Your First Novel Will Stink! True or False?

Dragon Tree Cover5aaMonths ago I wrote a post talking about why I deliberately stayed away from how-to-write advice, until I got the first draft of my novel written. It was an advantageous decision, as I was able to write without doubts, shoulds and too much technique being stuck in my head. Since then, I have been reading the advice which is available and it’s been a buzzkill.

It’s incredibly hard to finish the last edits on The Dragon Tree, with people yelling “first novels always stink, shelve them and forget it.” Isn’t it funny how you never notice advice like that, until you are in the position where it may apply to you? Then the words appear to be attacking you from all directions.

As much as I love these coaches, I am surprised that I am being told that I’ll be useless at mastering the craft of fiction, until I’ve written a million words, or a few more books. Of course our writing improves over time. Authors should not presume that they will be perfect on their first trip around the sun. However, there is no written rule that first time novelists are inevitably destined to be utter failures, or mediocre shelf-fillers. Leave us with some sense of hope!

I’ve conceived ten books, seven courses, many appalling pieces of poetry, a number of short stories and many articles. I’ve been published and plagiarised all over the globe. Does that count? Apparently not. They are non-fiction. This will be my first novel. The words are jammed in my head. #1 novel = garbage!

Being me, I decided to rebel and look at the other side of the argument. There are many successful first novels which are best sellers, Pulitzer Prize winners and have been made into movies. Here’s a short list:

  • Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights
  • Ian Caldwell and Dustin Thomason’s The Rule of Four.
  • Agatha Christie’s The Mysterious Affair at Styles
  • Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man
  • Janet Fitch’s White Oleander
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald’s This Side of Paradise
  • Fannie Flagg’s Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistlestop Cafe
  • Charles Frazier’s Cold Mountain
  • Do I bother or not?

    To bother or not to bother? That is my question.

    David Guterson’s Snow Fall on Cedars

  • Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
  • Melinda Hayes’s Mother of Pearl
  • Marjorie Kellogg’s Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon
  • Sue Monk Kidd’s The Secret Life of Bees
  • Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Interpreter of Maladies
  • Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird
  • Jay McInernay’s Bright Lights, Big City
  • Brad Meltzer’s The Tenth Justice
  • Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind
  • Laurie Notaro’s Idiot Girls Action Adventure Club
  • Boris Pasternak’s Dr. Zhivago
  • Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar
  • Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things
  • Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones
  • Anna Sewell’s Black Beauty
  • Curtis Sittenfeld’s Prep
  • Nicholas Sparks’s The Notebook
  • John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces
  • Lauren Weisberger’s The Devil Wears Prada
  • Rebecca Well’s Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood
  • Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray
  • To Kill A Mockingbird
  • Catcher in the Rye
  • Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
  • Gone with the Wind
  • Sense and Sensibility
  • Doctor Zhivago
  • Wuthering Heights
  • The Help
  • The Devil Wears Prada

So what’s your stand on the issue? What success did you have with your first novel? I’d like to hear your answers.


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The book lists in this post come from several sources, including Book Market.com and Stylist Magazine.

This article / blog post is Copyright Cate Russell-Cole 2014. All rights are reserved Internationally. You may not reproduce it in any form, in part of whole, without Cate’s prior written permission. That includes images and text usage in forms such as print, audio and digital imaging including pdf, jpg, png etc. A fee may be requested for re-using her work if it is for a commercial venture. 

Link sharing and Pinterest pins are most welcome as long as Cate is the attributed Author.

Social Media Angst: Do You Know the Core of Yours?

IMG_1090Every second writer I know hates the necessity of social media. Many writers feel that their introverted nature comprises the core of their social media angst. We utterly loathe pushing ourselves to corral new followers, when we don’t want to wear a marketing hat.

Couple that with the  trolls, the spammers, the critics and the mountain of scams, dissenting opinions over simple issues and yes, the idiots and we have a classic love-hate relationship… or one that is barely tolerable. It can be false, cheap and meaningless. All the elements that make us want to break up with it and find something new. However, we can’t.

Like all of us who are playing this game, I want to be a success. I want to reach people and sell my books. So I work with social media as much as I can, then I have these ‘fits’ where I want to dump the whole danged thing. I’ve never really understood why that happens.

Last night, I started to watch a Youtube video by Scott Geller, on the Psychology of Self-Motivation. I was looking for blog post ideas on writing about character motivation. I didn’t think I’d wind up talking about myself! I realised that the reason why I hate Twitter so much, is because I am motivated by a fear of failure as an author which is a negative… and I fervently believe that anything negative is always to be resisted.

I am a ‘failure avoider,’ rather than a ‘success seeker.’ I want to achieve certain goals, I can see the gain to be made by pulling the puppet strings that need to be pulled and I pull them… but only because I have been repeatedly told that I MUST and therein lies the problem. I am not working with social media because it is a positively fuelled choice. I am not naturally attracted to social media. My motivator is wrong, so I go through periods of rebellion.

Add to that the creative temperament and you can see the problem. Creative people don’t like to be told what to do, they don’t like to comply with social norms. They want to cut their own way through the jungle and leave their signature on it. However, they also have to follow certain rules and this is where free spirit collides with good advice.

I need to ask myself how committed I am to what I want to achieve, or as Scott put it, “is it worth it?” I have seen many blogs and social media accounts lapse into the abyss. Today I removed quite a few dead blogs from my Triberr tribes and had trouble finding enthusiastic new members who were active. Obviously for many people, the prize wasn’t worthy of commitment or the necessary investment.

Please watch the video (below) to hear the full explanation of Scott’s ideas. He is an engaging speaker and it’s worth the few minutes it takes. Also, please comment. I’d like to know, what fuels your love-hate relationship with social media? Is it introversion or fear of failure? How far are you willing to invest effort to succeed? I will be asking myself the same questions. I have a lot of attitude-improvement work to do!

 


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This article / blog post is Copyright Cate Russell-Cole 2014. All rights are reserved Internationally. You may not reproduce it in any form, in part of whole, without Cate’s prior written permission. That includes usage in forms such as print, audio and digital imaging including pdf, jpg, png etc. A fee may be requested for re-using her work if it is for a commercial venture. 

Link sharing and Pinterest pins are most welcome as long as Cate is the attributed Author.

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, Aug 17-23, 2014

Cate Russell-Cole:

There is so much pure gold in here, I went to share each link. If I had done so, I would have overloaded Twitter! :-) Thanks to Writerly Goodness for a great roundup of interesting and practical articles. Follow that blog!

Originally posted on Writerly Goodness:

I really tried to get used to the new WordPress editor, but I finally had to give in and activate Classic Mode (Dum-ta-de-dah!). It’s so much easier to apply tags in the classic editor.

Let’s start with some publishing news. From Publishers Weekly, no less. What copyright changes mean for Canadian publishers.

Here’s K.M. Weiland’s weekly podcast/post: Can a character’s arc be a subplot?

Here’s her guest post on the Writer’s Alley on what weather can do for your story.

Then Katie wandered over to the Wordserve Water Cooler to discuss how to make a walk-on character memorable (but not too memorable).

Here’s Katie’s workshops & webinars page if you want to get moar of the good stuff.

And her weekly vlog on how to tighten your tale by streamlining your symbolism.

Anne R. Allen rounds up the usual suspects for her post on five protagonists…

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Become a Story Weaver, NOT a Story Mechanic!

I think we’ll all wholeheartedly agree with the truths presented here and be inspired by this video. It’s overflowing with practical advice. If you have a Youtube log in, this is a great channel to follow.


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Compliments and a Creative, Community Promotion Idea

badge-ambassador-programThe whole purpose of this blog and most of my work, is to encourage people. Look above you. It says so in my header. So when I am recognised and thanked for doing that, it deeply touches my heart and makes the many hours of work worthwhile. I am proudly wearing this badge on the blog and it will also go onto my web site.

You know something? This is a double blessing, as when I looked at the badge, I realised what a great idea it is for building support. Vicki’s act of recognition is also practical inspiration.

Vicki has been a friend and a follower for a year or two now. I love the work she does and her positive, uplifting Facebook posts. Vicki is challenged with bipolar disorder and does an incredibly good job of coping with it and achieving her goals, regardless of the hurdles the condition flings onto her path. She wrote me a guest post on her journey back in January. You can read it here.

Please stop as you go through the motions of blogging and social media today, and see what you can do to support and encourage someone else. It does take more time and a modest investment of effort, but it’s worth it!

Thank you Vicki.

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What is Writecovery?… Words Heal

We work with those recovering from or living with a range of tough personal challenges who struggle with distress, poor quality of life, dissatisfaction, and discouraging health issues, and would like to have a better attitude, enjoy a better quality of life, and be more positive. What makes WRITECOVERY, INC., different is that we are self-guided, private, safe, and secure and because of this, our clients receive an advantage of a safe environment for renewal and transformation to a more joyful life. Read more here.

Seeking Equality for Independent Authors – A Call to Action

YRejvCcfNHqLcRq-556x313-noPadThe two minutes of your time that this will take, will benefit you! Orna Ross, from the Alliance of Independent Authors, has created this petition highlighting the need for Independent Authors to be treated with the same equality as traditionally published authors. This is one petition which we all need to sign. The letter is below.

Please Sign Here


To:
Libraries
Booksellers Associations of Australia & New Zealand, Canada, Europe, India, UK & USA
Book Reviewers & Review Outlets
Literary Organisations
Literary & Publishing Events Organisers
Library Associations Associations of Australia & New Zealand, Canada, Europe, India, UK & USA,
I, and the Alliance of Independent Authors, urge you to find ways to include self-publishing writers as a matter of priority.

As you know, more and more writers are turning to self-publishing and many such authors are producing work of proven value to readers.

While recognising that there are challenges in incorporating such writers, it has become a necessity, if book stores, libraries, literary events and reviewers are to be inclusive, and fully serve readers and writers.

I trust you will give this matter the attention it deserves.


Great Reasons for Signing

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That One Rogue Sentence… Lessons from Best Selling Authors

ancientfutureThere is never a good enough reason to be inactive as a writer. The last few months have been chaos here, but time well spent. While I have been dealing with chronic pain problems and haven’t spent time on my blog, or social media, I have been sitting at the feet of many literary masters and learning from their handiwork. I have been delving into the depths of J R R Tolkien, George R R Martin, Stephen Lawhead, Mary Stewart, Raymond E Feist, Melanie Rawn, J K Rowling, Traci Harding and have read more Terry Pratchett than is probably decent.

It’s superfluous to say that I have learnt a lot. Here are the lessons which have stood out to me the most.

  • A book can be completely perfect in structure, punctuation, grammar, spelling and plot: however, I am noticing that most of these authors have that one rogue sentence which gives away information in an inappropriate place, is completely confusing or messes up the flow of what they are writing. It’s normally in the first three chapters.
  • If you are writing in a manner which describes an accent, or is old world language (such as Shakespearian speech,) you are making your life incredibly hard if you only use it for certain characters. It is too easy to slip out of that voice and it stands out like a sore thumb to the reader.
  • The legends break all the rules. Tolkien writes sentences which are so long, they become confusing. If I wrote like that, my writing mentors would slap me. But, it does add to the flow, so who is right and who is wrong?
  • Ebook formatting seems to have no standards, rules or quality control. Some formats are easier to read than others, thanks to the use of white space. (I have a post coming out on that in September. The blog officially restarts on September 1st.)
  • Using foreign speech alongside a lot of unfamiliar names which have crazy spelling (for example, Welsh) breaks your brain. If you cannot get your head around a character’s name, reading can become hard work and easy to abandon.
  • I know all the arguments about prologues, but they are worth reading! Books make more sense if you don’t skip them.
  • I’ve read two books where I have come to hate the main character. Everything works too easily for them and they became so cut-throat ambitious, I turned against them and will never read any more books in that series.
  • I know it can be wise to kill your darlings, but if you start a series with ‘the good guys,’ then you slowly kill them all off over several books, the reader is left alone and wondering who to cheer on. All that is left is the bad guys. You can overdo it.
  • Never write a massive series that you may not be able to finish. It may be wiser to leave all books as complete, with a teaser to get the reader to pick up the next one. That way, if chaos intervenes, you won’t get stoned for not writing that last tome.

Thank you to all of you for your good wishes and understanding. I hope my health does improve over the next few months and that I can get back to visiting your blogs and being more supportive. I am still very unwell and have become a lab rat, as the pain management doctors try a variety of potions to see if they can make me more comfortable.