Are Writers Poisoning Their Future? Tough Love On Bad News Overloads

McLKKK7caThe online writing community has it’s positive and negative aspects, one negative being that tightly packed communities can pass along nasty diseases. As seemingly protected as we are behind our individual monitors, we are still subject to catching poisonous attitudes and becoming dis-abled, dis-empowered and dis-enchanted by what ails others.

For the past eight weeks, I’ve been having a ball writing “The Dragon Tree.” Sure it’s tricky and I am an old dog that’s a little blurred with painkillers; but it’s been a voyage of discovery and I’ve only thrown hissy fits at typos I have missed for the fifteenth time! However, every time I read up on something I need to know, for example, first drafts, most of what I find is a mind-bending, howling chorus of negativity against putting pen to paper, or keyboard to pixel. First drafts are supposed to be the scourge of the writer, the substance of hell itself! I had fun. Is something wrong with me?

Writing is fulfilling. That is why we do it. We profess our love, yet, we sink into the negative aspects of the craft too easily.

Ask yourself this:

are we putting ourselves and other writers off the craft of writing,

by generating excessive clouds of negativity?

How many great books won’t be finished or published, as someone/s have shrunk back under the perceived external pressures of too hard? Why? Because the Internet has become overloaded with bad news about how terrible the life of the writer is. We are sneezing the plague over each other.

There is a difference between, “does anyone know how to handle this? and “I can’t cope, it’s awful…” I know it’s tough being an author, my sales stink too. There are some aspects to life which are a love/hate relationship. I know I fall into the same traps you all do and  I’d love to write posts that would make it all better; but at this point I am standing back and asking, has needing constant support and broadcasting our creative issues become a way of life that is pulling us all down? Is my negativity feeding yours, then do you pass it on?

Are we in a needless negativity trap out of habit?

dededefheifuhq3118047108ehoSo I made a creative decision for the sake of my sanity. I stayed offline. In other words, I put on my gas mask and got fresh air into my lungs. There is a lot to be said for writing alone. I have 69,000+ words and my work is growing in a healthy environment of, “yes, I can!” It may be awhile before I decide to come back online properly.

I am not alone in being sick of all this. The Indie Writers Monthly blog has started an interesting series on lies writers tell each other. It’s intriguing, a little complex, but worth reading and evaluating if you are falling into some of these traps of thought such as, “your first book will be unsellable.” Why do we tell each other things like that? Do we believe them ourselves as we’ve read the same thing in so many places, erroneously? The repetition of the negative needs to stop.

We can do better than this!


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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.

Author Survival Resources

salvagente_architetto_f_01rCommuniCATE frequently posts tips, references and encouragement for all writers and authors. The post links below will take you to the most helpful information on the blog.




Social Media and Networking Help




Book Marketing



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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

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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.

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.

Do You Write by Heart or Head? Technique Overload

Complexities that put me off my game.

Complexities that put me off my game.

When does studying the craft of writing stop you or inhibit your work? That is a question which some of us need to ask. Writing has become more than a plotter or pantser issue, it can come down to science vs your instincts as a bard.

I like to know I am doing things the right way. However, in branching back out into fiction, I am finding the more I read about what to include, the more nervous I am becoming with my writing. I look at images on Pinterest, like the one on the right, feeling bemused, hemmed in, inadequate and I am stunned into inaction by a fear of failure. What if the “right” way is not my way? Jane Austen wrote without all this!

Since I originally studied writing, main characters have become protagonists and there are also antagonists, contagonists, deuteragonists… what? Deuteragonists are the main secondary characters. Why can’t we just say that! How many aspiring authors are being scared away? I often get the feeling you I am being told to be perfect and write a specific way, rather than being allowed to just write down that story I need to tell.

There are things I need at the beginning: plot arcs, descriptions, body language, emotional reactions which are realistic, archetypes as a guideline and character profiles (such as the Enneagram); however, I need to begin to ignore many technical articles or stash them for later in the writing process.

Things that freak me out when I am writing a new story for the first time:

  • Dos and Don’ts for the Last 10,000 words of your story.
  • What you should write and when : hook, plot point, response, mid point, attack, plot point, climax, resolution… complete nervous breakdown?
  • Structuring Your Story’s Scenes, Pt. 5 (What if I don’t fit neatly into all that? Did I fail?)
  • 200,000,000 ways to say that, went, and or whatever, which makes me feel like I need to watch every word as it comes out.
  • Revealing secrets, pivotal information etc. for maximum impact on a very detailed, precise manner. (What if I don’t fit neatly into all that? I really stink at this, don’t I!)
  • The First Five Pages. A writer’s guide to staying out of the rejection pile. (That has to come with editing, you can’t get that right, straight off the bat!)
  • The most annoying type of story conflict / the most hated antagonist readers will throw the book down after reading etc.

You get the picture.

My answer: learn slowly as you go; be open to new ideas but don’t let them mash you into a one-size-fits-all, formatted cliché like a Hollywood blockbuster movie… You need to get that story down before you can start working on perfecting it.


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.

When You Feel Like Originality Has Passed You By…

Meridan PlainsIt was during the early 1990’s that I started to write “The Chronicles of Mirchar.” This was before the Internet, it had never been published and I felt my place and character names were pretty safe. I’d never seen them anywhere.

Then around 2003 or so, my husband and I were on holidays in a coastal area I had never been to. This area was fairly new and the suburb name: Meridan Plains. They had “stolen” my continent name! Even though my series was long since abandoned at the time… and had never seen the light of day outside my desk… I still felt the sting of losing my exclusive name. As I had (stupidly) destroyed my original manuscripts, I didn’t even have the satisfaction of storming into their local Council office to demand answers. “Where did you get this from, it was mine!” You know how it is when you get attached to your work. You take the oddest things rather personally…

I went online, checked all my old character names, had a little cry at my lack of originality and vowed to never, ever repeated the mistake. I would research all my names in case I had subconsciously “acquired” someone else’s idea. Then I was working on a name for a key character earlier this year and liked the name “Mirabelle.” I hadn’t read anything where it was used by my favourite authors and it looked safe to me. I did no further checking. It was just an old fashioned girl’s name. A few weeks later, I opened the cupboard. Months earlier we had changed light bulb types and voila!

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[Epic facepalm!] I named a favourite character after a light bulb. Please hold back on the “she must be a bright spark,” jokes! So much for learning that lesson. Though there is one thing I did learn from that: no matter what the genre, you don’t have to be perfect all the time… have fun and do what you want anyway. As one idea leads to another, then yet another, you never know what may come from it.

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If you ever need it, this is how you name characters, places and construct languages in fantasy stories.
keepcalmandloveminions

Character images property of Universal Studios.

1. Base them on known sounds and words so they strike a familiar chord with readers and don’t sound fake. Case in point, in the movie Despicable Me 2, the Minions call an apple “papple” and their banana language comes from a mix of many languages including Spanish, French, English etc. They will say “belo” instead of “hello.” You get the picture, it’s just close enough to sound right to our ears.

2. Building a fantasy language is a mammoth task! Try and stick to key phrases such as patriotic slogans, greetings and commonly used words, unless you head goes spinning off or you feel a strong need to sue someone, when you find out they used YOUR word!

3. Link your language into cultural elements: eg. In the Game of Thrones, in the Dothraki culture the word graddakh means “one who walks.” This is a status inference. You are worthy or unworthy as you are able to ride, or are too weak or forbidden to ride. It reflects your societal value. Using words like that gives them a great deal of power.

4. Document your language very well so you don’t contradict yourself, can build a glossary on your web site or into your books, and hey, if you get to the level of Sir Terry Pratchett, you can make a mint out of it. Or have people playing your equivalent of Klingon Boggle (video below for the Big Bang Theory fans).

5. Learn to be at peace with the fact that you will probably never get a totally original name or word and that’s OK. If it is recognisable as a possible native tongue, you aced it!

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.