Guest Kat Cantrell: How bad do you want it?

One of the many reasons I love and admire my awesome friend/critique partner, Kat Cantrell, is because of the way she leads by example. Her determination and discipline in going after her goals has taught me how to do the same. When I’m feeling unmotivated, she’s the one who gives me a kick in the pants. When I whine and say, I’ll never get there, she shows me the path. So, today, I’ve brought her to the Ruby blog so she can share some of her writerly tough love with you!

Kat Cantrell

Thank you so much for letting me take over the Ruby blog, Cynthia. :) When I first started thinking about topics for today, I filtered through a hundred or so ideas about craft, because honestly, that’s what I think about all day long. Do I have enough conflict? Is my character arc arc-y enough? Did I start the story at the REAL point of change or the place I wanted to start because that was the scene I had in my head? Unfortunately, these are questions only I can answer and no blog post is going to solve my sticky problem in chapter eleven where I wrote myself into a corner…

So, in light of several authors I know who are taking stock of where they are in this game we call publishing, I thought I’d address the age-old question: HOW BAD DO YOU WANT IT? By “it”, I mean ________, where the blank is what you hope to achieve when you sit down at the keyboard and pound out those words. Do you want to sell your first book? Do you want to sell another book? Hit the bestseller list? The blank for me is: earn a living wage from writing.

Fill in that blank, and then ask HOW BAD DO I WANT IT? (Yes, Grammar Police, I know it should be BADLY. It doesn’t have the same ring…)

We have to ask ourselves this question because (and this is the thing they don’t tell you), each time you reach a publishing milestone, there’s another step right after that. A higher step…and it’s even more difficult to achieve than the first one. Then, once you start climbing those stairs, the higher you go and the further you have to fall. Reviewers throw tacks on the stairs. Readers take an ax to the handrail. Bookstores refuse to carry your books, which is like disconnecting the stairs from the second floor, in my opinion.

You have to want it really bad to keep going.

It’s easy to give up. It’s hard to ignore all the noise. But if you want success, fill in that blank and remind yourself what you’re willing to sacrifice to get it. Here’s my shot:

I want to earn a living wage from writing and I want it bad. I’m willing to give up sleep, TV shows and wasting time on the internet. I’m not willing to give up church, time with my family or my friendships.

Put your stake in the ground. What do you want and how bad do you want it?


Kat’s latest Harlequin Desire, THE THINGS SHE SAYS, will be released in March!TTSS

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Harlequin

Her Knight in a Shining Yellow Ferrari

One wrong turn on a Texas highway and heartthrob director Kristian Demetrious is breaking his first rule: don’t get involved. Beautiful, sassy VJ Lewis needs his help—and a ride to Dallas. Kris wants to give her both….

Yet his career depends on arriving without giving in to the passion VJ ignites in him. And denying temptation gets harder with every mile. VJ insists the heart of a hero beats beneath Kris’s suave exterior—and she intends to prove it, one hands-on lesson at a time. Suddenly this road trip is taking a whole new direction….

Learn more about Kat by visiting her website, following her on Twitter, or liking her Facebook page!

42 Responses to “Guest Kat Cantrell: How bad do you want it?”

  1. Rachel Kall says:

    I loved this post, Kat. Definitely gives me something to ponder this weekend.

    • Kat Cantrell says:

      Hi Rachel! Thanks for coming by today. I ponder this kind of thing all the time because this business is so hard! Hope I gave you a way to look at it positively.

  2. Terri Osburn says:

    Great blog, Kat. I was fortunate to be born with what I call stubborn determination. As you can imagine, I haven’t always seen this as a gift. And I assure you, people who know me aren’t always happy about it either. But it’s certainly served me well when it comes to writing.

    If I say I’m going to do something, then my brain digs in and will not let go until it’s done. That’s why the moment I stopped hemming around about maybe being published someday and actually said the words, “I will be published” everything changed.

    Still takes a lot of hard work, but the writing is always fun. Even when it’s hard. And always worth the effort. I’ve already given up TV and any semblance of a social life (I didn’t really have one to give up) so the only thing I won’t give up is time with my daughter. Other than that, the writing gets pretty much all my energy.

    Which is good because I have real deadlines now and they’re scary. :)

    • Kat Cantrell says:

      Hi Terri! YES–I said that too. “I will be published.” Amazing how that works. :) Deadlines *are* scary, but they really work well for us determined people. I think the stake in the ground works best when you’re doing something that you love. Like you say, it’s always worth it! Thanks for coming by today.

  3. Kristina Knight says:

    I really needed to read this post today, Kat! I’ve been pondering my next step and this has helped me clarify what I want. So I’m paraphrasing you a little:

    I want to earn a comfortable living from writing. I will give up television, LOLCats (and other online distractions) to get where I’m going. I will not sacrifice my family life in the process… :)

    • Kat Cantrell says:

      Hi Kristina! So glad you could find some encouragement today. And those darn LOLCats! If only they weren’t so funny…I’m particularly fond of the Dork Side myself. :) But that stake in the ground says no more wasting time! Must.Write.

      Thanks for commenting!

  4. Jeannie Lin says:

    My eye was absolutely drawn to your cover for The Things She Says. So sexy! It’s been amazing and an inspiration to see your success. Despite all the uncertainties in this business, over and over I see the same thing. No one gets there without hard work, dedication, and persistence.

    Lately I’ve been wondering what’s in that blank for me? I was angsting over whether I really wanted that next contract before I wrote the book? Or if I didn’t seek a contract before writing it, would I angst the entire time about whether or not this book would ever see the light of day? Or if I couldn’t earn enough to afford the nanny, maybe this whole hopscotch game isn’t worth it. Writer neuroses, I know!

    But I know all this stuff is just interference sometimes. So lately I’m filling in the blank with “fortune and glory.” You have to have a few delusions of grandeur to make it in any business, I think. ;)

    • Kat Cantrell says:

      Oh, thank you so much! Harlequin does such an awesome job with covers (as you know :)). I know all about delusions of grandeur…if I’m being honest, the blank for me is really “Be the next Jill Shalvis”. But I’m taking baby steps. I have to make enough money to have a viable career first. I’ll be applying that hard work, persistence and dedication to get there! Thanks for commenting. I always feel blessed by your presence.

  5. Liz Talley says:

    Wonderful post, Kat.

    This has been much on my mind – I think you can look at my last post here and tell I’ve had my ups and downs…and some loopy loops in the past two years. What ai *thought* would happen didn’t, and nine books in to my career, I really don’t earn enough to call this a true career. And I think it’s good to be honest about that. I want to earn enough to make this a true career, but I can only control so much. I can’t make stores carry my books, I can’t make reveiwers review my books and a darn sure can’t make readers buy my books. All of that is out of my control. What is in my control is my writing and how I manage that. I also can arm myself with knowledge so I can make th ebest decisions for my career.

    So I want the same things you want, but I’m also not willing to sacrifice my family, friends and sanity. I’m also not willing to compromise on my standards. I want to make money, but not so much I would change who I am as a writer. I have to look at myself in the morning and like me as Amy and Liz. So I don’t compromise there either.

    Congrats on the two books out this spring. I have both of them – well, one is pre-ordered. So proud of your success and determination :)

    • Kat Cantrell says:

      “I want to make money, but not so much I would change who I am as a writer.”–WOW that is such an important stake in the ground. I can’t believe I left it off! I went through this a month or so ago. *glances at income*…*glances at NYTBSL*…*glances at my vanilla stories*. I’m sure you know what went through my head but I can only write the kind of story I’m willing to put my name on. Thanks for highlighting that!

      PS I have a little bit of a squee to think of LIZ TALLEY reading my books. Is that okay? LOL Thanks for all your support. :)

    • Amanda Brice says:

      “So I want the same things you want, but I’m also not willing to sacrifice my family, friends and sanity. I’m also not willing to compromise on my standards. I want to make money, but not so much I would change who I am as a writer.”

      I think I need to print this out and hang it on my wall. Well said, my friend!

  6. Magdalen says:

    Kat — your blog post reminds me of a friend who would get very testy if someone said to her “marriage is work.” Selena didn’t think a good marriage should feel like work. Of course she’s a lawyer, so arguing about semantics if part of her job.

    I have no idea how bad I want writing success, but based on performance, I must want it. I work so much harder at this than I did at being a lawyer–my former bosses wouldn’t believe the same person could spend that many hours accomplishing something.

    But it doesn’t feel like sacrifice. In other words, it doesn’t feel like I want it bad. I do it because I love it and I’m thrilled to have a way to get my stories out to readers. Like marriage, I know work is involved–it just happens to be work I love to do.

    • Kat Cantrell says:

      Magdalen, that’s a really interesting point about not really knowing how bad you want it–but it must be bad if the effort is any evidence! It doesn’t feel like a sacrifice to me either. :) Thanks for commenting!

  7. Tammy Baumann says:

    Hi Kat,

    Nice post. It pays to have the determination of a pit bull, and I want IT too. But while I wait, I’m still watching Project Runway and Top Chef…just sayin.’

    Congrats on all your success! You deserve all the good things coming your way, my friend. Very happy for you.

    • Kat Cantrell says:

      Thanks Tammy. :) Sometimes a good episode of Project Runway is just necessary. Like chocolate. Without that, life is so much less fun! Can’t wait to be popping corks over your success, which is coming any day now…

  8. Hope Ramsay says:

    Hi Kat,

    What a great post. I know that I fiddle faddled around with my writing for a long, long time. And I didn’t really have much success until I made it a really big priority. It still took enormous amounts of work, but it was enjoyable work.

    I suppose I should have realized that once I achieved my goal — making a first sale — I’d have to reevaluate and go forward. But it took a while to assimilate that truth — or maybe merely adjust to the fact that I am actually a PUBLISHED writer.

    But I came to the conclusion at the beginning of this year that I needed to sit down and write a strategic plan for myself — just like the ones I write for my clients in my day job. And you bet I filled in that blank, and then went on to write four pages of big goals and little objectives, and a bunch of action steps. I’ve been putting that plan into action, and you know, I feel so much better. So much less frazzled and so much more focused. I can’t control a lot of things, but I can still control a whole lot, including how I choose to spend my time. And it really helps when you write your goals down.

    • Rita Henuber says:

      I agree I think the plan is really important to keep you focused on what you want and how to achieve it

    • Kat Cantrell says:

      Hi Hope! I agree–a plan is critical and it has to change along with what’s happening in your career at THAT moment. That’s what I have a hard time with. That stake doesn’t move very well for me. :) Thanks for the great point about writing down goals. I’m a firm believer that it makes it more real or something if you write it down. I appreciate your comment!

  9. Rita Henuber says:

    A good thing to remember is every author goes through the same thing. Each one of these steps you mentioned define you as an author even down to the bad reviews and how to handle them. It’s part of the process, part of the show. The only difference between a published and unpublished author is that the published author didn’t give up.
    I think this song was written for authors. It’s the Climb Miley Cyrus
    I can almost see it
    That dream I am dreaming
    But there’s a voice inside my head saying
    “You’ll never reach it”

    Every step I’m taking
    Every move I make feels
    Lost with no direction
    My faith is shaking

    But I gotta keep trying
    Gotta keep my head held high

    There’s always gonna be another mountain
    I’m always gonna wanna make it move
    Always gonna be a uphill battle
    Sometimes I’m gonna have to lose

    Ain’t about how fast I get there
    Ain’t about what’s waiting on the other side
    It’s the climb

    The struggles I’m facing
    The chances I’m taking
    Sometimes might knock me down
    But no, I’m not breaking

    I may not know it
    But these are the moments that
    I’m gonna remember most, yeah
    Just gotta keep going

    And I, I got to be strong
    Just keep pushing on

    ‘Cause there’s always gonna be another mountain
    I’m always gonna wanna make it move
    Always gonna be a uphill battle
    Sometimes I’m gonna have to lose

    Ain’t about how fast I get there
    Ain’t about what’s waiting on the other side
    It’s the climb, yeah!

    There’s always gonna be another mountain
    I’m always gonna wanna make it move
    Always gonna be an uphill battle
    Somebody’s gonna have to lose

    Ain’t about how fast I get there
    Ain’t about what’s waiting on the other side
    It’s the climb, yeah!

    Keep on moving, keep climbing
    Keep the faith, baby
    It’s all about, it’s all about the climb
    Keep the faith, keep your faith, whoa

    • Kat Cantrell says:

      Rita, that is a such a great song! I’ve never heard it but the lyrics are amazing. :) It does fit how I think many of us feel right now. I’ve never met a mountain I didn’t want to tackle but man I wish there wasn’t another one just past it! Thanks for sharing.

    • Diana Layne says:

      Ha! This is one of my theme songs-but I wouldn’t have taken you for a Miley fan, Rita, lol. I have to be (or had to be until she got all flakey, Miley that is) I have a tween daughter.

  10. Morgan Scott Matthews says:

    What a great post! You always have the best advice.

    I’ve been asking myself this question too. I have to stop thinking of writing as a hobby, and think of it as work. I’m not there yet, but I’m getting closer! As you know, my youngest starts Kindergarten in the fall, so I’m going to be re-prioritizing my time and creating some goals in the next few months.

    I love your stair analogy. And thanks again for sharing your wisdom — I know i need it! :D

    • Kat Cantrell says:

      Well, you probably know by now that 90% of my advice is me just trying to work it out in my own head. :) Glad you got something out of it–and yes, your writing is NOT a hobby. You have the potential to do exactly what I did. Trust me, I know these things! Don’t forget, in creating your goals, make them work for you and your life. Don’t compare yourself to what other people are doing. Thanks for coming by. :)

  11. Great post, Kat! And so very true. Last year at this time, my blank was to make a living wage with my writing and for my work to make Amazon’s Top 100 Paid Bestsellers list. A year later, I’ve done both of those things.

    My blank hasn’t changed this year, but now I’d like to make a BETTER living with my writing. Being SELF-EMPLOYED costs a lot when you figure you have to pay the employer’s half of social security and medicare and for promoting your work.

    So for 2013, I’d like to earn my 2012 gross total as my 2013 net (after paying all of my taxes and expenses). I’d also like one of my books to stay STAY on Amazon’s Top 100 Paid bestsellers list for more than a week at a time.

    • Kat Cantrell says:

      Oh, Laurie, don’t get me started on taxes! We just filed ours and my husband was not so happy to see that self-employment line. I just pointed to the income line and said–THAT’S why we had to pay it! Keep that in mind. :) So now I’m looking to increase the income portion…

      Super congrats on hitting your very amazing goals! I love how you increased your goals based on what you already know you’ve achieved. I try to do that do–but it doesn’t come out as cohesive as yours. :) Thanks for the comment!

  12. Vivi Andrews says:

    Fabulous post, Kat! I’m tempted to fill in my blank with Fortune & Glory, like Jeannie, or with “I want my fans to camp out overnight for the chance to meet me so I can bring them donuts at five in the morning” which is my most recent career goal, (or there’s always this: but I guess realistically I just want to make a better living – which isn’t quite as exciting. The good news is I’m freakishly goal oriented, so I’m very good at buckling down and getting it done.

    Congrats on the new release! It looks excellent.

    • Kat Cantrell says:

      LOVE that career goal (in the link). :) Of all the people I know, you are one who gets it done. I admire all that you’ve accomplished thus far. Thanks for coming by! I appreciate the love.

  13. I’m putting my stake in the ground and taking lessons from you! I want this so badly that I’m determined to find a way to make it a priority even though I’m now faced with the possibility of working full time through the end of May. (Ugh, I don’t even like the sound of that! :))

    We’re in this together and I couldn’t be happier that someone as awesome as you as my back!

  14. Kay Hudson says:

    Great post, Kat. I can’t give up the day job, although I hope to go part-time in the fall. What I need to give up is volunteering, or at least cut way back. One of these days (I hope) I’ll have deadlines, and then I’ll have no choice!

    • Kat Cantrell says:

      Hi Kay, it’s all about the balance, isn’t it? I’ve heard that successful people learn to say no, which frees them up to say yes when it’s important. I’m trying to learn how to live by that. Thanks for coming by!

  15. Great post, Kat! I know what I want, but it feels like I have to get some enormous boulders out of the way first. Working on that, though I’m not going to go into detail on what that entails in a public forum. But it’s remarkable what happens when you say — and mean — this is a priority. No, not a second or third or fourth item on the to-do list. This is THE priority.

    • Kat Cantrell says:

      Hugs and good thoughts on dealing with those boulders Talia–I have a feeling they’re pretty big. I hope they’re in your rear-view mirror really soon! Then writing can be the priority. Thanks for stopping by today!

  16. Diana Layne says:

    I wrote a business plan this year. Already I’m having to readjust it-does nothing stay the same in this business? :)

    • Kat Cantrell says:

      Ha! No, it doesn’t seem like it does. One minute a certain genre is burning up the charts and five minutes later, everyone’s buying something else entirely. I honestly don’t know how editors and agents have any hair left. :) Good luck with your business plan! I love writing out things like that. Thanks for the comment.

  17. I dusted off my Goals spreadsheet this January, determined to make a more organised attack this year, rather than wandering around taking whatever opportunities arrive. I guess that’s what I am willing give up: being disorganized and laid back.

    • Kat Cantrell says:

      Hi Julia! You have got the talent to make it–goals can only help. :) I’m looking forward to seeing what you do this year. I enjoy reading your stories so get to work. LOL A tip about goals: look ahead to the entire year. If you want to enter the Golden Heart (for example), work toward that now. Good luck and thanks for coming by!

  18. Kristina Mathews says:

    Great post Kat,

    I’ve been feeling a little discouraged. I’m participating, but not succeeding in my third annual RSSWWF. I just couldn’t get going on my new book. The excitement hasn’t been there. I now know enough to realize how much work it is, not just writing the book, but getting it sold to publishers then readers. It has me wondering if I should just go look for a real job.

    But then I woke up with some good scene ideas and jotted some notes before my local RWA meeting. Was inspired by someone who is actually excited about the rapidly changing publishing industry.

    So yeah, I still want it. Enough to keep writing. Keep learning. And I’ll keep submitting.

  19. Amanda Brice says:

    Excellent post, Kat!

    Congrats on all your success. I lurve the cover of THE THINGS SHE SAYS. Can’t wait to dive right in!

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