I keep my friends in my Kindle…

blog-award-one-lovely-blog-awardFirstly, a huge thank you to Helen Holshouser for giving me a One Lovely Blog Award. (I came fourth!) It was a lovely gesture and it made my day, which needed to be made… you know how it is when your lava lamp shorts out, cooks it’s power board, takes out the bulb on the reading lamp and then gives you a small electrical shock… yeah.

I am going to pass this award onto my writing friends whose books I treasure, to give them a shout out. But first, seven things about me.

1. I tend to work too fast. My brain’s clock speed is fast, but it means I loathe long projects and it stinks when I’m getting paid by the hour.

2. This will likely result in massive unfollows, but… I don’t drink coffee. Yes, I know, I’m weird. But for some reason, I don’t like hot drinks and find them hard to swallow. If you approach me with a cup of tea you won’t be popular. That one I am blaming on the old tannin lined silver teapots, that were passed down through my family. If tea does that to metal, what does it do to your stomach?

3. I love pink, but a lot of people think that blue is my favourite colour, as my home is always decorated in blues. Maybe it’s my Pict bloodline surfacing?

4. I love most animals. My husband and I never visit a Zoo or pet shop without saying hello to everyone… except the snakes. He’s been told I want a Clydesdale for my birthday. He only has 27 shopping days left (he reads most of my posts for the sake of marital warfare, um, harmony.)

5. We once had an axolotl named Elvis. He was black and when the pet shop owner tried to catch him, he legged it into the neighbouring fish tank to escape capture, terrifying all the fish. Thus, he had “left the building.” He was a stinker of a pet!

6. If shop, favourite and colour haven’t given me away, yes, I am Australian and live in Brisbane, which is a brilliant, mid-sized city, with lots of cultural events and an increasing traffic volume problem. It is sub-tropical and everyone wants to live here.

7. I adore ice hockey. Blame it on being married to a Canadian.

heart water handsMeet my friends…

~ Christy Birmingham, who blogs at Poetic Parfait and is the proud author of Pathways to Illumination.

~ Eric Kobb Miller, who blogs at Spit Toon’s Saloon and has several great comedy books.

~ Kathy Owen, who writes the most delightful mysteries which capture the period and capture your heart!

~ Rags Daniels, who is sadly, still offline recovering from his stroke, but has great crime novels available.

~ Sharon Lippincott who writes books which inspire me to write better! Check out her blog and her books. She will have you either laughing or working hard!

~ Sonia Marsh, who is striving ahead and winning awards for her open-hearted anthologies. If you need encouragement, get Sonia’s books! Also, get on board and write your own Gutsy Story.

~ Sir Seumas Gallacher, crime writer and big, hearted Knight! You’ll love his crime novels and his warmth.

~ Sandra Nikolai is another master crime writer and a lady who is a joy to know.

~ Mary Gottschalk is my enneagram buddy. (See yesterday’s post.) She has a new novel out, A Fitting Place, and her Memoir is a delight. She blogs here.

~ Madeline Tasky Sharples is a special lady who has a message we all need to hear about suicide and grief. She is very close to my heart and blogs here.

~ Kathy Pooler is a dear friend, who has posted on this blog several times and has just released her first book. Please visit Kathy and be inspired by her story of overcoming emotional abuse. (I love your new site look Kathy.)

I could continue and continue and continue, and…

Giving Antagonists Depth and More Effective Roles in Plot Resolution

Source: A Lofty Existence Blog on WordPress: http://tinyurl.com/blmdl2g
Source: A Lofty Existence Blog on WordPress: http://tinyurl.com/blmdl2g

Whether you want to believe in personality typing or not, for writers building characters, the enneagram is one of the very best gold mines you’ll ever find. It is similar to a road map for human behaviour, which shows our basic motivational needs, strengths, weaknesses, temptations and what we can do to balance out our negatives (and thus resolve interpersonal conflicts in plots).

Using the Enneagram has been a wonderful tool for fleshing out the motivation of my antagonists. It’s given them depth. Instead of the good guys just being good, and the bad guys inherently having to be bad, now the bad guy is bad because he is a Reformer (the 1). He is compulsively motivated by a need to make things better, but he’s handled the challenges he is facing the wrong way. It has created fights and barriers, not change. He is out of balance (the enneagram shows you how to create balance) and is a danger to himself, as much as he is to others. I have a relatable, humanised bad guy, who doesn’t mean to be a rat and has no idea why people are opposing him, but he can’t stop himself. He isn’t a one-dimensional, one-task piece of the novel puzzle.

Let me give you another example of how this can work. Let me use an intellectual personality as an example. They are referred to as the Thinker or Observer (the 5). Out of balance, they can be withdrawn, thought-driven, self-motivated, happy to be alone and have a strong need for independence and privacy. Often they don’t fit in with social groups. This is a weakness of their personality type. Problems for fives include isolation, pride, power-seeking and their intellectual approach can drive people in the other direction, seeking friendlier company. The five can become one very frustrated, lonely individual, with answers no one will listen to.

No one has just one type they solely fit into. They have parts of all the types and two other, less dominant types which are called wings. They balance the psyche out. A five will have the wings of a four: the romantic, withdrawn ideal-seeker who wants authenticity, self-expression and who can also be deeply empathetic; and a six wing, which is the attachment-making loyalist. They can work towards balance by utilising their ability to empathise and be loyal, alongside their need to think, rather than coldly retreating.

One-dimensional villains, who simply exist, as a bad guy is needed for the story line to work.

Enneagram research will also give you lists of ways that the various types can get along with other people. It flags sources of conflicts, how to approach them and other techniques which will have writers in seventh heaven! This is a mystically based theory which has been around for centuries. At it’s simplest level it is an excellent idea generator, that you will find useful and intriguing.

Enneagram Resources

http:// www.enneagraminstitute.com/  and   http:// www.enneagram.com.au/


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.

Written Acts of Kindness: Laura Sapala

WrittenActsofKindnessAwardbycateartiosWhile many writers blog for themselves, the ones that we gain the greatest benefit from, are the writers that cheer the rest of us on and equip us with the knowledge we need to add finesse to our writing skills. Today I would like to thank and introduce you to one of my favourites, Lauren Sapala.

In her own words: I’m a writer who has always struggled with writing. I took creative writing classes in college, hated them and did miserably. Then I stopped writing altogether for six years. When I finally embarked on writing my first novel it took me two years to finish the sloppy first draft and another four years to revise it. Hardly anyone knew how much writing meant to me, or that it was the thing I felt born to do, because I hardly ever talked about it. I was embarrassed and ashamed that writing was so difficult for me and that it took me such a long time to produce anything.

“During this time I scoured the online world looking for guidance. I found a lot of blogs devoted to agents and publishing, and a lot of online writing guides. But I never found what I really needed, which was someone to tell me that I wasn’t crazy. Someone who could say, “Look, it doesn’t matter that you haven’t ever written a novel before, you have it in you to do it, you just have to try.”

Lauren-1-300x199I have been following Lauren’s work for a few years and have been delighted to have her as a guest blogger and to have reblogged her excellent work. She is a must-share on Twitter and if you visit her blog, you’ll see why. Please support her, subscribe to her and by doing so, know that you’re also doing yourself a huge favour.

~Blog: http://laurensapala.com 
~Twitter: https://twitter.com/losapala
~Facebook: https://en-gb.facebook.com/LaurenSapala
~Google Plus: https://plus.google.com/101006682663888916290/posts?partnerid=gplp0

Lauren, when you have the time, here are the rules for passing the award on.

  1. You are welcome to give it out as many times as you like, but it is only to be given to a maximum of one person per blog post. If you wish to give multiple rewards, please space the blog posts so the sincerity is maintained.
  2. Introduce the person; say how they encourage, help or inspire you; then link to their work and/or social media profiles. There may be a specific post you wish to link to which helped you. It’s up to you.
  3. Please publicise your award post to Twitter or Google Plus using the hashtag #writtenkindness so that others can find and follow the award winners.

This award is open to anyone to use. You don’t have to receive it, in order to be able to give it. Once you have received it, it isn’t obligatory that you must pass it on.

Get the Button and Code

Written Acts of Kindness Badge

<div align="center"><a href="http://cateartios.wordpress.com/" title="Written Acts of Kindness Badge" target="_blank"><img src="http://virtual-desk.com.au/SmallBadgeWrittenActsofKindnessAwardby%20cateartios.jpg" alt="Written Acts of Kindness Badge" style="border:none;" /></a></div>

The Rules

Cate Russell-Cole:

Common sense for your writer’s survival kit. We all need to hear this message from Jo Robinson. Thanks Jo!


Originally posted on Lit World Interviews:

Jo Robinson
Jo Robinson

A lot of indie authors are pretty rigid with their writing rules. There’s nothing wrong with this when it’s your style, and self-imposed. You’ll have problems though if rigid rules don’t fit well with your character, and you’ve only inflicted them on yourself because a successful and well known writer said that that’s what you should be doing if you ever want to succeed. “Must” is often the word lurking behind procrastination in any field, and when it comes to creative souls, I believe it could shut down production pretty well.

The minute we’re told we must do something, our subconscious goes into overdrive, bombarding us with all the ways we could fail, and settles like a lump in your mind, effectively blocking all those wonderful sentences that had been champing at the bit to leap onto your pages. This fear can be good in small doses. When…

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Sir Terry Pratchett’s Wisdom on Writing

Prachettmain_2334426b“If you have enough book space, I don’t want to talk to you.”

“The first draft is just you telling yourself the story.” “First draft: let it run. Turn all the knobs up to 11. Second draft: hell. Cut it down and cut it into shape. Third draft: comb its nose and blow its hair. I usually find that most of the book will have handed itself to me on that first draft.”

“Fantasy is an exercise bicycle for the mind. It might not take you anywhere, but it tones up the muscles that can. Of course, I could be wrong.”

“[Science fiction is] out in the mainstream now. You can tell by the way mainstream literary authors pillage SF while denying they’re writing it!”

“There’s no such thing as writer’s block. That was invented by people in California who couldn’t write.”

“Let grammar, punctuation, and spelling into your life! Even the most energetic and wonderful mess has to be turned into sentences.”

“Go anywhere you wish, talk to everyone. Ask any questions; you will be given answers. When you want to learn, you will be taught. Use the library. Open any book.”

Terry Pratchett

“I read anything that’s going to be interesting. But you don’t know what it is until you’ve read it. Somewhere in a book on the history of false teeth there’ll be the making of a novel.”

“Writing is the most fun you can have by yourself.”

“I do note with interest that old women in my books become young women on the covers… this is discrimination against the chronologically gifted.”

“Wisdom comes from experience. Experience is often a result of lack of wisdom.”

“I have no use for people who have learned the limits of the possible.”

“Books must be treated with respect, we feel that in our bones, because words have power. Bring enough words together they can bend space and time.”

“Bringing about Armageddon can be dangerous. Do not attempt it in your own home.”

This blog post by Cate Russell-Cole is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. You are free to share and adapt it.

NaNoWriMo, Should You or Shouldn’t You? A Balanced View

My current planning for my next novel. I need time to put in all those plot points which are mapped out. I just can't get this, work and health commitments all in sync and completed in a month!
My current planning for my next novel. I need time to put in all those blank plot points which are mapped out. I just can’t get this, work and health commitments all in sync and completed in a month!

Each November, my blog visit stats drop as everyone focusses on their plans for National Novel Writing Month. Then later in the month, the visits pop up again as the dream of winning NaNo is abandoned or hijacked my real life. So should you sign up? I won’t be. I tried it a few years ago and stressed right out. I need more flexibility. Some of us need a push to get into gear, some of us need creative time and space. I am the latter.

Last year I wrote a post on how to assess whether or not initiatives such as NaNoWriMo are suitable for you, individually, or not. If you want an alternative to NaNoWriMo, try the links below. They are far, far less stressful and will suit those of you who don’t fit the “full steam ahead, hell or high water” mould.

Don’t forget that October is OctPoWriMo, October Poetry Writing Month: http://www.octpowrimo.com Write 31 poems in 31 days.



ROW80Logocopy~ A Round of Words in 80 Days: http://aroundofwordsin80days.wordpress.com There are 4 rounds of 80 days a year. Rounds start in January, April, July and October, but you can participate in as many as you wish. ROW80 is the challenge that champions the marriage of writing and real life where you post your own goals, check-in twice a week and can change your goals as needed. Join at any time.

~ Creative Every Day: http://creativeeveryday.com This is a low pressure, all-inclusive, year-long adventure for bloggers. You can join at any time.

~ #writemotivation by K.T. Hanna. http://www.kthanna.com/category/writemotivation/roll-call/  This initiative runs periodically through the year. You need to sign up, make a realistic list of blogging goals for the month, check-in once a week and visit your team mates to encourage them.


November also has these two challenges:

LeNoWriCha: a “rank-and-reward system is to provide an escape from the “success/failure” paradigm that seems to evolve from NaNo.” Started by David Shelverman Grimes and accessible through here: https://www.facebook.com/notes/david-shelverman-grimes/lenowricha-an-upgrade-to-nanowrimo/10151561140712496

WNFINNOVWrite Non-Fiction in November: http://writenonfictioninnovember.com “Challenges nonfiction writers to spend the month of November writing and completing a work of nonfiction. It also discusses nonfiction writing and publishing and provide a way for nonfiction writers to comment on their writing experiences during November each year. This is not a contest!”



Writer’s Resources on Twitter: September 2014 Update



I started this post in 2012 to give writers and bloggers a list of resources on Twitter which would provide promotion, inspiration and industry resources. The list of excellent Tweeters I have discovered has grown so much, I’ve had to start multiple lists, which I regularly update. Also there are now too many to name here. So here are the links to my lists.

You can subscribe to these lists as a Twitter user so you are kept in the loop with new additions. My Twitter username is @cateartios  and posts I share are writing related, not personal.

  • Publishers and Magazines covers everything publishing and is a list of 380+ Literary agents, publishers, industry news providers etc. Use at your own risk. Always get legal advice about publishing contracts and check industry news and trends via multiple sources. http://twitter.com/#!/cateartios/publishers-and-magazines

  • Books and Readers is a public list for readers of all genres, plus it lists some tweeters that publicise books and may also publicise yours on request. 196 members. https://twitter.com/#!/cateartios/books-and-readers


Caught in the Prologue Cross Fire? When to Hit Delete and When to Save Them

2014-10-25_18-11-30Everyone tends to like things to be done a certain way, generally their way! That’s not necessarily problematic, it’s a matter of placing your own mark on what you’re achieving. Some of the best novels have broken the rules, some of worst ones have decimated the rules. Fashions governing what is acceptable also change over time, leaving writers sitting in the middle of raging arguments, wondering which direction they should be taking and what it will do to their sales.

One of the debates I’ve been reading up on, is “forget about writing prologues, no one reads them anyway. They are just a frustrating delay.” I can see the point, but I am still scratching my head and considering that to be a sweeping generalisation, rather than solid advice. Could prologue bashing be part of the reason why are turned off them? If we keep seeing them reported as bad writing, the force of repetition can lead to us adopting the same negative view, whether it is biased, erroneous, or not. We need to think for ourselves.

A well-written prologue can be an effective story hook. I always read the prologue and epilogue. I’ve always liked them. They can set the scene for a story and contain gems of information I can’t understand the book without. I particularly like the ones which talk about a future event, that motivate me to dive into the novel to see how it comes about. My curiosity is aroused. Please note the words well-written. Actually, note them again. Poor writing is the entire basis of the prologue problem.

Have a think about this further. Television programs, such as The Big Bang Theory, are structured to include parts that act very much like a prologue and epilogue. If you are an avid television watcher, you are being conditioned to expect that structure. There is a ‘prologue,’ or teaser at the start; the front credits roll and then the body of the episode begins. At the very end, there is a small, comedic part you never want to miss, which works as an epilogue. Every episode is the same. You expect it to be.

The quickest way to determine the effectiveness of a prologue, on a fair book-by-book basis, is if you can give just your prologue to a reader and they start to care about the characters and want to read more to see what happens or happened, it’s working for you.

Below is a summary of all the arguments about prologues so you can determine your own fate.

Pro Prologue

  • You can put specific events under a spotlight to emphasize their importance.
  • You can talk to the reader from a different point of view than the rest of the novel is written in. For example, instead of third person, you may speak from first person as an onlooker, or one of the characters.
  • You can start to build solid characterisation, motivation, suspense and plot with a focus on one pivotal element.
  • If, like me, you are a science fiction and/or fantasy writer and need to world build, a prologue can familiarise your reader with place, science and customs. Just keep it interesting and adding benefit to the story. Don’t info dump! If there are parts of the world you can’t introduce through dialogue, this may be an effective way to set the scene.

Anti Prologue

  • They can be used as lazy information dumps, rather than building proper story. For example, you can write far too much about a character’s past, bypassing show don’t tell and boring your reader. Try a glossary or build these elements into your story properly.
  • IMG_0182If it doesn’t make you care about the characters or get you interested in the story, cull it!
  • If you can understand the story without the prologue, you don’t need it, you are wasting time and paper.
  • Due to the abuse of prologues, many traditional editors may reject your work as you have included one.
  • If you put in plot points which leave the reader hanging for a very long time before the answers are revealed, you can divide their attention and frustrate them.


Effective Prologues

  • Keep it short and write in active voice, not passive terms. Prologues can be a single paragraph or a single sentence. Length is up to you.
  • It must be written in the same spirit and style as the novel, or it looks out of place.
  • It was stated in one article that it should read like a short story, but without an ending. The ending is your novel.
  • Both the prologue and chapter one must hook the reader in, just as powerfully. Both have to work hard, or they don’t work at all.
  • It must be distinctive from the rest of the novel in terms of time or point of view, otherwise it’s a chapter you stashed in a silly place.

So what parts of a novel do I skip? Prefaces, Forwards, Dedications, Acknowledgements and most Introductions, especially lengthy ones. They have no story value and unless I adore the author and they can teach me more about them, I skip over the pages. I’ve always seen them as the part that is written for the Author’s benefit or as a courtesy. But that’s just me…


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.

What’s Happening and About the Blog…

The latest blog post can be found right under this sticky one.

This blog aims to encourage, empower and educate writers of all genres, so they can achieve their creative goals. You can find out more about Cate’s publication history, ebooks and courses on her web site. Blog Awards and kind compliments can be found on this page.


Sorry, but during November, the blog will be dormant, as I participate in NaNoWriMo. There will also be no November newsletter on my web site. Watch this space for news.

You may have noticed that this blog has undergone a redesign… Old, less popular and irrelevant posts have been taken off, and the rest has been spruced up, so you only have the best content to enjoy. There are over one hundred posts of writing resources, wisdom and inspiration for you to browse through. Please use the search facility and tweet me feedback. @cateartios

The Memoir Project Blog:

The Virtual Desk of Cate Russell-Cole


If you are interested in memoir / autobiography writing resources, click over to the Virtual Desk blog for all the posts featured in the Write Your Life Story Memoir Project, plus many more posts which are relevant to life story writers.

Guest contributors include Kathleen Pooler from Memoir Writer’s Journey: krpooler.com/; Sharon Lippincott from The Heart and Craft of Lifewritng:  http://sharonlippincott.com and Sherrey Meyer from Healing Life’s Hurts Through Writing: http://sherreymeyer.com.

This is an eclectic blog, which is my project sandbox. You are welcome to subscribe for the Memoir Project content, but be warned, you may get other odd, seemingly irrelevant posts from time to time. New posts will be sporadic.

Click on the Facebook button below to join the Write Your Life Story Facebook page. The other links will take you to useful resources for writers, including Youtube videos from many sources, including well known memoir authors and teachers.

Getting Your Characters Help! The Character Therapist

BLOG BUTTONThis is one of the most original writer’s resource blogs I have discovered, and it’s a goldmine of information on many topics including:

  • romantic scenes, break ups and all the soppy stuff
  • amnesia
  • mental illnesses of all kinds, including some you’ve never heard of
  • attachment
  • character archetypes
  • body image
  • backstory
  • character flaws and criminology
  • comic relief
  • conflict, defence mechanisms etc
  • social issues such as domestic violence, cults,
  • physical illnesses including autism, Down’s Syndrome and many things
  • dialogue and character inconsistency
  • emotional revolution
  • marital issues

… and if those haven’t piqued your interest, go look up Fascination by Mystique, countertransference, the Cotard Delusion, Nazism and Paris Syndrome. Plus, it is Christian friendly.

Screen-shot-2013-03-13-at-9.20.59-PMLink: http://charactertherapist.blogspot.com.au

The blog and accompanying services are run by Jeannie Campbell, who is a licensed and highly experienced marriage and family therapist. She has turned her skills into a helpful resource where she “diagnoses make-believe people” to assist novelists. Jeannie also has a newsletter you can sign up for.

Need more help?

“Creating and Resolving Conflict in Fiction,” dissects conflict into its component parts; looks at how it works and helps you generate conflict plot-lines and themes which will add richness and realism to your work. The principles apply to any kind of fiction, regardless of the length, characters or genre.

CRCF4DimCover3lowresThis book is not a “how to write” text. It is a user-friendly, introductory reference on the topics covered, which will enable you to write about them effectively. You don’t have to read it from cover to cover, it can be used as needed.

Some of the topics covered include:

  • How to Fuel Conflicts and Misunderstandings
  • What Character Traits Go With What Type of Person?
  • Human Behaviour Is All About Patterns
  • Using Power Dynamics
  • Making or Breaking Character Relationships

Available in Kindle and pdf formats from this site: http://virtual-desk.com.au/conflict_in_fiction.html


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.

Inspiring Spaces Blog Hop: Share What Ignites Your Creativity

IMG_1194Writers have to write anywhere and anyhow, to get anything done! Few of us enjoy a proper office, some don’t even have the sole ownership of a desk. I write from the corner of my bedroom. It may not be fancy, but it works (kind of… most of the time). So when I visit blog’s like No Wasted Ink, I drool over the wonderful desks and rooms that Wendy Van Camp shares.

Drooling is often as good as it gets, but it doesn’t mean that I hate my space, or that it inhibits my creativity. I keep objects I love and need close by, including books which I can’t live without. I have my leather bridle and a pile of horse books for novel research; a fake Claymore sword is tucked away where it doesn’t scare the lady who helps me clean the place… a piece of Irish Connemara marble sits on a shelf (as I keep meaning to use it in The Dragon Tree and keep forgetting); I love many coloured pens and pencils so they have to be there and just now, I need the videos I am swatting over, to fix my solar system building problems. Alright, I have a whole heap of sentimental junk too. (Of course that’s the Millennium Falcon. You even had to ask me that?)

Authors who must be present include Natalie Goldberg (Writing Down the Bones); Julia Cameron (The Right to Write and The Sound of Paper); Stephen King’s On Writing; The Idiot’s Guide to Writing Well (fast reference); my Horderns Home Dictionary which some of you have met in olde word posts; books of quotations which are brilliant for kick starting short stories; The Writing Book, by Australian author Kate Grenville; NaNoWriMo’s book, Ready Set Novel; Fiction Writer’s Workshop by Josip Novakovich and Elements of the Writing Craft by Robert Olmstead.

I’m curious, what do you have in your writing space? What do you need to have around you to get into the creative groove?

This is a blog hop. Any of you can grab the logo and kick off from your own blog as well. I am picking ten of my writing buddies (below), pick five or ten of your own and ask them:

~ where do they work and

~ what can’t they write without?

Inspire each other! Use photo, video, any medium desired, which will show off your muse’s playground. The purpose is to discover something in another blogger’s space that inspires you and to share the love around, so blogs are being seen by a new audience. Oh and please mention that the blog hop started here. (Thank you.) Happy hopping!



Tima Maria Lacoba, Jade Reyner, Ciara Ballintyne, Lauralynn Elliott, Shan Jeniah Burton, Kathy Owen, Judy Feather Stone, Karen McFarland, Ruth Nestvold and Skye Fairwin, tag, you’re it!

#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.

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

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.

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.


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.