New Book Announcement - Holiday Standalone!

Hey guys, LL here!

It's probably some sort of ghastly faux pas to be discussing Christmas on St. Patrick's Day, but I've been waiting ages for this book to be available for pre-order so I can talk about it, and I simply cannot wait another day to say ...

I've been holding out on you guys!

I've slipped up a few times and mentioned that I have seven books coming out in 2017, but astute readers have noted that up until today, I've only announced six. 

Now that it's finally up on Amazon, I get to tell you guys that:

I have a Christmas story coming out this year!

Not a novella, either, a full Lauren Layne rom-com with all sorts of holiday sparkle.

Here's the deal with this one:

I've always loved Christmas-themed romances, and from the very beginning of my career, I've wanted to write one. Easier said than done though! They're a bit of a hard sell for publishers, as they're so seasonal. And even when you can talk a publisher into it, they usually want you to write a novella as part of an anthology. Which, I'm not against, and I would totally be open to doing some day, but it's not what I wanted to do with this story.

In my head, this book plays out a bit like a Hallmark Christmas movie (come on, I know I'm not the only one to watch/love those!) and I needed a full-book word count in order to tell the story the way I want to.

I'm SO grateful that my publisher (Loveswept/Penguin Random House) got on board and said, "Sure, we'll publish your Christmas story!" 

Much giddiness and out-of-season caroling ensued. 

I don't yet have an official cover, but I do have a title and buy-links!

An Ex for Christmas

Kindle  •  iBooks  •  Nook  •  GooglePlay  •  Kobo

Full description can be found here, but the short-and-sweet summary:

A superstitious heroine is told by a psychic that she's already met her one true love, and so she decides her Christmas wish is to figure out who from her past is The One. She puts together a list of her ex boyfriends and attempts to reconnect with them. All with the reluctant help of her best friend Mark, who may or may not have a Christmas wish of his own ...

Kindle  •  iBooks  •  Nook  •  GooglePlay  •  Kobo

Cover Reveal - I Do, I Don't Series

Hey everyone!

I'm so excited to announce that all three books in the I Do, I Don't series have final covers.

I'm loving the romantic comedy vibe my publisher managed to convey with these overs. They're fun and flirty, just like the books themselves!

A Writer's Journey to Publication

One of the most common questions we authors get: 

Did you always want to be a writer?

To my thinking, it's a decent question, but not the most interesting one. 

See, everyone has dreams, but making the dreams a reality? Not very common.. So I'm always more interested in the how.

How did the dream of being a writer become a reality? 

How long did it take? What were the setbacks? Did you get a formal education for it? Was it luck? Magic? Sweat and tears? 

For those of you with the dream of being a full-time author, wondering about how to make it work:

  1. You can do it. Absolutely you can do it.
  2. It's never about a moment. It's about a journey.

And this? This is my journey ...

 

The journey to full-time author, from birth to right now: 

Age 0-4

As I understand it, I spent the first year of my life screaming my head off, my not-so-terrible twos obsessed with Winnie the Pooh, and my pre-school days very into Playdough.

But somewhere in the midst of all that, I was riding around in my grocery store chariot, and stole a copy of James Michener’s Poland from some unsuspecting shelf. A book lover even then, you see?

Age 5

Television wasn’t really allowed in our home, but books were encouraged. About this point I was starting to max out my enjoyment of slowly reading Dr. Seuss myself, and was much more into the more interesting books my mom would read aloud.

I still remember both how into The Castle in The Attic and Charlotte’s Web I was, as well as how frustrated that my reading skills weren’t strong enough to read them to myself after she’d put the book away for the night.

Age 6

First grade. My reading skills were at the top of my class, but my grasp on numbers was shaky at best. Basic addition was a total stumper. This proclivity for words over numbers would remain true for the rest of my life. I still can't add a tip in a restaurant without muttering to myself about "carrying the one ..."

Age 7

Second grade, and an absolute pivotal moment. My second grade teacher started reading the class The Boxcar Children. I was beyond enthralled. Right around the time my teacher started reading it, my parents took us Christmas shopping to downtown Seattle. I found my way into the bookstore, as I so often did, and pulled The Boxcar Children off the shelf. Delighted to realize I had the reading chops to read it on my own, I spent every penny I’d ever saved on The Boxcar Children, Book 1. Later that night at dinner, my parents surprised me with the second book in the series as well. I’d finished both books by the following day. A game changer, as I was from here on-out, “a reader.”

Ages 8-11

I was a voracious reader by this point, my mom patiently taking me to the library a couple times a week as I read every single thing I could get my hands on. Needless to say, I’d long devoured the entire Boxcar series, but discovered other favorites. Nancy Drew, Goosebumps, Sweet Valley Twins, A Wrinkle in Time, and so on. When my parents’ friends asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I said "an author!" Because, duh. Best job ever.

Ages 12-13

Oh junior high. The ultimate transition period (sup, puberty). My reading preferences started to change too. I discovered Sweet Valley High before I probably should have, and the adventures of Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield is definitely the point in my reading career where my interests started zeroing on romance.

My parents were less than thrilled with the Sweet Valley High fascination, but I will forever be grateful that they never forbade me from reading them—I suspect they understood that reading was supposed to be fun. They did, however, insist that I alternate SVH with classics. In between Dear Sister and Deceptions, I also read everything else my parents set on my nightstand. Robinson Crusoe, Lord of the Rings, Moby Dick, Gone with the Wind, To Kill a Mockingbird, everything by Charles Dickens and Jane Austen, Dune, and so on.

Age 14

Another pivotal moment. While rummaging through my mom’s high school Costco haul for an after-school snack, I picked up Nora Roberts's The Reef.

Back in those days, I read just about any book that touched my hands, and this was no different, except it was very different. I remember feeling a very dazed sense of wonder at the romantic tension between the main characters. Forget about Sweet Valley High. This was my reading destiny.

Age 15

I still didn’t quite understand that romance novels were a thing, but I kept my eye open for books like The Reef. I discovered Midnight Secrets by Janelle Taylor and Exclusive by Sandra Brown and hid them under my bed where I read and reread them a dozen times. Sorry, not sorry, Mom.

Age 16 

Big moment here. Huge. My family was vacationing at a beach house on the Washington coast. A couple days in, I’d already blown through all my reading material, which, in the pre-Kindle age, left me cranky and panicked. Then I found the vacation’s home “left behind” bookshelf, of those books previous vacationers had finished and left for someone else.

I picked up Judith McNaught’s Perfect. This book changed my life. The others I had read up to that point were romance, yes, but I didn’t quite understand what it meant to have All The Feels until this book. We had to leave before I finished Perfect, and um, I took the book with me, because I couldn’t not find out what happened. (I later mailed them a copy of Perfect, don’t worry!) Upon finishing the book, I had this very clear sense that if I could some day make someone feel with a book what I’d felt with this book, that I would be really, truly happy.

Ages 17-18

By this point I had a driver’s license, as well as a bit of my own spending money, all of which went to feeding my newly discovered romance novel habit, all of which were tucked into the back of a shelf in my bedroom. 

Ages 19-20

The early years of college. Because I’d taken AP Literature in high school, I didn’t have to take any English classes my Freshman year. I surprised everyone, myself included, by falling in love with political science classes and declaring a Poli Sci major instead of English.

My romance reading slowed down due to college coursework being way harder than high school, but my favorite part of Christmas break was diving into the waiting pile of romance novels. I discovered Susan Elizabeth Phillips during this stage, who quickly became a top favorite alongside Judith McNaught.

Ages 21-22

The latter years of college … I was still a Poli Sci major, and was still loving it, although every single one of my electives was in the English department. I took a poetry class, creative writing class, analytical writing class, political literature class, not because they fulfilled any requirement but simply because I loved them.

As graduation crept up, I took a “vocation symposium,” where we were asked to do a little soul-searching on our calling. My calling was clear—writing. But I didn’t want to pursue journalism or copywriting or publishing, or any of the suggested directions from mentors. I wanted to write novels, and not just any novels. Romance novels. ... it was strongly suggested I focus on paying bills instead. So I did.

Age 22

My first real job. I was a receptionist at a fancy commercial real estate company. I didn’t hate it. I loved dressing up in high heels and Friday happy hours, and I made some really wonderful friends.

But about six months in, I felt my first stab of grown-up panic … that sense of wait, “Is this it? Is this all there is, the rest of my life?”

My fiancé asked what I wanted to do instead, and I said I wanted to write a book. He suggested I try writing something on the hour train commute to and from work, and I rolled my eyes. Real writers needed quiet and solitude and a dedicate writing desk, thought the pretentious snobby 22-year old. I didn’t write a single word.

Age 23

I’d move on to another job. It was a better fit in that it required me to use my brain a bit more and kept me busy. I didn’t think about writing. As much.

Age 24

The luster of the new job had worn off, and the writing bug was back. This time, I decided to do something about it.

I bought a butt-load of books about novel-writing. I bought binders and notebooks and folders, and a brand new desk. Within three months, I had a very detailed outline and notes on a series about three sisters who inherited a Napa winery.

Then I tried to write the book and realized that writing is really, really hard. I quit before the end of Chapter One and put all of my notes and outlines away, never to look at them again.

Age 25

My husband and I moved from Seattle to Orange County, CA for his job. I kept my job in Seattle, and they were kind enough to let me work remotely.

The wonderful freedom of not having to commute to work every day, as well as the fact that my husband was gone most days and many nights with our only car left me with a lot of time on my hands.

I was bored and fresh out of excuses. So I wrote a book. Or most of a book. It was called Whatever Happened to Romance, named after a Victoria Hart song, and about rival colleagues Max and Julia. When I got to the second to last chapter, I realized that I could/should do something with the book. Or at least try to. I wrote a very terrible query letter and sent it to a handful of agents.

Age 26

After accepting that we absolutely hate living in sunny climates, my husband and I moved back to Seattle. The query letters were still out in the world, although rejections were rolling in. I still hadn’t written the last chapter. More rejections rolled in, vicious in their copy/paste lack of personalization. I decided I wasn’t a writer after all. I set the book aside, unfinished, and threw myself into my “day job.” 

Age 27

This was a tumultuous, but ultimately important year for me.

I was still in my job, but I was pulling hard at the reins. Butting heads with every manager who came my way, resenting the hell out of the monotony of a 9-5 schedule when most of my work could be done from home, after hours.

More than ever before, my life had become a depressing loop of desperately waiting for Friday afternoon, and dreading Monday morning with a knot in my stomach. I started asking big questions, and aligning myself with friends who wanted more out of life. The question came up over and over again, What would you do with your life if money were no object?

Writing romance novels was always the answer, and I finally realized how sick I was of myself—I was tired of being the person who was all dream and no action. I decided to stop being the person who kept saying “I wish” and start being the person who said “I will.” As I approached the end of that year (2010), I realized it was time.

It was time to write a book, all-in, not as a bored experiment, but because I wanted to publish it--because I wanted to be an author.

(we're going to start getting a bit more specific with timing now, as things are taking off and milestones happened by month, not year!) 

Age 28 - early 2011

I started the book. My day job still demanded most of Monday-Friday, but for 3 months or so, I was a weekend warrior, devoting all day to writing as many words as I possibly could on Saturdays and Sundays. 

I finished Only With You (then called Accidentally in Love) by summer, and was starting to clean it up for submission when my husband got a phone call from work—an offer to move to New York City for his job. We’d been west-coasters all our life, had never even been to New York. But we realized that it was a now-or-never situation. If we didn’t say yes to an adventure now, we were unlikely to later.

Moving meant me quitting my job, but I was planning on doing that anyway. This just moved up the time table by a few weeks. I asked my husband to give me three months before job-hunting in New York. I asked for three months to work full time on my writing, finding an agent to represent my work, and securing the elusive book deal.

Age 28 - late 2011

We were in New York City, and wildly in love with our new life in Manhattan. True to my word, I’d thrown myself whole-heartedly into my writing dreams. I polished and re-polished my manuscript. I started another one, a Young Adult fantasy, just to expand my chances of getting agent interest.

I sent out a dozen or so query letters. But rejections were starting to trickle in—many of them telling me that while they liked my voice, there wasn’t much of a market for contemporary romance.

Age 28 - early 2012

(I’m an April birthday, in case you’re trying to do the age-math here)

My three-months of not working were over, and the reality of trying to live on one salary in the most expensive city in the country was starting to have very real, detrimental effects on our bank account and stress-levels.

I dusted off my resume, updated it, and applied for dozens of e-commerce and web-marketing jobs. However, I also was still damn sure I was supposed to be an author, absolutely convinced that my manuscript was every bit as good as much of what was being published.

Rejections continued to roll in, but instead of getting discouraged (okay, there was one day where 2 rejections came in back to back within an hour and I cried), I became more stubborn. More determined. A little angry, even. I wrote another query letter—better this time, although in hindsight there was something more pivotal happening than my improved query letter skills … Fifty Shades of Grey was starting to take off in a big way. Those agents that had just months earlier claimed there was no market for contemporary romance were starting to change their tune.

Age 28 - Early April 2012

It was a Saturday morning. I was sitting on the couch with my husband. He was working on his laptop, I was perusing job boards on mine. An email came through. Nicole Resciniti of The Seymour Agency: “Lauren, you have a spectacular voice - Is this manuscript still available?”

Heart in my throat, I did a last minute read-through of the manuscript, before emailing her back on Sunday morning (the following day), saying, that yes, it was available, and attached for her review.

Less than twenty-four hours later, she emailed me back. She liked the manuscript, and could I speak on the phone. We set up a phone date for Wednesday, I nearly died waiting for it.

Just five days after requesting the manuscript, Nicole called and offered to represent me.

Two days before my 29th birthday, I signed a contract with The Seymour Agency. 

Age 29 - Mid 2012

The weeks after signing with Nicole were a little surreal. As I tweaked the manuscript per some of her suggestions, responses from other agents started to pour in, this time with very different responses, none of them rejections.

I politely told them that I’d already accepted representation (and hell yes, after months of rejection, that felt good). 

Age 29 - July 2012 

Nicole thought we were ready to go out on submission.

Two days after she sent it out, we got our first offer. A little lower than she wanted, and digital-only, but I’ll never forget the feeling. There was a  book deal on the table. For my book.

More offers came in, and we ended up accepting a 2-book print deal from Grand Central Publishing. I was officially on my way to becoming a published author.

Age 29 - August 2012

The book contract was signed, when Nicole came to me with news that Random House (this was before they merged with Penguin) wanted to know if I had anything else in the works.

They were one of the houses to offer on my first book, but the offer was digital-only, and I decided to go with the print offer. But as Nicole put it, e-books were the future, and in publishing it was always a good idea not to put all your eggs in one basket. I agreed.

Problem was? I didn’t have another book. Or even an idea. I hurriedly brainstormed, came up with the concept of a series about a women’s magazine (based on Cosmopolitan/Glamour), where the heroine of each book was a columnist in their “Love & Relationships” department.  

The Random House editor was interested, but wanted to see the book, obviously. So I wrote it. In one month, I went from having not so much as an idea for another book, to having a complete manuscript.

Random House bought the three book series, and in just a couple months, I went from having no book deal, to five books under contract.

Age 29-30 - Late 2012 - Mid 2013

I wish I could tell you that the months that followed were all sunshine and rainbows and champagne, but honestly ? They were difficult.

While I was very much soul-happy, knowing that I was secured on the path to achieving my ultimate dream of being a published author, real life was nipping at my heels.

Generally speaking, debut romance authors don’t tend to command huge advances (the money authors receive upon signing a book deal). Or at least my advance wasn’t huge. Receiving the checks were a wonderful symbolic moment, but to be honest, the amount did very little to make a dent in our slowly accumulating debt.

And my first book, originally slated to be published e-book first with print to follow, continued to get delayed. Originally my publisher aimed for a January release. Then March. April. And so on. I was still living the dream, but it was not particularly … dreamy.

Age 30, August 2013

My first published book (After the Kiss) was released on August 25, 2013. I say my first published book, because this was actually not the first book I wrote, nor the first book deal I was contracted. 

In the end, my first book would get pushed out seven times by that publisher, making it my fifth book to be published. Random House, in the mean time, had published the 3-original books about the magazine writers (the Stiletto series), as well a s a standalone New Adult novel (Isn’t She Lovely).

The publication of After the Kiss was a bit bittersweet, as just weeks before its release, my husband and I made the difficult, but financially-responsible decision to leave New York City to return to Seattle, where we moved in with my parents for a couple months in an effort to get our money-reality back on track.

Age 30-31 (2014)

In 2014, my husband and I settled into a two-bedroom apartment in Issaquah, WA and worked our asses off. He threw himself whole-heartedly into a new job, and I spent all day every day writing my ass off to make sure this whole “writing career” didn’t go belly up.

My book sales up to this point were underwhelming … not enough for my publishers to drop me, but enough so I didn’t command much money in subsequent book deals. I realized that in order to make a living at this, I’d need to make a little money on a lot of books, since I didn’t seemed destined to make a lot of money on any one book (see: Fifty Shades of Grey).

I released five books in 2014 (including my two books from that original publishing deal, two years after singing the contact).

I also signed more book deals, setting me up to release six books in 2015. After two years of making virtually no money, in 2014, I matched the salary (almost exactly) of what I was making at the day job I quit in 2011.

Age 31 (2015)

Things were looking up. While hardly rolling in dough, we’d climbed our way back out of debt. We also reached the startling realization that Seattle (where we grew up and lived most of our lives) didn’t feel like home. Apparently, those two years in New York had changed us into east coasters.

We couldn’t afford to move back to Manhattan yet, but we were craving a change. In January 2015, we moved to Chicago for a year. By this point, I’d become a writing machine in the best way possible, writing book after book and loving every minute, even as I started to resign myself to the fact that while I could make enough money support myself, I might never be a bestseller. 

Age 32 - Summer 2015

In August 2015, almost two years to the day after my first book was published, I hit the USA Today bestseller list with Blurred Lines. It stayed in the Amazon Top 100 for weeks, the iBooks top 10 for weeks, and in its first month had sold more than most of my previous books had sold in their entire lifetime. 

Things were changing.

Age 32 - End of 2015 

Following the release of Blurred Lines, I had two more releases in 2015.

While neither made any bestseller lists, but both did vastly better than all my previous books.

2015 marked the first year that I made more--substantially more, than I ever made in my day job.

I know it’s incredibly taboo to talk about money—I’m well aware that this could come across as bragging and smug, but that’s truly not why I’m bringing it up.

I’m talking about money as a note of encouragement to every writer who’s thought they couldn’t make it. Who thought a career in writing was a either a fantasy, or financially irresponsible.

I’m bringing this up for parents who would tell their kids that writing won’t pay bills, that they need to get a “real job.” Please don't. Or do, but tell them to keep writing even as they work that "real job." 

Dreams do come true, yes, but more importantly, hard work and persistence can pay off. 

(also? We finally made it back to NYC, this time with very different financial circumstances)

Age 33 - Late 2016

Plenty more good things. I had six releases, five out of six made the USA TODAY bestseller list, one even breaking onto the New York Times bestseller list for the first time.

It was a really, really good year, although also an important ones in terms of lessons—I learned that no matter how great you feel like you’re doing, no matter how happy you are, you can’t make everyone happy.  There will be readers who demand more books. Publishers who want better sales numbers. There will be frustrated readers who want print versions of your book, even as publishers tell you they’re not going to print them.

In a lot of ways, 2016 was a busy, messy journey back to my roots—back to the reason I started this career in the first place: I like to tell stories. All the other stuff can go hang itself.

Age 33 - January 2017 - Present Day, as I write this!

Things are good. Things are great. I have seven books out this year, all stories that I’m wildly excited about.

It’s early yet, but I feel good about this year’s direction. That said, I’m already thinking towards 2018, dreaming, scheming, whatever, and I just feel sort of on … high alert, prepped for a change/adjustment. I had a writer-friend tell me recently that I seemed “never satisfied.” I was a bit stung at first, but upon reflection, I realized it was not only true, but … a compliment.

Or at least I’m choosing to take it that way. I didn’t get where I am today by being satisfied. Don’t get me wrong, I celebrate every moment. I’m grateful for every achievement, and always keep a bottle of champagne in the fridge to celebrate wins, both big (new book deal) and small (finishing a particularly rewarding scene).

But there’s a fine line between rejoicing in all the you’ve achieved thus far and becoming complacent. My advice?

Be hungry. Dream big and act big. And it will happen.


(this blog post marks Lauren Layne’s writing journey through January 2017 . She will make every effort to update it in the future as major milestones occur, but makes no promises!)  

Cover Reveal - Ready to Run

So excited to reveal the cover of Ready to Run, the first in the I Do, I Don't series! 

My publisher and I were absolutely on the same page for this cover, instinctively gravitating towards a cover with a very rom-com feel to it. Not to say this one still won't have plenty of The Sexy, but this story is making me grin as I write it, so I'm loving that the cover's flirty/sassy vibe is a perfect match for Jordan and Luke's battle of wills.

See, I love those dark/intense love stories as much as the next gal, but sometimes you just want to smile, you know? That's THIS book. It's totally channeling When Harry Met Sally, Runway Bride, While You Were Sleeping, The Proposal, and so on.

You can learn more about the series here, but the short version is that this series is The Bachelor meets Runaway Bride.

Book One kicks off with a city-girl associate producer for Jilted (a new reality TV show) heading to middle-of-nowhere (tiny town in Montana) to recruit a notorious runaway groom for her new show Bachelor-esque show. She ends up falling in love with the town, its quirky residents, and, well ... the guy.

Release Date :: August 22, 2017 

Buy Links :: Kindle / Nook / iBooks / Kobo / GooglePlay 

The cover ...

Buy Links :: Kindle / Nook / iBooks / Kobo / GooglePlay

LL's Every Day Makeup Look

I keep getting a ton of questions on how I get my "makeup look" and which products I recommend.

My look has been the same, pretty much since high school, but the products I use to get the look definitely changes all the time--the plight of a beauty junkie, always looking for the Holy Grail products.

Below are the exact steps I take to "do my face" every morning, as well as the products I'm loving at the moment (November 2016) 


My Make-Up Steps (in order)

(1) Apply Tease eyeshadow by Urban Decay all over lid, a little heavier application on outer half of my lid.

(2) Use black pencil eyeliner (I like this chubby, affordable one by L'Oreal) and apply it UNDER my top lash line. This is also known as tightlining and is a good way to define your lash line without just drawing a big stripe on your eyelid. Perfect for the "no makeup" look I tend to prefer.

(3) Apply Urban Decay's Blackout eyeshadow along my upper lash line using an angled shadow brush. Again, I try to avoid "lining" anything, I'm really just sort of "darkening" the lash line.

(4) Use whatever shadow is leftover on the brush and lightly line under my bottom lashes.

Tool tip: I these eye brushes by Real Techniques.

(4) Curl lashes (I don't know what eyelashes curler I have, some drugstore variety), and apply a coat of It Cosmetics Super hero mascara.

(5) Use the shimmery end of Anastasia Beverly Hills highlighter pencil to the inner corner of my eye and to highlight my brow bone (the spot just under the highest point of your arch).

(6) Apply Lancome Teint Idole Ultra Longwear Cushion foundation all over face. Um, I'm obsessed with this product. It's a compact, you apply it with the little sponge they include, and it takes about 2 seconds to apply, and you can throw it in your purse for touch ups. It's high coverage but natural-looking. In summer I wore the color Bisque N, but just switched to Buff N now that my tan's faded a bit.

(7) If, and only if I'm going to be gone all day/night, I apply powder to set the foundation. 

(8) I've been forgoing blush lately, and just applying a little bronzer under cheek bones and along top of forehead. Nars Laguna, baby.

(9) Fill in/define eyebrows using Anastasia Beverly Hills brow powder in Graphite. I use the Anastasia Beverly Hills Brush #12 to apply.

(10) Lips: if it's just a regular old writing day, I just put on good old Burts Bees Wax (original). If I'm running errands/have a date with Mr. Layne, I'll put on lipstick. Current favorites: Dior Addict Fluid Stick in Versatile (a natural shiny pink but not too teenage-glossy.  Dior Addict Milky Tint in Milky Plum (an utterly gross name for a pretty product. Subtle, sophisticated mauve). If I want a bit more color, Urban Decay Vice Lipstick in Rapture. A muted rose color, not too bright and perfect for Fall.

Ta Da!

For those of you thinking, "Gawd, that's a lot of steps." I suppose, but this all takes me about 2 minutes, but I can do it in 1 if I'm in a rush. 

Video :: How I set up a new book in Ulysses

In honor of NaNoWriMo, I've recorded a SUPER long (but hopefully useful!) video talking about how I set up a new book in Ulysses.

One of the most frequent questions I get from other writers is what software I use to write my books, and that answer has been Ulysses for over a year now.

It allows for so much more flexibility than Microsoft Word or other standard word processors, but it's a far "cleaner" program than Scrivener, keeping your focus on writing more words, not futzing around with cork boards.

This video's nearly 20 minutes, but I walk you through my ACTUAL process for setting up a new book, from the resources section to the first draft itself.

 

Using Evernote to track your To Do list

Also published in the June 9th version of the LL Weekly


Last week I talked a bit about how I used Trello to keep track of all my deadlines, which generated a ton of questions on what other tools I use. 

The other big one (other than my writing program itself) is Evernote.

I used to be all the way in love with Evernote, but we broke up for awhile. For awhile there I was finding the Mac version to be really buggy, and the iPhone version didn’t sync as quickly as I’d like.

They seem to have worked out the kinks though, and now it’s become sort of like my right hand. My favorite thing is that it syncs seamlessly between my computer and my iPhone app. It also has a web-based version, so if you're somehow without your phone and your laptop (blasphemy!) you can still access your notes from another computer.

Simply put, I use Evernote for everything. Random story idea? Evernote. Blog post idea? Evernote. Grocery list? Evernote. Online shopping receipts? Saved directly to Evernote. I keep my recipes here, my release dates, phone numbers, scanned business cards I receive at conferences, the soundtracks for all of my books, my hex codes for Last Word Designs projects, my outline for all my books, and the one I’ll be talking about today ...

My To Do list.

Now, some of you probably know by now that I love me a good paper planner (currently using the Day Designer), and that’s still the case. But while the Day Designer is really good for keeping me on track for TODAY stuff, I realized that I needed a place better suited to track my SOME DAY stuff, as well as those long-term projects, like, oh, writing a book.

So here’s how I use Evernote for that.

Every Monday morning, I created a new note and name it TO DO :: Week of ___

I then save that note to my shortcuts. 

(side note: I never have more than three notes in my shortcuts section. I find this makes them truly short cuts, as I can find whatever I need most urgently immediately)

Once I create that note, I upload an image, that’s basically a turquoise box that says “To Do.” This creates a thumbnail, so that when I’m looking at my 1000+ notes at a glance, I have a visual reference for my to do list. I also have thumbnails for my other “most referenced” categories, all with their own color: The LL Weekly, Soundtrack, and Last Word Designs.

Anyway, once I have the To Do thumbnail, I type “SOME DAY” and then copy/paste anything from last week that didn’t get checked off. I then go through my brain and inbox, adding any new items that come to mind.

This “some day” list gets added to throughout the week—it’s my brain dump. Pantry items we’re low on, new emails that come through and require attention, gifts I need to buy, graphics to create, etc. 

Under the SOME DAY section I create a WIP section where I write the manuscript I’m writing on, as well as any copyedits/page proofs/revisions etc that are due in the immediate future (I reference my Trello board for this)

I also have a section for LWD where I have whatever websites Mr. Layne and I are currently building.

Once that master “chunk” is created, I hit enter a couple times, and type MONDAY.

Here's where I start weeding through the tasks to figure out what's top priority. I build a new checklist under MONDAY with my "asap" tasks. Sometimes it's as simple as copy/pasting a task directly from the SOME DAY section (i.e., buy toilet paper). But if it's a big item that can't be checked coffin a single day (writing Someone Like You), then I'll create a sub-tasks under MONDAY. i.e., "write 5k in Someone Like You." 

This enables me to track both long-term projects due SOME DAY, as well as progress I need to make on that project TODAY.

Once a daily task is done, I check it off (obviously). 

I repeat the process every morning, moving any uncompleted tasks from Monday onto Tuesday, etc, as well as creating new tasks for Tuesday, based on my SOME DAY list.

Most days I also like to take my "top 3” TO DO items, and write them in my Day Designer, as well as the hour I’m going to work on them. This helps keep me focused on the important things. But when I’m traveling or working from Starbucks, my planner’s too big to bring with, so it’s nice to have a digital alternative.

Here are actual screenshots of my Evernote notes, with most of my personal details grayed out.

This is what the Mac version of my Evernote app looks like. 


My to-do list in action. This is my ACTUAL note for this week (screenshot was pulled Wed morning). With each new day, I simply hit enter, and put the current day up at the top.

 

 

 

How I Keep Track of My Writing Deadlines Using Trello

Originally posted in The LL Weekly, June 2, 2016 Edition


I often get asked how I manage to write seven books in a year, but truthfully, the actual writing isn't the hard part. 

It’s being organized about everything else.

Getting a book out into the world is never as simple as “I need to finish X book by Y date.”

There is that, yes, but that’s just the first draft. It’s a lion’s share of the work, but it’s one part of many.

Typing The End, ironically, is only the beginning.

After that comes round 1 revisions. And then round 2 revisions. There’s copyedits. Then page proofs. Then sometimes round 2 page proofs. And in between all of those steps, there are about a dozen emails going back and forth about covers and character name conflict, and whether we should use Book 1 or Volume 1, and what the back matter for the books should be, and "can you pull some excerpts?" and the dedication and the acknowledgment and the pricing and lots of “by the way, LL, you moved again and we need an updated bio."

And then there’s the promo. Making teasers, and writing guest blog posts, and new Facebook covers for each release. And updating the website with pre-order links, and cover reveals and advertising  and interview requests. Even after the book is out there’s pricing adjudgment and discounts and pimping book 1 in anticipation of book 2.

Back when I had 2 books out a year, I kept track of this in my head. When I moved up to 4 books a year, I used a combination of Evernote and a paper planner.

Now that I have 7 books out a year? 

I use Trello.

What is Trello you ask? First thing you need to know is that yes, you’ll have to set up an account to use it, but … it’s free!

It’s basically a tool that enables you to create “boards.” (Think, bulletin board.)

Each board has “lists.” (Think columns.)

Each list has “cards.” (Think index cards.)

You can then drag and drop these cards among these various lists, getting a visual of where each book is in the process.

I have about 30 “boards” and I use them for everything from planning the Weekly to my editorial calendar to my Last Word Designs projects. Now that I think about it, each one could probably warrant its own blog post!

Today though, I’ll focus on the board I use most frequently. I call it, appropriately, my Deadline Calendar.

First things first, I create a card for each book. 

Every single book I write or plan to write gets its own card on this board. Nothing fancy, just the title, and then I add the associated series and publisher in the description. I've recently realized you can add an attachment to each card, so now I can see the cover image, which makes it that much easier to update "at a glance." 

Then I have my lists (again, think of these as columns), that look like this:

*****

Brainstorm: Books that I want to write some day but haven’t been submitted/contracted/started.

Queue: Books that are under contract, or almost under contract but that I'm not actively working on.

Outline: Books that I’m pre-writing; outlines, brainstorming, etc.

Draft: Books I’m actively writing, in their first draft stage.

With Editor/Agent: Books that are currently out of my hands; either the ball’s in my editor’s court, or my agent’s reviewing, etc. It’s the only “List” on this board that gets reused, as each book/card will return to this column a few times in between revisions, copyedits, etc.

R1 Revisions: Books in Round One revisions; books where I’m currently addressing my editor’s suggested changes and doing rewrites.

R2 Revisions: Books in Round Two revisions; most of my books skip this step, but every now and then there’s one that needs a little extra attention.

Copyedits: Books where I’m actively working on copyedits; timeline inconsistencies, polishing dialog, etc)

Page Proofs: Books in final review/proofreading stage.

Final: Books that are 100% final, ready to be published, and focus has shifted to marketing/promo (a whole other Trello board!) 

Released: Book’s out in the wild, and I don't have to think about it quite as often.

*****


Now, I’ve tried to do this same sort of column set-up in an Excel/Numbers worksheet before, and technically it works, but Trello is way better.

For starters, you can drag/drop a card back and forth, which is just damn handy, especially in the mobile app version.

You can also assign labels, and color-code each step of the process.

And you can assign a deadline to each card, and then when you use the “calendar view” in Trello, you can see all of your cards/due dates on an actual calendar. Magical, right?

Here's a picture of my actual Trello board, with a few modifications to protect my Muse's creative privacy as well as projects I haven't publicly announced yet.

Series: Step up your Instagram Game: Lighting

Hey guys,

I'm back after a super long blogging hiatus! 

Decided to ease back into the blogging world with a continuation of my Instagram series. Today's topic is a short but crucial one:

Lighting

As in, your photos will only ever be as good as the light you take them in.

This one’s the most frustrating to me, but has also been one of my biggest lessons:

Photos taken indoors with artificial lighting tend to look pretty much shitty, no matter how much you edit them.

Does this mean you have to trek outside everything you want to take a picture? No. (Although you’ll be shocked by how much better your photo looks when you do; there's a reason wedding photographers love to do engagement photo shoots outdoors).

Don't stress if you can't make it outside, but you do want to try to take your photos near a window or light-filled room during the day. 

Sucks, right?

There’ve been many a time when I want to take a picture of a fabulous cocktail in a dark, cozy bar, or take a picture of my dog looking particularly cute curled on on the couch on movie-night. 

And look, I'm not telling you not to take the dark-lighting photo. After all, photos are supposed to be about memories and moments, right? I'm just pointing out that lighting might be a reason why your photos aren't coming out the way you want, and that said-photo might be a better fit for Facebook or SnapChat, if your angle is a "pretty" Instagram feed.

Take for example the below photos:

Both have been edited equally, but you'll see right away that there is no comparison in which one is the more attractive photo.

No amount of editing could make that delicious poached salmon look good. Why? It was taken indoors, at night, with nothing but the regular old kitchen light on. In person, the colors were gorgeous. The pink of the salmon, the green of the spinach, the red of the pot, the yellow of the wine, the silver glint of the lid ... you'd never guess it, but this actually was a gorgeous moment.

But without good lighting, the camera just couldn't capture the moment as my eye saw it. The end result ... well, let's just say that one didn't make it up on Instagram.

By comparison, check out that photo of the Wynn I took while in Las Vegas. It took almost no editing to make that photo look gorgeous. Why? It was taken outdoors on a sunny day. That's the best photo trick you'll ever learn.

But wait! There is hope for indoor photos!

Still determined to take a picture inside? You do have another option, although it's not for the faint of heart ... if you're determined to be an Instagram star, but you can't be booking it outside all the time, or are tired of positioning everything near a window, consider investing in some good studio lighting. Mr. Layne and I found a decent set for under $100 on Amazon, including stands and lights and everything. 

Something like this would do the trick.

This is especially important if you're looking to dip your toes into the world of food-photography. Food is hard enough in general to make look "good," and damn near impossible without good lighting!

Speaking of food, Mr. Layne just relaunched his website today, and he takes some amazing foodie photography. And yes, every single picture on this site has made it directly to my stomach. He actually cooks like that. Crazy and delicious. 

 

 

Series: Step up your Instagram game - Consistency

In the last volume of the Step Up Your Instagram Game series, I talked about the importance of paying attention to your grid--ie, the "grid view" of your profile page, which is the default view someone will see when they click on your name.

Why is it important? It can be a huge determining factor of whether or not someone will follow you. Sure, there are those people who know your name or relate to something in your bio (career, hobby, location, etc), but there are millions of Instagram users out there, plenty who won't care about your name or profile.

They'll care about your pictures.

They'll take one look at your grid and decide whether to hit Follow or move on. You've got about one second to hook them or lose them forever. Intense, but true!

So how do you make sure your grid's compelling? The short answer is good pictures, which I addressed in Volume 1, but the second one's perhaps even more important and that's:

Consistency


What now?

What do I mean by consistency?

I mean your photos should look like they go together--unlike Facebook, the most successful Instagram feeds (unless you're like, Taylor Swift) are the ones that have a consistent look

Think of it this way:

If someone looked at one of your Instagram posts and it didn't have your name/face/child's face or anything specifically related to you, would they know it was your picture?

For most of us, probably not. But check out some screenshots of my favorite feeds:

All gorgeous, right? But consistently gorgeous. Each Instagrammer has her own vibe boing on:

The first is soft whites and pale pinks.

The second is vibrant, unabashed color.

The third is another pink/white favoring feed, but notice the difference from the first one. It's higher contrast, the colors a bit brighter. 

You see what I mean about them having a distinct Instagram brand? When scrolling through my feed, I know when one of these ladies has posted a picture by the photo itself, long before I register their handle.

That's because they're consistent. Any one of us could have posted any of of these individual pictures, and we'd probably be pretty proud ourselves, but these ladies are bringing it every time.

Not just good content, but consistently good content.


But how?

Yeah. Great question. One that I'm still trying to figure out myself, to be perfectly honest. I've only been on Instagram for about a year, and only using it "seriously" for about six months, so I'm still trying to find my right "look."

But here are some ideas I've played around with!

Accent color

Try to get the same color in every photo. Pink's a popular one on Instagram among the women-folk, and relatively easy to work into every day life. Everything from fresh flowers, a favorite lipstick, strawberry frappucino, cupcakes ... shortcut: consider pick up some pink fake flowers. It's an easy way to make sure you always have on hand!

Add an extra "element"

This one takes a bit more work as it requires an extra editing step, but I've seen Tiffany & Co do this the best: they take a picture of their latest jewelry line (diamonds, natch), but then they'll put a thin strip of Tiffany blue running across the top or bottom of the photo. Not enough to be in your face, but enough so that your mind registers "Tiffany" instead of "random tennis bracelet." 

Use the same filter ... over and over and over ....

Filters get a bad rap, but they can be a great way of adding consistency, and probably the easiest. You never have to worry about what colors are in your original photo or what you're taking a picture of. Pop the same filter on every single picture, and your feed will start to look cohesive. 

Subject matter

This one's not my favorite, as I like my Instagram feed to be pretty, but if you care less about aesthetic and want people to pay attention to what you're actually posting, post the same thing every time. For example, if you're a book blogger, resist to urge to make 50% of our posts a book cover of what you're reading, and 50% everything else. Let people know what sort of content they can count on from you every time. And don't worry, it doesn't have to be boring! Maybe post your Kindle from the same place every time, but change the accents around it, adding in fun elements like fresh flowers or a wine glass or a new piece of jewelry you got for your birthday. Yeah, every picture will be of your Kindle, but trust me, if you do it right and they're good quality photos, people will eat it up.  

Fake your background

I tried this for awhile, and I think it was my favorite "phase." I love Instagram feeds with lots of white in them, but my apartment at the type was decorated with black walls, lots of bold colors. Whenever I took a picture at home, I'd start putting the picture on a white square background in Canva. This allowed me to take pictures of whatever I wanted, but it gave the feed a very consistent look because of the white.


Got any more ideas on how to create a consistent Instagram feed? Comment below, I'm always looking for ideas!

 

Joy Challenge // Day 3 // Defining Success

For those of you who missed it, I'm participating in the Stratejoy Joy Challenge.

Day 1's post is here.

Day 2 ... eh, I didn't get to this yesterday. Life got in the way. And I woke up this morning all stressed about it, wondering if I should write TWO posts today to make up for it. But then I started getting stressed, because I didn't know if I had time for two blog posts. And then I was like, "Lauren, *SLAP.* It's okay that this didn't happen the way you didn't plan it. Let. It. Go."

(that, my friends, is a baby step towards a perfectionist's being okay going from Day 1 to Day 3, even though just typing that makes me a little panicky ...)

*deep breath*

Okay. Here we are. Day 3. The theme?

Defining Success.

Today's Journal Prompt:

If you got to the end of your life and someone asked you to recount the 5 most meaningful moments you experienced -- what would they be?

First, it should be noted that I'm a huge fan of these types of questions. I know at first they might seem morbid--who the heck wants to think about dying, right?

But way back when I was stuck in my dead-end (or at least it felt that way) day job, it was this "if you were looking back at your life" type of hypothetical prompts that got my ass into gear and convinced me to take a few risks with my life. Quitting my job. A cross-country road trip with no map, and no plan. Moving to a city I'd never even visited (NYC). Writing a freaking book.

Looking at your life as a whole is really the ultimate priority check. Thinking about my life on a BIG scale really reminds me not to sweat the small stuff today.

My Five Meaningful Moments

(1) Driving through the Lincoln Tunnel and arriving in New York City for the first time (ever!), knowing that I was in my new home--and at the start of a new life. Move over, Carrie Bradshaw!

(2) Getting into the limo next to my new husband after our wedding reception. More than the first dance, or cutting the cake, or even exchanging vows, that was my perfect moment. Sipping a glass of champagne, wedding stress behind me, and a wonderful marriage ahead of me.

(3) Receiving an email from the woman who would eventually become my agent, asking if my manuscript was still available, because she liked my voice. 

(4) Sitting on a deck in Maine, watching the sunset with a glass of wine, and having the strangest sense that quiet, lovely moments like that were exactly what my life was about.

(5) Getting my first paycheck from writing--it was the first time I realized that following my passion could also pay the bills. I totally cried. And then had some champagne and celebrated that I was brave and fabulous for following my dream.

Your turn!!! What are the five most meaningful moments in your life thus far? I guarantee thinking about it will center your day and get you back on track, even if it's just jotting them on a paper napkin.

PS: 2 of my 5 moments involve champagne, and 1 involves a glass of wine. Hell. Yes.

Now for today's Exploration Prompt from Molly:

I want you to take one action today that stretches your comfort zone, but still honors who you are at your core. It can be big (book those tickets to Costa Rica, get your nose pierced, forgive someone, write the first chapter of your novel, take the first step towards un-schooling your children, lace up your sneakers and run a mile) or it can be small (eat your lunch outside instead of sitting at your desk, ask that cute stranger on the bus out for coffee, wear your hair up in an unfamiliar topknot, squeeze into the shower with your partner, sleep outside on your deck, listen to a new podcast.) 

The second I read this, I knew exactly what I wanted to do. It's going to seem so small to some of you, but it's a little, nagging thing that's been on my mind for awhile, and I was like, "you know what? Just do it ..."

I busted out my hot pink lipstick.

I bought it awhile ago on a whim, but haven't had the guts to wear it. I've put it on a few times, and then immediately dabbed it off. See, I LOVE bright lips on other people, but for some reason I'm paralyzed at the thought of trying it myself. I cling to my neutral faves (Bobbi Brown Pale Pink lipstick & Nars Cruising) like they're life preservers.

But today I went with this:

(and if you're thinking, um, its not even that bright!, know that to me, it feels NEON).

Want to get in on the action? Head over to Stratejoy's site and check out today's prompts! Molly also has a great essay over there to get you thinking about things. And if you decide to post the "outside of your comfort zone" pic on Instagram/Twitter, before to hashtag it up with #thejoyequation !



Joy Challenge // Day 1 // Fierce Self Love

Hi Lovelies!!

Today kicks off the 6-day Joy Challenge over at one of my favorite online places in the entire inter webs: Stratejoy.

As I've mentioned before on the blog, Molly's Joy Equation is the best $30 I've ever spent, so when I saw that she's rereleasing The Joy Equation and celebrating with this 6-day Challenge, I had to jump on board.

It works like this ... each day for the rest of the week, Molly will post a journal prompt and an exploration prompt in which you celebrate you.

I decided to make mine more of an online journal (aka, blog post), but I seriously encourage all of you to do this, even if it's just scribbling the prompt on a scrap piece of paper.

Today's prompt? Developing fierce self love by embracing the idea that you are enough. Just as you are. 

Now, having completed the Joy Equation, I thought I knew what I was getting into here. Honestly, I thought I'd be more or less going through the motions of something I'd done before by writing this post.

But oh my gosh you guys, completing Molly's prompt on all the things that I am was so much more invigorating and empowering than I expected. I just finished, and I seriously feel like I can take on the world right now!

There are two options: 

Simply journal on why you are enough. That's it. So beautifully simple. Or, if you're feeling like you need a bit of help (as I did!) You can use her prompt and fill in the blanks.

In the graphic below, the black parts are Molly's prompt, the pink parts are my responses.


Okay that was the journal part. As for today's Exploration Prompt, Molly says this: 

I want you to take a self-portrait that celebrates something you love and value about yourself.  I want you to recognize and celebrate the good/beauty/contribution you see without wishing it to be different, without negating its power, without comparison.

So, here we go:

Now, I know you're like, "Dude, Lauren that's just you with a lot of pencils." Dude, I know. The pencils are symbolic, yo. See, I am an organization FREAK. And lately I've been beating myself up for being too rigid, all trying to surfer talk myself into "going with the flow, man." No. Fuck that. I hate going with the flow. I like outlines and organization and I'M ALWAYS AFRAID I WILL RUN OUT OF PENCILS. So today, I'm owning all that glorious uptight goodness.

Alright. Your turn. Hop on over to Stratejoy and take the Joy Challenge with me!

(and check back tomorrow for day 2!)

Shake It Off

Somewhere around age twenty-seven, I quit caring about what people think of me.

Mostly.

Sort of.

I mean, not totally. I’m not so “take me as I am” that I proudly walk around without pants, or refuse to shower, or pick my nose in public and dare somebody to question me. 

I still color my premature gray hair, because I am JUST NOT READY to be gray.

But generally speaking, I try not to base my self-worth on other people’s opinions.

For example, I don't care that pointy-toed stilettos are in. I hate them. I continue to rock my round-toed stilettos from three years ago and WHAT OF IT?!

Or, when my former colleagues used to give me crap because I worked from home so often, it was pretty easy to shake off, because I knew that I got more work done from home. I knew that I wasn’t slacking. I knew that I was killing it in my performance reviews. Their opinions mattered … not at all. 

Or when I got rejected (time and time again) in my quest to get a literary agent, I was pretty Zen about the whole thing. I knew I was a good writer. If they didn’t want in on that goodness … *shrugs.* Their loss.

And I don’t care that some people don't like that I swear. Or that other people think that my genre of choice (romance) is "smut." I don’t care that some people think my decision not to have kids (at least for now, maybe for always) makes me selfish or weird or broken.

None of this bothers me.

Why?

Self-confidence. 

Once you believe you’re worth something, once you know you’re being true to yourself, it’s pretty damn impossible for someone to rain on your parade. 

Confidence—the bone-deep kind of confidence—is like the umbrella that protects you from all the rain that is other people’s opinions.

It’s your parade, damn it. You get to decide the weather.

But lest you think this is a blog post about how I’m awesome, and how I know I’m awesome, and I don’t care if you don't think I’m awesome, because obviously, I’m super awesome …

This is not that post. This post is a confession.

I am not feeling awesome.

Not even a tiny bit. I’ve stumbled as of late, not practicing what I preach. I’ve been caring an awful lot what people think.

The result? 

Misery. Utter misery.

Now, I’m about to get real here, people. I’m going to lead you inside of a writer’s psyche, and show you all the unsexy stuff that you don’t see on Instagram, and the stuff that many publishing experts will tell me should stay inside my head and not out there for public consumption, because I’m supposed to post funny and/or sexy pictures, and be fun and vibrant and positive and professional.

So if you want to go on thinking of Lauren Layne as a girl-power author with nothing but smiles and non-stop confidence, this right here is your exit, no hard feelings.

*waits patiently for some of you to take the offramp*

Anyone still with me?

Okay, here we go.

I’m in a funk, and here’s how it started:

I received edits for an upcoming book.

Yeah. That's it. 

Now, please note that this occurrence of receiving edits (and tame, completely legit edits at that), should not be a big deal. It’s part of the job. Edits happen for every single book, usually my reaction is either

(1) “She’s so right. How did I miss that? Let’s get to fixing …” 

Or ...
(2) “DO NOT AGREE. DO NOT AGREE. DO NOT AGREE.”

Almost always, it’s the first one. First drafts are often messy, and it's the editor's job to point out the clean-up on aisle six.

Sometimes (rarely), it’s the latter reaction to edits; sometimes my gut knows that the changes suggested are not the story I want to tell. I sleep on it, and then I sleep some more … I ruminate, usually over wine. And then I respectfully tell my editor that I’d like to leave it as is, and she respectfully agrees.

But my reaction to these edits was different.

Note the edits themselves weren't different. They were pretty standard (and completely fair—this post is not about my fab editor, it’s about me).

But for reasons that I don’t quite understanding (the moon? hormones? dehydration? global warming?), these edits, however tame, hit me in the freaking jugular

For starters, they came on the heels of two back-to-back book releases in the past couple months, that while well-received (thank you to everyone who loved and wrote a review for The Trouble With Love and Crushed!) didn’t hit quite sales goals I’d set for myself. 

Cue the “I’ll never make it big” sad sob song.

Then, right on the heels of that, came the immense successes of other authors in my genre, with my style. It's easy enough to separate yourself from authors doing something different from you, but when you look at another author who writes what you're writing (or trying to write) and gets nothing but 5-star reviews and Top 100 Amazon ranks, it can be crushing. Because you can't comfort yourself by saying, "oh, they're different from me." It's more like, "They're the same, but better." 

Cue the “Why are they more popular than me?!” soundtrack.

But the biggest blow of all came in the form of Blurred Lines going up on NetGalley just a day or two before I got the edits. (NetGalley is a service that allows reviewers and book bloggers to review a book before its official release). 

For those of you who haven’t read my note on Blurred Lines yet, this book is my favorite. I mean, all my books are my favorite, but this book is the most joyous experience in my writing career. From conception to brainstorming, to the process of sitting down and telling the story, I’ve loved every moment. Heck, even after I finished writing the book, I went back and read it like three more times, because I just didn’t want it to be over. 

I think it’s my best book ever. I thought it was going to be the one that put me on the map.

But according to the early reviews on GoodReviews? Not everyone agrees. 

pam.gif

Cue the “my heart is breaking” violin.

Now, don’t get me wrong, plenty of people loved Blurred Lines. Most people at least liked it. But a handful of GoodReads reviewers are not a fan. 

(It should be noted that this is risky that I”m telling you this—an author mentioning anything less than stellar reviews  on a book that hasn’t come out yet is Sales 101 of what not do do. But I’m a person first, and an author second, and this is how I roll: honest. Also, I hope you'll read Blurred Lines anyway, because like I said. It's my favorite. It's my dream book.)

So anyway, I got some "meh" feedback, had some "meh" sales, and read some "meh" reviews. 

Now, this is not to say I'm not thankful for every single review. Even the bad ones. Reviewers are such a crucial part of the publishing process, of selling books. More importantly, the reviews themselves are so important for other readers. I haven't always been an author. I've been on the side; I've been a reader wondering what to read next, and reviews were what I looked at. Reviews are important. They're crucial. And I hope every single one of you will keep writing them on GoodReads or Amazon or your book blog, or wherever. Please don't think I'm anti-review! 

I just don't read them very often. Why?

(1) Reviews are opinions. Getting upset about othes' opinions is exhausting. 

(2) I think that reviews, especially on GoodReads, are best suited for reader-to-reader dialog. And as snarky as some of those GoodReads reviewers can be, I have to think they’re not anticipating an author will read it. Reviewers don't write reviews with the intent to hurt authors' feelings. In fact, I'd say that with the exception of blogs such as Dear Author, reviewers aren't really writing to authors at all. As such, an author peeking in feels voyeuristic and uncomfortable.  

But I made an exception with Blurred Lines

Mistake. Big-Ass Mistake.

Some 1 and 2 and even the snarlier 3 star reviews feel like a paper cut to the face.

And those bad reviews coming on the heels of these troublesome edits, plus the fact that people aren’t “glomming” on my book the way they are on a couple other similar authors …

It was like a lemon-juice squirt gun attack to follow the paper cut.

Guys? I cried.

I cried.

Now before you shrug, and pat my shoulder awkwardly, know this: 

I am not a crier. I don’t know if I have faulty tear ducts, or if I’m a cyborg, or, what, but I cry maybe twice a year. Maybe. 

But mark it on your calendars, people, Tuesday, May 8th marked the first day of 2015 that I shed tears. Not like a sobbing fit. Just quiet, sad tears in the middle of the night after Mr. Layne had gone to sleep.

I cried over a book.

Multiple books, actually. I cried for the book I got edits for. And for Blurred Lines. And for the two newish book releases that did well, but not as well as others. I cried for all my upcoming books, because I’d convinced myself that those were going to get a “meh” response too. 

But that's not quite right is it?

I didn’t cry over the books themselves. I love those books down to my sarcastic yet romantic little soul. 

It’s much worse: 

I cried over other people's opinions of those books. 

Ruh roh.

Rock bottom.

I’ve been at creative and professional rock bottom for a week now, and it’s time to stop. 

Right now. It stops. It's why I'm writing this blog post.

It's a public proclamation that no longer will I be basing my happiness and my measure of success and my writing mojo on what someone else thinks of me and my books.

Here’s what’s taken me way too long to realize:

I can’t write for other people.

I can’t write for my editors or my agent. Or my family, or friends, or even my darling readers. 

Now, I want people to like my books. I want readers to buy my books and love them.

Of course I do. Every single book I put out there is my best effort, and I hope like heck that readers love it to death. Not only because I’m human, and praise is yummy, but because this is my career, and the more people that like my books, the better I’m able to support myself and continue writing books. In order to make money, and buy cheap white wine, I have to write something that somebody likes.

Writing, after all is, a business.

But it's also an art. Books are commodities, yes, but they're also, dare I say, an art-form. You write what's in your soul. You write what the muse tells you to. 

Yes, I have to write for somebody in order to make money from it.

But maybe, I don't have to write for all the somebodies.

See, I’ve been inundated with feedback lately. Some of it well-meaning and wise (some author, blogger and editor friends). Some of it from my bosses, and also totally legit (agent, editors). Some of it unsolicited and insulting (I won’t name you here because I’m classy like that, but I hope you feel my stink-eye). Some of it just the name of the game (reader reviews).

Almost all of the feedback was contradictory:

Write more sex. Write less sex. Write more angst. Less angst. More plot. Less plot. More character development. More romance. Longer books. No, shorter books. Funnier. Not so funny!

Confusing as it all was, I took in all that feedback. All of it. 

And now …

And now I’m letting it all go.

I'm letting your opinion go.

I may never be a superstar. I may never be as successful as X, Y, Z authors. I may never get my finger on the pulse of whatever elusive element makes you guys write a five-star reviews and tell all your friends to read it. I may never figure out how to generate that juicy kind of word-of-mouth buzz that will catapult me to the top of the bestseller lists.

All of that is out of my control, and I can chase it forever, and never find it, so um, pass on that.

But I do get to control how happy I am.

And to be happy, I have a choice:

I can base that happiness on external validation, and thus shift my writing focus to try and write what “the people” want.

Or I can dig deeper. I can figure out what brings me joy. True joy, not temporary “they like me!” gratification. 

And that joy, for me, is in the writing of the stories I want to tell. 

The ones where my characters are flawed, and deemed unlikable, but are real. The characters who make silly decisions because they're human, even if those decisions earn me snarky animated gifs on GoodReads.  I want to tell the stories that are fun and witty, even if that only gets me a “fluffy four star read” review on Amazon. I accept that review and say thank you. Thank you so much!

And I want to take risks with my books. Stuff you've never read from me. Scandalous, juicy, oh-no-she-didn't! books.

I have story ideas rattling around in my brain that I've hesitantly mentioned to others, who've responded with disinterest (at best) and absolute horror (at worst).

Fair enough. They don't like the ideas. Maybe readers won't either. 

I'm gonna write them anyway. 

*flips hair*

Now, I’ve rambled an awful lot about books in this blog post—more than I like to, because nothing is more dull than an author blog that only talks to other authors. 

But I’m hoping you wise people understand that what I’m talking about isn’t books.

It’s not about stories, or reviews, or bestseller lists.

I'm talking about self-worth.

And I'm talking about the kind of happiness that stems from that self-worth. The kind happiness that comes from within because you know that you’re awesome. 

The kind of awesome that no amount of judgey-looks or bad reviews or snarky comments or tiny paychecks can take away.

So to all of you who’ve been feeling like I’ve been feeling:

Like you’re not good enough, because someone told you that you weren’t …

You are.

You are enough.

Is there room for improvement in all of us? Of course. But that improvement needs to be on our terms, not somebody else’s. We decide what we want to improve upon and which imperfections and flaws or unique quirks make us us.

It’s time for us to shake off others’ opinions.

And hell, let’s go crazy and literally, shake them off. 

Right now. Do it right now.

Everybody scramble for their music playing device.

Now, find your favorite self-esteem jam.

Some of my favorites:

Taylor Swift’s SHAKE IT OFF
Mama Cass Elliot’s MAKE YOUR OWN KIND OF MUSIC
Alicia Keys’ GIRL ON FIRE

Play your jam and then shake. It can be a quick classy little shake-away of everyone's opinions:

 

Or a sassy booty shake:

Or my personal favorite, whatever this is:

It feels good, right? Physically shaking away all that weight of other people's crap?

See, haters gonna hate, but YOU?

YOU are going to live and love and be fucking amazing. On your terms.

 

LL out.

xoxo,



On Being a Writer - What Nobody Told Me

originally posted on September 4, 2012

I've wanted to be an author since I was about...oh, five. Hardly an unusual story. Many of us with a yearning to write developed the urge early.

But the sad truth? I didn't even try to write until I was twenty-five.  Two bloody decades later. My aspirations to be an author went the same way as many kids' aspirations to be an astronaut or the president. On the "dreamer" shelf. For most of my life, it was out of reach. But only because I let it be.

Here's what happened:

Like most lost souls at the end of their college career, the time leading up to graduation was awful. I didn't have a clue about how to get a job related to my major. I wasn't even sure I wanted to. And yes, that dream of writing full-time was still there, but I didn't voice it to a single soul. I was a penniless twenty-two year old with a bundle of student debts and facing the prospect of living on my own. My mind was very much focused on practical. Not dreams. In hindsight, I wish I would have gotten the practical job and started to write. But it didn't happen.

It wasn't until after my first year in the "big girl world" of slacks and button down shirts, and high heels and nine-to-five that the dream to write came up again. And yet I road-blocked myself again. I moaned to my fiancé that I didn't have time. That my stupid day-job was in the way. That publication was hard.

I distinctly remember him cheerfully suggesting that I try to write on the forty-five minute train ride to/from work. I scoffed. Puh-lease. I couldn't write like that. I needed quiet. I needed a desk. I needed time. Maybe a even new laptop! Surely I could write better with a laptop. Maybe an inspiring view of a lake...

So I pushed the writer thing was pushed aside. Again.

Fast forward two years, and although I had a great life and happy on the surface, something inside me was dying. All I could see was the rest of my life of doing more of my "day job." And I just kept thinking, this is it? Really? This is life? 

And thanks to a cheerful kick in the butt from the wonderful Stratejoy, I figured out what my problem was. I wasn't doing what I wanted to do. Write. But worst of all? The only thing standing in the way was me. 

And so finally, at age twenty-five, I started what I'd been dreaming of all along. I started a book. And finished it. And then started another one, and set that aside because it sucked. But then I tried again, and finished one more. And guess what? That fourth finished manuscript found it's way to a book deal.

To all you aspiring writers out there, I hope the above paragraph inspires you. But more than that, I hope you pay attention to all the stuff that became before my success story.

Because when you're reading other people's success stories and getting a case of the jealosies (I've been there), here's what you really need to know:

Writing is effing hard. Also rewarding. But so hard. Even for those of us that want to do it more than anything.

Do you know how many people have told me they want to write a book? Dozens. Do you know how many people have started a book? Three. How many have finished? One.

It's because even for those of us that "want to write," we sometimes don't. And we likely have a bevy of explanations of why we can't. Time, money, kids, career. But guess what? Everyone can write a book. Most of us just don't.

My advice in a nutshell? If you're dreaming of writing, and waiting for the right time, the right moment, the right inspiration, knock it off.  Even for those of us who feel we're "destined" to write, it's not easy. It's not always enjoyable. There will be times when you'd rather be doing ANYTHING else. You have to write on the train. You have to wake up early. You have to stay up late. And there are trade-offs. It sometimes means finishing your latest chapter instead of vegging out and watching TV. It means leaving a birthday party a little early so you can finish revisions.

It's not going to get easier. You're not magically going to get more time unless you make the time.

You really want to write? Sit down. Shut up.  Start writing. Now.

It's so worth it. I promise.