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. Please read it, you may find it very helpful. 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.

Try this post for NaNoWriMo planning and tracking tools.

 


 

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.

leaf

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!”

 

REBLOGS WELCOMED


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

iStock_000018797284XSmallEveryone 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.

IMG_0182Anti 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.
  • If 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…


acomm

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.

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!

 


acomm

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.

Alternative Words to Said and Physical Characteristic Descriptions ~ Resource List

Finding alternatives to words like said, replied, answered and all the usual cliches has become my current life’s work… as has writing effective place and character descriptions. I have trolled the Internet for inspiration and while these goodies are in my head, I will share them with you.

Alternatives to said:

  • frdgtge3438fwefhSPW books has a great list in a table form and also
    links to other useful materials in the side navigation bar.
    Raid the list at: http://www.spwickstrom.com/said/

I seem to be writing in waves, adding in layers over the plot and characterisation. Right now I am into description, including body language. Some of the most helpful resources found are listed below. There are also dozens on my Pinterest board for all genres of writers, so I’ll place that link here as well.


Physical characteristic descriptions:

  • Angela Ackerman’s blog also has brilliant information on skills and talents and why your character needs them. http://writershelpingwriters.net/author/angela/ Her books, The Emotional Thesaurus, The Positive Traits Thesaurus and the Negative Traits Thesaurus are a goldmine for authors. I have never heard a negative word about them. Angela’s work is well written and researched. (No, she hasn’t asked me to say a word, I’m just a fan.)

Please add your suggestions in the comments. I highly recommend chasing resources like this down, they have blossomed out my word count! After too many years writing non-fiction, I have learnt to write too tight. This new venture is doing me good.

Happy hunting!

REBLOGS WELCOMED


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.

All clipart used here is from Openclipart.com

Eye Strain Reducing Editing for Writers – #amediting #amwriting

2014-05-30_09-57-29

The amount of time we spend hunched over computers, tablet devices and ebook readers isn’t good for our eyes, necks, shoulders or wrists, but it’s essential. I have noticed a steady increase in the number of migraine sufferers I have met, who are writers. I am wondering if this is an occupational hazard, rather than an accident.

In writing and editing the first drafts of The Dragon Tree, while trying to cope with my frequent migraines, I stumbled across a few tips which may also help you, whether electronic screens give you headaches or not. These methods have given me much more writing time.

The biggest problem is the harsh contrast between black text and a white page. Of course, turning down screen brightness helps, but that is not enough. I found that a soft green or a blue text colour, was much easier on my vision. Also, changing colours between drafts gave my brain a shock. I was able to pick up many hidden errors, such as ‘or’ not ‘of’, ‘become’ not ‘became’… all those things that the spell checker misses. For more information on tricking your brain into helping you edit  efficiently, see this post: The Best Kept Editing Secret.

The examples shown here are deliberately fuzzy as this is my WIP, but you can see how the colours affect your own eyes. When you are staring at text for hours, a simple select all and font colour change can help you enormously.

format edit exampleI got to a point where I had messed up my formatting with so many edits, that I needed to turn on the dreaded show all characters. I have always found this savage on my sight. I needed just the markers, not text and on experimenting, found that changing the text colour so the contrast was high, made the character marks pop out. One less headache… yes!

Another hint I picked up from a web site was to never edit with justified text. The extra spaces between the words make proof reading impossibly hard. Double spacing is critical for proof reading, or you wind up reading one sentence on top of the other! For a great post on the difference between proofreading and editing, please visit the Writers in the Storm blog.

For ease, I began writing on my iPad, as I was able to get hold of a word processor app with a darker background. It helped, but the sheer number of spelling mistakes generated lost me masses of time in needless correction. This is all the space I had to work with and it drove me crazy. Most tablet word processors are similar, so in the end, I abandoned their use, except on the worst days.

Update: thanks to Patricia de Hemricourt ( @epublishabook)  for sending me to this post on Computer Vision Syndrome. It’s exceptionally helpful.

IMG_1020

Textkraft EN is available through iTunes.

 

 

REBLOGS WELCOMED


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.

Fear of Failure: Survival for Writers

DEB_MixedMedia_Emb_Pencil_RedFear of failure as an author, can be built into us as early as primary school. We become inflicted with what I call, “Red Pen Phobia.”

Red pen is the hated mark that comes back on school assignments screaming, “you are wrong! You didn’t make the grade. You’re not good enough. You messed up! You didn’t try hard enough.” It is also used to mark bills with “overdue!”  Red pen phobia is so serious, that when I looked through my licence stock photos for a *red pen image, I couldn’t find one. All I could find was a red pencil. Who wants to make artwork using an image that makes you feel bad?

I hear from other writers who like to write in colour to stimulate their creativity, whether in pen or as a font choice. They choose purple, blue, green, orange, pink… I can’t remember anyone ever saying they like writing in red. It is the colour of failure. Many writers I teach are over 55 years of age and have an embedded demanding, judging English teacher in their head. Some teachers used to throw chalk, or smack them over the back of their knuckles with a ruler. Others were lucky enough to have teachers who were interested in getting them to be creative; but a vast majority fit the academic model: you were judged on correctness. There was no grey, only black and white and on that you were smart or you were stupid.

In psychology class we had to try and define intelligence as an exercise. It is impossible. Too many people fit outside that tiny box academia focusses on and we, sadly, often judge ourselves on. There are people who work best through movements such as dance or art, are great manual workers, have excellent spatial skills or who have musical or people skills. They are all intelligent but may not have the academically acceptable mathematical or English skills that are supposed to define intelligence. It doesn’t mean they are stupid. Yet, we can live our whole lives with that label as we didn’t fit a narrow set of standards, rather than being encouraged to use our unique skills.

Many, many writers over time have not fit the academic model, but have been successful despite it. They may not have had the educational opportunities to try and fit into that model, or their skills may simply lie in other areas. Some writers are great story tellers, but need extra support with grammar etc. It does not mean they should stop writing as they don’t have what it takes. We need to silence our inner school teacher and reach for our goals.

So you can take the red pen in two ways:

1. A rod of correction, signal of danger or symbol of fear ;

or

2. Look at it as a colour of passion, fire and energy! Those are positive qualities of writers who love their craft.

Grab your red pens, stick them in a drawer if they deter you, but don’t let them stand in your way! Write for yourself and the joy it brings you first. Edit later; hire a professional editor if you are not confident… but don’t let those red pens stop your dreams. The only thing that will mark you as a failure is never having tried.

 


REBLOGS WELCOMED

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. 

*The red pencil image is commercially licenced to Cate Russell-Cole. Please do not reuse it. It can be purchased from Scrapgirls.com as part of the DEB_Stationary and Art Bits collection designed by Durin Eberhart.

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

#Search Engine Optimisation for #Indie Authors: How Far Should You Go?

There are many bloggers out there who still don’t know what SEO is. That is and isn’t a good thing. SEO is Search Engine Optimisation and for best practice, it is supposed to have a very large say in how you write book titles, web pages and blog posts. (There is an infographic explaining it at the base of this page.) A great idea? Yes, if kept in balance. There is one major worry with getting too carried away with it: you stop writing as yourself and allow yourself to be told what to do by a robot. Think about it…

Digital computations determine how easy it is for us to have our books found on Amazon, our Page posts read on Facebook, our web site or blog found on Google… They are awfully frustrating and if you want to claw your way to the top of the pile, you have to work – hard! You must sprinkle your keywords through your post, use meta tags on web pages, sprinkle matching keywords through your web pages, tweet, status update, Like, Plus 1, retweet, share and comment until your fingers fall off and your brain goes numb.

I did this asiduously throughout 2013 and got to the end of September and simply burnt out! I wasn’t tired of blogging, writing and people. It was those robotic demands that did me in. So I spent far less time on Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus. After reading a massive, endless stream of SEO and social media how-to posts, I came to the conclusion that as writers, we are possibly far better off writing in the attic, away from the computer and all this “wonderfully good advice.” Any available time I had in my week, was spent assuaging the gods of rank. So I quit! I’ve noticed that since I began to pull back in September, my visit stats and book sales didn’t drop much. They are growing.

1238999_450639671718505_835016741_nSo here is how I am now surviving online. I hope it inspires you and if you have further suggestions, I’d love to hear them!

  1. I will automate as many blog posts and shares as I can, so I can take time to see the sunshine and not be spending hours manually on social media. “I’m sorry Hal, I’m afraid I can’t do that.”
  2. I will not read any more SEO and social media how-to posts or books: instead I will be myself and stay tapped into my innate creativity identity.
  3. I will not get trapped in worrying about my statistics. If I get 2 Likes on a post and someone was inspired: I aced it! That is my main goal: encourage, equip, empower. Not rack up fat numbers.
  4. I will write the blog posts which are close to my heart, regardless of what posts pull in the greatest number of readers.
  5. I will market my books with titles that make sense to the content of the book and are not used elsewhere. I will not calculate words on what sells.

In business, if something does not pull in sales, you stop doing it. Yet online, many of us tend to jump feet first into the latest and greatest next thing, perhaps in the hope it will propel us to stardom? That doesn’t work. It simply chews away more of our time and sanity.

It is all about sanity. If I have to mutiny against binary calculations, the numbers game and everyone’s marvellous advice, then I will. Join me… your creative soul is worth more than this.


If you want to know more about SEO, check this infographic from nerdyface.com

SEO_IG


REBLOGS WELCOMED

IMG_0204Note from Cate: this post was published last year under a different title, but there was a technical glitch and it never got proper promotion. As it received great comments from those who did read it, I have updated, improved and published it again.

This article / blog post is Copyright Cate Russell-Cole 2013 and adapted in 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.