#Ebook Readability and White Space ~ Thoughts to Ponder

2014-06-09_13-48-28When readers are deciding whether or not to buy a book, it may not just be the cover which puts them off. Stephen King made a great point in “On Writing:” you can tell how hard a book will be to read, by how close together the text is set. Heavy duty stories are crammed in, lighter novels appear more airy. The white space (blank parts of the page), paragraph spacing and layout are telling.

Complex literary works or in-depth fantasy novels, can be almost as painful to wade through as a phone book. I’ve placed books back on the shelf for that reason. I have flicked through, gone cross-eyed and said, “too hard and too heavy.” With ebook example pages, your reader can reject your work the same way. However, there are tricks which make even long books appealing to a reader’s eyes. First let me show you a few examples of what I mean.

Exhibit A: short paragraphs on an A4 computer page, appear as long blocks in an epub or mobi novel.
There is little white space to give your eyes a break. I’ve started saving my files as epub and double checking readability to avoid this problem. A two space indent may not be enough. Shorter paragraphs can also assist.

Don’t forget, reading from a backlit device is different than reading a paper novel. The affects on your eyesight need to be taken into account. A headache means a book will be put down. You can change size, background colour and font in e-readers, but that won’t help you digest big blocks of text.



Exhibit B: An easier to read page, though, some readers may consider this style to be choppy. I have no trouble reading it and it’s a relief to my ageing eyes.


Which layout appeals to you more?
Which gives you a chance to raid the fridge, then re-find the spot where you left off?

Can you believe that both books are by the same author? Publishing Houses don’t necessarily ensure that each ebook is formatted the same way, not even within the same author’s catalogue. That gives us room to move with formatting, as we don’t need to fret about accepted styles. As long as your layout is clean and consistent, you should be able to adapt your own ebook style for practicality. (Though frankly, some sort of set standards would be helpful!)

Experiment as much as you can before you send your book into the Smashwords meatgrinder or upload your document to Amazon. I know you can’t control everything, but if you set your styles right in your document, you have a fighting chance at getting what you want in the final book.

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This work, created and Copyright Cate Russell-Cole 2014 is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Hunting for the Right “Elements” ~ #Research and #Fantasy


Professor Simon Woodward, from Periodic Videos, discovers that if you drop a few ml of Trimethylaluminium from a syringe onto a glass plate, this is what happens the second it touches normal air!

Have you discovered that you cannot publish book one in a series, until book two is written and all the details are formed coherently? Or is is just me who writes back to front, then has to go back to book one to fix mistakes, multiple times? For some of you, this post may be a cautionary tale on research and book publication expectations.

Lisa Kohn asked me to write a post on my writing process and I was honoured, but declined. It wouldn’t be much of a post. It would simply contain these words: “I binge write and then spend months fixing my boo boos, as I didn’t complete all the background research by the time the story gushed forth. I hope to streamline this chaos in the future.”

It is incredibly easy to paint myself into corners with plot and character arcs. It’s even easier when I am world building. I can spend a great deal of time researching, researching, researching and still miss that one sliver of information which will trip me up. (I’m sure historical novelists grapple with this too.) Though, there is still so much to be discovered scientifically, maybe, in the future, I will be the one who was right? Who knows?

I have been trying to make a planet glow with a soft, golden hue. So I took Saturn as a model and exchanged its ice rings for rock rings, which have small chunks of gold embedded in them. The sun hits the rings, the gold reflects onto the surface. It’s simple, right? All the gold on Earth comes from meteorite strikes on the planet. Gold is not naturally produced on Earth. Just leave the gold in it’s rocky celestial homes, it glitters and I’m done. Easy!

I checked the astronomy and it seemed fine… then I got distracted by the Periodic Videos on Youtube and discovered a major flaw in my plan. The gold in meteorites or astroids is not found in chunks big enough to create a glow. Rocks only contain tiny trace fragments of gold, which to make matters worse, are also far more likely to be embedded inside, not sticking out. In other words, no self-respecting meteorite trails gold dust through space. It’s tacky to flaunt your wealth. I can only make my plan work if I make it far more subtle and use a fair whack of poetic licence. The guesswork is, how much licence is too much?


Dr Sheldon Cooper would be disgusted with me. Being called derivative would be the least of the issues he’d expound upon. ;-)

I have studied astronomy and geology, never in my wildest dreams did I think to double check any of my science with chemistry! I didn’t take that subject at school and I am clueless. Once I add chemistry in, writing gets much more complex. I had also built in a layer of gas in the planet’s atmosphere to stop the gold hue being blinding, then watched the Trimethylaluminium video (image above) and realised that if I didn’t get the gas choice right, my pretty sky with gold flecks peeking through the blue, was more likely to become “come on baby, light my fire,” KABOOM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Darn it! That layer was eliminated before it took out the planet. At least I saved lives.

Many areas of astronomy are theories, even though the science is presented as fact. You have to dig to find out what is substantiated and what isn’t. There is room for invention: at least until they can set their theories in stone. (Pun not intended!) I had no idea that they can make anti-matter in the form of molecules. I thought that was just Star Trek, but it’s real. I’m learning. I know that if I get the science close enough, the work should be sufficiently plausible to be acceptable to most readers. The best I can do is try and research across as many scientific disciplines and sources as I can, which is great as it means that I will also come up with more ideas (or problems). However it also means, my publication process time is significantly expanded and I need to learn to deal with that and be patient.

So for those of you who have shown interest in when The Dragon Tree is coming out, the answer is, I have no idea. I have to sort out book two or I am sunk! At the moment I have to find an easily harvestable energy source which is eco-friendly. Setting aside the saga of the Hindenberg, I know from astronomy that hydrogen is the most plentiful element in the cosmos, so I am exploring that. Just keep the hydrogen away from flames and oxygen and secure it properly. How hard can it be? After the gold discovery, I am betting it is harder than I think. Imagine the reaction below on a mass scale, plus the saga of hydrogen storage…

So, what do you do to stop your writing from painting you into a corner and leading to horrendous book reviews? I’d love to hear about your adventures in the comments.


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.

Taking Descriptions A Step Further: Metaphorically Speaking

I  wrote myself off as a lousy fiction writer for years, because I struggle with descriptions. I love to read epic fantasy with settings so vivid, you can smell the air the characters are breathing. However, I am discovering that that kind of writing is not representational of my voice.

Kristen Lamb recently wrote an excellent post which is very helpful for those of us who can’t write like the greatest descriptive writers. She discusses using the character’s point of view, to weave descriptions into your work and how much is enough. Please check it out here then be inspired by this video!

When you think you’ve done the best you can… think again.

Were you bought up with the saying, “can’t” isn’t in the dictionary? I heard it a few times and today I said it to a friend, “I can’t, I’m sorry.” Then I went to their Twitter feed to do what I could and changed my mind about can’t. This is what I saw and there were many like them.


Cherrie is an incredible lady. She challenges people’s views on body image, and I am in no doubt that you will agree, we all need that challenge! Her book is 99c until September 10th and she asked me to promote it on my blog. I said, “I can’t. I am a business blog, it doesn’t fit.” Well, I have been an admirer of Cherrie for ages and as this blog is designed to empower and encourage people, I will make this post fit.

Those of you who struggle with weight, nose size, breast size, large butts or any kind of demoralising disposition – go hang around Cherrie. She will help keep you sane.

Life is pathetic if we can’t help our friends.

Read Cherrie’s blog: http://tooshieblog.com The first chapter of her book is there for you to peruse.

Click on the image to order.

Click on the image to order.

Review: This is a very insightful book about ridding oneself of false beliefs she might harbor in relation to body image. The reader learns how one can become adept at self deception and how instead one should love herself as God would love her. This book uses Scripture as a guiding force in order to negate obsessions our culture has on body image.

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.


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!



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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