forgot—you wanted to be a novelist. Okay. Good choice. So you need to find a group that includes knowledgeable and successful novelists with a handle not only on how to write a novel but also on how to market it.

Unfortunately, we’re not likely to find a group that includes J. K. Rowling. What should we do? One place we can start is to attend some writers’ conferences. We can Google them and find what’s available in our area. Then we can attend and rub elbows with the other attendees, asking questions about writers’ groups in our area.

We can talk to the speakers who present sessions at the conference. Most of them are friendly and willing to speak to us. See what suggestions they have to offer.

We can also friend people like Kristen Lamb (http://warriorwriters.wordpress.com/) and Bob Mayer (http://writeitforward.wordpress.com/) on Facebook and follow them on Twitter. Both are successful authors who understand today’s market and can offer a wealth of insight.

Kristen Lamb, my Warrior Writers’ Boot Camp co-founder, has an on-line group. She also leads our local group which meets weekly, and there’s a lot of progress being made in both groups. In fact, one of the members of the on-line group, Donna Collins Newton (www.donnanewton.wordpress.com), has been in Hollywood recently working out the details for a tv series based on her screenplay.

Another valuable tool is reading blogs of other writers. We can take advantage of the experience (read mistakes) of others and make the way for smoother sailing for ourselves.

Writers used to live in caves, isolated from the rest of the world, but we no longer have to be hermits. Nowadays, we are not alone, to steal from the title of Kristen Lamb’s best-selling book, We Are Not Alone–The Writers Guide to Social Media. As writers seeking to break through, we need to take advantage of every opportunity for help we can find.

Ø Are you taking advantage of all the help available to assist you in reaching your own personal goals?

Ø Is there a local critique group that is right for you?

Ø Do the group members help one another with characterization, plot and so forth, or do they just critique a few pages of your prose?

Ø Interested in joining Kristen Lamb’s online group? Start following her blogs at http://warriorwriters.wordpress.com/, as well as following her on Twitter and maybe friending her on FB. Then send her a DM or a FB message inquiring about joining.

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They Also Serve

John Milton said, “They also serve who only stand and wait.” Seems like a strange thing to say. Isn’t it the movers and shakers who make all the difference in this world?

Sometimes we get to thinking that way, but is that correct? Where would Julia Roberts be if there weren’t someone on the other side of the camera filming her? Someone making sure her hair and makeup looked right?

Where would George Strait be if someone didn’t drive his bus to get him and his band to their appearances? Someone to see that the proper wardrobe was ready?

Buddy Holly was an overnight sensation back in the late 1950s. In fact, many consider him to be as big an icon of Rock and Roll music as Elvis Presley. One of the guys who stood behind him on the stage attracting little or no attention was Waylon Jennings. Waylon didn’t soar like Buddy, but he’s entering his sixth decade as a fixture in country music.

One of my favorite items in the comic pages is “Pluggers” by Gary Brookins. A plugger never jets straight to the top, but he plugs along doing his thing and working himself toward his goals.

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Some people cast very visible shadows, and others live in those shadows supporting the visible ones. Both types have their parts to play.

If your writing hasn’t brought you the level of success one of your peers has achieved, or if it hasn’t improved as rapidly as you thought it would, don’t despair. Just keep plugging along, learning all you can about your craft and incorporating it into your writing.

Those of you who read my entry last week, “My First Blog,” are aware that Kristen Lamb (http://warriorwriters.wordpress.com/) and I co-founded Warrior Writers’ Boot Camp. We met numerous times discussing whether or not to step away from the comfort of an existing writers’ group.

As is human nature, we both had a certain fear of venturing out. Sure, there were things about the group we were in that we both thought kept us from progressing as writers and leading others to progress, but the group was familiar. We frequently hold onto our own darkness rather than venture out into an unknown light.

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Kristen would tell you I had to push her and stand behind her and prop her up before she was ready to take that step into the unknown. Once we made the decision to do so, we began meeting to discuss what we would do, how we would go about accomplishing what we wanted to accomplish. I don’t even know how many hours we spent and how many cups of coffee we drank working up our agenda.

In retrospect, a lot of our agonizing over what to do and how to do it proved pointless, because we soon began to junk parts of our agenda and replace them with newer and better thoughts that came along only as we got our feet wet. Before long, we hardly recognized the baby we’d created.

Somewhere along the way as the group began to jell, the ideas for what we should be doing began to crystallize in her mind, while my mind seemed to hang back where we began. She seemed to know instinctively—actually, it had a lot more to do with how much she read and her contacts with Bob Mayer (http://writeitforward.wordpress.com/) than with instincts—what we needed to do and where we needed to go.

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Before long, I found myself a follower rather than a co-leader. I began to feel like a non-contributing failure. I should have been helping Kristen teach our group, but instead I found myself not even understanding or at least being very slow to apply what she was teaching.

Every time I said something about how I’d lagged behind her, she would remind me that there would be no Warrior Writers’ Boot Camp—and likely no We Are Not Alone–The Writers Guide to Social Media if I hadn’t pushed her and supported her in the beginning. I still sometimes feel like a dunce compared to the progress she’s made in the last two years.

Last summer I wrote a few blogs which were read by about three members of my own family. I didn’t understand Twitter—still barely do—and I didn’t understand putting tags in my blogs so someone could actually find them. With no one reading what I’d written, I just quit writing. I’ve remained an active part of WWBC, attending meetings regularly and adding what I can, but no writing.

It wasn’t until Kristen sent me the manuscript for Are You There – It’s Me, Writer, her followup to We Are Not Alone . . . that I began to put some things into perspective with regard to my own writing. I made up my mind that I would begin blogging regularly and effectively. I’m even determined to learn how to use Twitter effectively. After all, I have a true expert available for help.

You may have a young and nimble mind that immediately grasps these things. Like Kristen, you may grow in your craft by leaps and bounds. But there are also some out there like me who were born far too long ago to pick up, adapt to, and use all the new things available to writers.

The good news is that there’s a place for us, too. We may not be the stars who shoot to the top of the best-seller lists, but we can plug along and work at our craft and become good at it. In time, we may even be able to join our more fleet-footed acquaintances on that best-seller list.

Meanwhile, we can learn from and support those around us. I don’t kid myself that I’m responsible for Kristen’s success, but I do take joy in her success—and maybe just a tiny bit of pride. I’d love to see every member of our group become a successful, best-selling author. Some of it might rub off on me, but even if it doesn’t, I can rejoice in the success of others I love and care about.

Ø Are you the rock star soaring to success or the plugger trudging along the way?

Ø What do you do when you get discouraged with the pace of your progress?

Ø How does your writers’ group help you or intimidate you?

My First Blog

Since this is my first posting, let me briefly introduce myself. My name is David Walker. After writing off and on during a forty-two year career as a health insurance agent, I decided to get serious about writing. During our last year or so as president and vice-president of a local writers’ group, Kristen Lamb (http://warriorwriters.wordpress.com/) and I talked a lot about what we would do differently if we started a group of our own. The result was Warrior Writers’ Boot Camp.

To paraphrase Kristen, one of the things that qualifies me to write about writing is that I’ve probably already made every mistake you may have ahead of you. If this blog helps you avoid some of those, it’ll be well worth the while.

Although I wrote my first novel when Kristen was in second grade and six more in the early nineties, I never understood why I couldn’t get any of them published until the last couple of years. My family liked them, and I just knew I was God’s gift to writing, but the sound of agents clamboring to beat a path to my door was somewhat like that of a gifted tracker after game. Hey, look at the wonders I’ve created. . . .

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Whoa . . . absolute silence.

Having been educated in good schools at a time when people actually paid attention to such things as grammar and spelling, I knew mine was better than that in most of the books I read. How could they publish misspelled words and dangling participles and non-parallel clauses and overlook my brilliant work?

Oh, the audience isn’t all English teachers? More interested in substance than form? Hmmm. . . .

After getting nowhere with all those early nineties novels, I decided maybe I’d better join a writers’ group. An acquaintance of my wife’s (Ann Arnold) belonged to such a group. My wife knew Ann through her school connections, and she told me she was about to have a non-fiction book published (http://www.amazon.com/Gamblers-Gangsters-Worths-Jacksboro-Highway/product-reviews/1571682503), so I decided to join her group.

After a couple of years of weekly attendance I needed to concentrate on my insurance career and put writing on a back burner, but as retirement loomed ahead, my interest in writing surfaced once again. I emailed my old buddy Dr. Mike Bumagin (http://www.tower.com/tower_search/search_3_2_b.cfm?keywords=Michael%20Bumagin%20(Author)&div_id=1&&contributor=Michael%20Bumagin%20(Author) from that first writers’ group and asked him if he still belonged to one, which he did.

That’s when I met Kristen Lamb.

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Kristen had recently become president of Freelance Writers’ Network, and at my first meeting I was impressed with her ability to see the good and bad in the work people brought to the meeting. Her critiques were lengthy and detailed—and right on the money.

When time came for the next election, she asked me to be her vice-president, which I was thrilled to do. We led the group together for several years, but we always felt like something was missing.

We would get together to discuss the group or writing in general or whatever was on our minds, and we frequently ended up talking about the fact that what we were doing was of limited value to anyone trying to get a good, publishable novel written. We began to realize that having five pages of writing critiqued wasn’t likely to produce the great American novel.

Everyone in the group had to spend a couple of minutes each week reminding the rest of us where these pages fit into a story, what had gone on leading up to that night’s reading. There was no continuity. Even with the explanations, none of us had a concise picture of what anyone else’s work was about.

Okay, so we knew there was a problem, and we even saw part of what it was. What to do next?

About that time Kristen rode with me in my motorhome the Oklahoma Writer’s Federation, Inc., conference.

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I don’t remember whose sessions I attended, but Kristen, thank God, attended one led by NY Times Bestselling author Bob Mayer. Being a true writer-hermit, I’d gone up there in my motorhome rather than staying in the same hotels as everyone else. After the day’s sessions, I went back to the RV park, but not Kristen.

Naturally gregarious, Kristen made friends with about half the people there, including Bob Mayer (http://writeitforward.wordpress.com/). He was all she could talk about on our drive back to Fort Worth. He’d made a tremendous impression on her, and she nurtured her contact with him until it became a true friendship.

For the next year or so, we continued to discuss what didn’t work about our group, and Kristen injected ideas she picked up from Bob into our discussions. Then she managed to get Bob to hold a two-day seminar in the Metroplex, and several of us attended.

For some time, I’d been urging Kristen to leave our group and start another one, or at least start a second group as an alternative to the main group’s meeting, but her loyalty is amazing, and she didn’t want to do that. After Bob’s seminar, though, she began to agree with me that we needed to quit attending the regular meetings and start a side group with separate meetings.

We both announced that we would not hold offices in our old group after the current year and that we would begin a group for those interested in a more in-depth pursuit of novel writing and marketing. Did I say marketing? That was almost a foreign concept to us at that time, but we realized its importance.

At first, we were all learning together, but Kristen learned so much more and so much faster than the rest of us that it soon became a matter of her teaching us. We began to delve into tag lines—never heard of those! And antagonists—are those serial killers or some such thing? And protagonists—those are heroes, aren’t they?

While most of us struggled with learning about such things, Kristen breezed through and began learning about using social media as a market-building tool. The rest, as they say, is history. She has become possibly the recognized expert on how writers can (and should) use social media. Her first book We Are Not Alone–The Writers Guide to Social Media has become a bestseller, and I just finished proofing her second book on the subject, Are You There, Blog – It’s Me, Writer. Likely another bestseller.

In future blogs, we’ll examine some of the things taught in the Warrior Writer’s Boot Camp. We’ll look at the importance of preparing yourself by getting to know what you want to write about and who your characters are before starting to write the text.

Are you a writer? Please don’t tell me you’re a would-be writer or an aspiring writer. If you want to write, write. That makes you a writer. Being published makes you a published writer. Having a book on the best-selling list makes you a best-selling writer, but the only qualification for being a writer is to write.

Ø Okay, so you are a writer. Do you belong to a writers’ group?

Ø Does your writers’ group meet your needs?

Ø What do you like best about it?

Ø What do you find frustrating about it?

Ø What suggestions do you have to share?