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.

Support an Author: Grab that Book You’ve Been Wanting ~ #saam14

There is a pie shop near here that has the slogan, “Buy one so we both don’t go hungry.” It is one of the best advertising slogans I’ve seen. Books feed both the reader’s and the writer’s soul in so many ways. So, you know you’ve been meaning to… this week, your love task for Support an Author Month is to go buy that book you’ve planned to get, but didn’t get around to.

Don’t forget, wherever you buy your books from, leave some love!

 Please note: this is a pre-scheduled post. Comments are off.

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Support an Author: How to Write a Book Review

To sell books, we all need reviews… as much as we sometimes dread them! One of the best ways to support any author is to write a well-crafted review. I had to do a lot of searching online to find out how. Most of the information you get off the Internet is about F.o.r.m.a.l. college-type reviews, technical journals and things that scare my hair off. So to save us all, I have “borrowed,” and slightly modified these awesome tips. They are user-friendly. So please, write a book review this week… unless you hate the book. In that case, just walk away quietly and leave the world a more peaceful place.

The source of the wisdom below is http://slashdot.org/faq/bookreviews.shtml I took out the negative parts of writing a critique, as this is support, not tear apart, month!

  • writing spinesDid you like previous works from the same author or series?
  • Where and when does the story take place?
  • Is this book part of a series?
  • Is there an identifiable central conflict, or a complex of conflicts?
  • What is the tone and style? Is it frightening? Clinical? Amusing? Scattered?
  • Do you like the characters? What about them makes them believable, dynamic or static?
  • From whose viewpoint is the story told, and how does that affect the narrative?
  • Does the book remind you of others by the same author, or in the same genre?
  • Do any twists particularly inspire? (Don’t give away too much, of course.)
  • If you really have to, don’t ‘pan’ a book without specifying your context and expectations. I did ask you nicely not to though, so please, walk away…

If you can add more suggestions, please do in the comments below. Plus, as one commenter pointed out, if someone asks you to write a review, don’t say that in the review! It looks rigged.


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Please do not reblog this post.

The suggestions in this blog post are Copyright Slashdot.org. Only a very small part of their entire page has been reproduced here. (It is massive.)

“Slashdot welcomes readers’ book reviews. In particular, we’re interested in reviews of books on programming, computer security, the history of technology and anything else (including Science Fiction, cyberpunk, etc.) that fits under the “News for Nerds” umbrella.” http://slashdot.org

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.

Support an Author Month: Love a Blogger! ~ #saam14

support an author month2014

This month is Support an Author Month here on CommuniCATE. The aim is to spread the love… It’s a time to put away competition and give each other a hand onwards and upwards! We are stronger as a unified community.

Most posts this month will be geared towards that goal, with call to action posts every Friday.

This week, your call to action is to visit a favourite blog; locate a post that inspired you and leave a comment saying, “This is my favourite post or blog. Thank you!” Be sure to Tweet, Facebook or share it on G+ so the author knows you’ve spread the word.

#bestpostever or #bestblogever

You are also welcome to leave a link in the comments here and recommend a blog, if not a specific post.

Cheers everyone!

Thinking Inside the Frame: Using Photographs to Tell Your Story

When I teach memoir writing, my students are mostly women. Whenever we have a male in the classroom, the whole dynamic changes. Often, they don’t want to get too touchy-feely or pour their souls out for a public audience. That’s fine. There are as many types of memoir, as there are memoir writers.

William-Yang-Exhibition-300x222

The exhibition.

In 2004 the Queensland Art Gallery purchased a collection of photographic images by the Australian society photographer, William Yang. These photos are a striking contrast to the gilt framed oils and quirky modern works throughout the gallery. They are a series of 30 black and white photographs, with one short paragraph hand-written under each photo: memoir in a new form… and even better, memoir in a strikingly simple and non-judgemental form. I took my class to view it, including our not so touchy-feely male (who was actually very warm and pleasant off paper.) Everyone walked out of the gallery inspired, considering how they could communicate conflicts and complex issues as easily.

William’s exhibition highlighted where his family had lived, their beliefs, their morals and their values. At no time was he ever judgemental about a family member or situation. He did release some skeletons from the family closet, but they were all his skeletons to set free. Out of respect, he waited until his close relatives were deceased before he did so. The picture he painted was realistic, but sensitive. I noticed that he honored his late mother in a simple and special way.

I was able to attend William's lecture at the gallery. He is inspirational in many ways.

I was able to attend William’s lecture at the gallery. He is inspirational in many ways.

As the Art Gallery owns the collection, they allowed me to take the photo shown above; but due to copyright, I cannot reproduce the works in an easier to see form. You can view their page on William here. Below is some of the text which was with the photos.

“In 1979 I had a bad case of hepatitis and I came back to the house of my mother to recuperate. My mother liked having me at home under her control. But I felt the life I had chosen to lead was not in Brisbane, and when I was half better, I went back to Sydney.”

“In his day your father was a very dashing man. He played saxophone in a dance band, and he wore silk shirts. He wouldn’t let me iron them, he did them himself. I couldn’t iron them good enough” I stared at my mother in disbelief. “He wasn’t like you know him.” She said.”

“Frances was my father’s favorite. She was the apple of his eye. I was my mother’s favorite child. There was a friction between my mother and my sister. They were both strong women.”

You can see how simple, but strong the message is. There are no angst-ridden emotional dissections, or lengthy one-sided speeches that could cause family arguments to erupt, or lose your interest amid the details. William got straight to the point. He chose the most important aspects of his family life and how they had affected him. That is always a safe place to focus on controversial topics: how they affected you, rather than who committed what sin.

So when you are writing, whatever your gender, use your freedom to be creative and original. Memoir doesn’t have to be a series of dates or plain paragraphs in a book. You can communicate through art, scrapbooking, photos, story quilts, music etc: it’s up to you. Any form of memoir should reflect your personality and interests in life. It should be representative of the main character: you.

It is your story to tell. Tell it your way.


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.

Sanity Saving Blogging Resources

Be UniqueLife flies by at an insane pace… I constantly miss or have to dash past blog posts I want to and need to read. In case you missed it, here are the resources I shared during Blog Taming Month in February. A few extras are thrown in, just because I can… Happy scribing and remember, forget the musts, the have-tos and the myriad of experts. Your best success comes by being yourself!

Micro-Blogging: An Idea to Experiment With

Blogging Survival: Get Ahead by Scheduling

Services Which Make Your Blog Easy to Follow

Surviving BIG Blogging Mistakes

Blog Sidebars: Easy Ways to Add Whatever You Want

Are Your Blogging Goals Slipping? Help to Get Focussed Using Planners and Organisers

Building Community Spirit in the Blogosphere

Is Your Blog Trapping You or Helping You Fly?

Savvy Blogging Cover Image 2If you want even more… and why wouldn’t you? All blog maintenance and promotion posts here on CommuniCATE can be accessed by this category link. Or you can save yourself the trouble and download the free .pdf ebook, which saves you scrolling and reading through all those posts online. This is the download link. It is safe, with no strings attached and comes from my web site.

Chapters Include:

  • Blog Treasures Hidden in Plain Sight
  • Get Yourself A Second Brain
  • Slack, Fake and Egocentric Followers: How to Pick Them!
  • Blog Post Promotion on Social Media: Instantly Hooking Reader Attention
  • Sometimes, It Just Goes Wrong: When to Ditch!
  • The Best Kept Editing Secret
  • 10% On Top: Being a More Efficient Writer
  • Professional, Effective Author Sites: The Problems With Using Blogs
  • Cleaning the Cobwebs Out of Blogs: Reader Engagement and Content Value
  • Guest Posting as Advertising: How To Be Professional and Be Asked Back
  • Your Individuality is Your Greatest Asset: Writing and Marketing as You
  • Faulty-Tasking
  • The Road to Success is Paved by Free-Sharing

Have fun!


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.