#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.

#Character Archetypes Treasure Troves for #Writers

I promised myself this year, that I would get back to fiction writing and I will… write that is… once I stop having a field day planning characters personalities, strengths and weaknesses; and plotting about how I can weave all that into plots.

Delve into the inspiring world of character archetypes and see what comes out. There are a few hundred to choose from and you will be intrigued by how assigning roles to people (especially couples), fuels ideas!

If you are asking, what is an archetype, here is the definition: a recurrent symbol or motif in literature, art, or mythology; mid 16th cent.: via Latin from Greek arkhetupon ‘something moulded first as a model.’

Original Source Embedded in Graphic

Original Source Embedded in Graphic


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.

Lessons Learnt by a Slightly Lost, Irish, Novel Researcher

20141703Last week on Triberr I read another writer’s post about seven crazy things she’d done in the name of novel research. Some were so risky, I am amazed she didn’t get arrested! It made me feel somewhat better about myself. As today is St Patrick’s Day, it’s a good time to share the lessons I am learning in my own novel research.

Quick Background: I am resurrecting and updating my old “Chronicles of Mirchar” series with a Celtic identity. It is set within a solar system of seven related planets; features warriors who are several thousand years old who still work with daggers, swords and warhorses… and the whole process of putting it together between migraines has been an epic learning curve.

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The Lessons:

1. If you want to write descriptions well and understand a little more about your character’s discomforts, challenges and joys, it helps to actually own or be familiar with objects they use. For example, horse tack, daggers, swords, saddles: all the cool stuff! I went and bought a bitless bridal that hangs over my desk. Being able to handle the leather, see how non-slip reigns are constructed (and how much they would hurt your hands, gloves or not, after a few hours) is invaluable. I can’t ride for medical reasons, I had to find out somehow. Don’t let “you can’t,” get in the way!

2. If you are dealing with tricky subjects like weapons, which are frowned on in this part of the world unless you own a farm, check with Customs import rules, before you get up the sales hopes of an awesome bladesmith and fall in love with the dagger you have to have. (Sorry Jeff, I can’t get anything remotely that good here.) They don’t like untreated leather products and all kinds of things, so if using International mail, check before you get your heart broken.

3. When you see a HUGE sign that says, “Pattons Big Gun” and it is in a semi-rural area… before you drive the 14 miles back to visit the gun shop, (hoping they will have a dagger or some blade advice,) C.H.E.C.K. Google to find out what that business really does.

Here is what I saw:

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If I had looked at the full signage and not the gun, I would have discovered it was a butcher. Plus… the one I went to had just gone out of business and their shop was being refitted for someone else. Epic facepalm! We couldn’t even buy dinner for our trouble.

Underwood

4. Horses drool. Can someone please keep reminding me of that one? I will need that reminder when I go to the local Riding School to bombard them with equine behaviour questions. Knowing my luck, I am expecting a horse to eat my question list. ;-) Just after I’ve written down the answers too…

5. Don’t be afraid of criticism, stupid questions, or of taking pride in your work. Yes, I own a mane comb, hoof pick and bridle (they help me remember how big those animals are. I am a city dweller, I need help with proportions.) They sit in a public spot in my house where people are in and out… and we are just waiting for someone to ask if the bridle hanging off the curtain rail is actually something that would feature in a More Cowbell post. (Love your work Jenny!) No, it’s not… but it does remind me of some of the awful back braces I had to wear as a kid.

So want one!!!!!!!!!!!!!

So want one!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I have found most people I have talked to (non-writers) think it’s great I am writing, doing something new despite my health and my horse-loving friends are looking at me with new light in their eyes. I have learnt to talk to my husband in a calm, confident voice, when visiting the local Saddlery. “That hoof pick is for Charlotte.” (Actually, it is, as I need to learn about what she needs. Charlotte is a 16 hands, Thoroughbred, bay coloured, brood mare; bred to Turbot, latest foal is Danae; no bit required due to horse-rider spiritual connection – I have totally got this!) I can now do things like that without feeling like an idiot and when asked by saddlery staff why no bit, I have an answer.

I have lifted saddles to test the strain they put on riders backs when saddling a horse; showed disgust at the time-saving el cheapo options for horses (no class and you don’t bond with your animal as much) and on staff request, could demonstrate a clear understanding of why I have to use saddle soap on my bridle. All in public, which normally I would cringe at… How: I have read, read, read and read. And thank God for Youtube how-to channels and a very patient husband, who still thinks I am a bit weird in public. I know she is not real… but how do you define real when you are working with characters and the horses will function as secondary characters.

If you work hard, you can hold your head up, have a great deal of fun (minus anything involving weapons) and learn things you never knew.

Now all I want is a miniature donkey as a pet. Why not? It’s research! (And a Clydesdale… ok, can I have a Scottish Claymore sword too? Plus a Celtic dagger, a complete horse grooming brush set, a Dublin Riding top, funky cowgirl boots…)

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

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

Reblogs are welcome as long as the post is attributed to me and no text is changed.

Please Help a Fellow Author Who Has Suffered a Serious Stroke

1527836_10151884844036127_532640268_nThe greatest gift blogging and social networking has given me is the people I have met, some of whom are very dear to my heart. This post is an appeal to help Rags Daniels, a fellow Author who has suffered a stroke. He is in his early seventies and has a long road to recovery ahead. Obviously, he is offline, so I am asking all of you to help out by sharing / tweeting about Rags’ books and/or buy some to help him with the medical costs his family are undoubtably inundated with.

Rags is one of the few proper gentlemen left! He has the heart of a lion and has become very special to me in the months I have known him. He has given generously to charity work over many years and has also taken a child into his home to care for. If anyone I know deserves the help, he does. You just have to look at the love left on his Facebook wall to see that he’s gained a special spot in more hearts than mine… and he is an awesome writer with incredible life experience from which to draw his novels!

Please share his books on your social media accounts and/or buy a book… or two! For those of you so inclined, I am sure prayer would be welcomed. Please go to Amazon in your country and search for Rags Daniels. His book descriptions are below with links to the United Kingdom site. They come in Kindle and paperback and are perfect for crime lovers.

51oYw8O9BSL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_SX342_SY445_CR,0,0,342,445_SH20_OU02_Lallapaloosa: October 8, 1967, ‘Che’ Ernesto Guevara was executed… Or so the world believed. Inspired by a true sequence of events, ’Lallapaloosa’ tells in flashback the story leading up to the betrayal and ‘capture’ of the worlds most famous revolutionary and master of disguise. Original, fast moving, and atmospheric to the last whiff of a Partagas cigar, it begins thirty years after the event with a series of sinister murders against a fraternity of retired mercenaries who, having fought alongside ‘Che’ in the Congo, grouped for one last mission in the jungles of Bolivia. For thirty years, Richard Strang, thought he shared the worlds best kept secret with no one. Then one summer evening, the tap of a blind man’s cane, and a nose for the toasted Cuban leaf, changed all that.

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Click on image to go to Rags’ Amazon Author page.

Foxy Lady:Lady Carolyne Dryden is a brilliant and gifted young woman operating a policy auction house in London for her father. Late one evening she is brutally assaulted, robbed, and left to die. A few days later two bodies are found in the same house the assault took place. Others follow, and a sewer of corruption contained beneath the razzamatazz of a General Election leads to shattering revelations and murderous passions; causing her well-organised world to turn into an arena of pursuit and terror, and where the only certainty is that nothing is certain. Bursting with insight into the seedy, sleazy world of political funding, Foxy Lady leads the reader totally believing through all its unbelievable twists and turns until its astonishing climax. Optima corrupta pessima. ‘The best things corrupted become the worst.’

51HAqZGFfbL._SY445_Groomed to Kill: Group 13 aka Pegasus, the Government’s assassination and dirty tricks squad some say still exist. Others vehemently deny its existence.‘Groomed To Kill’ is a well crafted high velocity tale of intrigue, sex and betrayal. Dialogue driven, it is a story taken from the journals of James Sutherland and spans over fifty years of one mans life, a life dedicated to serving without question those whose responsibility it is to defend the realm by any means at their disposal. Jimmy Sutherlands’ story begins in post war ravaged Salford and tells of his schooling in weaponry by Owen Kelly, a WW2 veteran sniper. Throughout his distinguished career, Jimmy carries out numerous assassinations for his taskmaster and controller Frank Steadman. Then on retirement, Jimmy gets news of the release from prison of crime lord Hector Cicero, brutal murderer of his brother, Billy. The scene is now set for what becomes a searing quest for vengeance, culminating in a vicious gangland battle for supremacy in England’s northwest. Aided by Andy Cassin, his old and trusted childhood friend and whose brother was also murdered by Hector Cicero, Jimmy Sutherland takes on both the Cicero and McGuire crime cartels with devastating consequences…

30sex Hours: ‘Operation Spanner’ was the codename of an undercover investigation carried out by Manchester City Police, in 1988. The police had obtained a video which they believed depicted acts of sadistic torture. Convinced the people in the video were being tortured and killed, a murder investigation was launched, a number of properties were raided and several arrests were made. Now meet the voluptuous and delectable, PC Koral Devine. Dark, sultry and according to her superiors, a bit of a handful, she had been tipped by her Commanding Officer to win the prestigious award of undercover policewoman of the year. But first she had to infiltrate a ring of local luminaries lead by amateur film maker ‘Uncle Albert’ and resident Magistrate Hilda Carstairs, who were believed to operate a lucrative business catering for the slaves of ‘leather and steel’. Her assignment is both a perilous and intimate initiation into the world of sado masochism; and PC Koral Devine will do absolutely anything to get ‘her man’.

51YeTX3qqLL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_SX342_SY445_CR,0,0,342,445_SH20_OU02_Salford Sunrise: Salford Sunrise is a well-crafted, brilliantly witty, high velocity tale of intrigue, sex and betrayal. Dialogue driven, the story has been taken and adapted from the chronicles of James Sutherland and spans over fifty years of one man’s life, a life dedicated to serving without question those whose responsibility it is to defend the realm by any means at their disposal.


Meet Rags

Rags_croppedRags Daniels aka Trevor Timbs, was born into a working class family, the second of four children,  Salford 1944.  He migrated South 1956. Wild and curious, he ran off to London, where he met the majority of the characters he writes about.

The swinging sixties and early seventies played a major roll in his insatiable thirst for adventure, and against a backdrop of mini-skirts, mod’s, rockers and Muhammad Ali, bore witness to an era of crazy fads, culminating in  Britain’s first ever woman Prime Minister in 1979. And of whom Lord Acton said, ‘Absolute power corrupts absolutely, ’ and by the end of her era, Thatcher was case in point. And while the Nation paddled through rubbish, bodies unburied, strikes, power cuts, spiralling inflation, limited working weeks, abysmal production, etc, etc, the real money was going into the pockets of fraudulent corporate boards and City Yuppies. (Groomed to Kill), his first book was written against a backdrop of inner city poverty and tells of lad who  became a government assassin.

Rags worked in Norway on timber frame construction, where he met John Millen, a naval architect who designed Pearl Harbour after the war. He became a ‘minder’ for his mother-in-law, both on and off his motor yacht in which he and his wife toured the world. Returning home,  he then attended Brunel University and passed I.O.C.W.(GB)inc,  exams. Rags started working with Borough Architects Dept.; resigned; got married and built his own house in South Devon while running several companies. He has also constructed a steel mill in India  and a tiger compound in Nepal for the World Wildlife Trust.

When widowed, he returned to writing and investigative journalism… It is from his diaries of the 60’s and 70’s he wrote ‘Foxy Lady’, creating a fictional account of one such tale of political intrigue, and one for which he was interviewed by MI6. His latest book ‘Salford Sunrise’, is available in Amazon Kindle and ‘Lallapaloosa’ is currently being scripted for the silver screen. He resides with his son, an A level English teacher, and Roxzan, his 13 year old adopted Granddaughter.


Follow Rags

Writing Challenges Online: 2014 Calendar

51A-PsG1t2LUpdated: January 25th 

A master list of all the online writing events I have been able to track down is below. The CommuniCATE Resources for Writers blog has several initiatives planned for 2014, including Support An Author Month in May, “Blog Taming Month” in February and Independent Author Promotion Month in September.

For an amazing series of lists on blogging events based on every topic, word combination or theme you can think of, visit The Daily Post. You’ll be hooked!

All Year

ROW80LogocopyA 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.

5436912_origThe Ligo Haibun Haiku Weekly Challenge:
http://www.yakutia-coppercure.co.uk/l298go-ha298bun.html#.UsyjOaX_Qkg This is original! Haibun is a piece of prose and at least one haiku. The challenge is to take one of the two prompt words, quotes, or visuals and blog it!

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.

logoNaPoBloMo, BlogHer’s National Blog Posting Month: http://www.blogher.com/blogher-topics/blogging-social-media/nablopomo This now appears to run each month with a theme. People post a link to their posts that they publish on their personal blogs. You must sign up by the 5th of each month.

Blog Blitz by DL Hammons:
Blog Blitz Edithttp://dlcruisingaltitude.blogspot.com.au/2013/03/blog-blitz-wanna-join.html Sign up on the linky list making sure to record your email address, and you’ll instantly become a member of the Blog Blitz Team. Then from time to time, DL will select a deserving blog, email the team members and on that date team members visit that blog and leave an encouraging comment on the most recent post. The aim is promotion and to leave 100 plus comments on each blog selected.

#challengetowrite http://www.coasahmom.com/p/challengetowrite.html#.UaLiDpUyHHg

awwbadge_2014Australian Women Writers Challenge http://australianwomenwriters.com/2014-challenge/
The 2014 Australian Women Writers Challenge was set up to help overcome gender bias in the reviewing of books by Australian women. The challenge encourages avid readers and book bloggers, male and female, Australian and non-Australian, to read and review books by Australian women throughout the year. You don’t have to be a writer to sign up. You can choose to read and review, or read only. (Suggestions for what makes a good review can be found here.) The challenge will run from Jan 1 – Dec 31, 2014. You can sign up at any time. Follow @auswomenwriters on Twitter and use the #aww2014


March

NaNoEdMo, National Novel Editing Month: http://www.test.nanoedmo.net This can be used to compliment NaNoWriMo. Your novel, reborn: 50 hours of editing in one month.


April

logo-napowrimoNaPoWriMo, National Poetry Writing Month: http://www.napowrimo.net Write a poem a day in April.

Camp NaNoWriMo, April and July, http://campnanowrimo.org/ Based on November’s National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), Camp NaNoWriMo provides the online support, tracking tools, and hard deadline to help you write the rough draft of your novel in a month… other than November!

logo2Wego Health Bloggers Challenge: http://blog.wegohealth.com/2012/04/01/april-is-health-activist-writers-month-hawmc/ Health Activist Writer’s Month is a month dedicated to the art of writing… about health. Award nominations for health bloggers are held later in the year. Watch the Wego website for events and challenges.

A2Z-2013-BADGE-001A-Z Blogging Challenge: http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com “Can you post every day except Sundays during this month?  And to up the bar, can you blog thematically from A to Z?”

This appears to be one of the more popular challenges which has gained a great deal of traffic for participating blogs. They also have a reflections session at the end and guest post opportunities on their blog.


May

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Story A Day: http://storyaday.org “An annual Extreme Writing Challenge. Write a story every day in May.”

Story of my Life Blogathon: http://storyofmylifetheblog.blogspot.com.au/2013/04/blog-every-day-in-may-challenge.html Blog every single day in the month of May.


June

junowrimo-book-button-large-e1367440612773JuNoWriMo, June Novel Writing Month: http://junowrimo.com Write your novel in June, with a goal of 50,000 words, or 1667 words/day on average.

Word Count Blogathon: http://michellerafter.com/the-wordcount-blogathon/ The Blogathon is an annual community blogging challenge that brings together freelancers, writers and bloggers for the purpose of improving what they do by posting to their respective blogs every day for a month.

#Rockyourblog: http://eatplayrock.com/2013/05/june-writing-prompts/ from Cheap Is The *New* Classy and Eat Play Rock know that sometimes it can be hard to think of something to write about. So, we are happy to bring you this summertime themed list of prompts for the month of June. We hope that these summer topics can provide you some inspiration! As an added incentive, one lucky participant will win a $10 Starbucks Gift Card and a 125×125 ad space for an entire month on both Cheap Is The *New* Classy and Eat Play Rock!


October

OctPoWriMo, October Poetry Writing Month: http://www.octpowrimo.com Write 31 poems in 31 days.


November

Nanowrimo-298x415NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month from the Office of Letters and Light: http://nanowrimo.org Write your novel in a month with a supportive community, word count tracker and a goal of 50,000 words. If November is a bad month for you, see Camp NaNoWriMo under April. This is the biggest event of the year. If you don’t write novels, you can join as a NaNoRebel or…

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!”


December

2014-01-25_15-56-28INTERNATIONAL PLOT WRITING MONTH: December AKA PostNaNoPlot Perfection http://plotwrimo.com PlotWriMo initially came about to help writers who take part in NaNoWriMo and find at the end of November they are left with a whole lot of words that do not always add up to much. PlotWriMo annually spans the entire month of December for writers who have a draft of a novel, memoir, screenplay and are wondering, now what? This is a chance to revision and redefine the plot arch of your project before actually rewriting the manuscript. (This also works for writers without a first draft. Whether you merely have an idea for a story, a few chapters or scenes, just tweak the assignments to make them work for wherever you are in the process.)



Know of a challenge not listed here? Please let me know.

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Lessons I Learned from Writing My First Book, by Sandra Nikolai

Bio-234x300The leap into publishing can be an unnerving journey marked with a steep learning curve. Not only do writers have to understand the specifics of the trade, but they also need to wear a variety of hats when handling the different aspects of the business as it evolves.

Some of the lessons I learned while writing and promoting my first mystery novel came from how-to books that still line my shelf. The other lessons I learned came from hands-on experience. From these lessons, I set up five guidelines that would come in handy the second time around. I’d like to share them with you now:

1. Above all, be true to yourself. Write in a genre that is familiar to you. Don’t attempt to write stories about vampires and wizards just because they’re trendy. Write what you know best and write to please yourself—not everybody else. Use a style of writing that comes naturally. It will help you find your author’s voice. Accept who you are as a writer. Trust your instincts and make choices that you won’t regret later on.

2. Organize your time. Most writers agree that writing is a priority, but so many other things begging for attention can be a drain on your time and energy. Writing calls for discipline. Reinforce good writing habits by maintaining a schedule, even if it’s only a couple of hours a day. It’s surprising how much you can accomplish when you’re under pressure! If you encounter a setback one day, keep on going the next. Tomorrow offers a chance to get things back on track. Reward your progress with a good book, a movie or more family fun time in the evening.

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Click on cover to order book.

3. Understand the give and take of social networking. The more time you spend online, the more it takes away from your writing schedule. Try to limit your daily visits online to three sessions of twenty minutes each. Use this time to build up your network, promote your work, and support fellow writers. Walking away from your writing helps to refresh your mind, so these short breaks play a dual role.

4. Hire a professional editor. Your software program might not spot the distinction between there and they’re in a sentence, but a copyeditor will. Feedback is important, and an editor who has expertise in structural or developmental content can be an invaluable asset. If you’re on a tight budget but happen to belong to a writers’ group, you can ask another member to review your manuscript in return for the same service. At the very least, get someone with an excellent knowledge of grammar and punctuation to proofread your work.

5. Promote early. Don’t wait until your book is published. Ask one or more authors to read an advance copy of your book and provide reviews for promotional purposes. Offer to read and review their work in return. Create a buzz about your book months before the release date. Once you have a final book cover design, promote it through social media. Many sites offer free or inexpensive services that help promote authors. Do your research and choose sites that work best for you. If you’re publishing paperback copies, bookmarks with a link to your website or retailer is an economical way to spread the word about your book. Find out which bookstores support local authors and sponsor book-signing events. Some coffee shops hold author events too. It pays to ask around.


1174793_518133394929463_11253479_nFollow Sandra

Website and blog: http://sandranikolai.com

Twitter: @sandranikolai

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SandraNikolaiAuthor

False Impressions on Amazon US

Fatal Whispers on Amazon US

Bio

Sandra Nikolai graduated from McGill University in Montreal and worked in sales, finance, and high tech before devoting her days to writing. She is a member of Crime Writers of Canada and has published a dozen short stories online and in print, earning Honourable Mentions along the way.

Fatal Whispers follows False Impressions in a mystery series featuring ghostwriter Megan Scott and investigative reporter Michael Elliott. When not plotting mysteries, Sandra shares her thoughts and experiences about the writing world on her blog and has been a frequent guest writer on other blogs. She lives with her husband near Ottawa, where she is currently at work on her next novel in the series.

CWC-Member

This blog post is Copyright Sandra Nikolai 2013. All rights are reserved Internationally. You may not reproduce it in any form, in part of whole, without the author’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-use if it is for a commercial venture.

Stephen King: Short Stories and Novels, How they Form

Stephen King“Stephen King was born in Portland, Maine in 1947, the second son of Donald and Nellie Ruth Pillsbury King. He made his first professional short story sale in 1967 to Startling Mystery Stories. In the fall of 1973, he began teaching high school English classes at Hampden Academy, the public high school in Hampden, Maine. Writing in the evenings and on the weekends, he continued to produce short stories and to work on novels. In the spring of 1973, Doubleday & Co., accepted the novel Carrie for publication, providing him the means to leave teaching and write full-time. He has since published over 50 books and has become one of the world’s most successful writers.” Source: http://www.stephenking.com/index.html

Writing Your Way Through Depression


Christy BirminghamThe reasons why people choose to write can vary widely. For me, writing has been an integral part of my healing journey over the past three years. I was in a deep depression when my therapist suggested I begin to write my feelings down in a journal as a way to work through them. Over time, the writings became poems, and those poems became the basis for my book Pathways to Illumination.

The Writing Begins

At that time, writing was a scary venture. To write down my thoughts meant that I had to acknowledge them. It was so much easier to be numb than address any feelings. I knew it was probable I would have realizations about my toxic relationship that recently ended and my suicide attempt, when I began to journal.

My therapist did not assign a certain writing style, but she did prompt me with questions to answer in my journal. As I began to write my answers, I did have realizations. I began to explore why my self-confidence was extremely low. I was face-to-face with the assumptions I held about both my body and my surroundings; I had tried to avoid those thoughts for so long.

Along the way, I regained my love for poetry. I had not written poetry lately, although it had been a love of mine throughout my school years. I started to experiment with the lines and found new perceptions emerge as I continued with my therapy sessions. I focused on myself again; it had been a long time since I had allowed myself to do so.

I had another powerful realization. The issues I dealt with were bigger than my life alone. Other women had been, and potentially were still, in abusive relationships similar to the one I experienced.

PIRPCoverRealization Leads to Publishing

That light-bulb moment was my motivation to continue to write poetry, in hopes to put together a published collection designed to help women. Depression, anxiety, and abuse were the themes I delved into with my writing. Slowly, word by word, I created the poetry collection. I healed as I wrote about a woman who still held pieces of hope even after her life shattered around her. I tied in parts of my own experiences, although the book is not a memoir.

I healed so much as I wrote the poetry book. The cathartic nature of writing is evident, whether one chooses to journal, essay, pen poetry, or other style of choice. I worked through many feelings as I wrote Pathways to Illumination and I hope readers understand that they are not alone. I hope the book comes to readers as a warm blanket on a quiet day, with its comforting text and photography.


Meet Christy

Christy Birmingham is a freelance writer, author and poet. She lives in British Columbia, Canada, where she enjoys walks on local trails and time relaxing with close family and friends. She shares her experiences about depression, anxiety, and abuse to help others who may suffer. Enjoy more of her poetry at Poetic Parfait and connect with her on Twitter.


This blog post is Copyright Christy Birmingham 2013. All rights are reserved Internationally. You may not reproduce it in any form, in part of whole, without the author’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-use if it is for a commercial venture.

Seeing is Believing: Developing Characters in Unlikely Places

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Character gathering has always been a hobby of mine, either by conversation technique, observation, or a combination of both. There is a certain skill attached to observing human behaviour and, I have found, being the cat-curious person I am, the perfect breeding grounds for observing everyday life and the creation of character fodder I use in my writings.

I use the plural ‘grounds’ because my sources are wide-ranging and differ greatly. Albeit they have one thing in common, and that is where potential subjects are usually so deep in thought as they go about their business, they haven’t a clue they are being observed, or for that matter overheard when they engage in occasional animated conversation.

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By now you have probably guessed my sources of character inspiration. And yes, they are the mundane superstores where the world and its brother appear to drop their inhibitions and concentrate on the job in hand, totally oblivious of yours truly and others around them. Each is a vast coalface of quirky human mannerisms, ranging from the hilarious to verging on the pan-faced-robotic. And each a bottomless pit, deeper than an Abyssinian watering hole, of intrigue and curiosity. So whether it is the lowly ‘Pound Shop’ or Harrods, and everything in between, each has its own strata of humanity waiting to be mined and put to good use.

Time consuming you may say, but the weekly results meticulously filed away for future character formulation can lead to both imaginative and arresting storylines. Dickens had the knack of creating masterpieces involving characters with quirky, memorable names. Let’s face it; do you know anyone who has been sued by by Messrs Bumble or Fagin? So to negate libel action and still create a vivid image for your reader, avoid naming the person with a wooden leg, one eye and a propensity to spit a lot, Mister Smith. Because should a Mister Smith exist and display all these unfortunate attributes, your bank balance could take on a lighter shade of anthracite.

Humanity in abundance will always conceal a misfit displaying mannerisms before gone unnoticed, whether it be dress, behaviour, insobriety, deportment or the absurd.

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Click on image to go to Rags’ Amazon Author page.


e6f4bbb0a8290a22d17bdc.L._V149783332_Meet Rags

Rags Daniels was Born into a working class family, the second of four children,  Salford 1944.  He migrated South 1956. Wild and curious, he ran off to London, where he met the majority of the characters he writes about.

The swinging sixties and early seventies played a major roll in his insatiable thirst for adventure, and against a backdrop of mini-skirts, mod’s, rockers and Muhammad Ali, bore witness to an era of crazy fads, culminating in  Britain’s first ever woman Prime Minister in 1979. And of whom Lord Acton said, ‘Absolute power corrupts absolutely, ’ and by the end of her era, Thatcher was case in point. And while the Nation paddled through rubbish, bodies unburied, strikes, power cuts, spiralling inflation, limited working weeks, abysmal production, etc, etc, the real money was going into the pockets of fraudulent corporate boards and City Yuppies. (Groomed to Kill), his first book was written against a backdrop of inner city poverty and tells of lad who  became a government assassin.

Rags worked in Norway on timber frame construction, where he met John Millen, a naval architect who designed Pearl Harbour after the war. He became a ‘minder’ for his mother-in-law, both on and off his motor yacht in which he and his wife toured the world. Returning home,  he then attended Brunel University and passed I.O.C.W.(GB)inc,  exams. Rags started working with Borough Architects Dept.; resigned; got married and built his own house in South Devon while running several companies. He has also constructed a steel mill in India  and a tiger compound in Nepal for the World Wildlife Trust.

When widowed, he returned to writing and investigative journalism… It is from his diaries of the 60’s and 70’s he wrote ‘Foxy Lady’, creating a fictional account of one such tale of political intrigue, and one for which he was interviewed by MI6. His latest book ‘Salford Sunrise’, is ready for publishing. And ‘Lallapaloosa’ is currently being scripted for the silver screen. He resides with his son, an A level English teacher, and Roxzan, his 13 year old adopted Granddaughter.


Follow Rags


Copyright Rags Daniels 2013. All rights are reserved Internationally. You may not reproduce it in any form, in part of whole, without 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 this work if it is for a commercial venture. Link sharing and Pinterest pins are most welcome as long as Rags Daniels is the attributed Author.

No images on this blog may be copied, captured, or altered for your own purpose without the consent of the originating owner.

Hang Onto Inspiration – Writing Excellent Descriptions

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“My screaming-blue mountaineering parka makes me feel like some kind of toxin.” Anne Batterson, The Black Swan

“Incense perfumed the air, a special kind she bought in Little Tokyo, without any sweetness, expensive; it smelled of wood and green tea.”  Janet Fitch, White Oleander

image005Several years ago I began collecting examples of scintillating material from books I read. I created the collection to study techniques of authors I admire, and it has dramatically benefited my writing. Perusing those clips has furthered my understanding of effective description and my skill in writing it.

In the beginning, I couldn’t quantify what these authors were doing besides using innovative adjectives and similes — as far as I could tell, it was magic. But rubbing the lantern that held that magic  began stretching my view of life and the world, challenging me to see things in new ways. Reading a concentrated collection of pure excellence continues to prime my creativity pump. It pushes me out of my perceptual ruts and expands boundaries of awareness and possibility, showing me angles I may miss on my own.

When I read a print book, I keep a pad of sticky tags at hand to flag especially delightful, succulent passages as illustrated in the photo above from Anne Lamott’s book, Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith. When I finish reading, the book often resembles a porcupine, with a couple of dozen tags protruding from the edge.

The next step is to type the flagged passages into a jerry-rigged database consisting of a table in Word. That may take half an hour or so for an especially inspiring book, but it’s time well-spent, reinforcing the power of the examples and setting them more firmly in memory. The screenshot below shows how it works.

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Notice that I usually include the page number for the passage, in case I want to refer to it later. Publication data is minimal. Amazon makes it easy to fill that in later if I need it. As I enter the material from each book, I leave the Title column blank. When I finish all entries, I type the title and author once, copy it, and paste it in each row below for that book.

The Label column can include anything that helps or interests you. If you keep it to one word, you can sort the table on the Labels column and find all the material on that particular topic quickly and easily. Since I’ve begun adding additional labels, I use the Find function to look for them.

My method is crude, and someone with more savvy could improve upon it. A database would be a better approach, but the boundaries of my geekiness don’t stretch enough to include database expertise — a gal’s got to have limits!

When eBooks entered my life, I expanded the process. I love eBooks for many reasons, and the ease of capturing examples tops the list. I currently read on an iPad, and here’s my process, adaptable for your device.

H&C Description 400

Click on the cover to buy the book.

For Kindle books, I highlight passages and occasionally add a note. When I’ve finished reading on the Kindle iPad app, I open the book on Kindle for PC. From there I work my way through the Notes & Marks list, copying highlighted passages and note contents to paste into my table. Instead of page numbers, I enter the eBook location.

For ePub books (the format used by Nook, Kobo, and other readers), I read with iBooks. I copy highlighted passages and note content and paste them into an Evernotes file where I can access it on my PC for transfer to Word. Pasting this material into a self-addressed email or a Notes page would work just as well.

Write now: start a new file with a simple table like the one in the example and purchase a stash of sticky flags so you can start your own collection of juicy examples for further study and inspiration. Your writing skills will soar as a result. If you need help creating the table, refer to the last chapter in The Heart and Craft of Lifestory Writing.


Meet Sharon Lippincott:

slm-pres07Sharon Lippincott, life writing coach and teacher, is addicted to writing, specializing in zany observations of writing and life on her blog. The Heart and Craft of Writing Compelling Description. Her mission is to encourage the global use of Story to heal lives and the world.

Blog: http://heartandcraft.blogspot.com

Amazon page: http://goo.gl/WgK6f


This blog post is Copyright Sharon Lippincott 2013. All rights are reserved Internationally. You may not reproduce it in any form, in part of whole, without the author’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-use if it is for a commercial venture.

Coping with a Cynical Critique, by Sandra Nikolai

Equator-1-Gallery-300x225Like any writer who wants to succeed, I spent years learning about the profession and refining my skills. I attended writers’ conferences, studied how-to books on writing and publishing, and read piles of novels in a variety of genres.

Armed with a draft of my first mystery novel, I took the next step in the process: I found a mentor through a writers’ group I’d joined. My mentor offered to review the first and last thirty pages of my novel and email her comments to me after a month’s time.

At the end of the session, her email arrived and I was eager to read it. As my eyes flew over the words, disbelief stifled enthusiasm. Her remarks were sarcastic and stung as much on screen as if she’d read them out loud in a room full of people. She proposed drastic changes to the characters, settings, and plot. She even advised me to re-write the entire story in the third person. (I’d written it in the first person.) In closing, she defended her position as a “tough editor” and hoped her comments would help me write a better book.

You’ve got to be kidding!

My next reaction was to send “Miss Sarcastic” a nasty email but I decided against it. It wasn’t worth the time or energy to respond to someone who was inconsiderate and rude. I’d just file a complaint against her on the evaluation form I had to complete and send it off to the writers’ group headquarters. And yet…

I read Miss Sarcastic’s comments again. Her mocking attitude had dealt a serious blow to my ego, but what if she was right and my story did need a revamp? After all, she had a handful of published mystery novels under her belt and had mentored other writers. I was…well…green. Surely she must know what she’s talking about. And so I conceded, knowing that the revisions to my manuscript would entail a major upheaval. In fact, the task proved a lot more difficult than writing the book in the first place and took months out of my life. After I’d finished, I put it aside. When I read it a week later, I was disheartened. It was no longer my story. The changes I’d made had sucked the life right out of it. I hated it.

Not one to accept defeat, I reviewed Miss Sarcastic’s comments again—this time from an unbiased perspective. I dug out my original manuscript and integrated the changes that I felt would benefit the story and ignored the rest. After I finished, I had to admit it was a stronger novel.

I recently heard that my mentor has abandoned her writing career. Her book sales weren’t doing well, so she accepted a job with a media firm. If anything, I owe her a modicum of gratitude. The experience inspired me to set up guidelines that I’ve since followed when reviewing critiques of my work. I’d like to share them with other writers in the hope they might find them useful too:

1. Take the time to review a critique. Let it ferment. You might interpret it differently later on.

2. Try not to take a negative critique as a personal insult but consider it with an open mind.

3. A negative critique gives you a choice: either fix the problem or ignore it. Consider how any change will affect your story. Will it strengthen or weaken it?

4. No one knows your characters or plot as well as you do. If a suggestion for a change doesn’t fit— no matter how good it might sound, don’t force it into the story.

5. Growing as a writer means heeding your inner voice or gut feelings. Trust your writer’s instincts more often. If you believe that a change will improve the story, do it. If not, move on.

Happy writing!

CWC-Member

Meet Sandra Nikolai

Bio-234x300Sandra was raised in Montreal, Québec, and graduated from McGill University. As a young girl, she loved reading the Nancy Drew mystery series and was determined to write her own stories one day. Her career choices didn’t exactly lead her along the “yellow brick road” to writing mystery novels—though working in a bank and experiencing a string of armed robberies did ingrain terrifying memories worthy of a story!

In 2002, Sandra won an Honorable Mention in Canadian Writer’s Journal short fiction competition. She has since published a dozen short stories online and in print. False Impressions is her first mystery novel in a series featuring ghostwriter Megan Scott and investigative reporter Michael Elliott. She is currently working on Fatal Whispers, book two in the series.

Sandra is a member of Crime Writers of Canada and Capital Crime Writers.

You can catch up with Sandra at her beautiful website and blog:


This blog post is Copyright Sandra Nikolai 2013. All rights are reserved Internationally. You may not reproduce it in any form, in part of whole, without the author’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-use if it is for a commercial venture.

Learning Curve: Editing and Publishing

The Writer’s Coffee Shop contacted me early last year and asked if I would be interested in writing a novel. They had seen some of my online stories, one of which had become surprisingly popular. Those online stories were the only writing I have ever done. I have no formal training, not even an online course, and so it was a matter of learning to be a writer as I went, making mistakes and trying to learn from them.

The editing process taught me the most. I had two different editors, and both of them had something different to teach me. Most of the time, authors are assigned one editor who continues working with them in their next books, but scheduling issues prevented me from having the same team on the second book.  It was such a great learning opportunity I told them I would be okay with it if they wanted to assign a new editor to me for the third.

Lissa-Bryan-Ghostwriter-Front-Cover-WebresI used to correspond with a published author. Her writing advice was the best I have ever been given: “Every scene, every sentence, every word, must drive the plot forward. If it doesn’t move the plot or reveal something important about the characters, cut it. If you can cut it without impacting your novel, it’s just dead weight, dragging your story down.” It is not easy to do. Even with that advice in mind, there were “dead weight” scenes in my manuscript I didn’t want to cut. I tried to make excuses for them, but in the end, I had to admit they served no real purpose, no matter how much I liked them. This one of the things a good editor does for you: gently, but firmly forces you to see where you’ve gone off-track.

One of the first things my editor did was send the manuscript back to me with all of the uses of the word “that” highlighted. “That” is one of the most over-used words in the English language. If the sentence makes sense without it, cut it. I was able to trim out an embarrassingly large number of them.

My second crime against literature was my passionate love for adverbs. Stephen King says the road to hell is paved with them, and he is right. They often tie into that old saying, Show, don’t tell, which was another struggle of mine. It is the difference between writing, “He paced angrily,” and “He paced with his hands clenched, his eyes narrowed and glittering.” The first tells us what he is feeling, the second shows us his emotional state through his body language.

It is part of learning to trust your reader. There’s an old story, likely apocryphal, Hemmingway bet a friend that he could write an entire story in just six words. He won the bet with this: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” With those six words, he gives the reader a full picture, because your mind supplies the necessary details: the crushed hopes of a bereaved family in a dire financial state. Sometimes, the most powerful words are those left unwritten.

theendofallthingsSome of these lessons I learned only in retrospect, but writing is a lifelong journey.  I can’t regret my mistakes, because they were valuable lessons. “We’re all apprentices in a craft where none is truly a master,” as the saying goes. I cannot wait to see what I will learn next.

Contact and Follow Lissa:
Blog: http://lissabryan.blogspot.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/LissaBryan
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/lissa.bryan
GoodReads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5442345.Lissa_Bryan
Buy: http://ph.thewriterscoffeeshop.com/authors/detail/42

http://www.amazon.com/Lissa-Bryan/e/B009N6CFTQ

https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/ghostwriter/id560564245


This blog post is Copyright Lissa Bryan 2013. All rights are reserved Internationally. You may not reproduce it in any form, in part of whole, without the author’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-use if it is for a commercial venture.

Getting to the Heart of Your Story, by Rossandra White

Jans-house-9-20-121At 49 I felt compelled to write a book. Not something I’d always wanted to do. I figured maybe it was just time to finally record all those stories about my ancestors who had been in South Africa since the 1800s, as well as my own stories about growing up in a small Zambian copper mining town; plus a two-year stint on a sisal plantation in Zimbabwe. This was before the two countries were independent, when colonial power held sway, when the bush was full of animals. And then there were all those road trips my family took to the Congo, Malawi, Kenya and Tanzania. The time an elephant chased our car for over five miles, forcing my dad to reverse down an excuse for a dirt road before the elephant gave up. The time we spent in the shadow of Mount Kilimanjaro with a crazy Belgian who kept wild animals for film-makers’ use; as well as that episode in Kenya when the Mau Maus attacked the cattle ranch where we were staying with a family my dad had befriended along the way. I had a lot to write about. What I didn’t know was that I intuitively chose writing “to take fuller possession of the reality of my life,” to paraphrase Ted Hughes.

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Mau Mau

So I started writing, most days after work and on weekends. I agree with Kurt Vonnegut who said writing made him “feel like an armless and legless man with a crayon in his mouth.” Three years later I ended up with a 500 page memoir of flashbacks. The poor volunteer reviewer from the National Writer’s Association I joined penciled these little round faces with downturned mouths in the margins, complete with dialogue: “Oh nooo, not another flashback.” The other reviews I received convinced me just how much I had to learn about writing. Starting over, I bought and read a library of how-to books and took classes; I learnt about structure, plot, conflict, pacing, and theme. I joined critique groups and re-wrote.

This time I started with an incident when I was poisoned by rebels as a six-year old in Zimbabwe and turned my messy tome into a young adult novel and sequel, with two teenage protagonists, a black boy and a white girl. The story had political and spiritual overtones, lots of action, but the white girl and her family were essentially me and my family. The black protagonist represented Africa and her people.

An interested agent told me that the story was a good one, except that it lacked a unifying purpose; I hadn’t found the heart of the story. I didn’t know what that meant. I didn’t know how to pull it all together, how to find that elusive heart. I kept writing. Only now I began to realize that I hadn’t connected in any meaningful way to my characters. I had plumbed the depths of the story’s message and meaning, I had plot points and a climax; I had my people say words that revealed character and furthered the plot, but I didn’t know how they felt about all the conflicts they were going through, how they felt about each other – not in any meaningful way. That was because I had avoided my own feelings from the past. It was too painful. But in order to find the heart of my story I had to do so.

africaI immersed myself in the past and all those feelings I had suppressed. The white girl became more vulnerable, a little less reactive and rebellious; her mother more loving and sympathetic than my own distant mother had ever been; the father more fallible than I’d always believed my own father to be. Overall every character grew, including Africa, a country with which I’ve always had a love-hate relationship. In the end, what I managed to produce was a fully realized coming-of-age story. Both for the protagonists, but especially for me. Through the power of words, I had set down roots in time and explored my own personal myths, uncovered their purpose and grounded myself in a way I might not have been able to do otherwise.

You can follow Rossandra’s blog: “A former bushbaby’s take on writing, appreciating life and everything in between” at http://rossandrawhite.com

Rossandra lives in a Hobbit house, along with her two Staffordshire bull terriers, Fergie and Jake, where she writes about them, her life in Laguna Beach and her African past.


This blog post is Copyright Rossandra White 2013. All rights are reserved Internationally. You may not reproduce it in any form, in part of whole, without the author’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-use if it is for a commercial venture.

The Healing Energy of Words: Writing for the Health of It

Earlier this year I discovered Diana M. Raab’s work on Twitter and asked her to write a post for this blog. I am delighted that she has been able to do it. This is an excellent post for anyone who is working through any battle in their life, whether it be emotional, spiritual or physical. You can follow Diana through Facebook, Red Room and She Writes. Her web site is here and her blog is www.dianaraab.wordpress.com.

“When life takes an unexpected turn, writing can be a beneficial form of release from stress due to either emotional or physical factors. Many published authors have used writing as a catalyst for their survival during difficult times. Some of them include: Mary Karr, Jeannette Walls, Anais Nin, Joan Didion, Tobias Wolff, D.H. Lawrence, Isabel Allende, Vivian Gornick, Kathr writers and Kathryn Harrison, Sue William Silverman, and May Sarton to name a few. For many writers, writing gives a purpose and meaning to their life.

D.H. Lawrence, for example, sat at his mother’s bedside while she was dying and wrote poems about her. He also began an early draft of Sons and Lovers, his novel which explored their complicated, loving, painful and close relationship. Marcel Proust wrote Remembrance of Things Past while sick in bed with asthma. Flannery O’Connor wrote some of her best stories while dying from lupus. I wrote my first book, Getting Pregnant and Staying Pregnant: A Guide to High-Risk Pregnancies back in 1983 while I was on bed rest with my eldest daughter. The book began as a journal I typed on my Smith Corona which was mounted upon a specially-designed bed table my husband built for me. After my daughter was born, I condensed the journal into a prologue and added research to create a self-help reference book for women having similar experiences. Now, more than twenty years later, the book is still in print and has helped many women cope with problem pregnancies.

In her book, Recovering, May Sarton chronicles her battles with depression and cancer. Anais Nin used her journals to write to her deranged father who left the family when she was young. In Nin’s case, her journal entries became a springboard for a four-volume collection of her journals. The memoirist, Mimi Schwartz is another writer who used her journals as a springboard. I’ve heard Mimi speak at a number of writing conferences and she shares her story of having written an essay for Lear’s Magazine about her experience with breast cancer. “Journal writing,” she says, “and the process of turning it into a public account—made all the difference for me in recovering quickly, emotionally and physically. It gave me a double set of survival goals: health and telling the story.”  As a matter of fact, her journal notes inspired her to go from being an English professor to being a narrative writer.

Writing provides an opportunity to vent both small and large issues, from  problems with your boss to the death of a parent. It takes a great deal of energy to be angry at someone; it’s much healthier to drop it, as one would a suitcase full of trash. Holding grudges is unhealthy and certainly quite heavy! Once we are able to let go, it’s easier to gravitate to the joys in life.

Journaling is a cathartic way to spill your feelings out on the page rather than on the person. My attitude is: “Direct the rage to the page.” I have a writing colleague who says, “If it hurts, write harder,” and for years those words were posted above my computer, until they simply became a part of me.

Some years ago, at an Associated Writing Conference, Dr. James Pennebaker, the author of Writing to Heal said, “Writing dissolves some of the barriers between you and others. If you write, it’s easier to communicate with others.” Pennebaker believes that there’s a certain type of writing that erupts when we’re faced with loss, death, abuse, depression and trauma. He does have one rule that he calls, “the flip out rule,” which proclaims that if you get too upset when writing, then simply stop.

Learning to open up about issues from your past and present lives does nott happen over night, but it’s all a part of the healing process. Author Louise DeSalvo, an advocate of writing for healing, began writing her own memoirs, Vertigo and Breathless as a result of coming to grips with her own pain.

Whether you’re affected by change, loss or pain, finding the time to write can be a boon to your healing process. Some people prefer to journal about their experience, while others may lean towards the fictional or poetic modalities to help them escape their own reality. Whatever your choice, once you try it, you’ll see that writing, in any form, can be healthy and empowering.”

Some reasons to journal

  • To discover yourself
  • To vent frustrations and express joys
  • To record and remember events
  • To fine one’s purpose
  • To plan for the future
  • To tap into your intuition
  • To become empowered
  • To build self-confidence
  • To allow self-expression
  • To uncover secrets, sometimes unknown to us
  • To improve communication skills
  • To improve mental health

Some journaling tips

  • Date entries
  • Don’t worry about grammar
  • Be honestly and write deeply
  • Write quickly
  • Don’t erase
  • Write for yourself

Some journaling prompts

  • Make a list of what brings a smile to your face
  • Make a list of all your accomplishments
  • Write about your morning
  • Visualize a place you love and write about it
  • What is your first memory?
  • Describe a grandparent
  • Write about books which have changed your life and why

The entire content of this post, including book covers, is Copyright Diana M. Raab 2012  The link may be shared, but the content may not be reproduced in any form in part or full, whether that be print, audio or digital, without her prior written consent. All rights reserved, world-wide. Action will be taken against offenders.

Diana Raab’s Biography

Since childhood, Diana has been fascinated with the written word. As an only child of working parents, she spent lots of time alone, which she filled with reading a great deal of books and filling the pages of many  journals. That’s how she liked to keep busy. She always expressed herself better on the page. Today, Diana is a poet, memoirist and essayist and teaches at the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program and the Santa Barbara Writers Conference. She frequently writes and lectures on the healing powers journaling and poetry.

Her award-winning poetry, essays and memoirs have appeared widely in journals and anthologies. She has two poetry collections, Dear Anais: My Life in Poems for You (Plain View Press, 2008, winner of the 2009 Next Generation Indie Award For Poetry, and My Muse Undresses Me (Pudding House, 2007) Her memoir, Regina’s Closet: Finding My Grandmother’s Secret Journal won the 2009 Mom’s Choice Award for Adult Nonfiction and the 2008 Indie Excellence Award for Memoir.

She is currently working on her third collection of poetry. She has two forthcoming nonfiction books forthcoming, Writers and Their Notebooks (University of South Carolina Press, 2010) and Your High Risk Pregnancy: A Practical and Supportive Guide (Hunter House Publishers, 2009). This book is a newly updated version of a book originally published in the mid 1980s.

Terry Pratchett “The Importance of Being Amazed about Absolutely Everything”

If you have ever wondered where Terry Pratchett’s fertile mind got it’s ideas from, this is the video for you. Terry gets his PA to do the speech as he is very unwell at the time (2010). It is very funny…  A great overview of Terry’s background, love of books and stories; and his views on life. It’s a gem for all Pratchett fans. I was glued to it. I can see where his ideas came from.

As he says, he “absorbed writers and was astonished at the wealth laid out” for him. It was “better than writing tips.” Terry has since responded to a question on how to write by saying, don’t listen to me, just go and do it.

The link is set to start at 11 minutes and miss the obligatory “thanks to everyone who made this possible speech.” It was Terry’s first speech as Professor at Trinity College, Dublin.

Bio from his web site: “Terry Pratchett is the acclaimed creator of the global bestselling Discworld series, the first of which, The Colour of Magic, was published in 1983. In all, he is the author of fifty bestselling books. His novels have been widely adapted for stage and screen, and he is the winner of multiple prizes, including the Carnegie Medal, as well as being awarded a knighthood for services to literature. Worldwide sales of his books now stand at 70 million, and they have been translated into thirty-seven languages.”